After playing well for two games, the Penn State Nittany Lions really struggled on defense against Central Florida. The Knights were able to do whatever they wanted on offense, running and throwing all over the Nittany Lions. The Central Florida offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and gave quarterback Blake Bortles plenty of time to move around in the pocket and look for open receivers.
Bortles, who entered the game on a hot streak with five touchdowns in two games, picked apart the Penn State defense for 288 yards and three touchdowns. His ability to scramble around and keep plays alive frustrated the Nittany Lions and played a huge role in the victory. Penn State was unable to get to Bortles and failed to record a sack.
The Penn State secondary struggled to cover the Knights’ receivers, allowing Bortles to pick and choose his targets. Wide receiver J.J. Worton got open several times and led the Knights with 101 receiving yards and a touchdown.
The biggest issue for the Penn State defense in the game was the inability to tackle. The Nittany Lions missed several open-field tackles that resulted in big plays for the Knights. It also seemed that many of this missed tackles occurred on third down, helping to aid Central Florida in converting seven out of 12 third down situations. This wasn’t the first game in which tackling has been a problem for the Nittany Lions. However, UCF was the first team that was able to take advantage.
Perhaps most notable for anyone who followed the game was the fact that star defensive linemen DaQuan Jones and Deion Barnes were seemingly nonexistent. Jones made six tackles while Barnes recorded just two. Central Florida did an excellent job of containing two of Penn State’s best pass rushers.
For the game, the defense allowed 507 yards of total offense, including 219 on the ground. Entering this matchup, the Nittany Lions had only given up an average of 66 rushing yards per game.
Defensive coordinator John Butler will go back to the drawing board this week and will try to have his defense ready to roll in Week 4 when Kent State visits Beaver Stadium.
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