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Penn State Offense Grades Against Iowa

If you get sick easily, you may not want to read the rest of this post.  Penn State's offense did not play a good game against Iowa on Saturday night.  In fact, they didn't even play a bad game.  They were awful.  It is hard to find anything to polish up and pump our fists about this week.  Maybe the Silas Redd run or even the jumping catch by Devon Smith or even the long run by Royster (not the one in the 4th quarter when Iowa stopped caring).  Everything else?  Well let's just say that none of us envisioned the offense performing that poorly. 

The offense did absolutely nothing in the first quarter, unless you consider going three and out on the first three possessions and gaining one yard of total offense doing something.  The WRs decided Saturday night would be the night they forgot how to catch passes.  The offensive line performed about as well as everyone expected against one of the top defensive lines in the nation and the running game...what running game (read: offensive line)?

Enough of the warm up, let's get into it.


Robert Bolden had one of his worst games of his career against Iowa.  All of the issues can not be placed solely on Bolden's shoulders, but he does get his fair share.  Statistically Bolden was 20-37 (career high) for 212 yards and one INT that was returned for a TD late in the fourth quarter.  The 37 attempts were out of necessity due to the fact that Penn State was down 10 very early in the game and there was absolutely no chance Penn State was going to get anything going in the run game with Adrian Clayborn on the field.

Bolden was victimized by a ton of drops by his WRs and TEs.  His interception total should have also been closer to 4 (he got lucky on the Kevin Haplea pass break up and the triple coverage throw to 5-7 Smith and the roughing the passer call the negated the INT he threw).

The biggest disappointment, in terms of growth and maturity, is the delay of game penalty right before the end of the first half.  Bolden should have been well aware of the clock at that point and Penn State desperately needed 6 points.  It is something he will get better at, but right now he looks like he is overwhelmed in those situations. 

Bolden did have some nice moments in the game, but they were few and far between.  The long pass to Brett Brackett was a nice throw.  Bolden had no problem hanging in the pocket and taking a couple of big shots from the Hawkeyes. 

Bolden had an opportunity to get Penn State a TD on 4th and Goal at the 1 yard line.  The play call was perfect, unfortunately Penn State had the wrong quarterback running the ball.  Kevin Newsome has one skill set that is unmatched by other quarterbacks and that would be his legs. It was also the first time we have seen some on field emotion from Bolden. 

Also, if you were still wondering, Penn State does not have and does not plan to use a Wild Lion offense with Kevin Newsome this season or ever.  If there ever was a game to use it, it was against Iowa and Penn State did not.

As fans, we should understand that Bolden is going to have growing pains.  The offense and defense are in full rebuilding mode.  Suddenly games against Michigan and Michigan State aren't guaranteed wins.

Final Grade: D



Running Back

I think i'd run out of ways to sugar coat this portion if I even tried to, so I won't.  The run game didn't exist on Saturday.  The majority of Evan Royster's 56 yards came on two long runs, one of which happened on the final drive of the game after Iowa called off the dogs.  Silas Redd had one nice 20 yard run and followed it up with a run for a loss.  Stephfon Green had 2 carries for 2 yards, Michael Zordichhad 1 yard on 2 carries and Rob Bolden finished with 21 yards on 5 carries. 

The holes just weren't there for the running game, on top of that, Penn State was in a hole early and needed to throw the ball to get back into the game (which we found out is not possible).  If Penn State wants to win a game in the Big Ten this season they are going to need to run the ball.

Final Grade: D

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Gary Gilliam tore his ACL and will be out for the season.  However, before he did that, he dropped a very catchable ball that could have led to the first 1st down of the game.  Gilliam had a rough season and could have used another year of seasoning before he got meaningful game time.  Kevin Haplea replaced Gilliam and showed that he is a true freshman.  His false start penalty on 4th and 1 was the final mistake that broke the camels back and Penn State was forced to punt.  Haplea did record his first catch of his career on the Newsome drive.  He does have some hands but will need to develop quickly if Penn State is even going to use a TE the rest of the season (i'm sure it will be the Hybrid WR/TE Brackett stuff we saw early in the season).

Graham Zug is not having a good season.  He dropped two more passes on Saturday and finally got sent to the bench.  On the season, Zug only has 3 catches for 31 yards, a far cry from his breakout junior season.  We keep waiting for Zug to turn it around, the same way we did for Brackett early in 2009.  I fear he might not be able to.

Speaking of Brackett, he was the leading receiver on the night with 2 catches for 63 yards.  Apparently Brackett forgot he was 6-6 and could dive for the endzone line, if he did, Penn State would have had a TD and not had to settle for a field goal.  It's the little mistakes that kept adding up for the Penn State offense.

Devon Smith continues to be a bigger part of the passing game and the coaches are finding ways to get him the ball.  Smith finished the day with 58 yards on 5 catches and almost had another long catch but was it was overthrown by Bolden.  Moye also joined the drop part and finished with 27 yards on 4 catches, not the numbers you expect from your best WR in a big game.  Justin Brown chipped in with 42 yards and Green had 21 yards on a nice screen pass.

The appearance of Shawney Kersey, who went MIA for an entire week only to show back up the following week, oozed desperation by the Penn State coaches.  In years past, I find it hard to believe they would actually play a kid who willing left the team in the middle of the season only to return the following week.  It didn't matter either way.  Besides throwing a nice block on the long Redd run, Kersey wasn't a factor in the passing game.

Final Grade: F

Offensive Line

Saturday was ugly and the offensive line played their part.  I guess staring at Clayborn's picture all summer did absolutely nothing for Quinn Barham who was owned on multiple occasions by the future first round NFL pick including the play that led to the intentional grounding call.  The only time Clayborn didn't get a massive pass rush was when he was triple teamed.

Doug Klopacz, Johnnie Troutman and Stefen Wisniewskidid not have a great days either.  All three had plays in which they blocked no one and allowed Bolden to either get smacked in the mouth or the RB to be destroyed. In fact, Chima Okoli, the man everyone was worried about played the best out of everyone.  He still has some things to learn, hopefully he will learn them from Levi Brown or Kareem Mackenzie and not Quinn Barham and Johnnie Troutman.

Iowa got great penetration up the middle all day long.  The o-line did nothing to stop this.  All of the long runs were due to missed or broken tackles by Redd and Royster and nothing to do with the offensive lines blocking.  Pass protection was solid at times and terrible at others.  It was just an up and down ball game.

Final Grade: D-

Offensive Coaching

I'm still trying to figure out why the coaches continued to call play action passes when there was about a ZERO percent chance our team was going to run the ball.  Penn State's offense never got into a rhythm.  The play calling was awful and they never put the kids in position to make plays.  By now you would have thought Galen Hall and Jay Paterno figured out that Rob Bolden excels in the shotgun and struggles when under center. 

Not having a package for Kevin Newsome, especially in short yardage situations, is just hurting the team.  The red zone offense is terrible to begin with, so why not give Newsome a chance to use his legs to get us some points?  Obviously they have no intention to use him in any capacity other than mop up time.  I find it hard to believe Newsome will remain with the team after the season unless he changes positions.

The run calls continue to be bad.  If Klopacz can't get a push up the middle, why would you continue to call run plays up the middle?  It's almost like Hall is so obsessed with proving the line can run block and Evan Royster can run against top 10 defenses...neither are true.

Final Grade: F

A lot of things went wrong on Saturday night.  As we turn the page to Illinois, the Penn State offense, five games into the season, is still looking for an identity.  Are they a power running, ball control team or are they are Spread offense with pass first intentions?  The Illini had a great showing against Ohio State last week so look for them to carry that momentum into the game against Penn State.

The most important thing to remember as fans of Penn State is to not melt down and start giving up on this team.  Penn State is building toward something special and we as fans will be and should be apart of that.  One year from now, when we are 5-0 and the offense and defense are playing like we know they are capable of, the real fans will be proud they stood by the team during the growing pains of 2010.