Actual Score: 31-7 (PSU)
My beer soaked initial reaction to Penn State's 31-7 drubbing of Akron was one of glee. After all, the defense looked great, Clark was connecting with his new receivers like they've been working together for years, and there were some new toys in the offensive playbook. Then I sat down and watched the replay with a more sober eye Sunday and was less than impressed. The offensive line did an admirable job pass blocking but was somewhere in the suck-to-less-than-average area run blocking. The secondary made it through test number 1 but there should have been a couple more interceptions (I'm looking in your direction A.J. Wallace). The wide receivers did a good job most of the time but there were some balls that should have been caught (and not tipped in the air for interceptions on the goal line Chaz Powell). Having said all that, most of the problems can and will be fixed, and Penn State did handle the Zips like they were supposed to.
Daryll Clark has moved himself into the take the offense on his shoulders category. Last year he was part of a great offense, this year I think he can do it single-handed if need be. The Zips set out to stop the run and force Clark to beat them and he obliged to the tune of a career-record 353 yards on 29 of 40 passing and three TD's. His performance was enough to earn Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
We had heard rumblings that Derek Moye may be the man this year at wide receiver and he certainly looked that way Saturday. Moye had 6 receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown in his first career start. He definitely looked the part, getting wide open on several occasions including a 36 yard grab over the middle on the first drive on a third and five. That play set up Evan Royster's 5 yard TD run and gave Penn State a seven point lead out of the gate and lots of momentum. It was the fast start that PSU needs as they scored twice on their first three drives.
Like I said, the offensive line did really well pass protecting giving up only one sack but the run blocking was just not there. If Penn State was playing Iowa this week I would be worried but the offensive line will have two more weeks to gel before getting into the real meat of the schedule. Offensive line cohesion takes some time, I think they will get there.
The play calling was rather creative in the first half and the coaches sprinkled in some wrinkles including true freshman Devon Smith. What Smith lacks in size he more than makes up for in the wheels department. Smith had an end-around run for seven yards and two catches for 25 yards on the day. As he gets better acclimated to the offense he will give PSU a serious home run threat. In the second half the coaches decided to just take the foot off the gas and play straight up smash mouth and really couldn't overpower Akron. I guess that's ok, but I really wish Kevin Newsome would have got more playing time, he needs game experience now.
I thought Akron would come out and try to throw the ball against Penn State's green secondary but to my surprise they tried to run the ball right into the teeth of the defense. Yeah, how'd that work out for ya?
FIRST DOWNS................... 8
The Zips didn't get a first down in the first half as the defensive line and linebackers had their way with them. Ollie Ogbu and Jared Odrick combined for 4.5 TFL and totally blew up the Akron backfield. When they weren't making the tackles Sean Lee was cleaning things up. Let's just say it does my heart good to see Sean terrorizing unsuspecting running backs again.
The real surprise was the emergence of Nate Stupar who filled in for a slightly injured Navorro Bowman early. Stupar made the most of his playing time racking up 12 tackles and a sack. Suddenly, depth at linebacker isn't much of a concern.
The secondary held serve but they weren't really challenged early. Andrew Dailey was Johnny on the spot pulling down the only interception for Penn State on a woefully overthrown ball. A.J. Wallace climbed out of Joe's doghouse long enough to contribute two pass breakups but should have intercepted the one. Let's just say that the secondary passes the quiz but the test is yet to come.
Collin Wagner scares the bejesus out of me. He missed an excusable 49 yarder but whiffed badly on a 28 yard chip shot. He did convert another 29 yarder to go 1 for 3 on the day but he definitely lacks confidence yet. He did look ok getting 2 of his 6 kickoffs in the endzone for touchbacks.
Jeremy Boone? 2 punts for a 43 yard average with one inside the 20. Nothing to see here, move along.
Kick coverage was mehh, nothing to write home about and no reason to hit the panic button.
Penn State came out and did what they were supposed to: throttle a lesser opponent. Clark and company looked good and so did the front seven on defense. Special teams are a bit shaky yet but, like I said, they have a couple more games to iron that stuff out.
Now Penn State gets a Syracuse team that looks better than we first thought as they took Minnesota into overtime before giving up a soul-crushing interception in a 23-20 overtime loss.