Monday, September 29, 2008

PSU Review: Illinois

TNL said: 34-20 (PSU)
Actual Score: 38–24 (PSU)

I just about nailed that score, I'm getting good at this. Realistically, my assumptions turned out right: A) the offense is good and Illinois' defense isn't, and B) Penn State's defense is not as good as it looked against cupcake offenses.


After five games of tearing through opposing defenses I'm more than ready to jump on the 'Penn State's offense is awesome' bandwagon. Daryll Clark is a fantastic quarterback plain and simple. He makes good decisions, throws with a lot of confidence and leads the team with a lot of poise. Oh, and he can really run to, did I mention that. His stat line won't win him any Heisman trophies (14-20 for 181 yards and 2 TD's) but he's scary efficient and does a lot when he has to pass. The thing is they don't need to pass to score. Evan Royster churned out 139 yards on the ground at a 7.3 yards per carry clip. Oh and Clark himself ran for 62 yards and a score. Derrick Williams even chipped in 33 yards and a score on the ground.

Speaking of D.W., is this finally the game that Derrick comes into his own? With Jordan Norwood sidelined with a hamstring injury the offense relied heavily on the capable legs of Williams and he didn't disappoint. Derrick was the first player in Joe Paterno's coaching career to run for a touchdown, catch a touchdown and return a kick for a T.D. in a game. That says a lot. His kickoff return to start of the 4th quarter drove a steak through the heart of the Illini at a time when they had momentum as they just kicked a field goal to make it 24-17 but Williams return all but ended any hope for the fighting Zookers. Can you say "Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week?"

Penn State's offense racked up 422 yards was 5 of 10 on third down and converted on all four of their red-zone chances. The only bad thing we can say about the offense is they continue to put the ball on the ground. PSU fumbled twice, giving the ball up once. If they continue that trend it's going to bite them in the ass somewhere down the line.


Just like I had feared, the Penn State defense is not nearly as good as it looked against teams with crappy offenses. Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn carved Penn State up. Williams threw for 183 yards, two touchdowns, and ran for another 76. Benn caught 110 of those yards and both touchdowns including a 54 yarder. It seemed like the defense was just barely holding on. When your safety (Mark Rubin) is tied for the lead in tackles for the game you know you're defense isn't getting it done. The return of Maurice Evans helped (he had the team's only sack) and Navorro Bowman had another big day (10 tackles and a forced fumble) but Josh Hull continues to be the reincarnation of Geno Capone. Penn State has notoriously been bad against running quarterbacks and Saturday was no different. Against a more traditional offense (Wisconsin and Purdue to some degree) I think the defense will be all right but against the Ohio State's of the Big Ten, it could be a long day for the men in Blue & White.

Special Teams

Gold stars all around boys. The aforementioned return by Derrick was a great individual play but more importantly, it was well blocked – he really only got touched by one guy. The kickoff team did an admirable job, the longest return they allowed was 27 yards. Kevin Kelly continues to convert his chances and he kicked the ball deep enough on kickoffs to get two touchbacks. Side Note: Kelly continues a school-record streak for consecutive games with a field goal at 25 – not too shabby.


You have to walk away from this game feeling the offense can keep pace with anyone but you also have to be worried about the defense especially the middle of the D. Against good running teams and teams with running quarterbacks the offense will have to be good because the defense looks vulnerable. Coming up Penn State gets Purdue and Wisconsin at opportune times; the boilermakers looked horrid against Notre Dame and Wisconsin's 4th quarter meltdown against Michigan was a loss that legends are made of.

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