B-W Game: FOS Breakdown

The good, the bad and the ugly from Penn State's spring game, which was played in winter-like conditions.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien added a new twist to the program's annual Blue-White Game, which was played at Beaver Stadium Saturday. For the opening series of the second half, he was mic'd so the 25,000 or so fans in Beaver Stadium could hear him call plays.

For a man who does not mind using salty language, it was a bit of a risk. But O'Brien pulled it off by not only calling plays on the drive, but also leading the familiar “We Are … Penn State” chant while doing so.

“That was interesting,” O'Brien said. “But I think it was pretty clean, and that's good.”

Despite some crazy weather, the game was pretty clean, too. Beyond a left hand injury to starting running back Zach Zwinak following a first-quarter reception -- O'Brien said he was not sure of the extent of the injury -- nobody was seriously hurt. Both men vying for the starting quarterback job received plenty of snaps (more on this later) and lots of young players had a chance to show their stuff.

Most of the team's returning stars either played little or not at all.

For the second-straight year, the game pitted the offense against the defense, with both units being rewarded points for different accomplishments. The defense got the victory, 67-47.

Afterward, O'Brien was in a great mood, and even chided reporters to “lighten up” in the media room. He was then asked why he was so upbeat.

“I knew one thing today -- Penn State was gonna win,” he said with a smile.

Here is our breakdown of the game.

MAN OF THE HOUR: One of the best parts of the Blue-White Game is the chance to see run-ons get more reps. This year, redshirt sophomore running back Deron Thompson had 12 carries and responded with 97 yards. That included a rambling 41-yarder where he showed good speed to the outside.

CLOSE SECOND: Sophomore tight end Jesse James was un-guardable. He caught five passes for 77 yards, including a 27-yard score.

CLOSE THIRD: Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Austin Johnson lived up to the hype he has been receiving by logging five tackles and a pair of sacks.

TURNING POINT: The game was tight until redshirt sophomore Jonathan Zuk sealed it for the defense with an interception late in the fourth quarter.

SOLID STRATEGY: The staff kept things vanilla on both sides of the ball, so as not to tip off any opposing coaches to key adjustments that were made during the spring. Not so fun for the fans, but perfectly understandable.

NUMBERS GAME: The two men vying for the starting QB job -- Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson -- each completed 9 of 15 passes. O'Brien called the race “neck and neck.”

SPECIAL DELIVERY: The team worked on returns prior to the actual game, with things going at full speed until the time of the tackle. Alex Kenney found a nice hole on a kickoff return that may well have gone for six had it taken place in normal game conditions.


• The weather. One minute is was snowing and overcast, the next sunny. Seems like there has not been a great weather weekend for the Blue-White Game in forever.

• O'Brien keeping Bench and Ferguson from talking to the media after the game. That's part of handling the spotlight of the starting job.

• The Blue Band playing while O'Brien was mic'd for the crowd early in the third quarter. Try paying attention to the game, folks.

Sam Ficken missing a 37-yard field goal and extra point. O'Brien noted that punter Alex Butterworth was subbing for usual starting holder Ryan Keiser.

HIDDEN HEROES: The grounds crew had the field in excellent shape after Happy Valley was hammered with rain the previous evening.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Wideout Matt Zanellato had four catches for 53 yards. A good day for the redshirt sophomore who had two catches all of last year.


• That redshirt freshman running back showed good power and speed by carrying 13 times for 83 yards and a score. His long carry of 27 yards came after WR Eugene Lewis provided excellent downfield blocking.

• That redshirt freshman DE Evan Schwan had two sacks among his 2.5 tackles for loss.

• That the staff shuttled offensive linemen on and off the field like they were receivers.

• That early enrollee slot back Richy Anderson had three catches or 17 yards and a score.

• That PSU only threw to standout receiver Allen Robinson once -- on an incomplete pass to open the game. But Robinson had a wild 29-yard end-around run.

• That the defense had nine sacks. Of course, the QBs only had to be touched to be ruled down.

• That among the players who did not dress for the game were RB Bill Belton, TE Adam Breneman, TE Kyle Carter, DT DaQuan Jones and WR Brandon Moseby-Felder.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: How deep into the preseason will O'Brien go before settling on a starting QB from the field of Bench, Ferguson and incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg?

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