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Grading The Offense: Tighten Up

Thirty-one points against the Temple Owls, after putting up 28 on Syracuse and 31 on Akron.  If nothing else, the offensive output has been rather consistent over the first three games.  Exciting or dominating?  Meh.  But yes, consistent.  Time to break out the red pen and grade the offense against Temple.

Quarterback Grade: B+.  The numbers for Daryll Clark: 16/26 (61.5%), 167 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT.  We're essentially at the point where Clark gets the snap, drops back, and I think, "thank God, we're throwing the ball again."  He looks confident, decisive, and generally makes good things happen with his arm.  He's still forcing some occasional passes into double/triple coverage.  Specifically, Clark's first half interception against Temple was an absolute disaster.  As he was being hit, he tried to thread a ball to Royster between three defenders in the middle of the field.  Bad, bad idea.  We still haven't seen him run with the ball yet.  Undoubtedly, this is by design, but here's hoping that he doesn't get locked into a Donovan McNabb mindset where he stubbornly refuses to run when the opportunity arises. 

Running Backs Grade: B+.  Evan Royster (19-134) and Stephfon Green (6-19) improved throughout the game, although Green's ypc is still abysmal (2.6).  I'm slowly losing hope in Green being more than our designated screen pass receiver, but not closing the book on him quite yet.  Royster was clearly affected by the flu bug and wasn't seeing the field as well as he usually does.  They missed a few blitz pickups that resulted in hits on Clark or hurried throws.  Still, solid effort given the circumstances.

Tight Ends / Receivers Grade: A-.  Easily the most pleasant surprise of the young season.  They're generally getting open, not dropping passes, and making positive things happen after the catch.  Andrew Quarless continues his redemption (3 rec, 45 yds, and one really long TD called back on penalty).  Chaz Powell's straight line speed really sets him apart from everyone else on the field, and it's easy to love the continued integration of freshman Devon Smith (and even Curtis Drake) into the offense.  Has anyone seen Brett Brackett lately?

Offensive Line Grade: B.  Improved on run blocking, as evidenced by Royster's totals.  After plenty of rewinding, it's easy to see that they're often one block away from some enormous plays.  It seems that Johnnie Troutman has finally taken hold of the guard position opposite of Lou Eliades.  Dennis Landolt got beat once, but was usually the guy opening up big running lanes for Royster.  The unit was generally solid on pass protection, but let Clark get hit way too much on Temple blitzes.  That's a cohesion issue, and the last big hurdle facing the line.  Temple was blitzing a lot.  Linebackers, safeties, nickels,  you name it.  If Iowa figures out that their best chance at winning is to blitz Clark (and it probably is), it could be a long, difficult night. 

Archie Bell & The Drells, "Tighten Up" (via MecanicBionic)

Coaching Grade: B.  Hard to criticize, given the improvements in the running game, but Clark simply can't be taking hits like that against Temple without some adjustments in protection.  The team continues to spread the ball around (eight receivers accounted for the 17 receptions) and the coaches are giving future opponents plenty to think about with various end-arounds and the use of specialty personnel and formations.  Give Temple credit, they played very hard and didn't let up.

Comments:  No alarms and no surprises.  Honestly, the first three games played out how most fans wanted.  No major injuries, plenty of experience for new personnel, and the knowledge that there's a lot of work left to do if Penn State is going to live up to their #4 ranking.  When you look at this team from afar, it's hard to picture them as the fourth-best team in the nation, but how many teams don't have major flaws?  In reality, Penn State has a bunch of minor flaws -- they're still inexperienced in the secondary, but more athletic than in previous years.  Collin Wagner's a bit shaky on kickoffs, which is worrisome.  The lack of competence on blitz pickups is a big concern.  But other than that, I don't see a reason to be overly concerned at this juncture.  They played three games very close to the vest, against obviously inferior competition, and won them all in similar fashion.

Now, Iowa.