Breaking Down Post-Nebraska Reactions For Penn State Football
Following its failed comeback effort against Nebraska Saturday, Penn State football is now 0-4 and the only winless team in the Big Ten.
There’s not a whole lot to be positive about for the Nittany Lions right now, but there were a few bright spots in Saturday’s loss. With that in mind, a few of our staffers considered several of the positive and negative reactions floating around about Penn State football so far.
‘Penn State’s Run Game Is Back’
Sam Brungo: We saw a running back committee Saturday that made me think Penn State can rely on its backfield a bit more. With flashes of life, especially once Will Levis came into the game, I expect the running backs to build on the momentum they started in Lincoln.
Gabe Angieri: Well…maybe. Penn State’s running backs had their best game of the season in Saturday’s loss to Nebraska. The offensive line played a lot better, and Devyn Ford, Caziah Holmes, and Keyvone Lee all got it going on the ground. Both Lee and Holmes set a new career-high in rushing yards, while Ford led the way with 66 yards and a touchdown. However, let’s not forget the two previous weeks when the running game was bad. So while this past week was encouraging, it may be premature to say it’s back.
Ryan Parsons: I don’t know if “back” is the right term to use, but the rushing attack looked decidedly better against Nebraska. It was hard to expect much from the younger guys who suddenly found themselves in starting roles after Journey Brown and Noah Cain went down, but Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee are showing lots of potential. Now with the ever-mobile Will Levis in the mix, the running game will likely improve as the season progresses and guys adjust to a new coaching scheme.
Will Pegler: It may not be fair to say Penn State’s run game is “back,” especially considering it won’t likely find the same success it had with Journey Brown last season. However, if the Nittany Lions’ freshman rushers continue to develop alongside the offensive line, this group can certainly continue to get better. Devyn Ford is clearly talented enough to succeed with a consistent offensive line, while Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee both looked as confident ever against the Cornhuskers.
‘Will Levis Must Be Penn State’s Starting Quarterback’
SB: He should be, and I will be shocked if he isn’t. The life he brought to the offense was crucial to make any sort of comeback possible against Nebraska.
GA: I mean, he doesn’t need to be, but he probably should. It’s no secret that Sean Clifford has struggled mightily thus far this season. Levis provided the team with a spark off the bench against Nebraska and nearly led the team to a comeback victory. He certainly has his flaws, but the offense was more productive when he was in the game and he didn’t turn the ball over, something Clifford has done a lot this season. It’s highly unlikely Ta’Quan Roberson gets a chance, so Levis is the most logical choice.
RP: Will Levis doesn’t need to be the starting quarterback by any means, but you definitely can say that he should be Penn State’s starter. The offense looked noticeably better when he entered the game thanks to his energy and playmaking abilities, and not fumbling or throwing picks was enough to leave him in. After a full week of snaps with the first-team receivers, Levis might need to be the guy until Clifford proves he won’t turn the ball over.
WP: It’s tough that the Nittany Lions have come to this point, but Sean Clifford just doesn’t seem to have it this year. The turnovers have been brutal, and he hasn’t hit open receivers when he’s needed to. Will Levis is hardly a “star quarterback” just yet, but based on the Nebraska game, he clearly deserves to get a chance to run the offense against Iowa, at the absolute least.
‘As Starter, Levis’s Accuracy Will Be An Issue’
SB: I don’t necessarily think we have seen enough of Levis’ arm to make this assumption. Hopefully, with not much to lose at this point, the Nittany Lions let him air it out and we can see what he can do in the passing game.
GA: This isn’t an overreaction whatsoever. Levis’s accuracy has been a major concern during his brief time on the field for the Nittany Lions. In his career at Penn State, Levis owns a poor 53.8% completion percentage, which is way too low for a starting quarterback. However, with more practice time with the starting offense, it’s possible Levis develops more of a connection with his wideouts and tight ends that allows him to be more efficient through the air. Until he shows improvement, though, it’s ok to be concerned.
RP: It’s too early to say this for certain, but his accuracy has proved to be a very weak area for Levis so far. Although he did make plenty of good passes throughout the game, his inability to find receivers in the red zone during crunch time was brutal. Again, with a full week of practice under his belt things may be different. The offense also needs to adapt to a different style than when Clifford was starting.
WP: Levis clearly has a strong arm and can run the ball well, but his accuracy isn’t quite there yet. While it’s certainly an issue, that’s exactly why he needs to get starting reps at this point in the season. Give Levis more time in practice with the first-team offense, get him more comfortable with in-game reps, and see what he can do. This team is 0-4, and Levis’ minor accuracy issues are hardly the biggest of its worries.
‘This Team Has Become Complacent’
SB: This is true. Penn State doesn’t seem to care about losing and are truly treating this season as if it doesn’t matter (which it doesn’t). The Nittany Lions need to turn it around if they want to win a game.
GA: I think this is a bit of an overreaction. I don’t think it’s fair to say the team has become complacent. I believe as a whole, the team is still hungry to get better and motivated to get that first win. Penn State being bad doesn’t mean it has become complacent, it means it isn’t playing good football. Let’s pump the brakes on this one.
RP: Unfortunately, this may not be too much of an overreaction. Will Levis was just about the only guy on the field that looked like he cared at times during the Nebraska game. It’s hard to make assumptions about what’s going on behind the scenes, but there are definitely distractions and poor attention to detail.
WP: I was ready to say this team just didn’t care entering halftime in Lincoln this past Saturday, but the fight they showed in the second half changed my mind. The Maryland game was clearly ugly but other than that, the Nittany Lions have battled against every opponent. This team isn’t complacent, rather they take too long to get into a rhythm on both sides of the ball, digging themselves into huge holes.
‘Penn State’s Defense Isn’t Going To Get Any Better This Year’
SB: Overreaction. I have faith in this defense from what I’ve seen so far. The front seven is tough and can put the secondary on its back. We saw in week one that they’re capable of performing well, they just need to play with the slightest bit of intensity.
GA: Considering we’re already halfway through the season, this isn’t an overreaction. Penn State’s defense has played poorly the majority of the season and has been gashed for big play after big play. This is a defense loaded with talent, so the constant struggles are pretty mind-boggling, to say the least. Is it possible Brent Pry’s defense turns it around? Absolutely. Has the defense given us a reason to believe that? No way.
RP: This is a pretty fair reaction but the defense will definitely look a lot better if they come out of the gate with intensity. They’ve dug themselves such big holes in the first half that any mistake later on in the game is exemplified. It might be a bit of an overstatement that they’ll be “bad all year” since there were lots of coaching and personnel change. They may just need to settle in, but it’s been rough so far.
WP: As we now reach the halfway point of the season, there’s a ton of concern surrounding this group. The defense has given up way too many big plays early in games and just hasn’t tackled well. Unless Penn State’s defense manages to stop Iowa early and often this Saturday, I don’t have much faith that they’ll improve the rest of the way.
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