Penn State Scouting Report

Longtime Domer takes the time to break down Penn State's game against Akron in this fantastic scouting report.

PSU 34 Akron 16

Passing: Net 206 yds, 6.4 yds per attempt

Morelli: Passing- 16-of-32, 206 yds, 3TD; Rushing- 1 for -5

Receiving:

Norwood- 7 for 61 yds, 1 TD, longest 15 yds
Williams- 3 for 49 yds, 1TD, longest 20 yards

Rushing: Net 76 yds, 2.8 yds per attempt

Hunt: Rushing-14 for 36, 2.6 ypc, longest 19 yds
Wallace-1 for 46 (reverse off of sweep)

Hash tendencies:

Left Hash Runs: 8 Passes:16

Right Hash: Runs: 9 Passes: 14

Middle Hash: Runs: 3 Passes: 2

Time of possession: 22:31, 52 off. plays (opponents 82 off. Plays)

First Downs: 13, 4 rush, 8 pass, 1 penalty

Third Down Efficiency: 47 %

Fourth Down Efficiency: NA

Punting: 4 for 138, 34.5 ypp

Return Yardage: 193 yards, punt 3 for 44 yds, KO 3 for 144 yds

Interceptions: 2 for 35 yds

Fumbles/Lost: 2-2

Penalties: 5 for 33 yds

PSU OFFENSE A Little Backround: A scouting report on an upcoming opponent's offense was my lot as a junior high football coach. Eventually, I became the head scout, at the insistence of a no nonsense DC, until I moved up to varsity.

Scouting an opponent's offense required getting each play the opponent ran on its own individual card as the game went on. I had to get the down and distance, the hash mark, and the formation down before the play was run. Then as the play unfolded, or shortly there after, I had to diagram the whole play down to which way the QB opened from center, the way the backs went, what they did, what blocking was used, receiver routes, QB drops, motion, and personnel, and yardage lost or gained. Then it was time for the next play, and it all started again. Twelve or fourteen play drives were so much fun. Now my fellow scout or scouts, were we that lucky, helped me out, but I had to help the guy doing the defense too, so scouting a football game wasn't sitting back and enjoying.

I quickly learned to prepare the opponent's offense for our demanding DC by down and distance, formation, hash marks, field position, QB movement, receiver routes, and much more each and every Friday night. All formations had to be diagramed on a very large dry erasable board with the down and distance, hash mark, number of plays run from each formation, what they ran and where, the diagrams of each play, the pass routes of all receivers and who caught the ball, the blocking patterns, a passing diagram of the field, and...well, you get the idea. Many Friday nights I was in the coach's office until two in the morning, and I had to present all this at seven in the morning. Oh, did I mention a written report?

If anyone thinks scouting is easy I have a suggestion (based on how I accumulated information for this report). Try using a regular TV, a VCR, watching a game done by ABC (read really negative language directed at the ABC director here), not seeing the secondary or all the pass routes unless its through replay, and include all I mentioned above in diagramming each and every offensive play. Numbing is the word. Never again, I hope. Fortunately, I have Michigan-Vanderbilt Tivoed, on a fifty inch screen, and hope to have their Central Michigan game as well for a Michigan breakdown next week. While this format doesn't allow me to present diagrams of plays, passing charts, and so much more, it does allows me to relate my observations and impressions from scouting PSU on tape. There will be those that are in disagreement, but that's what the boards are for, as I have the floor. I will by no means cover everything, but any failure to do so is due to blurred vision, cramped remote fingers, and as Busco likes to say, my geriatric self.

Have I made some mistakes charting and diagramming PSUs plays? I don't doubt it after looking at my chicken scrawls, and the dealing with the narrow field view provided by ABC television, but I'm sure I have the gist of the PSU offense. Hope to do better for Michigan. At least I'll be able to see it better.

I also won't say what I'd do to defend or attack PSU. That's left to the ND staff, and I'm not in their league in anything except my love for ND.

Penn State Offense Penn State opened their season against Akron, a MAC team that hadn't beaten a Big Ten team since Ohio State, and that occurred before the turn of the century. While Akron is not a patsy, similar to what other major Division I teams opened against, and although they won the MAC last year *, they certainly aren't a top twenty-five team.

* I think that Akron winning the MAC occurred because higher finishing MAC teams with bowl bids did not play for the MAC Championship and Akron, which did not win their division, qualified with the next best record thereby getting into the conference championship game. Should I be wrong I know I'll be corrected by MAC followers.

The Akron game marked the debut of former ND recruit Anthony Morelli as the starting PSU quarterback. Recruitniks will, I'm sure, be familiar with other names that ND pursued, or seemed to pursue, that landed at PSU.

PSU operates from a traditional I-formation, a one back set, and a shotgun. They use one or two tight end packages, slot receivers, twins, trips, will put five men in a pattern, and use motion effectively. I saw nothing that would lead me to think that in any specific formation they are more likely to pass or run. I can only say that they weren't effective running against Akron based on 76 total yards on 27 attempts for a 2.8 yard average. Then again, Akron's 3-3-5 defense had something to do with that, but PSUs zone blocking certainly didn't blow them off the line. Will PSU continue their zone blacking against ND's 4-3? I don't recall seeing PSU last year, so I couldn't say that they use other schemes.

What I did see is that PSU has more playmakers than Georgia Tech. Jordon Norwood, No. 24, caught seven passes, Derrick Williams, No. 2, three passes, and Deon Butler, No. 3, two passes. All three scored on TD passes. Three others caught the remainder of Morelli's sixteen completions, including TB Tony Hunt, No. 26, with two, and a TD on a sweep. Also, A. J. Wallace, No. 12 ran a reverse for 42yards.

The biggest playmaking threat, and the featured threat, is No. 2, Derrick Williams. He's used similar to how Lou used the Rocket, aligning all over the field at WR, Slot, and in the backfield. ND needs to know where Williams is at all times. PSU also has enough playmaking talent among Norwood, Wallace, and Butler that the same design used against Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson seems nigh on impossible.

One thing in scouting an offense is looking for tendencies. I can't recall any game that one offense spent so much time running their plays from the extreme left or right hash marks than PSU did Saturday. I diagramed roughly sixty plus plays and only have them in anything resembling the center of the field a couple of times. Most of the game PSU worked from the right or left hash mark.

When PSU was on the left hash they passed left seven times and passed right five times. Conversely, on the right hash they passed right eight times and passed left five times. The running game had nearly the same balance per hash mark. That's pretty balanced on the part of the PSU offense, and the average DC isn't going to get a whole lot of information on any tendency with that type of balance. At least I couldn't, but then again I'm an old offensive guy, without the resources of computer programs and AV assistants..

Morelli was 16-of-32, 50 percent, for 206 yards and three TDs. Although the game conditions featured almost constant rain, he didn't seem bothered by it. What I did notice that except for a few times, either to look a safety off, or in the act of reading progressions, Morelli seemed to lock onto the intended receiver throughout whole game, and once it almost cost him an INT. He does have a strong arm, completing the deep out very well, and exhibited touch few times, especially on a crossing pattern for one TD, and a screen. Again, his arm strength played a big role on the deep TD early in the game. However, the Akron safety woefully misread the play and did a poor job recovering. My guess is that ND will apply much more pressure against Morelli than Akron did, and he will be more severely tested. He can be erratic just as well as he can be accurate. A lot depends on the ND defense.

PSU featured many out cuts in their passing game, and complemented said outs cuts by turning them into out and ups, including one for a TD to Williams, coming out of the backfield, isolated against a LB. Williams again…ND has to be aware of him.

PSU also had what I'd call a great screen set up to the slot motioning across the formation that would have gone for a lot of yardage, but an Akron defender all but tackled the receiver, drawing a penalty, unfortunately for PSU. It would have gone a long TD.

PSU had drives of 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 plays. They also had a 9-play drive that led to the failed field goal fake, and drives of 13 and 5 plays for field goals. In nearly every case, it was one big play or field position that enabled them to get the scores. PSU had few three-and-outs.

Special Teams

Punting to me is offense and PSUs punter, John Stec, had a 46-yard punt, but averaged only 33.3 yards on seven punts. I can't blame the weather here. I just don't think he's an exceptional punter.

PSU tried a fake field goal, intending the holder to run off tackle and they had it well blocked and most likely would have scored. Unfortunately, for PSU, the holder fell trying to push off toward the hole.

That Williams guy had three punt returns for an average of 14 yeards, with one for 28 yards, and he missed a TD only by a loss of balance. Add to that a kickoff return of 19 yards. Again, he's a playmaker. Wallace chipped in with kick off returns of 41 and 54 yards.

PSUs kicker had two into the end zone that were not returned. The other five kick offs went for an average of 18 yards with 26 yards being the longest return by Akron. ND will be tested here.

PSU Defense

As I alluded to before, my thing is offense, and I wouldn't even begin to theorize PSUs decisions for their varied fronts, but I will comment on a few things.

PSU seems to have scraped the 4-3 front, except in short yardage situations. Although Joe Paterno states that this 3-4 look will not necessarily be the case each week, I think it's going to be that way due to a lack of depth on the DL. This year's primarily 3-4 look is because PSU returns just Jay Alford, No.13, 6-foot-5, 288 pounds, who had 8.5 sacks as a DT last year, as the only formidable DL. PSU even showed only two DL on three different downs that I saw.

PSU is still LB U. Aliquippa native, (unabashed, old stomping grounds plug here) Paul Poluszny, No. 31, the 2005 Butkus Award winner, is acclaimed as the best LB in PSU history by some PSU greats at LB, such as the great Jack Ham. He gets off blocks and makes plays. He even gets down as the nose guard on short yardage. He's complemented by No. 40, 6-foot-3, 225-pound Dan Connor, who had 13 tackles Saturday, and 6-foot-1, 237-pound John Shaw, with and No. 45 Sean Lee, stepping up to the line of scrimmage as an upright DE/LB. The LBs pursue well, tackle well, and they blitz from all positions.

The rebuilt secondary that many ND fans believe is going to be chopped up by ND's offense is led by Justin King at corner, the top DB in high school two years ago, and has three other good tackling, tough customers. This is not a weak unit by any means. The safeties, a combo of two seniors and one sophomore, picked of two interceptions, and the other corner, No. 11, Tony Davis, a sophomore, did well Saturday, too. Whether ND shreds this secondary or not is yet to be seen. It's safe to say that ND brings better receivers to the fray than Akron did.

My prediction? You'll have to check that out on the Prediction Board before game time Saturday.


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