1. Running Game Showed Signs of Life
While most fans will point to Penn State’s inability to punch it in during the fourth quarter, it was actually a solid night for the running game. After averaging less than 3 yards per carry against Wisconsin, Auburn, and Villanova, the Penn State offense racked up 199 rushing yards on an efficient 4.9 yards per carry.
Leading the way was Keyvone Lee who, despite only getting eight carries, finished the game with 74 yards; thanks in large part due to a 44-yard scamper. Lee is far from a finished product — from the fumbles (none tonight!) to remembering that he’s a 239-pound back, Lee has a ways to go before he’s garnering 20+ carries a game consistently. But his talent and skillset is clear.
John Lovett also had a solid night, carrying the ball 10 times for 41 yards. At 6-foot-0, 209 pounds, he offers Penn State the requisite B1G size, but he clearly has the quickness and short area burst advantage over Lee and Noah Cain. Which speaking of...
2. Noah Cain...Hurt?
After the light load last weekend and then his performance tonight, there is little doubt in my mind that Cain is being hampered by an injury. Unlike last week, he got plenty of opportunities — 11 carries — but couldn’t do much of anything, finishing the night with just 23 yards, good for 2.1 yards per carry.
I’m sure it’s a frustrating situation for Cain who was expected to be RB1, but he’s not moving like he was to begin the season, and the lack of burst is hurting the offense. Perhaps he gets healthier this week and as the season goes on, but in this blogger’s mind, it’s becoming more and more evident who should be getting the bulk of the carries.
3. Little Bit of “2020 Clifford” Showed Tonight
After 4.5 games of new-and-improved, Yurcich-certified Sean Clifford, our old nemesis “2020 Clifford” popped his head out a few times tonight. A really bad INT that Penn State is rather fortunate wasn’t a Pick Six was the highlight for 2020 Cliff, but a few overthrows there and a couple inaccurate passes there certainly brought back some bad memories.
To be clear, though: all in all, I thought Clifford played fine tonight. I am actually a little surprised his statline looks the way it does: 17-of-33 for just 178 yards. I thought he did a pretty good job navigating the pocket, and knowing when to take off and run — he picked up at least two long first downs with his feet. But this was definitely a step back game for Clifford. Not a major one, but with Iowa ahead, you would have liked another clean performance.
4. Defense Stepped Up
Okay, I am sorry for putting this at No. 4 because the defense was phenomenal tonight. They allowed just 264 yards to Indiana, held the Hoosiers to a meager 2.9 yards per carry, and came up with a massive 4th-and-1 stand coming off Clifford’s pick in the first quarter. Although I don’t believe a Hoosiers touchdown there would have greatly influenced the game (Penn State really had control of this one), it was nice to see this defense again come up with a red zone stop.
I don’t know quite where I would rank this defense with other units Brent Pry was had. Goes without saying, but their performances the rest of the season — namely next week against Iowa and later this month against Ohio State — will go a long way in helping us understand just how good they are. But holding a non-Rutgers-or-Michigan team to zero points is impressive no matter how you slice it.
5. Indiana Probably Isn’t As Bad As Most People Think
Indiana clearly isn’t the Top 25 team some people thought heading into the season, but let’s also put something into perspective: the Hoosiers’ three losses came to the three teams that will likely be ranked No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 tomorrow. You want to talk about “tough” schedules to start the year, that’s certainly it. So although a 24-0 victory won’t exactly jazz people up, Indiana is likely better than its record indicates.