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Grading the Defense Against Temple

Lions always run in packs

Defensive Line

Everyone keeps harping on how thin the defensive line is. You could have fooled me. Penn State used ten different guys on the defensive line on Saturday. But it didn't matter who Larry Johnson sent in because the results were always the same. The Temple offensive line could not open any holes for the running backs to slip through. I suspect Temple knew this was going to be the case coming into the game since the runningbacks Jones and Liverpool only had eight running attempts. And once they fell behind the Owls had to abandon the running game. Quarterback Chester Stewart was the leading rusher for the Owls with 15 yards on 18 attempts. As a team the Owls only recorded 16 rushing yards on 28 attempts. That is domination.

Aaron Maybin came ready to play getting two sacks in the opening quarter including a vicious hit on DiMichele knocking him out of the game and ending any slim hope Temple may have had of being competitive. Looking at the picture of the hit below you can kind of see how Maybin had his arm tucked under DiMichele's armpit as he drove his shoulder into the ground. Then leverage took over.

Pop! Goes the Shoulder Socket

Josh Gaines had another all around great day. He was highly effective in stopping the run and also recorded two sacks. All-in-all it was a great performance for a defensive line supposedly short on bodies. The front four got good pressure on Stewart allowing the linebacker to just focus on their pass coverages.

Final Grade: A


Temple came out determined to test our linebackers with short passes and screens. A wise strategy in my opinion, and it worked early as Temple got a few first downs in the first quarter to shift the field position in their favor. But once the Penn State scoring machine got going in the second quarter Temple was forced to open things up and test the secondary by throwing deeper. That's when the interceptions started coming.

Hull and Gbadyu were ok, but not great. Gbadyu flies to the ball, but often misses the tackle or gets run over by the ball carrier. Hull is a sure tackler, but he always seems a bit slow in getting to the ball and often got dragged a few yards before bringing the ball carrier down.

But the good news is we have a young linebacker elevating his game and standing on the verge of becoming great. Navorro Bowman got his first career start and made the most of it. He was flying all over the field on defense and special teams seemingly always around the ball. Check out this stat line.

vs Temple / 9.20.08 Tackles Sacks Interceptions
Solo Ast Total TFL TFL Yds FF Sacks Yds Int Yds IntTD
Navarro Bowman 8 3 11 5 17 1 3 13 1 29 0

If he doesn't win Big Ten Player of the Week honors it will be a travesty.

Navorro Bowman's Grade: A+
Everyone Else: C


Overall I thought it was a good performance by the secondary. Last season Temple threw for 238 yards against Penn State. This year the same secondary, minus Justin King, held the same group of receivers to just 122 yards.

Tony Davis came up with a huge interception. After a shakey first quarter the Penn State offense was finally starting to get things going. After scoring a touchdown to take a 14-0 lead, Travis Shelton returned the kickoff 74 yards down to the PSU 26 yard line. But on their first offensive play Stewart badly overthrew a ball and Davis picked it off at the PSU 16 yard line keeping the Penn State momentum going. Temple wouldn't threaten again until the game was well in hand.

Drew Astorino continues to see his playing time increase. He played a solid game with seven tackles and a pass broken up. Knowledge Timmons stepped up with a late interception at the end of the game as well.

Final Grade: B+

Special Teams

The kickoff coverage was awful. It started on the opening kickoff when Kelly shanked the kick and Shelton returned it 33 yards to the PSU 43 yard line. Shelton's next return went 74 yards and nearly scored. They tried kicking away from him after that, but Schulters had returns of 33 and 29 yards, so they kicked it to Shelton one more time and he returned that one 42 yards. Just terrible. We need to put our best athletes on the field in these situations. I know there is a higher risk of injury, but kickoffs and punts are so important to control field position for the defense. We can't keep giving opponents the ball at mid field to start.

I mentioned that Kelly shanked a kickoff. He only had one touchback out of seven kickoffs, but Shelton's big return was four yards deep. He hit his one field goal attempt from 44 yards. It was true down the middle and would have easily been good from over 50. He seems to have made significant strides over the summer which has me feeling a whole lot better.

Jeremy Boone had one sensational punt that stopped dead at the Temple 2 yard line. He did ok on his other punts. Only one was returned, but it seemed like his kicks aren't quite as deep as he was booming them last year. Maybe it's just a lack of attempts. Maybe it's just me.

Derrick Williams fumbled a punt return and was lucky to have Scirrotto back with him to pick it up. Even after that play he ran up under a lot of short punts and had to make some awkward catches. He needs to just let those bounce and let the offense take possession. The important thing for this team is to just get the defense off the field and let the offense do its thing. We don't need a hero taking chances on the punt returns.

Please no more of this

Final Grade: C-

Defensive Coaching

It's hard to complain when you hold your opponent to three points and only 138 yards of total offense. But, it's Temple. They didn't blitz much and mostly just sat back in coverage playing the classic "bend-but-don't-break" defense. It was definitely an improvement over last year when the Owls seemed to move the ball at will just to turn it over in the redzone and shut themselves out. This year Penn State didn't get the shutout, but it was a better defensive performance that the shutout from last year. The defense looked prepared and focused and actually carried the offense in the early going for a change. They struggled a bit with the short passes over the middle, but made adjustments and took them away forcing Temple into throwing three interceptions.

I like that the corners appear to be more aggressive this year. And the defensive line rotation is more than covering for the losses of Evans, Koroma, Hayes, Still, Baker, and Taylor. But I imagine Bradley is pulling his hair out wondering how to cover for his linebackers. He has a slow guy in the middle that can't blitz and will get picked on by Big Ten teams. He has a senior starting outside who can't point to a memorable play in his career. Another linebacker flies all over the place but he lacks instincts and the probability of him making the tackle is slightly better than a coin flip. Bowman appears to have the most star potential of the group when he's able to stay out of Joe's doghouse.

Final Grade: B