Lions Nearly Snockered by Hillbillies
We had ’em all the way! Yeah, right. The Nittany Lions (1-0) got out of this one by the skin of their teeth, needing an overtime period and a fortuitous interception by Amani Oruwariye to overcome the Appalachian State Moonshiners 45-38.
Poor Showing by PSU Defense and Special Teams
Giving up 38 points in regulation? Giving up 451 total yards? Giving up a 100-yard kickoff return? Squandering a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter? OMG OMG WTF? Is this a Penn State defense? Rebuilding or reloading? How about reviling?
Young Zac Thomas, App State’s sophomore QB starting his first game looked like Dan Marino out there thanks to our defense, completing 25 of 38 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He ran 15 times for another 43 yards and a touchdown. The crucial interception doesn’t much blemish a fine performance by Thomas, who wound up with an adjusted quarterback rating of 137.6.
Meanwhile, senior running back Jalin Moore chugged out 88 yards on 18 carries with one touchdown, and added five receptions out of the backfield for 36 more yards.
The telling stat is that many of the PSU tackles were made by the defensive secondary. Oruwariye was the star with seven solo tackles and that crucial interception.
Most of the front seven were somewhere else mentally.
They Needed McSorley to Shine, and He Came Through
When all hope seemed to be lost in the fourth quarter, an excellent, 52-yard kickoff return by K.J. Hamler set up a make-or-break drive. Senior QB Trace McSorley completed five of six passes for for 47 yards under intense pressure by the opportunistic App State defense. At the end of regulation, the score was tied 38-38. Without McSorley, who came through in the clutch after a semi-competent game, the Nittany Lions would have gone down in a shameful 38-31 defeat.
Rays of Hope
Hamler was impressive. Aside from the kickoff return I mentioned above (more on that later), a 46-yard fingertip catch with maximal body extension tells me this kid has some excellent potential for thrilling us in the future. (I never figured out what a “circus catch” was, because when you hire clowns, that’s what you get — a circus. But I digress.)
The kickoff return was reminiscent of some of Devin Hester’s finest work. Standing a couple yards deep in the end zone, Hamler gave all appearances of wanting to casually take a knee when he bolted out of the zone for what turned out to be a 52-yarder. Yeah, I want this kid returning more kicks.
Another ray of hope for the special teams I maligned earlier is freshman place kicker Jake Pinegar (rhymes with vinegar). He successfully completed six PATs and one 32-yard field goal.
Miles Sanders appears to be the chairman of the running back committee, and he had a decent day, with 19 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns, and three catches out of the backfield for 20 yards. Freshman Ricky Slade looks promising, carrying six times for 39 yards and a touchdown.
K. John Called It
Although he got the score wrong, the scenario was correct, so hats off to the most prescient of my six readers!
Now We Have to Worry about Pitt
Will these guys be ready for Pitt? Before the season started, nobody worried about the Pitt game. Of course, before the season started, nobody worried about Appalachian State, either. I’ll be back mid-week with a look at our old under the arm opponents.
K. John says
This game could have, and probably should have gone so much worse than it did. The difference in the game was penalties. Most deserved, some big ones weren’t and we benefited across the board from them. Had Appy State played more disciplined, we probably lose by two touchdowns. Not a good way to the start the season. To make matters worse, every fear (micro and macro) I had coming in was confirmed, partially confirmed or received another supporting data point. I haven’t had a chance to rewatch the game yet but don’t expect I’ll be too pleased when I do.
The Nittany Turkey says
Yeah, and App State didn’t force any turnovers, which they have done. It sure could have been worse.
Not that polls mean anything at this stage of the season, but I think it would be a travesty if PSU remained at #10.
Big Al says
The only good thing about this game is that the team will practice with a sense of urgency this week. If App State had quit at the 11 minute mark of the 4th quarter and Penn State had cruised to 14 to 21 point victory, the Lions would probably have had an indifferent week of practice and gotten beaten by Pitt. That defensive meltdown might be enough of a wake call to get them past Pitt and on to a 4-0 start.
After re-watching this game on Youtube (thanks Russian copyright thieves), I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the problems (like dropped passes and coverage mistakes) will be fixed as the younger players get more experience, but many of them aren’t correctable. The biggest problem is that the DL is not good enough to put pressure on the quarterback. To get pressure on the qb, Pry will have to blitz linebackers/safeties and that will result in open receivers and big gains when the blitz doesn’t work. In addition, State still can’t run between the tackles unless the defense spreads out to cover the sweeps and creates gaps for cutbacks.
And I don’t see all the “OMG Starz” talent that is supposedly on State’s roster. App State’s players were smaller than ours, but they seemed to be just as fast and talented. This game left me with the same impression that last year’s Michigan State game did – i.e. that Penn State had somewhat better talent, but, if the two teams played 10 times, PS would lose 2 to 4 times.
So, bottom line: We are not a playoff team and 9-3 is the ceiling for this year. And the floor is probably 6-6 if we lose to Pitt.
The Nittany Turkey says
App State easily handled the PSU defensive scheme. I noted that of the two sacks recorded in the game, one was by Nick Scott and the other by one of the no-name LBs. The front guys aren’t getting in there as you say. No pressure and a soft zone were like candy for Zac Thomas and some mediocre receivers.
I thought these guys might be able to handle tOSU this year in the white out, but I just don’t see that happening now. I know — just one game, and I’m already morose about the season. Hell, Urbzless tOSU put 77 points on OrSU — what are they going to do with the PSU defense, a defense that allowed 38 points to a Sun Belt Conference team. Unless some miracle occurs, it ain’t gonna be pretty, and St. Joe is probably fresh out of miracles after last season.
And I’ll agree with you. While I originally felt that 9-3 was reasonable, it is looking shaky right about now.
St. Joe does provide a word or two of wisdom, “You’re never as good as you think you are when you win, and you’re never as bad as you think you are when you lose.” (Invoking Joe might get him in a favorable mood for producing miracles).
Losing to Pitt would turn lots of stomachs.
so many missed tackles and special teams miscues. i think they can do better, and this game will focus them.
however, the lines are still filling me with dread.