Even though the majority of the offense came off the right foot of Colin Wagner, the Penn State defense proved it was up to the task against the much improved Temple Owls. Temple finally scored a TD against Penn State in the Al Golden era. The first score was set up by an Evan Royster fumble deep in Penn State territory. Temple took the ball at the 28 yard line and "Heisman Candidate" Bernard Pierce was able to punch it in for the first of his two scores on the day. Pierce finished the day with 10 carries for 42 yards and the two scores. He was knocked out of the game with an ankle, and did not return.
Penn State was lucky that Chester Stewart is worse than a below average college QB. Penn State's lack of red zone offense did not doom them (as it would against and Iowa or Ohio State) because Stewart couldn't move the ball down the field finishing the day 8-19 for 46 yards and 3 INTs.
This was the most dominating performance of the season for the defense. Penn State only allowed 202 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers. But don't think for a second that the defense doesn't have holes to fill. Temple exposed our defensive ends' lack of discipline and I'm sure Iowa will take note. The tackling looked better, but Larry Johnson Sr. needs to speed some extra time with Jack Crawford and Sean Stanley this week on how to set the edge and stay home.
If Pete Massaro didn't earn himself a starting spot this week, I'm not sure what will. Massaro finished the day with three tackles (1.5 for loss) a forced fumble, fumble recover, and one sack. Massaro provided consistent pressure whenever he was in the game, including the pressure that forced a Stewart INT by Stupar.
The rest of the D-line was forgettable at best. Jack Crawford can't shed blockers and consistently bit on the fake inside runs, giving up the edge and allowing Pierce and company to get to the outside (Crawford wasn't able to get off his blocker on the first TD run). For all his size and athletic ability, Crawford is missing the common football skills. Crawford finished the day with more penalties (1) than tackles (0). Sean Stanley was responsible for allowing James Nixon to race to the outside for 64 yards (he got sucked in), lucky Stephon Morris saved the tackle on that play before Pierce punched it in on the next play due to a missed Stanley tackle.
Ollie Ogbu and Devon Still continue to improve as a duo. Ogbu was quite for the most part, save for a big tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Jordan Hill continues to impress when he is on the field. Doesn't look like he will be able to still a starting spot this season, but next year will be his time to shine.
Final Grade: Pete Massaro A+, everyone else B-
Whatever Tom Bradley said to his defense at half time, it worked. Stupar and Mauti were running around making plays like their hair was on fire. The duo finished the day as the leading tacklers (7 each), with Stupar picking up a sack and an INT. Stupar and Mauti played a ton in the nickle package and need to be two of the three starters in the base package as well. The other starter you ask? Well that should be Khairi Fortt.
With Gerald Hodges out with a leg, Fortt gives the Penn State defense the speed it seems to have been missing earlier in the season. He only finished the day with one tackle, but he is flying around looking to make things happen. The trio of Stupar, Mauti, and Fortt would be a great fit to takeover the "Linebacker U" moniker.
Bani Gbadyu was the invisible man on Saturday even though he finished the day with three tackles. He doesn't seem to be making any plays like he did a couple of years ago.
Chris Colasanti is a great student and kid. Unfortunately that doesn't give you the aggressiveness you need to play MLB for Penn State. He doesn't have great instincts and it appears he waits for the RB to run into him instead of him (Colasanti) running over the RB.
Final Grade: B+
When you only allow 46 passing yards and intercept two passes, you seem to be doing something right. Andrew Dailey got the start in place of the injured Drew Astorino, but was quickly replaced after the early TDs and Astorino played most of the afternoon (six tackles).
Nick Sukay had a monster afternoon finishing with six tackles and two INTs. Chester Stewart's terrible passing ability may have helped Sukay and company on this afternoon, but we'll take it for the confidence boost as we enter conference play.
Final Grade A
Colin Wagner kept the team in the game, not something you want to see every week, even if it did work this week. Wagner finished the day with five field goals on six attempts tying a Penn State single game record. Wagner connected on FGs of 45, 32, 42, 32, and 21 yards. Wagner continues to build off the momentum he gained from his outstanding performance in the Capital One Bowl last season.
Anthony Fera is an excellent kickoff specialist. Three of his seven attempts went for touchbacks and he averaged 69 yards a kick. As a punter, Fera is still a work in progress. Fera punted three times for an average of 41 yards, placing one of those punts inside the 20. There is no doubt Fera has a huge leg, he just needs to work on his hang time.
Devon Smith had a huge 49 yard punt return that was called back due to a hold by Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. Smith finished the day with 33 yards on two returns with a long of 17. Besides that, it was all quite on the return front. Chaz Powell couldn't get anything going on kickoffs and Justin Brown finished with one yard on two attempts.
Final Grade A-
Tom Bradley made some outstanding half time adjustments. Stupar and Mauti came out in the second half and started to making plays. Penn State had the luxury of facing a QB that shouldn't be one. The defense allowed some bigger plays in the first half (Nixon run) but in the second half Temple did not have any answers.
The defense was getting some pressure from the front four when Massaro was in the game, but the game plan was to stop Bernard Pierce and stack the box, and they did a good job of that. Many of the big runs came off tackle when the defensive ends (Stanley and Crawford) got sucked in and didn't set the edge. Tackling looked much improved this week, possibly due to the extra day of practice with the pads on.
Final Grade: B+
Penn State will have to step it up another notch if they hope to come out with a W in Iowa City this week. Ricky Stanzi is a much improved player and appears to have cut down on the "Stanzi balls" he had become so famous for. Should be an outstanding match up under the lights.