Saturday, September 19, 2009

A More Balanced Offense; A Much-Improved Temple Team

It was a picture-perfect day at Beaver Stadium. There was a deep blue sky and a pleasant 60-ish temperature. The kind of day where you just want to hang around outside and enjoy the last hint of summer before the fall brisk air takes over. Which is exactly what we did. We weren’t in a hurry to get home after the game.

It was just too wonderful enjoying the tailgating after the game with our guests and new friends, Tara and George. Tara and I had collaborated on an intense class project this past year, and – to make a long story short – I discovered that she just doesn’t follow Penn State football, even though she has lived near State College for the last fifteen years. She had been to only one other game, when she first moved here. Those were pretty good if not awesome teams in the mid-1990’s, but the Penn State football experience for whatever reason didn’t make an impression.

For someone like me who moved to State College specifically because of Penn State football, that’s a bit of a disconnection for me. But I also understand. Not everyone is a football fan, even in this football-crazed town. And there was a time, not that many years ago, that I wasn’t a football fan.

In any case, I thought it would be fun to invite her and her husband to a game, so they could experience it from our perspective –wonderful easy-access tailgate spot, decent seats, loyal regulars surrounding us.

We had a wonderful time with a pre-game and post-game tailgate, as well as the game itself, and the weather certainly was a factor in it being a very enjoyable day.

I was worried about it raining or something. I’ve always said that the first thing that you have to do to convert a non-football fan to a football fan is to bring that person to a game with good weather. The next thing you have to do is to make it a good customer experience. Both of those things happened today. The final thing that has to happen is to win, because that puts everyone around you in a good mood. That happened too. My guess is that Tara and George will be back. We will certainly invite them again. Our one criterion for a repeat invitation is that we win. That means they bring luck. (I’m not serious, but you all know what I mean.)

The crowd was a little slow getting to Beaver Stadium; perhaps they too were enjoying their tailgates too much. The student section never did fill up. The same could also be said for the rest of the stadium. It wasn’t packed. It was a bit more comfortable than usual sitting in the stands; there were empty seats here and there.

The official crowd number was 105,000. We were betting that it was less than 100,000. We’ve never quite understood how they do that count anyhow!

The game itself was a solid 31-6 win. We had a much more balanced offense: 173 yards passing; 186 yards rushing. We were able to get a decent running game going against Temple’s defense; it appears that the young offensive line is beginning to get it together to create some opportunities for different plays.

Evan Royster, our tailback, put on a very good performance, running for 135 yards and one touchdown. Daryll Clark was 16 of 26 with 2 touchdowns and one interception. He mixed up his passing – 8 different receivers caught his passes. On defense, Josh Hull and Sean Lee were outstanding, 13 and 12 tackles respectively. Our new kicker, Collin Wagner, who was somewhat shaky against Akron and didn’t attempt a field goal against Syracuse, made the one 27-yard field goal with no problem. That was a bit reassuring.

There were a few disturbing things. First, Darryl Clark’s interception – it was a very poor throw that appeared to be simply bad judgment, not consistent with his usual precision. His prior interceptions weren't really his fault. Second, Temple’s surprise onside kick early in the game – Penn State fell asleep on kick coverage and Temple recovered. Kudos to Temple for being bold enough to try it! Fortunately for us, Temple could not capitalize on that opportunity. We also had some stupid, unnecessary penalties that caused some long gains to be negated.

On the other hand, Penn State is reporting that a number of players weren’t playing at 100% percent due to colds or mild flu symptoms. Including Evan Royster, who played pretty well for someone who wasn’t feeling up to par!

Temple deserves a lot of credit. They were able to make some big plays against our defense and get into position to score two field goals. They were more competitive than we’ve seen them in the past few years. They were disciplined. They just don’t have the depth of talent-yet-to compete with Penn State for four quarters. My guess is that they will continue to improve under Al Golden’s coaching. We hope they have great success in the MAC!

So…on to the start of Big Ten play. Iowa comes to Beaver Stadium next week. They’re beginning to look more formidable to me. Why? They found a way to win 17-16 in their first game against Northern Iowa by blocking two consecutive field goals. They rolled over Iowa State, 35-6, their in-state rival, and a Big-12 conference team. Today they had a solid 27-17 win against Arizona, a Pac-10 conference team. They’ve passed an adversity test we haven’t faced, and they have succeeded against stronger opponents. Plus, they beat us last year and have beaten us before at Beaver Stadium. They should be confident coming into this game.

Are we ready for them? I’m really not sure until we play the game. More on Iowa later this week…


  1. I was very pleased with the running attack. Royster had 100 yards at halftime. But it seemed that the offensive line reversed their strength. They blocked for Royster very well but when it came to pass protection they were quite terrible. I thought Clark was going to get hurt because everytime he tried to throw there was someone throwing him to the ground.

    I will agree with you that Temple is improved but I can't say that that is any excuse for our very poor pass defense. He completed some deep balls (the one in the end zone was a catch and fumble not an incompletion) and he would have had better numbers if his receivers wouldn't have dropped so many passes. And the run defense was impressive in some spots but gave up some big gains in other times.

    So I wasn't overly pleased with the game today but I guess it's a win. Top teams are struggling so that will help us move up but we have to focus on our business. Next week will not be easy. I hope it is but i am prepared for some adversity.

  2. Good point. It was the first game where Clark wasn't entirely protected by the offensive line. But he showed his scrambling ability at times. At this point we can't worry about Clark getting injured. What we have to hope for is that Newsome has had enough practice now that he can capably handle his position if called upon.

    I'm very worried about Iowa. Penn State hasn't really faced adversity yet. Iowa has. It will be a tough, and probably close, game.

    I'm just hoping that the student section arrives on time for this one! What's your bet? Will it be full at 8 p.m.?

  3. I wish Penn State played a stronger out of conference schedule this year. (Akron, Syracuse, Temple, & Eastern Illinois)

    Do you think if Penn State finishes the season undefeaed, will the team participate in the national championship game?

  4. It's hard to say. I don't know what sort of "tweaks" have been done in the BCS rankings this year to fix any problems that emerged last year. I do think that had we been undefeated last year, we would have been invited to the national championship game. I also think there's a JoePa factor here. The "people-based" polls, I think, will favor Penn State because everyone wants to see JoePa have a chance at another national championship. But there are a lot of games to play. And it depends on how many teams are undefeated at the end of the year.

  5. To answer your question I think the stands will definitely be full at 8. The students have plenty of time to wake up and tailgate all day. Everyone is excited for the game so I am sure it will be full.

    I think Penn State has a pretty decent shot at going to the title game if they go undefeated. USC lost, Texas did not look good, BYU got crushed, Florida got roughed up by Tennessee. Possible prediction: florida and alabama are 1 and 2 at the end of the year. One of them loses in the SEC championship game. Thus the #3 team will most likely go to the narional championship game. PSU just has to take care of their own business.