It’s now a win streak. There was more to like on defense than offense this week, but a win is a win in the year 2020. The first offensive drive was nearly a proof of concept for offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. After that it became predominantly a ground game whether due to the weather or having a lead with a good defense, I’m not sure. Of course since it’s 2020, that proof of concept resulted in a turnover on downs.
Offensive Snap Counts (total 79):
- QB: Clifford - 62, Levis - 17
- RB: Ford - 31, Lee - 32, Holmes - 4
- WR: Dotson - 72, Washington - 61, KeAndre Lambert-Smith - 48, Lutz - 24, Jones - 11, George - 8, Cam Sullivan-Brown - 8
- TE: Strange - 64, Johnson - 24, Kuntz - 3
- OL: Menet - 79, Walker - 79, Fries - 79, Miranda - 79, Wallace - 52, Scruggs - 32
Offensive Personnel Takeaways:
- No CJ Thorpe vs Rutgers meant that Scruggs was in a rotation with Caedan Wallace when he wasn’t a member of the jumbo Levis package (I’m taking suggestions for names for that 6 OL, 2 TE, 2 WR, 0 RB package).
- A much more integrated QB rotation this week rather than just rotating possessions. Levis comes in to run exclusively.
- It’s Keyvone Lee’s show at RB. Ford may start and may get similar snaps but Lee gets more carries. Ford may be best suited as that change up back rather than the bellcow and that’s a good spot to be in for 2021 with Cain & Lee handling the bellcow work.
Defensive Snap Counts (62 total):
- DE: Oweh - 40, Toney - 41, Isaac - 26, Simmons - 9, Tarburton - 2, Vilbert - 8
- DT: Mustipher - 41, Shelton - 33, Hansard - 15, Ellies - 14, Culpepper - 10, Vanover - 4, Izzard - 4
- LB: Brooks - 57, Luketa - 43, Smith - 37, Dixon - 24, Jacobs - 2
- CB: Joey Porter, Jr. - 56, Ellis - 20, Wilson - 42, Hardy - 29
- S: Brisker - 38, Wade - 49, Sutherland - 25, Brown - 13
Defensive Personnel Takeaways:
- No Hakeem Beamon meant Big Fred Hansard was DT3 today and he did his job of being big and clogging the middle.
- The final drive showed which depth guys have been practicing well and/or are healthy. Also, Amin Vanover is officially a DT and looked good at it, although still listed as a DE.
- Keaton Ellis got the start but Marquis Wilson out-snapped him and not as a result of being on longer defensive drives. I think Ellis looked good when in there but maybe they needed to build conditioning because he’s missed a lot of the season.
- Sean Clifford: On Target - 14, Catchable - 3, Miss - 3, Uncatchable - 2, Throwaway/Batted/Spike - 0
- I think it was Sean Clifford’s most accurate showing albeit in a game where only 2 passes were attempted over 10 yards. However, he continues missing high due to his lack of finish from his lower half on his passing motion. A little high is deemed catchable but if a WR is leaping for a ball that is not intended as a sideline jump ball that’s a miss. The first pass of the day, a screen to Keandre Lambert-Smith required him to showcase the vertical and the pass to Isaac Lutz that was tipped and intercepted was the same. The Lutz throw also showed the negative of missing high, which we’ve seen all season. A miss low hits the dirt, a miss high might hit a defender’s hands. The red zone drop by Parker Washington was a drop, could have been thrown better but was definitely one that should be caught. Clifford also made a couple progressions in this game, so that is progress.
- The passing game was hindered by play calling and/or weather because almost half the pass plays were on the very first drive. After that, no rhythm to it whatsoever.
- Will Levis’ role so far is about as wild and unpredictable as the OU-OkSt BEDLAM! series. He either runs for a little, runs for a medium amount, or runs for a large amount. I looked but did not once see a WR run a route on his runs to even be an option. They’re blocking from the snap. Mixing in a Levis throw would be a way to create an explosive play at some point, because the LBs and safeties aren’t hiding the fact they’re all-in to stop his running.
- Keyvone Lee is PSU’s lead back. He might not start but he’s the one they’ll ride to a win and load up his workload. We’ve discussed him all season, but I think a year with Galt will have him looking much better in 2021. He’s not that fast right now but he’s quick and decisive within the first 5yds and that matters a lot.
- There were 31 called run plays for RBs in this game for 164yds. There were 23 called run plays for QBs for 76yds. I’m not sure what the plan is to continue utilizing the planned QB run, especially with Clifford. His best runs on the year are usually scrambles and he had one for 16 yds vs Rutgers. The QB draw for a couple yards doesn’t make sense to me when Lee is standing there able to likely get more yards if blocked for equally. In short yardage with Levis, I get it. On 1st & 10 I do not.
- Theo Johnson blocked well again and I didn’t mention it last week but Brenton Strange is doing very well in that regard. I’d like to see both utilized in the passing game a bit more but the passing game as a whole isn’t being heavily utilized.
- Zack Kuntz got 3 plays to start Q2, all 3 he was used as a decoy.
- PSU used a bit more 4WR groupings with an empty backfield this week than prior in the season. There wasn’t much success with that formation but it was shown. In fact that was the formation for the INT so really it was not effective. WRs in general didn’t have a good day. Not many passes and too many drops. Routine or contested, there were ~5 drops on the day but 2 egregious.
- The OL did well but still too many defenders in the backfield for rushes and passes. The ball carrier getting hit before getting to the line of scrimmage is too common of a sight in 2020. There’s not one culprit, so they will receive praise and criticism as a group. They did have some fun vs Rutgers, my favorite block was Rasheed Walker’s below where he planted his man like a ripened Halloween pumpkin, by smashing it. And in Q4, they really exerted their will against Rutgers on the drive the started at the 2yd line. It’s an undersized Rutgers defensive line, so no matter how valiantly they try they were going to get worn down when giving up that much size.
- The defensive line group deserves a ton of praise for the week. I’ve seen a lot of praise for the entire front 7 but no way am I doing that. It’s the big boys up front that deserve the praise. All the way down to Smith Vilbert, D’von Ellies, Coziah Izzard and Amin Vanover the guys did their job. Tackles were clogging the middle and ends were running guys down on the edge. I mean how scary must it be to see Jayson Oweh gaining ground on you before you’ve even reached the line of scrimmage?
- Linebackers, not so much. I’ve decided against a whole bunch of plays showing Jesse Luketa & Ellis Brooks without enough speed and rather just one play showcasing their general performance. Brooks whiffs, Luketa can’t finish, Brandon Smith cleans it up.
- Noah Vedral beat Luketa and Brooks to the edge a few times. If they can’t catch a guy who is by no means a speedster, why does Brent Pry have both on the field together for the majority of plays? Even if he doesn’t want to move Smith to the WILL position, at least leave him on the field for the nickel package. During his recruitment Brandon Smith was termed a ‘werewolf’ by a few people. We are witnessing the full moon transformation as the season progresses. In the clip below, he comes from further away to tackle Ellis’ responsibility, showcasing closing speed deserving of the 11 jersey. That play was going to go for 5+ on Brooks, the WR already had the edge and Brooks wasn’t even getting off his blocks while the ball was in the air. Smith fired out of his backpedal and came downhill so fast it ended up as a loss on the play. It’s beautiful to behold.
- Next play? Smith subs out for Daequan Hardy and Rutgers nearly converts the 3rd & 9 off a screen to the RB (LB’s responsibility) saved only by a diving shoestring tackle by Luketa because Brooks couldn’t escape his block and Luketa didn’t have the speed to make a sure tackle. If I can see that Brandon Smith is the best LB from my living room, Brent Pry can see that every day on the field. I do not understand it at all.
- That substitution scheme could be blamed for the TD as well. 3rd & 8 with 7:41 in Q3, Ellis Brooks blitzes and runs right past the QB who scrambles for a 1st. Later in that drive PSU goes nickel on 3rd & Goal which results in a 3yd QB run. Rutgers hurries to the line so PSU can’t substitute and we all saw the TD. Who was guarding Melton and got outjumped? Hardy who replaced Smith. Who was late to help? Luketa who was a nickel LB this year in place of Smith. Who was chasing the QB but unable to reach him in time? Brooks. Now Lamont Wade also abandoned his coverage zone to chase halfway across the field after the QB and that’s right where the ball ended up, but I assert that having Brandon Smith in the game would have resulted in no TD. Your honor, I rest my case.
- Bread part of the compliment sandwich time. Joey Porter, Jr. is playing well. He’s been a great cover corner all season, the best I’ve seen at PSU. In this game he showed out as an edge defender vs the run and short passing game. Sure tackles that got the ball carrier to the turf quickly. He even showed a little block shedding. All he needs is to start getting his hands on the ball and it’s NFL Round 1 for him.
- Jaquan Brisker had his best game for PSU. He was a factor at all three levels and made a difference. It’d be really nice to have him back in 2021. I know he’s being announced on Senior Day but I don’t think his departure is a done deal yet. Maybe I’m just being hopeful.