Your #6 Penn State Nittany Lions rolled over an outmatched Akron squad last Saturday. Hooray for blow outs. They’re fun, when you’re doing the blowing out. Of course, it’s also impossible to draw accurate conclusions from what’s effectively a pre-season warm up game.
However, a lack of accuracy won’t stop us. It won’t even slow us down. This is the blogging game, friends. Accuracy means nothing. Pixels must be colored, and those right quick. Besides - you won’t remember what we wrote here in 6 days anyhow. Therefore...
Kill The Lights
You want to see Penn State use a fullback? You pine for the olden days of isolation, back-on-backer violence? Well you’re in for a treat. Here’s the hip, trendy version of that.
Akron trails 14-0 early in the 2nd quarter, and with PSU backed up on their own 13-yard line, the Zips present a nickle defense on 1st and 10, versus PSU’s “11” personnel (1 RB, 1 TE) arranged in 3x1 spread-’em-out formation. The Zips slant their defensive line toward PSU’s 3-receiver side, and send the boundary cornerback (over Irvin Charles at the top of the screen) on a blitz. PSU runs an “ISO BOB” version of the read-option, pulling 360-lb right tackle Chasz Wright, and using him - effectively - as a fullback leading Saquon Barkley through the hole. That, friends, is one large fullback.
Here’s an end-zone shot of the action up front. Akron slants itself away from the designed gap. Brendan Mahon and Steven Gonzalez roll their marks to their right, while at the top of the screen, LT Ryan Bates pushes the Zipper DE wide. And, TA-DA! - there’s a gigantic, 14-yard wide hole in the middle of Akron’s defense - with one, lonely linebacker to fill it. And that LB, #5, must blow up PSU’s 360-lb fullback, and then tackle Barkley. This, friends, is - ahem - a difficult task. Don’t fault Akron’s #5 for going fetal. We’d all likely do the same.
Speaking of OLB #5 for Akron - it was a long day of taking on +320 lb linemen. That stuff will wear a guy out. In the gif below, he gets a piece of both Gonzo and Mahon as they pull from their guard spots, and lead Barkley outside for 6. Special shoutout to TE Mike Gesicki for his edge-setting block on Akron’s DE.
Smart is smart. Dumb is dumb. That’s American pragmatism. The gif below is smart. With Akron showing man coverage behind a loaded (blitzing) front, PSU scrapes Gesicki underneath slot DaeSean Hamilton, creating instant separation at the goal line, and an easy pitch-and-catch for 6 points. Note, also, that the O-line knew their (man-based) assignments, and executed them cleanly. Trace McSorley would’ve had 3+ seconds, if he had needed it. Remember when defenses routinely had free runners at our QB? ‘Member that? Pepperidge Farms remembers.
Of course, it wasn’t only the offense posting a great day. PSU’s defensive line torched a not-very-good Akron offensive line. In the image below, Akron will pull both their backside LT and LG to lead RB Warren Ball around Penn State’s left side. Akron also tosses a traditional FB into the mix, who’ll fire out to his right in search of the first blue jersey to enter his field of vision - either WLB Manny Bowen, or FS Marcus Allen (it’s Allen). The Akron RT will leave DE Shareef Miller for his pulling linemates, and proceed to the second level to pick off MLB Jason Cabinda. Nice design, right?
As shown in the gif below, chalkboard met reality with an audible thwack 3-yards behind the line of scrimmage. That’s where DE Miller destroys Akron’s pulling guard, ruining the design with his big boy pads. Great play from Shareef. It also didn’t help RB Ball that DT Curtis Cothran beat Akron’s OC backside cut block cleanly, followed behind the LT, and lept on Ball’s back like a lion onto a wildebeast, safari-style.
How did Penn State complete the shutout last Saturday? By whipping Akron up front. Outmatched, out-classed. Here’s a still frame of the Akron QB’s “read” at the mesh point. You’re the QB. What do you read - give? or take?
One last gif because - for this game, at least - Tyrell Chavis leveled up from a year ago, and that’s potentially great news for PSU fans around the globe. Chavis was routinely first off-the-ball last Saturday, while playing both 1-tech (nose tackle) and 3-tech (fancy pants DT). Below, as the NT, he gets under the Akron OC, drives him 4 yards deep, pushes him aside with one arm, and sacks the QB with the other.
Hit The Lights
Old school or new school, it always starts up front. Big pounds small. Fast beats slow. Whip ‘em up front, and the rest of it becomes a whole lot easier.
Will it continue this Saturday versus Pitt? No idea. But stick with BSD for these and other brilliant insights, such as smart beats stupid.