Game Day Observations: Temple
Saturday’s 27-10 loss at Temple was one of Penn State’s worst losses in recent memory, and arguably ever. I was fortunate (?) enough to get to go to Lincoln Financial Field and see the Owls’ dismantling live. It was as bad as you think — here are some things that stood out.
- Penn State is not, and will not be, the team we all hoped it would be. “The game will come down to which offense makes the right play at the right time, or which defense makes a rare mistake. That being said, Penn State’s offense and defense are both probably better than Temple’s,” I wrote on Friday. I wish I could stand by that statement now, but despite all of the hype, I’m not quite sure if Bob Shoop’s unit (especially now with all of its injuries) can play at last year’s elite level. Unless some radical change happens (like the NCAA allows trading) the offensive line looks like it’ll hold back the loaded skill positions around it. Forget the easy schedule — take a look back at our poll where our staff and readers predicted what the Nittany Lions’ record would be. At the time of writing, there are 2,466 votes. A combined 63.18 percent voted 9-3 or 10-2. I don’t think anyone believes anymore that the team from Saturday will run the table and only lose to Ohio State and/or Michigan State.
- Let’s get this out of the way — what happened to the offensive line? I lost track of all of the cliches I heard about the O-line in the offseason. They have a chip on their shoulder, 2014 is in the rearview mirror, they’re back with a vengeance, whatever. They had the majority of a year to train for this game, and they ended up being covered by national outlets for their futility. James Franklin said he was disappointed in their results and Angelo Mangiro was equally angry, but it was a nightmare start to the season.
ICYMI: Penn State gave up 10 sacks, but none quite as embarrassing as when a 2-man rush got 'em. WATCH: http://t.co/g8qFbh4gyM
— ESPN (@espn) September 6, 2015
— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 5, 2015
- The tailgating lots and in-stadium crowd were awesome, but entering was rough. The biggest crowd at a Temple home game last year was 28,408. A new record was set yesterday with 69,176 in attendance. Tickets to see two of the state’s top programs meeting were rightfully in high demand, and it was actually a fairly amicable environment despite this:
Some fans did have trouble getting into the game, though.
Whether that was a result of too many tailgaters waiting until the last minute to make the 3:30 kickoff or mismanagement by the staff, the difference between the stadium crowd at kickoff and by the end of the first quarter was crazy.
- Akeel Lynch might be able to succeed even with this offensive line. Ignoring Christian Hackenberg’s technically -59 yards rushing, Penn State rushed for 136 yards on 16 attempts. That’s 8.5 yards per rush. Sure, most of those yards came on three plays in the Nittany Lions’ very strong first quarter (on rushes of 42 yards by Lynch and 33 and 17 by Brandon Polk) but they weren’t flukes. This isn’t anything new, of course — Akeel Lynch has always been able to play like an elite back in bursts, and when he’s having a good day no one can stop him. When a team’s runningbacks are technically picking up 8.5 per attempt, it makes you question why passing plays were called 36 times compared to only 16 rushes. Oh, right:
- John Donovan, what are you doing? A great coach is one who adjusts his gameplan to incorporate the roster he’s given. A good coach is one who finds ways to win. A John Donovan is someone who looks at the depth chart, sees that he has one of the fastest wide receiving corps in the nation, and insists that they run short routes rather than use their wheels. Pretty early in the game, Hackenberg overthrew DaeSean Hamilton on a would-be touchdown. It was a forgivable and understandable error in the moment, but outside of a long Chris Godwin completion late in the game, there were no attempts for long balls. Maybe that was a result of Hackenberg not having enough time in the pocket to let his receivers get downfield, maybe the safeties played a perfect game, or maybe the play-calling really was as bad as it looked.
- But let’s stop talking about John Donovan for a second. Just kidding! It seems like just yesterday when Bill O’Brien’s tight end-heavy offense resulted in huge seasons from Jesse James, Kyle Carter, and Adam Breneman. James graduated and Breneman was out of the lineup, but Carter, Brent Wilkerson, and Mike Gesicki is a similarly talented unit. So why did I have just as many catches as them yesterday, on barely fewer targets? It’s no fluke that through most teams’ openers, Penn State ranks third-last (No. 117) in offensive yards.
- The defense felt bad, but actually played fine. The scoreboard said 27, but discounting the gift-wrapped score resulting from an interception returned to the two-yard line, it was a decent game. Carl Nassib tallied a career-high ten tackles, and outside of the deflating 93-yard touchdown drive, there weren’t too many moments where it looked totally outplayed. Moving forward without Nyeem Wartman-White though? Linebacker U is in trouble without that defensive anchor.
So there we have it. Saturday was nothing short of frustrating and there were few positives to draw from it, but hey, bring on Buffalo. This Saturday marks the beginning of the rest of the season and the beginning of a five-game home stand. What’s done is done, and let’s see how James Franklin’s squad can rebound.