I hope the starting defense gets out of any practice punishment runs this week. Credit to Galt, even down to the last drive every player on the field looked fresh.
Just a refresher: I count a snap as anytime the team is lined up in formation. If there’s a false start, it counts. If a coach calls a TO as the play clock is expiring, it counts. If a coach calls TO shortly after the previous play before anyone is aligned, it doesn’t count. I intend on trying to get this out on Tuesdays for much of the season but I was away for Labor Day weekend and am thus a day behind. Also, sorry no gifs, I'm trying to figure that out in a fanpost and how to best make them.
Offensive Snap Counts (total 56):
· QB: Clifford (56)
· RB: Cain (44), Lee (9), Ford (3)
· WR: Dotson (53), KLS (52), Washington (33), Eubanks (6), CSB (3)
· TE: Strange (43), Johnson (28), Warren (6)
· OL: Walker (56), Miranda (56), Scruggs (56), Wallace (56), Wilson (42), Whigan (14)
· Eric Wilson is clearly the starter at LG going forward, both based on watching play and snap count.
· Penn State had 2 TEs (12 personnel) on the field 19 plays, and 3 TEs (13 personnel) an additional 2. Interestingly, it was Parker Washington who primarily came off the field in multi-TE sets. Interesting because I’d have expected Keandre Lambert-Smith as the supposed WR3 to be the guy coming off.
· Sean Clifford went under center 3 times. Once with 12 personnel and twice with 13 personnel. They ran the ball twice (once for a TD) and did play action at the end, which I’ll get to later.
· I was also surprised at Eubanks being WR4 subbing in for Washington. CSB subbed in for Dotson. KLS’s only time off the field was after his drop when he came up limping and when PSU went 3TE, each time being replaced by Tyler Warren.
Defensive Snap Counts (total 97):
· DE: Ebiketie (73), Tarburton (61), Luketa (54), Vilbert (15), Vanover (3), Fisher (1)
· DT: Mustipher (71), Tangelo (56), Ellies (48), Hansard (7), Izzard (3)
· LB: Smith (86), Brooks (74), Jacobs (72), Luketa (16), Katshir (11)
· CB: TCF (94), JPJ (84), Hardy (25), King (13)
· S: Brown (79), Brisker (61), Sutherland (58), Rudolph (2)
Defensive Personnel Takeaways:
· Franklin didn’t lie, Jesse Luketa is a starter. He had more defensive snaps than Nick Tarburton, he just split the positions.
· Derrick Tangelo and D’Von Ellies did yeoman’s work at the 1t vs Wisconsin. Btw, Ellies is the NT when PSU goes odd-front. PJ Mustipher got to avoid the constant combo block from G/C, but he also put in snaps. On the big Brisker INT drive, he played all 18(!) snaps. Sure Franklin took a couple TOs but that’s a lot of consecutive snaps for a big boy like him and he was looking disruptive to the very end. Maybe Beamon will be able to give him a breather when he’s back.
· I didn’t differentiate Jonathan Sutherland’s snaps between LB & S like I did Luketa because his "LB" role looks a lot like his S role. Pry has recognized limitations and isn’t asking him to venture into deep space.
· Speaking of, Brisker played everywhere. When paired with Sutherland, he patrolled deep almost exclusively. When paired with Brown, he was all over the defense from LoS to deep third. That’s what makes Brown such a good complement, he allows Brisker to be free.
· Kalen King is CB3 on the outside, Charlie Katshir is the backup WILL. Tyler Rudolph got a couple sub-package snaps when Brisker was out.
Wisconsin Passing Chart
· Sean Clifford: On Target - 13, Catchable - 7, Miss - 3, Uncatchable - 9, Throwaway - 2
· Penn State played it safe on Saturday. Some may say played it smart. There were a lot of throws to the short side of the field where a defender is less likely to get in the way.
· The offensive line was not doing a great job picking up the multi-gap stunts Jim Leonhard’s crew kept throwing their way. I’m not sure they’ll see an odd man front with that kind of pressure package again this season so I don’t want to take away too much from it. Everyone had d’oh moments from left to right. I was a bit disappointed in Miranda upon review though because for a guy without the physical tools he got caught leaning and out of position too many times. Communication across the line was lacking as well, which allowed those LBs to stunt 2-3-4 gaps and get to the QB untouched.
· Speaking of the QB, there was good and there was bad. Starting positive, Clifford did not make the catastrophic mistakes that exemplified 2020 and he really wasn’t even close. His misses were largely where no one could catch them and he held onto that ball like the nuclear football when sacked/running. He even made a couple reads and hit checkdowns. The negative is that his footwork is still lost. Even on the TD to Dotson he didn’t follow through on his throw, but he does have the arm to make that type of toss. It started off from the beginning of the game so it wasn’t due to Wisconsin pressure. When he doesn’t follow through, the ball usually ends up high and on 10 of his 12 "miss/uncatchable" throws the miss was high. He threw it too high for 6’6" Theo Johnson three times, poor Parker Washington doesn’t stand a chance.
· Noah Cain got the majority of the snaps but I think that was a gameflow decision and not the plan coming into the game. He sat for the 3rd, 4th, and 6th possessions of the first half before playing 5 of 6 in the second half. Keyvone Lee looked like he was trying to be a scat back rather than the big back he sees in the mirror. None of the RBs, even Cain, got anything up the middle. Yet the outside zone was not the bread and butter I expected, it was a lot of inside zone like the Moorhead/Rahne/Ciarrocca offense. The big run was OZ though.
· To replace the run game, they threw 13 passes at/behind the LoS. And were effective in doing so, especially to Cain or Washington. But most importantly, those passes set up the bombs. Parker Washington did orbit motion (motion behind the shotgun QB) several times and caught passes off that motion a few times. One time he didn’t was the deep (non-TD) completion to Dotson where the entire secondary bit on a pretty simple pump fake from Clifford. This time Clifford didn’t sail the ball (though still didn’t follow through properly) and took some off of it to ensure a completion. He does need to do better there because unlike McSorley, Clifford has the arm to drop that in stride no matter how deep. He just doesn’t have the touch right now.
· The throw on the offense’s final drive was a very good call imo. They went under center with 3TE (run heavy look) then ran Clifford on a bootleg with his targets right in his vision the entire time. Clifford could throw to Strange on a ~10yd out, Dotson on a similar depth crossing route, or Cain in the flat. He also could just run while staying in-bounds or take the sack and everyone apparently knew that because of how Cain made sure to stay in. He could have caught that ball standing up and trying to make something of it but went down while making the catch to make sure he didn’t get shoved out. The plan was clear with a potential win (Strange/Dotson) and a clear safety valve (Cain/run).
· The defense stood on its head multiple times Saturday to win that game. Wisconsin got a ton of snaps but minimal success. Classic bend-but-don’t-break defense. PSU also did really well in short yardage situations, multiple times stuffing Wisconsin in crucial situations. Graham Mertz helped of course, but the defense forced a lot of it.
· Arnold Ebiketie and Jaquan Brisker deserve co-players of the game for me. AK, as he’s referred to by teammates, came out firing. I do not think he will ever run a 4.36s 40yd dash but he is quicker at the snap than any DE I’ve watched. He used that not only as a pass rusher but a run defender as well. Usually you can negate guys by running right at them, but he got around his man and into the backfield consistently. Brisker meanwhile was hugely impactful even after missing time due to injury. His stat line doesn’t tell the full story as he was around the ball all game like there was a magnetic force.
· Tarburton played well at DE and showed the motor that’s been described. Luketa is the more impactful DE going forward however, though his role as DE3 works well for him right now. Luketa comes downhill with force and forethought, showing the pre-snap cognition of a MLB in a DE body. He was in the right place, right time a lot as a DE. Much more so than as a MLB. The final DE in the heavy rotation, Smith Vilbert still plays too high. His length is nearly useless when it’s vertical, it’s highly beneficial if he would use it lateral.
· PJ Mustipher balled out as the 3t. I thought that he’d added the weight to play more 1t in this defense but largely played outside the guard and wreaked havoc. He couldn’t be contained long with solo blocking and his positioning often forced Wisconsin to try. Credit to Derrick Tangelo and D’Von Ellies for taking some of the big bodies off of him and the LBs. Their stat lines were negligible but impact was high. They rotated almost 50/50 as the game wore on and clogged that G/C combo block more times than not.
· That block hogging made for a huge game for the box defenders. Ellis Brooks had a career game coming downhill and looked much better than I’ve ever seen him. His reads were quick and sure without the hesitation seen last year. He’s still not a space backer but he did ok face guarding a few times in the red zone especially. Brandon Smith was half a step slower in making up his mind but once he goes, he goes. A few times I noticed Gus or Joel Klatt giving Brooks credit for a play from Smith later in the game after Brooks had already earned his praise, but numbers are similar and honestly they both played extremely well. Curtis Jacobs is a space backer, his impact won’t be felt as much vs a Wisconsin type team.
· Pry used the LBs and secondary better in the pressure role than I’ve seen him do at PSU. Guys were coming clean while their abandoned zone was covered. He stacked blitzers several times to great effect, with the first guy taking out the blocker and second having a clear path. I think the quality of secondary play plus lack of receiving options may be the reason the pressure worked so well. Also, Mertz felt it and reacted poorly (kind of like how PSU fans are accustomed to QBs reacting). Both INTs were back foot throws that sailed on him. The first one wasn’t going anywhere but Brisker’s hands no matter what, but still back-footed and a bit high.
· Secondary play was excellent. Coverage was constantly tight and almost any catch made by a Wisconsin receiver was tough. The biggest mismatch was TE Ferguson vs Daequan Hardy, but although he couldn’t compete with that catch radius he played bigger than his size to eliminate yards after catch. Ji’Ayir Brown did as well twice on the final possession to ensure the clock kept ticking.
· I’ll be honest, I left my notes at home and am typing the analysis portion from memory so I know I’ve missed some, especially on defense. I’ll do better in the future.
Special Teams Analysis:
· Jordan Stout (P) = good, Jordan Stout (KOS) = good, Jordan Stout (K) = meh
· I think it’s too much of a workload for Stout. He puts so much into every kick, asking him to then dial it back and do the short FGs too is asking a lot. Pinegar has been good at the short stuff, take that off Stout’s plate.
· Punt coverage was excellent. AJ Lytton was perfect, he did exactly as he’s coached and should do. Hit them as the eyes come down and the hands collect the ball. I bet the coaches tell him to keep it up because if he does he is going to force a fumble or few this year and not every ref crew will view it that way.
· I tried to get a handle on who played each special teams unit but kick and punt units had different guys playing so I had like 14 guys, not a simple 11. Plus they rarely show the non-returners.
True Freshman Redshirt Tracker:
· CB Kalen King #4 (1 game) - played defense and special teams
· CB Kaleb Brown #30 (1 game) - played special teams