Penn State knew going into this weeks contest that it going to be a valuable learning tool and a important page in the book of one of Joe Paterno’s youngest teams. While there is no doubt Penn State showed up to win, the lessons and experience they gained from playing the top team in the country on the road will go far past the win/loss column.
So what can the Penn State faithful take away from this weeks match-up with the Tide? Contrary to the local media reports a lot more good than bad. Penn State has things to work on, but most fans should have felt good about the upside this team has, a team that is 2 games deep in a 2 season project towards a title run. Lets hand out the grades.
Special Teams: B-
In week 1 most people felt pretty good about the special teams situation, and while Penn State didn’t give up a big play on special teams it didn’t make any big plays. Stephon Green was a bright spot with 100 yards on 4 returns, and in a game that Penn State is scoring more often those return numbers would be more substantial, but Penn State’s lack of scoring made this stat a side note. The one area Penn State needs to figure out is the punting situation. While Anthony Fera has been taking punting duties, he isn’t actually a punter by trade. Russell Nye is the only punter on the roster as a walk on, but the coaching staff felt that Fera was getting the job done in practice. With Fera’s sub-par net average it couldn’t hurt to give Nye a shot against Kent State and Temple.
Penn State’s offense had moments of brilliance but couldn’t ever get it together. Turnovers plagued the Lions early on but the fundamental problems Penn State had went beyond that. Dropped passes, and poor run blocking kept the Lions from ever really establishing offensive presence.
Rob Bolden looked the part again staying focused and throwing the ball while taking hits. The stats will point to his 2 interceptions, but ultimately you couldn’t really fault the Lion’s loss on him. He had several well placed ball that were dropped, including a key 3rd down pass to Zug which killed a well executed drive.
Once again, the biggest issue the Lions had was their ability to open up holes for running. While they did a great job protecting Bolden (giving up 0 sacks) they couldn’t get the ground game going. Personally I’m ready to join to the Christmas backfield party (Redd and Green) but I’m not going to write of Royster just yet. Royster seems to be struggling to find his speed and quickness through the hole he has had in the past but I’ll give him the next two games before I say more on him specifically. For whatever reason Redd and Green are just having an easier time creating space to run, the more success the running game has, the less pressure Bolden has to make a big throw.
To give the defense some credit, Trent Richardson is a tank. Penn State struggled tackling, but Richardson bounced off of tackles like few running backs in the nation will. That being said the tune of the night was still “Why can’t anybody tackle?” and “What happened to Jack Crawford” from early on Penn State lacked any real pressure in the backfield and it opened up Alabama’s attack on the Penn State secondary Nick Sukay
Penn State’s defense doesn’t have to change a lot to get back on their elite level, they just need to sure up on the fundamentals. The loss on Saturday was as much of a testament to Alabama’s offense as it was anything else. When the Big Ten season comes around, Penn State ought to look it’s usual dominating self. Or so we hope.