September 5, 2010

Review: Penn State 44, Youngstown St 14

Colin Wagner [1]
Collin Wagner (36) put on a distance-kick
clinic against Youngstown State.
It was a very iffy start, but the biggest question facing the Nittany Lions going into the season opener--"Can Rob Bolden do the job?"--was answered in the most definitive of means.

That and more in today's review of Penn State's 44-14 win over Youngstown State in the season opener. Expect this to be the main format throughout the season for game reviews, with things like players of the game, best unit performances, things that need work, etc. At the end, I'll just go through a few miscellaneous points in the order I noticed them re-watching the game today. On regular game weeks, this post will most likely be done earlier on Sundays. But I had a long travel weekend, which kind of screwed up my timing. Plus, with the extra day off tomorrow, we're delaying some of our stuff until Tuesday, when you're all back at work needing something to read.

Players of the Game

Rob Bolden -- Who else would you pick first? The true freshman did everything (and more) anyone could have dreamed for his collegiate debut. He completed 70 percent of his pass attempts for 239 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception that wasn't completely his fault (Derek Moye fell down mid-route). Bolden never once looked spooked in the pocket, even when defenders breached the offensive line. Granted, Youngstown State isn't Alabama, but Bolden's performance was extremely encouraging going into next week.

Brett Brackett -- Talk about stepping it up as a captain. The fifth-year senior blew up the Penguin secondary, with eight catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Brackett now has the performance on the field to back up his performance off the field. He will be a valuable, smart leader for the Nittany Lions this season.

Collin Wagner -- Wagner has now converted his last seven field goal attempts. But Saturday's performance against YSU was absolutely outstanding, particularly when you consider that Penn State was struggling to get any offensive points on the board. Wagner kept this team positive during a rough first half of football. That kind of performance is critical to the success of this football team down the Big Ten stretch.

Units that Impressed

Special Teams -- If it wasn't for Bolden's performance at quarterback, Penn State's special teams would have stolen the show against Youngstown State. Chaz Powell continues to be the best kickoff return specialist, taking back one for a game-changing touchdown to open the second half. Wagner had an All-Big Ten day kicking field goals. Anthony Fera logged his only punt for 45 net yards, while his kickoffs consistently went through the end zone, a few even through the uprights. The punt returns were still so-so, but Devon Smith could have an electric season. The coverage teams also played well, considering they weren't called on to do much.

Nate Stupar Sack [1]
Nate Stupar (34) and Michael Mauti (42) were
impressive against Youngstown State,
as were the other Penn State linebackers.
Linebackers -- I'll chalk the 80-yard touchdown up to a great call by YSU, and a back seven that didn't read the play well as a whole. That's why the linebackers get the nod for a remarkably impressive unit this week. The starting lineup of Nate Stupar, Chris Colasanti, and Bani Gbadyu did very well containing the spread offense of YSU. The two linebackers that were substituted frequently and early--Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti--didn't miss a beat, and had a few very nice plays for the defense. This is a stellar set of five linebackers, and it doesn't even include Mike Yancich, who didn't see as much time on Saturday as anticipated.

The coaching staff -- You're probably thinking this is an odd pick for a "units" citation, but the coaching staff did a fantastic job getting Penn State a game plan on both offense and defense that it could run successfully, while still challenging the players to step up. Tom Bradley and Jay Paterno get high grades for what they've done this off-season (I only leave Galen hall out because the run game underachieved against YSU).

Units that Disappointed

Running Backs -- Evan Royster always seemed to get snagged by that last defender. It was very frustrating to constantly see linebackers and safeties bring down Royster by a shoestring. Royster even lost his balance a few times, where all he had in front of him was another 8-10 yards of grass. Stephfon Green was serviceable in relief, but the breakaways were non-existent. Silas Redd was really great, against a gassed YSU defense in the fourth quarter. I know Joe Paterno said after the game that the YSU linebackers played a hell of a game. But should a hell of a game for YSU translate into stopping what was expected to be the best one-two punch running back combo in the Big Ten this season?

Offensive Line -- Well, this unit kinda disappointed, as the run game didn't get much room to operate, which in turn caused the offense to look rather pathetic for too much of the game. But on the flip-side, the pass protection was fantastic. I'd say this is still a work in progress, but it shouldn't have been such a problem as it was against the YSU run defense.

Misc. Observations

-Is Penn State really now using a spread punt formation? I guess after last season's atrocious punt protection, anything has a better chance to work. Also, the personal protectors were LG Johnnie Troutman, LB James Van Fleet, and DE Pete Massaro. That's a hefty trio. But we can't tell much about how this will work, because Fera only punted once.

-Penn State used a double-safe punt return: Justin Brown and Devon Smith.

-The first linebacker to come off the bench was Mauti. The second was Hodges. The third was Khairi Fortt.

-The first cornerback off the bench was Derrick Thomas.

-Was that Glenn Carson, or Zack Zwinak as the third-team fullback? I couldn't see the hair color. I doubt it was Carson, but please let me know if you can clarify the situation.

-Brackett, Moye, and Smith started at WR; but other WRs that saw time before the fourth quarter were Justin Brown, Shawney Kersey, Chaz Powell, Graham Zug, and Brandon Moseby-Felder. I expect Zug, Powell and Brown to get starts this season, but it's good to see Moseby-Felder and Kersey out there early.

-The second offensive line is RT Chima Okoli, RG John Urschel, C Matt Stankiewitch, LG Johnnie Troutman, LT Mike Farrell. Troutman split time, however, with DeOn'tae Pannell on the first team.


The run game is still scary. But I'll take Saturday's performance in a heartbeat if it means Penn State now has an established quarterback, a great defense, and (finally) superb special teams. Joe Paterno ran this team hard in August. It looked to have mostly paid off, as the players didn't look tired or rattled when Youngstown State came out and punched Penn State right in the mouth to start the game. There isn't much to say following a win like the one on Saturday. So I'll just leave it here...

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  1. I believe it was actually carson as the fullback. For some reason, they moved him from LB. I guess we have plenty of depth.

  2. I was disappointed by the play of the DEs, after reading all of August how monstrous Crawford was playing, I did not see a strong pass rush from him or Latimore. Great DEs have been a cornerstone of the best PSU defenses in the last 10 years and will be needed to take pressure off of the DBs against some of the pass happy teams we will play.