Sunday, September 04, 2005

Week One: Penn State 23, South Florida 13

A win is a win but this was an absolutely ugly win for Penn State. This certainly wasn't the performance we were all hoping for in the first game of what Lion fans are hoping to be a promising season. The new look offense rarely showed up, any spread formations were few and far between. Last year's popular play call, the QB draw/keeper, seemed to be the most commonly run play against the Bulls. And much like last year it was ineffective almost every time it was run. QB Michael Robinson struggled to complete passes and continually locked in on one wide receiver and forced a pass. The offensive line was once again abysmal. Tony Hunt had some very nice runs including a 70 yard scamper that would set up Penn State's final touchdown. Hunt ran the ball better towards the end of the game, hopefully indicative of improvement on the offensive line. Derrick Williams and Justin King were as good as advertised. King had a long run on one of the first plays of the game and saw signficant time on both offense and defense. Williams also contributed on offense, making some spectacular catches, and in the return game. Overall it was a disappointing performance that the Lions will need to improve on if this team has any aspirations to beat good teams and make it to a New Year's Day bowl game. I'm looking for major improvement next week against Cincinnati. Also, sophomore QB Anthony Morelli didn't see any playing time against USF.

Despite giving up 13 points to a rather poor South Florida offense, the defense didn't play a bad game. Much like the majority of last season, the defense was on the field for a ridiculous amount of time. It was obvious the defense was wearing down towards the end of the game and with the losses of Ed Johnson and Lavon Chisley, the depth along the defensive line is no where near as good as it was last season. Tim Shaw played well at outside linebacker and Tyrell Sales seemed to handle the middle well. Once Dan Connor returns from his suspension, the staff should consider leaving Shaw at OLB and working him into a rotation with Paul Posluszny (who had a strong game against USF) and Connor. The secondary had trouble adjusting to USF's fade routes, getting beat twice for the two touchdowns, but one was on the freshman King. The defense won't miss a beat with Chris Harrell back at safety, replacing the departed Andrew Guman. Paul Cronin is a terrible nickelback and shouldn't see anymore time there. A decent first performance by the defense. If the offense can keep them off the field for a reasonable amount of time, this unit will easily be one of the nation's best.

The special teams were much improved. The only negative I take away from the game is that Calvin Lowery is still returning punts. With all of the speedy freshmen, there is no reason for a slow footed safety to be a return man. Lowery's fair catch at the 5 yard line cost Penn State valuable field position. True freshman kicker Kevin Kelly was impressive. He had several kick offs go for touchbacks and he hit his only field goal attempt. The only negative is that he had his final extra point attempt blocked. Jeremy Kapinos had some excellent punts. The team has work to do in the return game but the kicking game should remain solid. Kelly is Penn State's first freshman kicker since Craig Fayak in 1990.


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