"That's the prettiest win I've ever seen," said James Franklin immediately post game. And when you haven't won anything since who knows when, you're allowed a bit of hyperbole. You can't blame the guy for trying to control the message his team - particularly his offense - might hear. The dudes on that side of the ball could use a lift.
The defense, of course, needs no such encouragement. Asked if he enjoyed playing in this defense, senior safety Adrian Amos answered, "Yeah, I mean, it's fun when you're good." He wasn't bragging. He simply stated it as a matter of fact. 'Yes, it is fun. Winning is fun. Destroying offenses is a pleasurable experience.'
Kill The Lights
After a Hoosier punt into the Penn State end zone, the Nittany Lions took over at their own 20 yard line. It launched their second possession of the game, which encapsulated, more or less, this offense's successes and failures of the past seven weeks.
On first down, backside guard Brendan Mahon pulled, and led Akeel Lynch off tackle on the exact same running play that Penn State had run roughly 25 of 31 times against Maryland the week before. Indiana was not slow in diagnosing it, just as Maryland wasn't on attempts 8 thru 25 last Saturday. Mahon kinda sorta blocked his man, though he was a bit surprised to run into him that quickly. Kyle Carter, on a "kickout" block from his H-back position, got in the way of someone wearing red for a moment. Jesse James, as the "Y" tight end, moved to the second level and whiffed. DaeSean Hamilton came in from the slot to block the playside safety, and also whiffed. Akeel Lynch dodged, jump cut, spun, fought, and twisted forward for a 3 yard gain.
Three yards is a win for us. But on 2nd and 7, Angelo Mangiro jumped early, and Diamond Dave Witvoerine correctly dinged our Lions for 5 yards. So, on 2nd and 12, Christian Hackenberg completed a quick WR screen to Geno Lewis. It was a good call, and set up well. Right guard Brian Gaia sprinted out and was in perfect position to take out the Hoosier safety. DaeSean Hamilton, from the slot, moved to block the corner over Lewis. Green pastures beckoned. But with those two blockers to his inside, Geno cut outside, away from his help. Even at that, though, the screen was still good for 9 yards.
Then it happened: 3rd down and 3. Indiana blitzed six. But in a beautiful twist of events, Penn State ran a 6-man protection, and blocked man instead of zone. Here's what it looked like (sorry - no videos this week):
As shown in the shot below, our linemen actually can block (sometimes). And so can our RB Akeel Lynch. All six Hoosier blitzers get picked up, mano-e-mano, and stuffed, mano-e-mano. QB Christian Hackenberg - gasp - has a bit of time in the pocket. And instead of checking down to his tight end for a 3-yard gain and a first down, Hack reads the IU safety who is standing flat-footed, just 8 yards deep, with Hamilton soon to be blowing past him.
Here's one last look at the protection, from the end zone. Nice, right? These guys can block somebody when they know what in the world they're supposed to do. By the way - Hack waited for DaeSean to clear the safety (#40, standing still like a dope), and then threw him the ball. The play was good for a 30 yard gain.
Penn State, despite a false start, not only converted a 2nd and 12, but had moved the football from the Penn State 20 yard line ALL THE WAY TO THE INDIANA 44. And then John Donovan, in a moment of sheer brilliance, went hurry up. Hackenberg moved his troops to the line, barked a few signals, and fired another completion to Hamilton - a quick hitch, good for another 4 yards on 1st down. Wooo! We're gaining yards! We're not just competent, we're pretty.
But on 2nd down, after a huddle and a change of personnel, Penn State ran slide protection. Indiana blitzed 5. Penn State blocked with 6. It didn't matter that we had numbers in protection, though, because we slid ourselves right out of the play.
As shown below, the line slides to its right while Lynch moves to his left. Geno Lewis, to the top of the shot below, lollygags on this route because he's not expecting the ball, even though he'd be the perfect target against this coverage (if he hadn't taken the play off, and if Hack had read the blitz - neither happened). Mike Gesicki runs a quick out, giving Hack a "high-low" against the field corner (with the corner sitting on the flat and the field safety rotating over the top too late). Jesse James runs a stick in the middle of the field, and Hamilton, to the bottom of the shot below, hooks up right in front of a linebacker, because that was what he was supposed to run.
Not that any of that matters, because this play was predestined to fail miserably, as shown below. Our beleaguered offensive line slides right, as directed, and capably blocks 3 Hoosier defenders (with 5 bodies). Akeel Lynch turns left to block two guys by himself, and doesn't do particularly well blocking either. Hack is sacked yet again.
So instead of another big play off of 2nd and 6, Penn State faces 3rd and 12. Penn State blocks man again (hoo-ray!). Indiana rushes 5, which Penn State picks up successfully. Hack has time, but with the Hoosier safeties awake and deep, he is forced to check the ball down to Jesse James, short of the sticks. James drops the ball, anyhow. Penn State punts away. And now we're ugly again.
Hit The Lights
Why would Film Room choose to diagram the second series of the game? Because Film Room couldn't bear to re-watch this entire game. That's why. I'm certain you won't begrudge Film Room that small concession.
The good news, though, is three-fold: 1) maybe this win did a little something positive for this team. They've certainly earned it; 2) if we stopped doing stupid stuff, we'd be half-decent; and 3) Temple is coming to town. Over the years, few teams have provided better lighting for our Seinfeld "two-face" Penn State offense than have the Owls.
So break out the glittery lip gloss, James. We're getting a (bowl) date Saturday night, one way or another.