We took a look at the offense from the Alamo Bowl. So let's take a look at how the defense did against the Aggies.
I didn't think the defensive line was that impressive. Maurice Evans was awesome in getting six tackles and forcing two fumbles including the one recovered by A.J. Wallace deep in Aggie territory. But everyone else was so-so. Koroma and Taylor looked like they were sucking wind all night. Maybe missing Baker and McEowen was bigger than we thought. The side of the line opposite from Evans struggled to hold containment letting McGee get loose several times to scramble for the first down.
In all Texas A&M gained 164 yards rushing. That's the fourth highest total given up all year and nearly double the average total Penn State gave up this season. The defensive line combined for just 1.5 TFL and no sacks. Not great.
Dan Connor got all the press this year, but Sean Lee was the better linebacker. He proved it again on Saturday by recording a game high 14 tackles in earning defensive MVP honors for the game. It was the tenth game this season in which he recorded double digit tackles. Mind you Dan Connor was no slouch in getting 9 tackles, 1 TFL, and a fumble recovery of his own. Both guys were flying around making plays all night.
Tyrell Sales had six tackles and a sack in the Alamo Bowl, but like the defensive ends he had trouble maintaining containment on McGee allowing him to move the chains after the play broke down.
Looking back on the season I guess you could say we were never successful in fully replacing Paul Posluszny. Tyrell Sales had trouble staying healthy and never looked great when he was. Navorro Bowman was starting to work his way into the starting lineup before he sprained his ankle. Then his off the field issues landed him in the doghouse. Josh Hull filled in a few games when Sales and Bowman were both injured. He did well, but he's a walkon and was clearly several steps below Poz, Lee, and Connor.
A.J. Wallace got the start and he's beginning to look like a playmaker on defense. He had his first career interception and a fumble recovery. He also broke up a pass and had five tackles.
I was surprised to see Mark Rubin get the start and bulk of the playing time over Tony Davis. I'm not sure what's up with that. It looks like the free safety spot is up for grabs this spring. Maybe freshman Nick Sukay can sneak in there.
Overall the unit did well in holding the Aggies to just 164 yards passing and no touchdowns.
They struggled to stop the Aggies early and fell down 14-0. But they settled in and held them to just three points after that. But there were two drives late in the game where they could not get off the field. The Aggies had drives of 17 and 16 plays that started at their one yard line. The first drive ended with a field goal and the second ended when A&M turned the ball over on downs at the Penn State six yard line. There were instances of the corners playing deep, but it didn't hurt them too much in this game. It really hurt them in trying to contain option plays as the corners had more ground to cover to support the run defense.
The kickoff coverage game was ok, but not much improved. Our own kick return game was awful. Wallace fumbled his first attempt and lost the primary return job to Williams after that. DWill had two returns with a long of 19. He's just not very explosive in kickoff returns like he is on punts. Too much stutter-stepping and not enough getting up field.
Jeremy Boone had an amazing day averaging 51.4 yards on his four punts. He had a long of 55 and pinned two punts inside the 20.
Kevin Kelly was 1-of-2 in field goals. He hit the 25 yarder and missed the one over 40 as always. I hope Ryan Breen gets a good look at place kicker this spring. We can't keep depending on a kicker that can't hit anything over 40 yards.