I made the trip to State College this weekend to take in the Blue-White Game. The tailgate was pretty low key. Just a few beers and hot dogs. Then I spend an hour and a half either waiting in line or waiting while my wife waited in line at either the clothing store or the Creamery. But the weather was a perfect 75 degrees and sunny so I didn't mind too much.
Before the game we went in the stadium to get some autographs and talk to some of the players. I had a five dollar hat I bought at Walmart with me and managed to get it signed by Evan Royster, Brandon Beachum, A.J. Wallace, Lydell Sargeant, Mike Mauti, Jerome Hayes, J.B. Walton, Chaz Powell, and Larry Federov. I asked Hayes how the knee was doing and he said "Fine. I'll be ready to go." Mike Mauti also said the move to safety is just temporary to get him some playing time. I didn't get to talk to Chaz Powell, but let me tell you he is a really great kid. He was signing near Derrick Williams who was absolutely mobbed with people. Every once in a while Chaz would take a football from a little kid and sign it. Then he would walk it over to Williams and have him sign it too because there was no way a five year old kid was going to get through that mob. I thought it was a really nice gesture even though it caused me to wait a few extra minutes to get my hat signed. Federov was also especially nice to everyone taking time to talk, pose for pictures and interact with them. It's too bad the thugs on the team get all the press and kids like Powell and Federov go unnoticed.
After the game started we're sitting in the stands and my wife strikes up a conversation with the guy sitting in front of her. His buddy is asking him who the third string quarterback is and my wife chimes in "You should ask my husband. He runs a Penn State blog and knows all the players." The guy turns and looks at me and asks which blog I run and I tell him Black Shoes. Turns out it was regular commenter speedomike. Go figure. We chatted a little bit before he got up and left.
Unfortunately, speedomike left before the best part when the guy that was sitting directly behind me finally realized he had too much to drink before the game. He got up to make his way to the restroom and made it as far as the aisle where he promptly tossed his lunch on the steps. So that was cool. I'm just thankful he made it to the aisle and didn't puke on me. Now with the extracurriculars out of the way let's talk about the game.
Based on what I saw yesterday I'm happy with either Devlin or Clark running this team. Both guys looked sharp. Devlin hit some really pretty passes to freshman tight end Andrew Szczerba down the seam. Some of the throws were into traffic, but he put such a nice touch on them that Szczerba was able to use his 6'7" frame and soft hands to go up and get it. Szczerba finished the day with 5 catches for 65 yards. I didn't get a chance to focus on his blocking ability, but I'm feeling a lot better about the Quarless situation after watching him play yesterday.
Clark played exclusively on the blue team with the first team offense which leads you to believe he's the frontrunner for the starting job. He looked really crisp in the first half highlighted by a pretty throw hitting Derrick Williams in stride for a 33 yard touchdown. He also showed off his running ability by taking off on a nifty play action naked bootleg for 9 yards and a first down. But for the most part the coaches kept the HD part of the Spread HD under wraps as we didn't see any option plays.
After halftime the first team defense switched jerseys and came out wearing white to pair up the first team offense against the first team defense. When that happened I thought Clark struggled a little bit. The defense started getting pressure on him causing him to miss a few passes and take a few sacks from holding on to the ball to long. But taking sacks I can handle because you know he'll scramble and make yards more often than not. At least he didn't try to force the ball downfield into triple coverage like a certain senior quarterback did in the spring game last year. I'm just sayin'.
On a side note after the game we got caught waiting for the players to leave the field through the tunnel. We stood in the crowd watching the players walk by to the locker room. When they finally opened it up to let us pass through we started pushing through the crowd. We get halfway across and my wife almost gets knocked over by a very large man wearing a red jersey with the number 17 on it. From standing next to him I can tell you Daryll Clark is a very large man. If we weren't so loaded already I guarantee you Joe would have him playing linebacker.
I thought the battle between the offensive line and defensive line was pretty sensational to watch. Koroma, Ogbu, and Odrick were stuffing the middle on most plays. But the offensive line was winning when they ran off tackle and managed to open a few holes in the middle. The defensive ends were really turning up the heat in the second half as Eric Lattimore and Aaron Maybin started teeing off on the quarterbacks. Lattimore didn't get a sack, but he was flushing the quarterback from the pocket a lot and ran him right into Maybin's arms a few times. Maybin finished with four sacks on the day.
We'll be just fine at running back. Evan Royster looked solid as expected. He didn't get much playing time with just three carries, but he gained 24 yards and scored a touchdown on those three carries.
And of course we should probably mention Stephfon Green. I mentioned last week if he takes a pitch and breaks it 60 yards we'll have a full blown running back controversy on our hands. Well, he didn't go 60 yards, but he did go 57 yards on his first carry of the game. I was sitting on the ten yard line on the sideline he broke the run down. I thought Tony Davis had the angle on him to push him out of bounds, but Green ran right by him. The kid is the real deal and he's going to take the Big Ten by surprise this year.
True freshman Brandon Beachum looked pretty good too. Everyone said he reminds them of Tony Hunt. So I was expecting to a battering ram that carries linebackers on his for four yard gains. But I was impressed by his speed. He did a good job of hitting the hole with authority and just getting yards quick. And he showed some nifty moves in the open field making a few guys miss. But I did notice while getting his autograph that his arms didn't look exactly chiseled. I'm not knocking the kid. He just looked like a true freshman with two months of Division IA weight training. Nothing that can't be fixed. He's got some work to do to get where we need him. It's probably no coincidence he had the lone fumble of the day.
There really weren't any receivers that stood out besides Szczerba. But outside of one horrible drop by Brackett everyone looked pretty good. Brackett made up for it with some good catches and Graham Zug had a few good catches too. Both guys scored touchdowns. It's encouraging to me to see we have a lot of options in the passing game. My only concern with that, as I've expressed before, is that it's hard to get in a rhythm when you're spreading the ball around to so many different people. I would almost prefer we had one unstoppable guy like a James Hardy or Calvin Johnson where all you have to do is throw it in the vicinity and they'll do the rest. Someone you can throw the ball to six times in a row when you need a score late in the fourth quarter and have the defense helpless to stop it.
The defense was meh. I didn't make me feel good, but you have to keep in mind they only play basic plays and they weren't allowed to blitz. I mentioned the defense line played very well stuffing a lot of runs and getting pressure on the quarterback. Those guys are all back bigger, stronger, and faster this year and they're going to be the strength of the defense.
The first team linebackers were Hull, Sales, and Gbadyu. They played well, but Sean Lee is really going to be missed. On the White team I though Colasanti looked good fighting traffic in the middle and Nate Stupar had some really nice plays on the outside. These guys are both going to get a lot of playing time and I wouldn't be surprised if they're starting by the end of the season.
At times it looked like the secondary was getting picked apart, but then again I think they were playing very basic schemes. The corners seemed to be playing up on the line a lot more than they did last year. BSD approves of this practice and encourages the coaches to continue. I was particularly encouraged by Drew Astorino. He got blown away by Derrick Williams, but he came back to make a nice open field tackle on Stephfon Green and had a nice pick on a slant pattern against Paul Cianciolo.
Overall it was a good game. Nobody got hurt so that's the important thing. But beyond that the offenses looked good which is what you want to see when the defense isn't allowed to blitz and only has two or three plays they call. Recall back in 2006 when both teams combined for 44 rushing yards and how awful our offense looked in the fall. In this game both teams combined for 205 yards rushing, 313 yards passing, and four touchdowns. They spread the ball around and it appears we'll have plenty of threats on the field. The defense didn't look particularly nasty as a whole, but the defensive line is stacked with play makers. So we should be good against the run and if the corners stop giving up the eight yard curl routes we should get good pressure on the quarterback. It's impossible to tell if this means we'll be a conference championship caliber team, but I have the feeling we'll be pretty good.