October 26, 2010

Review: Penn State 33, Minnesota 21

Silas Redd put on a show for Penn State fans, piling up
73 yards for the Nittany Lions against Minnesota.
(AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)
Rah Rah!!! The Nittany Lions won a Big Ten game!

Ok, enough of that. It wasn't pretty, but it was convincing in the end. Reeling from two embarrassing performances, Penn State went on the road and did what it had to do. Minnesota may be the worst team in the conference this season. It doesn't matter. Wins are wins, and Penn State sure needs a few more before the season is done.

The defense bent plenty, but never broke enough to lose the game. In fact, it was a few big defensive stops, efficient passing, a strong running game [gasp!] in the second half, and special teams that propelled Penn State to the victory in Minneapolis. Now, I may be crazy here, but doesn't that sound an awful lot like the Penn State teams of old?

Here the roundup from Saturday.

Tip of the Hat

Rob Bolden - The Boy Wonder looked better than ever, completing his first nine pass attempts for 115 yards and a touchdown. He finished by going 11-for-13, 130 yards and the score. Until he went down with what now looks to be a concussion, Bolden could have finished with one of the best single-game passing performances in Penn State history. But we'll never know.

Matt McGloin - Naturally, we follow Bolden with McGloin. All things considered, the former walk-on did a fantastic job against Minnesota. Being thrown into the fire, with little warning or starting reps in practice, McGloin took the reigns of the offense. Sure, his interception was annoying. But the touchdown passes and overall passing ability looked very good for a second/third-stringer.

Brett Brackett - This guy is dynamite out of the slot receiver position. Brackett still seems to be Bolden's favorite target on short and intermediate throws, which have proven to be very effective this season when the line blocks well enough. Brackett finished with three catches for 49 yards and Penn State's first touchdown.

Derek Moye - Moye continues to be the best deep threat on Penn State's offense, with scoring catches of 42 and 80 the last two weeks. The redshirt junior finished tied with Brackett for catches (3), but racked up 81 yards and two touchdowns on the day.

Silas Redd - Thought I would leave out Redd? The TRUE freshman is displaying the kind of explosive running ability this early in a career since, probably, Curtis Enis. Redd hit his running lanes with force and speed on Saturday, breaking more tackles (several of which would have been for loss) in one game than we've seen from Penn State all year. Redd's consecutive 20+ yard runs in the second half touchdown drive completely sucked the air out of the Golden Gophers, which is the kind of ground game Penn State desperately needs.

D'Anton Lynn - I'm starting to really love this guy:
"I thought about kneeling at first because that is what I am supposed to do," Lynn said. "But I figured I would get it past the 20, and if I didn't, I was prepared for the consequences. So, I just took it out of the end zone and ran as far as I could."
Taking risks, something this Penn State defense has been hesitant to do all year. Lynn finished with a team-high 10 tackles, a tackle for loss, the pick, and a pass breakup. I smell a 2011 captain in the making.

Anthony Fera - If there is one player on the team showing tangible improvement each week, it's been Fera. The redshirt frosh finished with a 45.2 average on punts, including four inside the 20 yard line, and a long punt of 61 yards. Two of his punts landed inside the 15, with one downed at the four. There is a reason Minnesota outgained Penn State by 70 yards, yet still lost by 12 points: field position.

Red Zone Offense - Penn State went into the red zone twice on offense. They came away with two touchdowns. No much more we could have asked. Now, let's see the Nittany Lions do that against a real defense.

Wag of the Finger

The Defense - Adam Weber had some really lights-out throws against the defense, including the touchdown pass just out of reach for Stephon Morris. But the lack of pass rush (again) and a relapse in the tackling department left an ugly bitter taste in fans' mouths. Bill Kline (Allentown M-Call) said this week the defense made DeLeon Eskridge look like Barry Sanders out there. Ok, I don't think that's an accurate comparison, but Eskridge did break way too many tackles and catch Penn State defenders flat-footed. While there were some very good plays, like Lynn's interception and Devon Still's sack/safety, it's tough to be pleased with the overall performance by the defense, giving up 400 yards to the Gophers.

The Offensive Line: Run Blocking - The pass blocking has gotten much better, but remember this was against the worst defensive sack team in the Big Ten (Minnesota had three total sacks coming into the game). The run blocking is still horrendous. It wasn't until Minnesota was forced to defend the pass as well as the run that the Penn State run game opened up a tiny bit. Even when it did, it was more on the backs of Royster and Redd, not better run blocking.

Stephon Morris - Even Tom Bradley called out Morris after the game. The starting sophomore had the worst game of his career, frequently getting bulldozed by ball carriers, playing weak pass coverage (minus the one great Weber TD throw), and missed painfully on the special teams tackle that allowed a big Minnesota punt return. Penn State will have to play a lot of eight-man fronts against Michigan, so Morris has to shape up this week, because he'll be stuck on a very lonely island.

Graham Zug - This was a guy that was going to catch the ball, no matter what, whenever it was thrown in his general direction. This year? Not so much. Another dropped pass for Zug, another game without a catch.

Misc. Observations

-Khairi Fortt did not play. He had a stinger.

-Andrew Dailey went down again, reaggrivating the stinger he got against Illinois.

-Sean Stanley played extensively, proving just how bad things have gotten along the defensive line.

-Penn State came out throwing, and throwing often. Sure, things got bogged down when they tried to run the ball in the first half, but you have to like the aggressiveness from the get-go.

-If Minnesota had a half-decent defense, they would have won at least six games this year.

-Mike McQueary shoved Rob Bolden back onto the field following the big hit that caused the concussion.

-Did I miss anything? Tell me in the comments.

Overall

A win is a win. That's all you need to know about last weekend. This week is the real test for this team's chances to make a bowl game. Penn State played more like the teams we used to know, save for the poor tackling. The Lions gave up a ton of yards to the opposing offense, but never really broke. I think there's a phrase used to describe that kind of defense, but it slips my mind at the moment [sarcasm, folks]. Unfortunately for Penn State, the offense still wasn't able to do more than one or two things really well at any given point in the first half--when it matters most. Early, Bolden and the air attack was on fire, but the run game was doing absolutely nothing against the worst run defense in the league. In the second half, with Bolden out, the offense started to pick up on the ground, but it's tough to gauge how well Penn State would have done against a better defense. For all its flaws, Michigan's defense is more talented (not necessarily "better") thank Minnesota's unit. Coming back home, under the lights, Penn State should finally have the kind of emotional jolt its needed all season.

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2 comments:

  1. McQueary shoved Bolden back onto the field so that he would fall down and the officials would stop play, allowing McGloin time to warm up.

    It was a very heady move, and the criticism is not warranted.

    ReplyDelete

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