Sorry, Temple. Maybe you'll have better luck in 2014.
But for now, you're still our little brother.
Penn State had struggled with the Owls the last couple years, but don't let that score fool you--this one was never really in doubt. Once Penn State's offense got going, the only thing that could stop it was a series of yellow flags, and the defense continued on its path of gradual week-to-week improvement. It might've taken a while for this season to be about football, but now that it is, we've got ourselves a pretty darn good team.
It's not as though, after these NCAA sanctions, this team will really end up ruing the losses to Ohio and Virginia--they certainly can't hold this team back from a bowl berth--but sometime during this game, you realized: had the situations been just slightly different, we might be firmly in the midst of a very special season. And hell, there's one goal this team can still accomplish, and that's winning the Leaders Division.
You can't change the past, of course, and right now, it's just as nice to focus on the impressive win this team just finished up. And first and foremost, the story is how Matt McGloin has continued his ascent from gunslinger to game manager and now, judging by how the conference has fared in the preseason slate, to middle-of-the-pack, if not upper-echelon Big Ten quarterback. I know, just writing that makes me feel dirty. But leading this Bill O'Brien offense is a great fit, and McGloin has been more than up to the challenge.
It was his strike to Allen Robinson on a slant-and-go that turned a 4th-and-5 into a 40-yard touchdown to start the scoring, and from there, Penn State never looked back. Granted, Temple, which seemed like it could be a formidable foe, looked more like the national punchline it had been for generations than the up-and-comer its been in recent years--but that ought not diminish the job Bill O'Brien and crew have done with this Penn State team.
The defense, especially the front seven, was rock solid throughout the day, bottling up the prodigious duo of Montel Harris and Matt Brown. The secondary dared Chris Coyer to make the throws to beat them and, more often than not, he couldn't. The numbers for Temple are ugly, and if Ted Roof drew all the blame for Penn State's struggles in the Ohio and Virginia game, let's give him at least some of the credit for its resurgence of late.
Offensively, Mike Zordich was a revelation, filling in again for the injured Bill Belton and Derek Day, and the made-inconspicuously absent Curtis Dukes with 119 all-purpose yards on 15 rushes and 4 receptions. He left with a knee injury, but all signs point to it being a relatively minor one. McGloin was comfortable and in rhythm throughout. Take away a few series marred by questionable penalty calls--and an interception that bounced off the hands of Brandon Moseby-Felder--and this performance would've looked as good as the statistics might indicate.
Penn State again struggled slightly to put the game away, but even after the Lions took their foot off the gas pedal, Temple failed to capitalize, adding only a garbage-time score to make the final score respectable.
Next week, Penn State opens the Big Ten slate with Illinois, and, as the saying goes, it's be a whole new ballgame. But this team has momentum on its side, and the confidence to know they can hang with anyone in the conference. Bring it on.
Quarterbacks: A-. McGloin's early struggles included two ill-advised throws that should have been intercepted, and he made another poor decision on a third down throw into traffic. He struggled with the touch on his deep balls. But these are nit-picks: on the balance, he had an excellent day, hitting receivers in stride, on time, and with great accuracy for over 300 yards. The guy's made me a believer. And that's saying something.
Running Backs: A. Mike Zordich and Zach Zwinak might not be getting even the majority of the carries next week, if Bill Belton and Derek Day are able to play next week, but in the meantime, they need a nickname. Is Killer Z's too easy? YOUR INPUT IS REQUESTED. Anyway, they were equally awesome today, combining for 169 yards and over 5 YPC, running hard and with purpose and through not just the Temple defense, but Temple defenders.
Receivers: A. So, who had Allen Robinson on their preseason Biletnikoff watch lists? 5 catches for 82 yards and a score is pretty much what we can expect from Robinson at this point. Alex Kenney looks ready to complement him, Kyle Carter continues to pose match-up nightmares, and hell, even Matt Lehman got in on the action. A bad bounce off the hands of Brandon Moseby-Felder caused a red-zone turnover, and a Garry Gilliam drop in the end-zone were the only mistakes.
Offensive Line: B. It was shaky early, and Adam Gress struggled mightily at right tackle, but this unit is still a massive improvement from the OLs of years past. The penalties from this group hurt mightily, though, even if McGloin was kept well-protected and the running backs had holes to run through.
Defensive Line: A. The interior of the line, Jordan Hill especially, was at its best today, swallowing up Temple running backs and collapsing the pocket. And despite the absence of both senior defensive ends, C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes picked up the slack with aplomb, bringing good pressure off the edge.
Linebackers: A-. What more can you say about this group? Gerald Hodges was quiet, and Glenn Carson was invisible, but Mike Hull and Mike Mauti were all over the place today. Ho-hum.
Secondary: B. Chris Coyer went only 13-26, and Temple threw for only 124 yards, but that's less due to the Penn State secondary than Temple's own inability to get out of its own way. Coyer missed some wide open receivers, and when he hit others, they dropped the ball. But for this much-maligned unit, it was indisputably the best showing of the year.
Special Teams: B+. Sam Ficken made a field goal! I mean, it was a 20-yarder from the middle of the field, but baby steps, you know? Jesse Della Valle added the longest punt return in recent memory, and Alex Butterworth's short leg comes in handy on pooches. Of course, he also had a 15-yard punt so...there are still some kinks to iron out.
Coaching: A. Ted Roof's defense struggled to adapt to the read option, and Temple recognized that, with Chris Coyer finding holes in the middle of the Penn State D. But Bill O'Brien pushed all the right buttons, Penn State dominated the time of possession, and had more than twice as many yards as the Owls did today. Well done, on all fronts.