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“View from the Philly Pressbox” – Virginia 17 – Penn State 16

In College Football, Penn State Football on September 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm

It would be easy to say that this loss can be blamed directly on the NCAA for allowing All Big 10 kicker Anthony Fera to walk away from the Penn State program and immediately become a Texas Longhorn, leaving new head coach Bill O’Brien and the Nittany Lions with an inexperienced kicker, on the road for the first time, and in a tight game when they visited the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville on Saturday. The truth of the matter is that kicker Sam Ficken should’ve never been in a 1 point ball game.

Penn State clearly outplayed Virginia for the entire ball game and deserved to win that game. It would’ve helped if  Ficken would have made a few of the 4 field goals he missed and didn’t have an extra point blocked, but again, it shouldn’t have come down to field goals. Here are a few facts buried in the game:

  • ·        Penn State forced 4 Virginia turnovers, giving the offense the ball at the 17, 17, 19 and 29 yard line but gained a total of 6 offensive yards after those turnovers and scored only a field goal.
  • ·        Penn State was 1 for 5 in the red zone.
  • ·        Penn State had only 2 defensive three-and-outs all afternoon.
  • ·        Virginia’s final drive was 12 plays, 86 yards and took 6:36.
  • ·        The Cavs had only 295 yards total offense for the game.
  • ·        Virginia was 9-15 on 3rd down conversions and 3 for 3 on the game winning drive.
  • ·        Penn State held Virginia to 32 yards rushing on 25 carries and 2 rushing 1st downs.
  • ·        Penn State averaged only 2.9 yards per carry on 42 carries.
  • ·        Allen Robinson had 10 catches for 89 yards and a TD.
  • ·        Penn State led 7-3 at halftime but lost the game in the 2nd half for the second straight week.
  • ·        Virginia had 10 penalties for 70 yards, PSU 3 for 24.
  • ·        Penn State ran 85 offensive plays to Virginia’s 61.
  • ·        Penn State had the ball for 20:03 seconds of the 1st half to Virginia’s 9:57.
  • ·        Virginia had the ball for 18:16 seconds of the 2nd half to Penn State’s 11:44.

As we discussed last week in the “View from the Philly Pressbox “ – Ohio 24 – Penn State 14, link is attached,  https://phillypressbox.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/view-from-the-philly-pressbox-ohio-24-penn-state-14/, the only statistic that matters are the numbers on the scoreboard. Penn State outplayed and outworked Virginia and should’ve won the game. Matt McGloin played well, passing 19-35 – 197 yards and 2 touchdowns. McGloin battled through an elbow injury and showed solid leadership. The defensive front 7 that was pushed around last week by Ohio was rock solid until the last drive of the game. Michael Mauti led the way with 9 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Gerald Hodges followed with 8 tackles and a fumble recovery.

At the end of the day the ball game fell on Fickens’ shoulders and he didn’t deliver this time. However, as stated a lot of things happened on both sides of the ball that should’ve taken this game away from Fickens and been an easy Penn State victory. Unfortunately that’s not where Penn State football is today.

Next up, the Midshipmen of Navy come to Beaver Stadium for a 3:30 kickoff. This will be the first time Penn State has played Navy since 1974. The Middies opened their season in Dublin Ireland, taking a 50-10 whipping from Notre Dame. They had last week off to lick their wounds and will be looking to get on the winning track. For Penn State this is a “must” game if they’re going to salvage this season.  We look for them to be fired up and ready to play well against Navy and get their first win.

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“View from the Philly Pressbox” Ohio 24 – Penn State 14

In College Football, Penn State Football on September 6, 2012 at 9:40 pm

After watching the season opener of the “new era” of Penn State football one couldn’t think that they saw much good on the field for the Nittany Lions. Ohio University came to Beaver Stadium with a good ball club that was expected to put up a good fight, but this was Ohio University of the MAC Conference not Ohio State University of the Big 10!!

Early in the game it appeared that Matt McGloin may have improved under the coaching of Bill O’Brien as he ran a fairly efficient offense and took PSU to the locker room with a 14-3 halftime lead. As the 2nd half started it was very evident that the losses of Silas Redd and Justin Brown were significant. When starting tailback Bill Benton went down with an ankle injury there no weapons left on the offensive side of the ball. As a result the Penn State offense was limited to 115 yards in the 2nd half. The limited talent on this team was shown early when O’Brien made the decision to use 6-foot-2, 237-pound linebacker Gerald Hodges returning kickoffs and punts. Hodges is an outstanding athlete but has no business returning kicks at Penn State. As a result, he returned one kickoff to the 12 yard line and fumbled a fair catch that led to an Ohio field goal. This is a clear indication of limited talent.  

More importantly was not having Tom Bradley calling the defense in the 2nd half. I’ve seen a few times over the years where the defense was beaten up by better teams, but it wasn’t often. Ted Roof’s defense had no answers for the Ohio offense that rolled up 301 yards in the 2nd half alone, converted 11of 12, 3rd   down conversions, gave up drives of 82, 70, 50 and 93 yards and turned a 14-3 lead in to a 24-14 loss. The front 7 of the Nittany Lions are considered the strength of the team. This group was pushed all over the field in the 2nd half. There are two ways to look at this, either the players were outmatched or the coaches didn’t put them in a position to be successful. Either way, the result was ugly!!

At the end of the day, this coaching staff got severely outcoached by Frank Solich and his Ohio staff. Solich has been around the block and is a quality football coach that’s done a nice job at Ohio. As for Penn State, the importance of having a staff that had been together for so long may have been taken for granted. Very rarely was a Penn State team ever outcoached. It was even more unusual for them to not make the proper adjustments at halftime.

Our analysis of games at the Philly Pressbox is not usually based on stats. Stats can be misleading and often are. After all, the only numbers that matter are the ones on the scoreboard. However, there are always several stats that tell the story of the ball game. Obviously, one is turnovers. Ohio created 3 turnovers, 2 fumbles and 1 interception, and PSU none. Time of Possession is important because it allows teams to wear the opponent down and unless you’re playing against a quick striking high powered offense, if one team has significant time of possession over the other they usually win. Ohio led in time of possession 33:10 to 25:05. This also resulted in Ohio running 88 plays from scrimmage while PSU ran 70. Last is 3rd (and 4th) down efficiency. If the defense can’t get off the field because they can’t stop the opponent in 3rd and 4th down situations they usually lose. Ohio converted 14 of 22 while PSU converted 10 of 19.

As a Penn State supporter this was a very sad day. I was very proud of the fans for their support and for the players for their dedication to the cause. However, as I watched the replay on TV and heard the comments from the ESPN broadcast team that as they worked in State College during the week they found very little indication or recognition of Joe Paterno saddens me to know end.

As far as Penn State football, the feeling here is that this is only the beginning of a slide that will be very difficult to stop. This weeks game at Virginia was going to be difficult with a fully stocked lineup. The players can say that they will be better and that what happened against Ohio won’t happen again but the real question is this; do they have the talent on the field to keep it from happening again?

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“View from the Philly Pressbox” – Penn State Blue-White 2012

In Penn State Football on April 22, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I have to say watching the 2012 Penn State football Blue-White game without Joe Paterno, Tom Bradley, Jay Paterno, Bill Kenney, Dick Anderson, and Galen Hall on the sidelines, or in the pressbox, was a very unusual site.

The Bill O’Brien era is under way. The crowd of 60,000 had a beautiful, sun drenched, day for football in Happy Valley.

Obviously, O’Brien and his staff have a great deal of work ahead of them. They’re installing new systems on both sides of the ball, as well is in the strength program. They need to learn the returning player’s strengths, weaknesses and personalities. All the while, O’Brien, in his first head coaching position, must learn all of the responsibilities of a head coach, off the field as well as on the field, while getting to know the new staff he has put together.

Once the game started I’m not actually sure what I saw, or think I saw, about the 2012 version of Nittany Lions. With the understanding that the new staff wasn’t planning to show much of their new schemes, we’re trying to filter out what we think we saw. The QB play seemed as erratic as it has been in the past. Matt McGloin, 22 plays, Paul Jones, 22 plays, Rob Bolden, 21 plays and Shane McGregor, 11 plays, saw the action. Combined the group completed 23 of 48 passes for 343 yards, 2 touchdowns and 5 interception, 3 by Bolden. The passing game was very simple and was somewhat successful with short passes. Where they had problems was throwing the ball down the field or in to tight spots. Overall, there seemed to very little difference in the top three guys so the competition will continue.

As far as the running game, Silas Read played only one series in the game. Read is a top notch running back and one of the best in the Big 10. With Read out of action it was tough to determine what you were watching. Overall, the offense rushed for 144 yards. Bill Belton, being converted from wide receiver/shotgun quarterback to running back rushed for a game high 52 yards. Fullback Zach Zwinak added 37 yards and a touchdown.

The receivers played well overall. Allen Robinson and Shawney Kersey led the team with 3 receptions each.

On the other side of the ball the defense collected 8 sacks to go with their 5 interceptions. The starting seven of Jordan Hill, DaQuan Jones, Sean Stanley, Pete Massaro, Mike Hull, Glenn Carson and Gerald Hodges appeared strong as a group. The defensive backs on the other hand were questionable. The DB’s and LB’s allowing 343 yards, mostly underneath, but did have the 5 interceptions and 8 sacks. There were times when it appeared the offense could run the ball at will.

That brings us to the offensive line, with only one returning starter. At times they looked good and at other times, looked adequate at best. They put up yards but they gave up sacks. They are surely a work in progress.

At the end of the day, the biggest concern still has to be the quarterback play. First of all, who will win the job? Secondly will they be better than they were last year? If the QB play isn’t better, the O-Line will need to improve quickly to allow Read and the running game to control the football. On defense, returning coaches Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlindin will do a great job with their groups as they have for years. The DB’s need experience, depth and repetitions. All four starters graduated from the 2011 team. There’s experimenting going on there, with possible position changes to help in that area.

Summer workouts and Fall practice will be very extremely important in the growth of this team that returns 10 total starters. The season opener is September 1st against Ohio University at Beaver Stadium. They follow the opener with a game at Virginia, before returning home to play Navy and Temple before opening the Big 10 schedule.

It’s way too early to make any conclusions, however, our take-away from the Blue-White game is that there’s plenty of work to do.

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