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Grading the Penn State Defense Against Michigan

Oh, we heard a lot of talk about the Penn State defense before the game. Who had they played? They hadn't seen a rushing offense like Michigan. I think one of our resident BSD Wolverine fans predicted Minor and Brown BOTH going over 100 yards with Forcier getting another 60. So much for that, huh?

Defensive Line

Outside of that first series, they absolutely dominated the Wolverines who only gained 110 yards on the ground. This is the team that led the Big Ten averaging 235 yards per game

. Jared Odrick's 2 tackles and 0.5 TFL don't accurately illustrate how dominating he was. Eating up two blockers on pretty much every play, he disrupted everything Michigan wanted to do. And he should have had a safety but he overran the tackles and let Forcier get it away. On the next play he had the center so nervous the kid snapped the ball right out the back of the endzone.

Jack Crawford had perhaps his best day yet. After getting sucked inside on a few fake handoffs, he settled into his assignment and finished with 3 tackles, all for a loss, and a sack. He also forced the fumble on Robinson late in the game. In all the line finished with 13 tackles, 6.5 TFL, and 3 sacks. Devon Still and true freshman Jordan Hill recorded the other two sacks which makes me feel good about next year after Odrick is gone.

Final Grade: A



What can be said about Lavorro at this point? Not much, really, so I'll just point at the scoreboard: 11 tackles (6 solo), 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT, and 1 sack. As I predicted, Penn State held him back as a spy in passing situations and it worked to perfection. Every time Forcier tried to get out of the pocket to improvise, Bowman was there to drop him or make him get rid of it. By the end of the first quarter Forcier looked like a deer in the headlights. Welcome to the Big Ten, kid.

The Hull-stache had another great day with 10 tackles (6 solo), 2.5 TFL, and a sack. It must be the mustache, because this is not the same player we saw Brandon Minor dragging for 8 yard gains last year.

Bani Gbadyu and Sean Lee split time and combined for 8 tackles. Chris Colasanti got in the game briefly, and Forcier made him look silly by faking him out of his jock on a QB keeper.

Final Grade: A



I'll say this: When the coaches let them man up and play, they did well. More on that later. Forcier only managed 140 yards on less than 50% passing. He threw the pick to Astorino, and was sacked five times. Many of the sacks on Forcier were coverage sacks where he couldn't find a man open. There were very few mistakes by the group other than a missed tackle or two.

Final Grade: A


Special Teams

Another so-so performance. Jeremy Boone has to shorten his windup for his punts. That's two he has had blocked this year, and you can bet every team from here on out will be gunning for him.

Collin Wagner hit his two short field goal attempts. Two of his seven kickoffs went for touchbacks. So it was a good day for him. The kickoff coverage team seems to get it now and they are holding down the big returns. At least I don't remember my heart skipping a beat as they make a shoe string tackle to prevent six points this week.

But our own kick returns were much improved highlighted by Chaz Powell's 54 yard return to open the second half.

The punt return game...seriously guys. Absolutely terrible. I shouldn't complain because they are catching the ball, but what was up with Zug catching the ball and starting to run only to find out Drew Astorino called for a fair catch? It's like the Keystone Cops out there. Let's put the dual return man thing to bed. There is absolutely nothing dynamic about our punt return game right now. Something tells me Joe Paterno likes it that way.

Final Grade: C


Defensive Coaching

Okay, so what happened on that first drive? For starters, Michigan had obviously been scripting those plays and practicing them for the past two weeks. They ran with no huddle and everyone obviously knew what they were supposed to do. Penn State had no time to make adjustments or switch personnel. That was a big factor in the drive.

As far as I can tell, the uncertainty surrounding the no huddle forced Penn State to go into some very simple base defensive sets. You know what means, right? Good ol' Cover-3. Forcier took advantage of the soft coverage three times for passes of 7, 7, and 20 yards. The big pass came when Sukay missed a tackle on a short screen. Crawford got sucked into a fake handoff allowing Forcier to gain 8 yards on one play. The rest of the drive was a lot of Carlos Brown and Minor RAGE for decent carries in the 6-8 yard range. But there were also some short 1 and 2 yard gains won by the defense.

Give credit to Michigan on that drive. They came out and hit Penn State in the mouth. I see a lot of Michigan blogs and fans asking why they got away from the running game after that drive, but truthfully, two out of Michigan's first three plays were good sized passing gains. Penn State tightened up the coverage after that and Michigan couldn't answer.

Checking the stats today, it is a beautiful sight. Penn State leads the conference in every single defensive statistic. Awesome.

Final Grade: A