Coming off an embarrassing road massacre to Iowa, Penn State now has to look for a rebound game against Illinois on Homecoming this Saturday. After being massacred by both Iowa and Alabama and showing poor offensive performances against Temple and Kent State, a few things have been learned about this Penn State team. They have major problems that need to be fixed if they want to be successful later in the season and over the next few seasons.
1. They Are Inexperienced
Seventy-five percent of their roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores. Unfortunately, Penn State isn't going to magically get better. Young players learn through experience, so it may be rough this season and the next, and it is something Penn State fans will have to learn to live with. However, it's still not an excuse for showing such a poor performance against inferior teams.
2. Their Offense Is Terrible in the Red Zone
Penn State is ranked worse than 100th in red zone efficiency and 100th in points per game. Even with a young team, there is no excuse to have numbers this terrible. The offense is not terrible, quite frankly, because it moved the ball effectively against great Alabama and Iowa defenses. They were passing for big gains against Alabama, and were running and passing pretty well against Iowa.
However, as soon as the Nittany Lions hit the red zone, the offense just seemed to lose all of its momentum. They had the same problem against Temple as well.
Against Alabama, Penn State would get to the red zone, and then always find a way to lose the ball, whether it was Rob Bolden throwing an interception due to pressure, or Chaz Powell fumbling the ball after getting a first down.
Against Iowa, they were unable to convert on fourth and goal from a foot away.
Against Temple, they were unable to get into the end zone except for one drive, settling for field goals on every other drive.
If Penn State wants to be a Big Ten contender and a National Championship contender in the future, this lack of efficiency in the red zone cannot continue.
3. The Defense Is Nowhere To Be Found in the First Half
It seems that along with the offense's inability to score, the defense helps contribute to their awful performance by not showing up in the first half of football games. Penn State's defense gave up a touchdown to Youngstown State in the first quarter, 17 points to both Alabama and Iowa in the first half, and 13 points to Temple in the first quarter.
Penn State's defense gives up way too many yards and points in the first half, and puts the offense at a disadvantage going into the second half, as they face a big deficit and therefore have low confidence from being outplayed so badly.
Penn State's defense is usually one of the best in the nation, and it did appear that way in the second half of the past two football games against Iowa and Temple, but it looked like a high school defense in the first half.
The defense gives up huge gains, doesn't stay at home, gives up tons of points, and misses way too many tackles.
4. The Offensive Line Is Dreadful at Pass Blocking
I have watched every Penn State game, and when Bolden has green all over his jersey by the end of the first quarter, it's not a good sign. Opposing defenses are shredding through our offensive line, a lot of times with only four pass rushers, and they are slamming Bolden to the ground.
At this rate, Bolden will be a cripple before the end of the season because he takes so many big hits. I am amazed at his poise, toughness, and stamina to get back up play after play like nothing happened, but eventually these monster defensive linemen sending him to the ground several times a game is going to take a toll on him.
The offensive line needs to block better for our freshman quarterback, so that he can survive through college with as few visits to the hospital as possible.
These are some big problems Penn State has, but most of them can be fixed. Most of us PSU fans wonder how and when these problems will be addressed. If Penn State wants any hope of salvaging a decent season out of this rebuilding year, they have to fix these problems by Homecoming. They've had several weeks to fix it, and all these problems should be fixed by this weekend.
Unfortunately, inexperience cannot be fixed, and the young team will just continue to grow and learn as the season moves on. As for the other problems, coaches have already addressed the tackling issue. They got defenders back to the basics, focusing on fundamentals over the past couple of weeks. Hopefully by now they've remembered how to tackle.
The offense should be working on red zone plays this week in practice. They should think of run and pass plays that are efficient in the red zone, and then run them several times until they can run these plays effectively over 90 percent of the time.
As for the offensive line, well, Penn State always seems to have problems there. By the end of the season, they usually have it worked out. Hopefully the offensive line will find some chemistry and perform in the second half of the season.
I see a bright future for this team if they can fix up these issues, and with their great, experienced coaching staff, I think that they will be able to fix this problem by next season, if not by the middle or end of this season. Keep your head up Penn State fans, because there are brighter days ahead.
WE ARE...PENN STATE!!!