Is everyone down off their ledges? Are the pitchforks and torches put away? How about those tip jars, the ones that read "FIUR BUTLER? Are they back in storage? Okay, then. Because this was, for the most part, the response we needed to see from the team (especially the defense) after last week’s loss to UCF.
This game wasn’t perfect, despite what the box score might say. Once again, the turnover differential was not in favor of the Nittany Lions. Punting was once again not so good (though Christian Hackenberg did have our longest punt of the game in the first half—not necessarily a good thing). Our offense didn’t look as good as it did the week before, played somewhat sloppily and left points on the board—as much (or more) to do with play calling than with anything else. The weather was teh suck, and there were likely less than 20k fans left when the team rang the victory bell (and probably less than 85k there at opening kickoff—which is actually kinda remarkable considering the deluge).
But there were definite positives to take away from the game. First, of course, is the shutout—most of us thought that the defense would come out with something to prove after they were taken behind the woodshed last week, and for the most part they did. They only allowed 56 yards on the ground and 190 yards overall to a team that came in averaging 121 and 303.7, respectively (and averaged just over 17 points a game). Neither QB who saw time for KSU had a QB rating in the double digits—that’s right, both were below ten. The only trip inside the Penn State forty that the Nittany Lion defense allowed was more to do with penalties on the punting team than anything the defense did (or didn’t) do, and they stopped the Golden Flashes from walking away with any points. Yes, we’d like to see them play more aggressive with less soft coverage—but when the result is a big, fat ZERO on the board, I’ll take what I can get.
Same with the offense. Some strides were made, others weren’t. The biggest point of improvement is where the most obvious weakness was—third down conversions. After entering the game 122nd in the FBS for third down conversions, the Nittany Lions offense converted 7 of 18 third downs, and 2 of 3 fourth downs—so 9 of 21 conversions were made. That’s a big improvement over the 11.8% we were seeing headed into Saturday. Allen Robinson, while not drawing a single PI call or having his per-usual monster game, was definitely serviceable, and our TEs finally saw some better plays. Akeel Lynch once again showed why he needs to be on the field, having the most yards of any back (with unfortunately no scores to show for it)--though Zach Zwinak is tied for the most TDs of any RB in the country after his trio yesterday. And any time we see Tyler Ferguson get in the game is a good time for me.
Protection was, by and large, better this week as well, with the only sack I can remember (and can’t find the official stats, and there was likely more) being one that was decidedly a coverage sack and not solely on the line. And our defensive line got more pressure this week, with DaQuan Jones and Glenn Carson being our leading tacklers—a much better thing to see than the d-back leading tackling last week.
This week, too, saw Butler not throw the kitchen sink at the opponent—because he didn’t need to. And what I saw when watching the formations was some very interesting formations, including a nickel package that was, essentially, 4-1-6—with Carson being the sole true LB, flanked by SOA. Wartman was typically subbed out for another DB—most often, from what I saw, we’d have Trevor Williams, Adrian Amos, Ryan Keiser (who totally balled out this game), Malcolm Willis, and Jordan Lucas in the backfield. And—here’s the kicker—it actually worked.
Three Completely Unrelated, Probably Useless Thoughts
1) Despite being listed as a starter (opposite Carson and Wartman OR Obeng-Agyapong), Hull was again held out of this week’s game, after being used sparingly (and to little effect) versus the Knights. This was incredibly good to see, with this week’s BYE, Hull should be rested up and raring to go for the start of Big Ten play at Indiana.
2) I understand when you have a three-headed monster at RB that is as talented as we do that you want to see all of the guys get the ball. Really, I do. But when you have a hot hand, you ride that hand. Not allow the starter pick up 35 yards on one drive then stall out just across midfield, calling FOUR pass plays to end the drive. Four. Including one on fourth and two, when you don’t even put your big bruising running back (the one who virtually single-handedly got you to midfield) on the field—let alone get him the ball. Poor play calling, indeed, BOB—as you said in your post-game presser. And I, for one, was booing the heck outta that one.
3) Holy Ficken, Batman! A week after his first miss in a bajillion games on an improbably 57-yarder, Sam Ficken was two for two this week, including a career-long squeaker of 54 yards. That’s the second longest field goal made in the NCAA this season. As friend of BSDTim Tolley put it:
Ficken is seriously going to have an NFL career. The same Ficken who almost got replaced at walk-on tryouts a year ago.— Tim Tolley (@TimTolley_BR) September 21, 2013
More from Black Shoe Diaries:
- Post-Game Link Recap: Kent State
- Quick Recap: Penn State Flashes Kent State En Route to a 34-0 Victory
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