Penn State Football: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the First 4 Games
Well, it's been an interesting start to the season for Bill O'Brien and Penn State football.
Without stating the obvious (too much), I'll say the Nittany Lions are in the midst of a unique season. O'Brien has been scrambling to assemble (and hold) a team to build up his image while keeping the team as competitive as possible.
It's been a roller-coaster year for Happy Valley. And it's only been four weeks.
So here's the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 2012 Nittany Lions season.
The Passing Game: Quarterback Matt McGloin, through the whole mess of the past 10 months, has grown into a leader. With all the player losses and distractions and everything else going on in Happy Valley, McGloin has proven to be a competent quarterback.
He's tossed for 251.5 yards per game, nine touchdowns and just two picks. His efficiency rating is a solid 138 and he's completed a shade under 60 percent of his passes. McGloin's 7.19 yards per attempt isn't anything to sneeze at, either.
And in case his passing stats weren't enough, he's also responsible for the only two rushing TDs the team has made thus far.
The offensive line has kept him upright, too, allowing just three sacks on the year. And McGloin's favorite target, sophomore Allen Robinson, has snagged five TDs and has averaged 101 yards per game on 29 catches.
Honorable Mention: Linebackers
The Run Game: While McGloin has been taking control of the offense, the running game has been lagging behind.
Silas Redd's departure to USC left a big hole, and through four games, the Lions haven't been able to find a suitable replacement. Four backs have touched the ball at least 20 times. Senior Michael Zordich has had the most success with 33.2 yards per game.
Senior Derek Day ran for 83 yards in Penn State's first two games but hasn't played the past two weeks due to a shoulder injury.
But the biggest problem isn't the lack of a bell-cow back. It's that the running-back-by-committee approach hasn't been effective. They've only averaged 124 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry, not exactly a power running game. And the team's only two scores on the ground came at the hands of McGloin.
There's room for improvement, especially if someone steps up.
Honorable Mention: Run Defense
The Kicking Game: Alright, maybe it's not fair to kick someone while they're down (pun intended), but seriously?
Sophomore Sam Ficken provided maybe the single most tragic highlight of this young Nittany Lions season when he missed four field goals in the loss to Virginia. One of those was a chip-shot 20-yarder.
Granted, in his only other attempt of the season outside that game, he made a 21-yarder against Temple.
But then, there are the kickoffs. With just a 61.8-yard average on 18 kickoffs, Ficken isn't exactly a boomer, and he's only recorded six touchbacks. Teams also have found some success with a 19.3-yard return average, three yards more than PSU's returners.
But that debacle against Virginia has to be one of the worst things to happen to this team, possibly for the rest of the season.
Honorable Mention: Loss to Ohio