Penn State vs. Indiana: 10 Things We Learned in Nittany Lions Loss
Indiana beat Penn State for the first time in history today in one of the worst showings by the Nittany Lions under head coach Bill O'Brien. The Hoosiers won in all phases of the game, from their offense scoring almost at will to their defense and special teams creating turnovers and stuffing drives.
Penn State had some mistakes that need to be corrected, but for the most part, they learned a lot about themselves today.
Follow along for what the Nittany Lions were able to pick up from this loss to the Hoosiers.
Christian Hackenberg Will Be a Great College Quarterback but Needs Work
There are times when a freshman quarterback like Christian Hackenberg will look like a freshman. Then there are times when he will look like a veteran starter and make great throws and perfect decisions.
Hackenberg showed more of the former than the latter in the Indiana game.
He made some excellent throws throughout the day, but there's some major issues when it comes to his decision-making in tough situations. He also had a fumble in the end zone in which his lack of awareness hurt him.
He will eventually be a really good college quarterback. But right now, he needs to focus on spreading the ball around, making more accurate throws and making safer, more fundamentally sound decisions.
Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton Are a Great Combination out of the Backfield
Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton are a great speed-and-power combination, one that is ideally suited for the Big Ten. Zwinak can pound the middle of a defense similar to what Mike Alstott used to do in the late '90s and early 2000s for the Buccaneers.
Belton is a Warrick Dunn-type who can use his wiggle and speed to create yardage on plays that look completely stuffed in the backfield.
These two complement each other very well and just need more carries between them.
Allen Robinson Is the Best Wide Receiver in the Big Ten
Coming into the Indiana game, Allen Robinson was already regarded as one of the top receivers in the country. His 12-catch, 173-yard, two-touchdown performance just sealed his standing as the best receiver in the Big Ten.
He's just as good as Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis, but he doesn't have the same caliber of quarterback yet. Robinson is very similar to Reggie Wayne and will parlay his size, speed and pass-catching skills into a long, productive career in the pros.
The Nittany Lions Need to Incorporate More Receivers into the Offense
As good as Allen Robinson is, the Nittany Lions need another receiver across from him to step up so that defenses don't continue to double- and triple-cover the talented receiver.
The best offenses are able to create opportunities for multiple receivers.
Penn State had only five players catch passes against Indiana. And outside of Kyle Carter's season-best game of 79 yards, the Nittany Lions didn't get more than 35 yards from any of the other three receivers.
This has to change if Christian Hackenberg and the Penn State offense are to develop.
Offensive Line Provided Ample Protection for Hackenberg
Christian Hackenberg had all day to throw in today's game.
Sure, he was sacked twice, but both were coverage sacks on which Hackenberg had enough time to sit back and scan the defense. There were only a handful of times that he was truly pressured.
When you have a young quarterback, this is the best way to help his development. Keep the pass pocket as clean as possible and help him out with simple route concepts.
Defense Was Unable to Keep Up with the Indiana's Offensive Pace
Indiana's biggest strength on offense has been its ability to keep the opposing defense on its toes. It more than did that against Penn State as it orchestrated a number of scoring drives.
While Penn State was still able to get their calls in on defense, it was to no avail against a potent Indiana attack. And while the Nittany Lions offense did its defense no favors going three-and-out a lot, there's still no excuse for Penn State's D allowing eight scoring drives (five touchdowns and three field goals).
Linebackers Left the Middle of the Field Open All Day
Not only was the Indiana offense too fast paced for Penn State, it continually had success attacking the middle of the field. The 44-yard touchdown run by the Hoosiers Tevin Coleman was a result of Penn State's linebackers not staying home in the running game.
Penn State will have to be more aggressive in their play calls while still covering the most important part of the field.
If they can't fix this issue, it will be a very long season for the Nittany Lions.
Corners and Safeties Were Unable to Keep Up with Indiana Receivers
Indiana isn't a true powerhouse. However, its offense looked like that of Louisville today with its receivers running free all over the field.
Cody Latimer looked like he's the truth with nine catches and 140 yards. Kofi Hughes also made some clutch catches and fooled defenders all day on his way to averaging 21.3 yards per reception.
But the coverage breakdowns on Penn State's defense were unforgivable. Nittany Lion defensive backs were continually out of position, leaving Hoosier receivers wide open all day.
Defense Had Trouble Matching Personnel Sets with Speed and Talent Level
When the Hoosiers went to 11 personnel (three wide receivers, one running back, one tight end), they would read who the Nittany Lions had on the field and adjust accordingly. If there were not enough linebackers, they would check to the run.
If they were seeing a limited number of defensive backs, they would check to a pass. The Hoosiers just dominated with speed today, but the Nittany Lions also were unable match the Hoosiers from a tactical or personnel standpoint.
Penn State Made Too Many Mistakes on Special Teams
Fumbling a kickoff return looked horrible.
Inability to properly get the snap off on field goals looked even worse.
Getting field goals blocked was just plain embarrassing.
The problems were there all day. Penn State needs to correct its issues on special teams, or the team will be in for a really disappointing year.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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