In the lead up to this game, expectations of performance were raised and decided upon. Not unlike Penn State’s game against Pitt, the Nittany Lions were able to establish control by burying the Panthers early, taking away any hopes they had at making the game interesting.
Yet, coming out of the game, it still feels like Penn State could have played much better than they actually did. The offensive line allowed penetration seemingly all night, which led to some hectic, improvised plays by Trace McSorley, which somehow still worked. The defense still employed its bend but don’t break approach, allowing more yards to Georgia State than they did to Akron, but allowing the same amount of points (zero).
Last week, it felt like the Nittany Lions were too pumped and made mental errors because of it. They certainly weren’t overexcited in this game, but at times it felt like they weren’t excited enough. It feels weird to say this when Penn State scored 56 points, had 5 turnovers on defense, all while pitching the second shutout in three games.
In the end, that’s what good teams do. They turn ho hum performances into impressive wins, and find ways to mask what should be glaring deficiencies on less capable teams. Speaking of less capable teams, the competition so far has played a part in how lopsided the scores have been regardless of overall performance. The kind of penetration defenses have been able to get against our offensive line would create a lot more catastrophic situations if the players running after McSorley had better pass-rushing ability. The offense’s bending ability would eventually snap against a team that is able to stretch the field more efficiently. The holes the defense has left open in some plays would lead to touchdowns, not marginal gains, against the best teams in the Big Ten. Lucky for Penn State, they still have a few more weeks of moderate competition, which they can use to correct all of their deficiencies.
Even though this game could be taken for granted, what can’t be ignored is the amount of injuries we witnessed on the field. With Saquon Barkley, Marcus Allen, Manny Bowen, and Torrence Brown incurring some level injury, this game served to decimate the depth on the defensive side of the ball and give us another scare on our star running back. Hopefully most of the injuries are minor (Brown’s didn’t look minor, unfortunately) and the players can come back as soon as next week. Otherwise this would have been a guarantee game that guaranteed a lot more than just a win.
There isn’t really much else to write about the game. Penn State dominated an overmatched opponent, showed that it still has some work to do on both offense and defense, and showed that even when they’re not playing the perfect game, they’re going to be incredibly hard to stop. Let the team watch film what worked and what didn’t, and prepare for Akron next week.