The Owls are coming to Beaver Stadium on Saturday for their ritual slaughter. Temple (0-1, 0-0 MAC) faces the #5 Nittany Lions (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) in the last of the tune-up games for the Lions, and they better take this as a serious opportunity to get the running game on track.
(It’s ON TRACK, dumbass sports commentators, not “untracked” or the pseudo-Teutonic equivalent, “untrakt”. Sorry, couldn’t resist; I digress. N’wait – don’t go away yet!)
Temple hasn’t played since September 3, when they blew a 10-point lead in a losing effort against FCS Villanova.
Recall that I had grave doubts about the efficacy of the offensive line before the season began, when others were licking their chops counting up the wins in a year they claimed would be a walk in the park because of the “easy schedule.” Folks, it’s not coming together. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Eliades and Stankiewicz getting pine splinters again real soon now. Furthermore, the Wisniewski experiment, moving him to the unfamiliar center position, is not working. If these things don’t get settled on Saturday against Temple, the Lions are in deep doo-doo against Iowa.
Syracuse pushed these guys around pretty well. Fortunately, they’re not half bad at pass protection blocking – yet. We’ve got a decent passer and some very tall, sure-handed receivers, so we haven’t been burned yet by the lack of a running game. However, it is quite possible that this game will be once again be a difficult one for the PSU running game, because the one Temple unit that performed well in that disastrous outing against Villanova was the defensive line, which recorded 11 tackles for loss. “Butbutbut that was against an FCS team,” you protest. Yeah, well this damn offensive line is damn well playing like an FCS team, and I don’t mean like Ap State or Samford, either! Penn State’s rushing offense ranks 94 out of 119 NCAA FBS Division schools, and that was against Akron and Syracuse! Friends, if Royster and Green cannot rack up at least 190 yards on Temple, it won’t keep the Nittany Lions from winning, as Clark and his receivers will eat up their secondary (Villlanova did), but it will not portend well for the rest of the season.
So, now, I’ll stop bitching about the offensive line. I am really quite happy with the looks of the passing game. These receivers can actually catch! The Zugster is a great go-to guy and the Moyeburger ain’t bad, himself. I’m encouraged when I hear that Quarless has a whole new attitude, because his contribution will be essential this season. Smith and Powell provide an interesting change of pace (and height). Moreover, Royster has some pretty good hands, himself, and is a serious threat swinging out of the backfield or lining up in the slot. Clark might be rushed a bit more in this game, as Temple has a couple of decent defensive ends who recorded five sacks against Villanova in their only outing thus far. Although I expect to see timing patterns most of the day, the Spread HD will get some additional work Saturday. We haven’t really begun to see the full extent of the vaunted Spread HD yet this year.
By the way, the NFL seems to be enjoying the novelty of the “Wildcat” offense all of a sudden, but quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno brings out the fact that PSU used it in 2002 with Michael Robinson and Joe Paterno had it in his playbook in the 1940s at Brown. I’m just sayin’.
Ahh, another digression! Will they ever end?
The defensive secondary still hasn’t had a good workout this year. Nevertheless, the pass efficiency defense ranks 52
nationally. Temple managed to pass for 317 yards against Villanova. Junior Vaughn Charlton is back at quarterback again this year and he threw three interceptions in that opening outing. So, this could be a field day for the secondary if they can, in fact, play, or it could be an embarrassment for them if they let a couple of big plays get by them. But chances are that those big plays won’t happen, as Charlton won’t have the time to make them happen. He’ll be rushed and forced into making mistakes.
We’ll be looking warily at special teams again this week. Last week, Colin Wagner didn’t get any chances to screw up field goals, so we still don’t know if he’s developed into a consistent kicker. Jeremy Boone is a solid punter, but the punt return coverage has been pretty poor, with Penn State ranking 52 nationally in net punting yardage. Receiving, they suck even worse, ranking 90 and 112 in punt and kickoff returns, respectively. That’s got to change, and soon!
The weather should be fine. The forecast for kickoff time is 65 and sunny. Should be a great football day for those who are lucky enough to be attending in person. Happy tailgating, and don’t bring any glass bottles? (Somehow, whiskey doesn’t taste the same out of cheap plastic, so bring it in Nalgene bottles.)
Talking about the weather has brought us to that weekly feature where I either make an ass out of myself or make myself look smart: The Official Turkey Poop Prediction. Thus far, I’ve looked pretty smart. I think I’ll probably be smart again this week. Penn State is favored by 30.5, with an over/under of 46, which suggests that gamblers think PSU will win by about 39-7. I think the Lions actually might cover this spread, for a change. (They didn’t do so in the first two games.) Mighty Lions 37, Hapless Owls 6.