Sunday, October 01, 2006

Northwestern Game Review

Before we get down to business, let me remind the class that this was one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten if not the nation, stats be damned. Let’s not go overboard just yet, there are some really great defenses that PSU has yet to face. With that unpleasantness out of the way, let’s take a look at the game.

Anthony Morelli chose to play the role of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The Ugly- Morelli’s first inertception can only be viewed as such. Horrible. I’m not even sure where he was going with it. That kind of mistake will haunt him until he puts together a complete 4 quarters against a quality opponent.
The Bad- Anthony continues to miss open guys and has a tendency to forget his progression. One of the benefits of sitting in the stands is the ability to see the entire field, including open wide receivers. Morelli seems to be getting better at this but he still locks on at times. The offense still has a knack of moving up and down the field without scoring, the red zone offense MUST improve. I don’t know if it’s the play calling or the execution, but points are being left on the field.
The Good- 19-33 for 288 yards – not too shabby. His deep throws to Butler were really impressive. A.M. has a really nice deep ball that will only get better as the season goes on. He threw a deep out to Williams late in the game that was a thing of beauty; he was rushed and Williams sat in the hole between the short and long zones and Morelli squeezed it in there in the most perfect spot where only D.W. could catch it. More throws like that will agitate opposing defensive coordinators and open up the running game. Speaking of which, Tony Hunt continues his lunch pail, blue collar work slogging out 140 yards on 28 carries with 3 TD’s. Hunt may not beat anyone in a foot race, and probably isn’t the flashiest back in the world, but I wouldn’t trade him for any back in the Big Ten. This guy is one of the most complete all around backs to ever grace the Penn State Campus.

Arm tackles not allowed

Deon Butler, what can be said about his performance in this game. Magnificent? Inspiring? Thanks to his performance no Nittany Lion wide receiver has ever had more receiving yards in a game. Not Bobby Engram, not O.J. McDuffy, not anyone. Hats off, he was a breathe of fresh air and gives opposing teams a little something more to worry about. 11 receptions, 216 yards - if that doesn’t get you considerable thought for the Big Ten offensive player of the week, then I don’t know what does.

Even the Big Ten officials agree: Butler is good

Finally this unit played a complete game. They possessed the ball, wore down an opponent and took the game over late, just like the team did last season, and that was without All-American tackle Levi Brown. Hopefully this unit has grown and is ready to make this type of performance the norm.

If you throw out the Notre Dame debacle, this unit has been stellar. The secondary continues to get better with every game. After getting run over for touchdowns in consecutive games, Justin King stepped up and shut down NU running back Terrell Jordan on the goal line. The linebacking unit should put a smile on the face of even the most cantankerous fan. These guys played let’s see who can be the best. Posluszny was back to his old self recording a team high 10 tackles with his first TFL. He made a play early in the fourth quarter that looked like vintage Poz. Northwestern tried a screen pass that was set up well, until Poz flew over out of nowhere, split the pulling lineman and threw the back down. The replay verified just how quick Paul can diagnose a play as he exploded from his middle linebacker position and beat everyone to the punch.

Get over here!

I now dub Sean Lee Poz Jr. I know that’s an unfair comparison, but I can’t help but see the same attributes from Lee that I saw from Posluszny. Both were so good as freshmen that they couldn’t be kept off the field. Paul had a stellar sophomore year and Lee’s may just be better. I pity Big Ten offensive players once this kid puts on some weight, he is just dynamite. He had six tackles ½ a sack and a tiptoe sideline interception. Linebacker U isn’t going away after this season.

Special Teams
A ++++++++++++ Plus plus plus. Is that enough plusses? After horrible, scary play the special teams unit finally played almost perfect. With an ailing back Kevin Kelly kicked all four of his filed goals and scored all the points for the offense until they got things on track late in the first half. Because of his injury Penn State called on backup kicker Joe Huges to kickoff who doesn’t have the leg that Kelly has. The coverage team picked up the slack and handled returns well holding NU to 110 return yards on 7 tries, making a couple good open field tackles. Kapinos continues his stellar season allowing no returns on 4 punt attempts.

Although this was a lesser opponent, Penn State did what it had to do; the defense controlled the game until the offense got rolling. The offense controlled the time of possession, and moved the ball giving the defense time to rest. The coaches chose to take the ball first, something Penn State doesn’t do often, to place the game in the hands of Anthony Morelli. He didn’t disappoint completing his first pass for 40 yards to Deon Butler on the first play of the game. Showing support for the young quarterback after a late game meltdown will pay dividends in the not too distant future. There is still a lot of work to be done on the offensive side, but this team gets better and better as the season goes on. Northwestern was Michael Robinson’s coming out party last year, could it be the same for Anthony Morelli this year? Only time will tell.

Have gun; will travel

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