Penn State Football: Winners and Losers from the Navy Game

Barry Leonard@@barryleonardjrAnalyst IIISeptember 16, 2012

Penn State Football: Winners and Losers from the Navy Game

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    The new era of Penn State football finally has its first win. The Nittany Lions clobbered Navy 34-7 in Week 3. Everything finally clicked for Penn State, as it dominated in all facets of the game.

    The Nittany Lions executed Bill O'Brien's game plan to perfection. The offense seemed to move the ball at will. The Lions were able to run and pass on the Midshipmen's defense.

    The defense controlled Navy's triple-option attack for most of the game. It did allow a fourth-quarter touchdown on a 12-yard run.

    For the most part, it was all good for Penn State. However, there was one glaring negative.

    This list takes a look at Penn State winners and losers from the victory against Navy.

Winner: Wide Receiver Allen Robinson

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    Allen Robinson continues to improve and impress at wide receiver. He had a huge game, grabbing five passes for a career-high 136 yards and three touchdowns.

    Robinson leads the team with 24 receptions, 322 yards and four touchdowns. He has clearly become quarterback Matt McGloin's favorite weapon.

    Robinson used his speed to stretch the Midshipmen defense, averaging 27.2 yards per catch.

    Robinson has made the most of his opportunity. Leading receiver Justin Brown transferred to Oklahoma in the offseason and starting wide receiver Shawney Kersey left the team earlier in the week for personal reasons. 

    Robinson is now the No. 1 receiver.

Loser: Kicker Sam Ficken

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    In a game in which the Nittany Lions dominated, it could be difficult to label someone a loser. Unfortunately, kicker Sam Ficken wins that distinction.

    Ficken was the topic of discussion coming out of the Week 2 loss at Virginia. In that game, he had an extra point blocked and missed four field goals, including a 42-yarder as time expired.

    Ficken received a large ovation from the Beaver Stadium crowd when he made an extra point after the Lions scored on their opening drive.

    Yes, Ficken ended up making four extra points, but it wasn't all good. He missed a second-quarter extra point that would have put the Lions up 21-0.

    Ficken's inability to convert with consistency has caused head coach Bill O'Brien to lose confidence in his kicker. He has chosen to go for it on fourth down in the red zone rather than attempt what should be chip-shot field goals.

    If Penn State wants to be competitive in most games, this has to improve. A reliable kicker is needed, now.

    It's safe to say that Ficken's grip on the starting job became even looser in Week 3.

Winner: Quarterback Matt McGloin

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    It's clear that quarterback Matt McGloin has benefited from the coaching change at Penn State. McGloin seems to be a perfect fit for Bill O'Brien's pro-style passing attack.

    McGloin was stellar in Week 3 against Navy. He threw for 231 yards and four touchdowns. Once again, he did not throw any interceptions.

    McGloin seems to grow each week as he becomes more comfortable with the offense. He also seems to have great chemistry with tight end Kyle Carter and wide receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson is McGloin's favorite target and led the team with five catches against Navy.

    The offensive line has helped McGloin. Without pressure, he is able to sit in the pocket and scan the field for an open receiver.

    If McGloin continues to progress, this Penn State offense could sneak up on a lot of teams in the Big Ten.

Loser: The Transfers

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    Saturday's win was a great moment for the players who chose to stay at Penn State and stay loyal to their university.

    The victory against Navy was a dominant performance that gave the nation a glimpse of what Penn State still can be.

    It's no secret that when the NCAA allowed Penn State players to transfer without having to sit out a year it depleted the squad.

    Star running back Silas Redd, who transferred to USC, was the Lions' best offensive weapon. Starting wide receiver Justin Brown went to Oklahoma. Anthony Fera, one of the nation's best kickers, headed for Texas.

    All of the players who left missed out on the special moment in Week 3. Because of all the adversity facing Penn State, this win will be remembered for a long time.

    Yes, it was against a team that's not very good, but that doesn't matter. Any victories will be huge for this team.

    Sure, those who left are probably in better situations, but you can bet there's a part of them that wishes they could have been celebrating at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

Winner: The Defense

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    The defense has looked solid for most of the season, especially in the first half of games. But in its first two games, the defense seemed to wear down in the second half and gave up important game-winning drives.

    The story was different in Week 3. The defense put together a solid four-quarter performance.

    The Nittany Lions were not fooled by Navy's triple-option attack. The defense gave up 391 total yards to the Midshipmen. However, the number that counts is seven, the number of points allowed.

    For the second straight week, the Penn State defense forced four turnovers, including a 74-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Mike Hull.

    Sure, there are areas that defensive coordinator Ted Roof will want to improve, but the defense can be proud of its Week 3 performance.

Winner: Running Backs Michael Zordich and Curtis Dukes

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    The Nittany Lions were facing huge obstacles in the running game heading into the Week 3 matchup against Navy. Starting running back Bill Belton was out, as well as backup running back Derek Day. Belton was injured in Week 1. Day was hurt in Week 2.

    Fullback Michael Zordich and backup running back Curtis Dukes split carries in Week 3 and carried the load for the Lions on the ground. Zordich, who has impressed coaches in practice, was inserted as the starting tailback against Navy.

    Zordich had 11 carries for 50 yards. He also had two receptions for 25 yards. Dukes had 11 carries for 47 yards.

    While the yardage numbers were not spectacular, the running game did its job in Week 3. Zordich and Dukes kept the Midshipmen defense honest and took pressure off quarterback Matt McGloin and the passing attack.

    Zordich and Dukes did enough to be effective, getting key first downs with hard running in short-yardage situations.

    If Belton and Day are unable to play in Week 4 against Temple, look for Dukes and Zordich to carry the load again.

Winner: Head Coach Bill O'Brien

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    Perhaps the biggest winner for Penn State in Week 3 was Bill O'Brien. After two close losses, O'Brien finally got his first win as a head coach.

    Gerald Hodges and Jordan Hill anointed O'Brien with a cooler bath after the Lions' 34-7 victory.

    There is no doubt that O'Brien is facing some of the toughest odds that have ever been faced by a first-year coach. His team will not be able to play in the postseason for four years. His ability to recruit has has also been severely hampered by the loss of scholarships ordered by the NCAA sanctions.

    The Lions have also had to deal with "free agency,",as players were allowed to go to other schools without penalty.

    Chances are, O'Brien won't revel in this victory for long. He knows that it is a long season and there is still much work to be done.

    The Nittany Lions host Temple in Week 4.

    With the situation that he inherited, no one could blame O'Brien if he fails. But so far, he has said and done all the right things.

    He continues to recruit and coach his team to perform to the best of its ability.