First of all, how about a big round of applause for this Turkey, who just about nailed the score prediction for Temple vs. PSU. My prediction was 24-13. The final score was Penn State (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) 22, Temple (3-1, 1-0 Big MAC-haha) 13, and the Nittany Lions once again did not cover the spread, which had dropped to around 13 by game time. If you followed my advice to take the “under” and take Temple and the points, you’d be buying me dinner right now.
No, Temple was definitely not a pushover cupcake cream puff team. They scored first and kept PSU in the hole for the best part of three quarters.
One thing I never would have predicted was that Collin Wagner would tie the school record for number of field goals in a game. (If he hadn’t missed one of six, he would have set a new record.) Winning ugly is one thing, but letting Temple hang around for a whole game with a Penn State offense so impotent in the red zone that it had to rely on its kicker to generate any points at all is ridiculous.
Temple scored all its points in the first quarter, before the PSU defense showed up. However, once the defense got the message, they played well against the up and coming Owls. Stupar and Sukay both showed that they can play if they want to and Mauti gave us a flash of what we’ve been wanting to see from him.
The offense just couldn’t move the ball inside the 30 yard-line, in spite of the suddenly effective Evan Royster having a career day (193 all-purpose yards) and breaking out of his season-long slump. He nearly doubled his output in the first three games. Nevertheless, the offense was hopeless in the red zone for most of the game. Was it their execution? Partly. Was it the play calling? Partly. Whatever the reason, they just sucked, with the result being two field goals in the first period, one in the second, and two in the third, the last of which finally gave Penn State a 15-13 lead with 1:38 left in the third. They would add a touchdown on a spirited one yard run by Michael Zordich with 3:55 left in the game, leaving fans to sweat out the final few minutes.
Fortunately, the defense was sound. The Nittany Lions got the ball back at their own 46 on an interception of a Chester Stewart pass, and were able to drive the ball down to the Temple 25 before stalling once again and turning it over on downs without completely running the clock out. With 19 seconds left, Stewart threw and incompletion and was sacked by Pete Massaro on second down. Stewart fumbled, Massaro recovered, and that was the ball game.
Injuries were costly to both squads. Bernard Pierce, Temple’s star running back was carted off early in the third quarter after running for 42 yards and both Temple’s touchdowns. Penn State lost offensive tackle Lou Eliades to a torn ACL late in the game. He’ll be out for the remainder of the season. This will hurt an already mediocre offensive line, which could subject a freshman quarterback Rob Bolden to much more pressure than he has experienced thus far.
Overall, Penn State more than doubled Temple’s offensive stats. First downs were 20 vs. 8; total yards were 439 vs. 202. Yet, Temple was in the game until that final sack of Chester Stewart. On defense, Penn State forced three Stewart interceptions and a fumble, while Temple forced a single Evan Royster fumble.
On special teams, both sides played well. Collin Wagner should be a candidate for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week with his five field goals and 16 points total. Temple’s punter, big Jeff Wathne, boomed one of his seven punts 57 yards and averaged 44.7 yds. Chaz Powell had three kick returns for 48 yards. I think it’s about time we saw a little more from this guy with all that speed. He needs to break one soon.
Unfortunately, my poor old PSU English professor, Dr. McGillicuddy, has Alzheimer’s, so when I gave him my pre-game preview to grade last week, he misplaced it and gave me back a paper from English 10 in 1964. Apparently, he’s kept it all these years to— I’m not sure why he would have done that, other than to attract flies. I don’t think I know any more about Aeschylus, Elektra, and company now than I did back then, and I sure as hell didn’t deserve the C- Dr. Mick gave me. But I digress.
I think this game was indicative of a team that still needs lots of work. The defense might be ready to handle the Big Ten schedule, but the offense will need to figure out how to put six points at a time on the scoreboard more often than not. The red zone performance has to improve. The offensive line was just coming together when Eliades got hurt, so now it’s two steps back. However, Royster’s performance was encouraging, and this Turkey hopes it instills added confidence as the meat of the season comes out of the fridge.
For the Nittany Lions’ fine performance, they were sucked up to #22 in the AP poll once again.
I’ll be back later in the week with a preview of the Big Ten opener, the big road game at Kinnick Stadium against the Iowa Hawkeyes.