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Grading The Defense: Iowaaaaaaaah.

Time to stop crying.  You survived Michigan 2005, Toledo 2000, Minnesota 1999, Michigan 1997, Ohio State 1996, that whole 1994 thing, Notre Dame 1992, and Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.  Trust me, you can handle this one.  The 2008 Nittany Lions have been playing with house money for a while, mostly due to two very obvious things:  the Big Ten is relatively shitty, and Penn State hadn't taken on any proficient passing offenses yet.

On Saturday, a number of things caught up to the Penn State defense.  How badly did they need Sean Lee?  Chris Baker, Phil Taylor, and Devon Still?  Most frustrating of all, the soft zone you love to hate made a fateful appearance on Iowa's last drive, and it was repeatedly torched on third downs.  Oh, and bad luck.  Don't forget the bad luck.  A sure STANZIBALL turned into pass interference on Anthony Scirrotto, and then Stanzi suddenly morphed in Chuck Friggin' Long.  Brian Cook might be correct to label Iowa's effort as Flat Out Heart, but there's another side to that.  Sometimes, you just are what you are.  You're a team with an average defense.  You're a team that starts poorly on the road.  Flat Out Heart needs a dance partner, and it found one dressed in white.

Defensive Line: B

If someone told you before the game that Shonn Greene would run for a 4.2 yard per carry average, you'd have been relatively happy, right?  Jared Odrick is making his case for Defensive MVP honors this season, but by the end of the game he was gassed.  Same with the rest of the defensive line, who got absolutely no push as Iowa took to the air at the end of the game.  Could've used a little depth in the fourth quarter, especially once Josh Gaines rolled his ankle.


Linebackers:  C-

None of them shed tackles particularly well.  Hull and Sales (who made a nice, if easy interception) are still slow to the ball.  Aside from a few plays, Bowman was practically silent.  Not their best night as a group, after playing out of their minds against Ohio State.  That effort in Columbus seems to have spelled the end to any meaningful playing time for Bani Gbadyu and Mike Mauti -- a shame, because they should've been used at Kinnick.


Secondary:  D+

At the beginning of the season, most of us knew this day would eventually come.  Nobody figured it would be against Iowa.  The nightmare scenario for this team has always been the thin defensive line wearing down, and the secondary subsequently faltering.  Lydell Sargeant made such a beautiful play on a deflected pass earlier in the game, but he'll never forget the interception he dropped.  Same goes for Scirrotto's pass interference penalty -- a 50/50 call if there ever was one, but you have to expect the referee to make that call against you on the road.  It was pass interference, the only possible saving grace(s) would be the combination of the awful throw and Scirrotto's play on the ball instead of the receiver.  Many people think that Scirrotto hasn't been the same since he was arrested.  It's a thought, sure, but he's been living on his interception bonanza of a few years ago.  Same as a certain pile-jumper in Columbus, really.  He shouldn't be destroyed too much for the pass interference, though.  Kid's just trying to make a play to win the game.

Defensive Coaching: C-

Angry.  Very, very angry.  Angry at the soft zones.  Angry at blitzes that practically never work.  Angry at the personnel choices.  Angry that the team can't generate a pass rush when it's most needed.  So while I'd love to write a blistering critique of Tom Bradley, it's a little difficult.  Why?  What else could he have done?  He burned all of his defensive linemen.  The linebackers are what they are.  Same with the secondary.  This defense has been held together by scotch tape and paper clips all season long.  Once Gaines and Astorino were taken out of the equation, things slowly fell apart.

Also, how many blatant breakdowns of deep coverage have we seen this year?