That’s two games in a row where the defense was excellent. This isn’t individual players giving a herculean effort, it’s eleven parts working as one whole. In the past PSU has been burned by offenses passing where the blitz came from or the zone someone vacated, aka throw where they are not, and it’s repeated due to poor communication and slow recovery. This defense is quick, and I think a large part of that can be accredited to the S duo and having super athletes in the second level like Brandon Smith and Curtis Jacobs. Pry is also in rhythm, consistently sending backside pressure and overloading the frontside zone. QBs haven’t been able to shift their view before the pressure gets there.
Offensively, we saw some of what we expected and much of what we only dreamt. Under center?! Two RBs?! A fullback (essentially)?! Yurcich was throwing things against the wall to see what stuck, and not much fell off the wall. While Pry is flooding the frontside zones, Yurcich is likewise flooding defensive zones and beating them with some tempo before they can properly match his numbers. Right now PSU’s two coordinators are in rhythm and hitting on all cylinders.
Offensive Snap Counts (total 82):
- QB: Clifford (74), Roberson (8)
- RB: Cain (48), Lee (24), Ford (13), Holmes (3)
- WR: Dotson (61), KLS (53), Washington (46), CSB (22), Wilson (13), Eubanks (7), Wallace (5), George (4)
- TE: Strange (44), Johnson (44), Warren (23)
- OL: Scruggs (82), Walker (74), Miranda (74), Wallace (74), Wilson (70), Effner (20), Fashanu (8), Holmes (8)
Offensive Personnel Takeaways:
- Theo Johnson is practically a starter. PSU was in 12 personnel for 16 plays and 13 personnel for 6, so 30% of the snaps with Clifford had multiple TEs. They’re getting time on the field, they haven’t been a focus of the passing game to date though.
- The final 20 snaps of the game for Juice Scruggs were at center. For the long drive leading to FG, Mike Miranda played RG and Bryce Effner played LG. The final two drives he was sidecar’d by Eric Wilson at LG and Des Holmes at RG. Effner played RT for the final two drives. Surprisingly, Anthony Whigan didn’t get any garbage time snaps and his early performance last week may have been his last chance, or he’s banged up.
- We saw Marquise Wilson at WR and I was surprised the snaps were all at outside receiver, not in the slot. Winston Eubanks is still the backup slot and we saw our first glimpse of Harrison ‘Tre’ Wallace for the final TD drive.
Defensive Snap Counts (total 78):
- DE: Ebiketie (42), Tarburton (26), Luketa (12), Vilbert (31), Fisher (30), Vanover (14)
- DT: Mustipher (27), Tangelo (28), Ellies (19), Hansard (3), Izzard (44), Mulbah (20), van den Berg (10)
- LB: Smith (42), Luketa (35), Jacobs (31), Brooks (12), Katshir (21), Elsdon (25), Ko. King (25), Buddin (13)
- CB: TCF (45), JPJ (36), Hardy (28), King (39), Dixon (25), Wilson (11), Lytton (1)
- S: Brown (25), Brisker (20), Sutherland (41), Rudolph (26), Reed (30), Constantini (21)
Defensive Personnel Takeaways:
- I’m sure it was due to game flow but Jesse Luketa didn’t take a LB snap after Ellis Brooks returned. Several snaps at DE though, including a highlight for his draft package. He should stay there.
- After two games it looks like Pry has decided on his long passing down defense. Ebiketie-Ellies-Luketa up front. Smith + Brooks/Jacobs at LB. TCF-Sutherland-Brown-Brisker-Hardy-JPJ on the backend. Some substitutions are a given but that’s the "starting" personnel for that package.
- Arnold Ebiketie is a bit of an iron man at DE. Had the most snaps vs Wisconsin for a DL and led the way until garbage time again. Not many DL are built for running like him though so I’m sure it won’t affect him. Smith Vilbert is firmly in the 2deep for now but Zuriah Fisher got quite a bit of run at DE, even as early as drive 4.
- Speaking of getting reserves on the field early, Pry had reserves on starting drive 3. He came in with a plan to get guys work in ‘real’ situations, not just garbage time, and the offense’s early success definitely made that choice easier for him. This was a big game for the depth of the defense because they were able to get worked in alongside starters against a solid team. Guys like Coziah Izzard, Fatorma Mulbah, Zuriah Fisher, and Tyler Rudolph got run alongside the starters well before garbage time started.
- Getting reserves work also allowed heavily used starters to get needed breaks and Jaquan Brisker didn’t return following drive 5 for Ball State. It wasn’t due to anything new, so I’m sure it was to make sure nothing did happen. Jonathan Sutherland got a lot of snaps due to that, but so did Rudolph.
Ball State Passing Chart
- Sean Clifford: On Target - 11, Catchable - 11, Miss - 1, Uncatchable - 4, Throwaway - 3
- Taquan Roberson: On Target - 0, Catchable - 1, Miss - 1, Uncatchable - 0
- This game was a test tube from the very first drive. We saw under center, 13 personnel, 21 personnel and an empty set on the opening drive. In the game as a whole there were: 10 under center snaps, 16 two TE snaps, 6 three TE snaps, 4 two RB sets, and 4 empty sets. He used motion to determine the defense and he used Dotson a lot for that role because if the defense didn’t adjust, Dotson immediately became the bubble screen target.
- WHEEL ROUTE ALERT! Greatest play in football and it was executed brilliantly. A post to clear the deep defense, a flat route to occupy the shallow zone, and the wheel to fit nicely in between. Only thing better would have been a TD but Ball State was relentless in not getting beat deep and kept safeties back on nearly every snap. I think this is a strategy we will see a lot vs PSU this year, so having an opportunity to go against a good defense and try the limits will be good for PSU.
- Speaking of the limits, Sean Clifford again showed us his current limits. Overall it was a very good day where he showed great mental progress going past his first read multiple times. His footwork still holds him back especially on throws where he needs to push it. The endzone miss to Keandre Lambert Smith and the deep underthrow to Jahan Dotson are examples. He needs to finish weight forward and put those balls into the receiver’s range. Let them drop it, but give them that chance. It’s not an easy throw, but it is one that for him requires better fundamentals. He doesn’t have the arm to consistently throw those with bad fundamentals, few do.
- Props to Devyn Ford. Many, including me, had him categorized as a transfer candidate but he stuck around and he did some dirty work today. For the smaller back to lead block in the 2RB set it was impressive to see him hunt a guy and do his job. He got a little reward on the final drive too with four consecutive touches with good blocking.
- On the RB front, Keyvone Lee showed what he can do to start the 2nd half when he’s going north-south with just some full speed cuts. The start-stop, juke a guy out in the backfield role is not his specialty and gets him in trouble a few times. But when he’s going, he looks really really explosive. Yurcich mixed up outside zone and inside. Still more inside zone (based on initial target point of the RB, I’m no expert) but way more OZ than we saw in the Moorhead-Rahne-Ciarrocca schemes. Doing it from the 21 grouping worked wonderfully.
- In reserve time, we got to see Tre Harrison for the first time. He didn’t get targeted but he did find his guy, get hands on him and blocked, which is likely why he got on the field. Winston Eubanks, not so much.
- Great call for the Roberson to Johnson TD. Ball State was fully loaded to stop the run after 4 straight successful runs by Ford. Going under center with multiple TE reinforced that belief. Made it easier for Roberson and should give him confidence going forward.
- The flow of this defense is vastly improved compared to 2020. When Pry stacks blitzers, there’s guys filling the void and limiting explosive plays. Credit goes all over from excellent DBs, a pair of super athletic LBs, and a DL that’s working together on stunts and shallow zones. Look at Luketa’s INT, if he hadn’t caught that the RB was going to struggle to complete that catch after being blown up by Curtis Jacobs. Pry sent backside pressure, zoned frontside, and dared the QB to either identify the pressure pre-snap or progress to backside targets before the pressure won. There’s not many QBs on the schedule that will be able to do either of the above.
- Curtis Jacobs in space is an animal. Against a downhill packed offense like Wiscy he didn’t have a great game. But when an offense is trying to out-flank the defense, having a LB flying in on the field side to prevent that is a huge weapon. Smith can do the same on the boundary side of the field, but has gap responsibility first. Jamari Buddin showed a glimpse of similar athleticism at the end of the game.
- The DL got a lot of reserve reps today. Our first real look at Fatorma Mulbah showed that he might not be a quick mover, but he moves the OL and is not easily moved. A definite space eater, and alongside Coziah Izzard they played a lot of very complementary football on Saturday.
- This secondary comes downhill so hard and fast. Daequan Hardy tackled a 250lb FB mano y mano for a loss. The entire secondary looks to play physical and seems to take pride in that aspect. Kalen King fits right in. He’s a dog, a bit of a handsy dog like a basketball player in Mercer County, but he’s going to be physical and dare the refs to call it. Looks like a peak MSU CB who is going to be a star for PSU during his career. Sometimes that physicality can be negative like Rudolph's targeting call, but that's football.
Special Teams Analysis:
- 50+ypp, 100% touchback rate. Jordan Stout ate his Wheaties this offseason.
- Punt coverage team could do better to track down those bombs and down them before they cross the goal line. They're fast enough, just not finding the ball in time and the returner tricked them a few times.
- 3 for 4 isn’t winning any awards but probably not a job loser either. I still believe that he could let the shorter FG work stay with Pinegar. 9 kickoffs, 3 punts, & 4 FGs is a lot for a kicker.
True Freshman Redshirt Tracker:
- CB Kalen King #4 (2 games) - played defense
- CB Kaleb Brown #30 (2 games) - walk-on played special teams
- WR Harrison ‘Tre’ Wallace #85 (1 game) - played offense
- DT Jordan van den Berg #52 (1 game) - played defense
- LB Kobe King #41 (1 game) - played defense
- LB Jamari Buddin #42 (1 game) - played defense
- LB Dominic DeLuca #34 (1 game) - walk-on played special teams
- S Jaylen Reed #7 (1 game) - played defense