Takeaways: Penn State Survives in Bloomington
Despite what James Franklin may have said, Penn State’s 13-7 win over Indiana was quite ugly. Both teams struggled on offense, and there were plenty of punts to go around. But there were certainly some major things that stuck out during the three-and-a-half hour slugfest. Here’s what we took away from today’s game:
The “open competition” for starting punter may be over
For weeks now, Penn State has had punting issues. Before the game, both Chris Gulla and Dan Pasquariello were ranked in the hundreds nationally in punting. This caused James Franklin to say there was an “open competition” in practice for the starting spot.
Pasquariello earned the starting job this week, and after his day today, the freshman from Australia should have that starting spot locked up. He punted nine times for 336 yards — a 37.3 yard average — and put five balls inside the 20-yard line. The Penn State defense gets the credit for stopping Indiana, but its job was made easier by Pasquariello constantly putting Indiana deep in its own territory.
“I still think we can get better in our punt game, but we were able to make some plays,” James Franklin said after the game. “The fact that they aren’t getting any return yards is big. I believe in Gulla, and I believe in Pasquariello, I think those guys can be two really good punters for us. We’re just going to keep working with him. I think overall, [Pasquariello] did a great job tonight. I think that was a big factor in the game.”
The offensive line may be getting better
We’ve said this before, and we got burned. But the return of Miles Dieffenbach seemed to spark an offense that has struggled in recent weeks. The team rushed for 162 yards, and allowed Bill Belton to become the team’s first 100-yard rusher this season. The team didn’t have starting tackle Donovan Smith, who stayed in State College due to injury, but still seemed to be in sync.
Yes, the unit gave up five sacks, but at least one of those was a coverage sack. The unit should feel good about today’s performance going into next week’s game vs. Temple, who has the 81st-ranked rushing defense in the country.
What the hell is John Donovan doing?
I hate to jump on this bandwagon, but I’m not quite sure I understand Donovan’s offensive strategy. A few things I noticed:
- The team used all three timeouts in the first half because the play clock was running down.
- Penn State had a first and goal from the one-yard line and couldn’t score.
- He can almost certainly be blamed for Indiana’s one touchdown — a pick-six on a screen play he calls multiple times per game.
Whether he is in the box or on the field, he and the offense haven’t looked like they are on the same page all season long. When asked about Donovan’s thought process and his public perception, Franklin gave a typical PR answer.
“Things are good,” Franklin said. “We’re 1-0 this week. I love our staff, and I love our coaches, and we’re excited about it. This team beat us last year, and we were able to be 1-0 [this year against Indiana], you know. So our staff couldn’t be tighter. I love those guys, from a leadership perspective, I hope they love me. I love our players, I love the community, and we’re just going to keep fighting until we get better. Things are good.”
Luckily, Penn State has a relatively easy schedule (Temple, Illinois) coming up in the next two weeks, so hopefully Donovan and the offense can get on track. If not, expect to hear more public outcry against the coach.
The game may have been ugly, but the teams looked good
While Penn State stuck to its traditional road all-whites, Indiana wore its special chrome candy-cane helmets today, which looked pretty awesome in person.
But the winner of “Best Looking” goes to this moustache found on the Penn State sideline.
The moustache belongs to strength coach Chuck Losey, and it’s incredible. He just took “No-Shave November” to a whole new level.