The Blitz was one of the most popular features at the old PSU Playbook, the grass-roots site which was a big part of the entities that united to create FightOnState.com back in 2004. Though the name of the site changed, we kept right on blitzing. The idea behind The Blitz? Former Playbook scribes (and current FOS staffers) Mark Harrington and Nirav Dalal provide a fans' eye breakdown of the upcoming game. They discuss and debate pertinent issues, matchups and injuries, and — of course — provide their predictions. They also take an overview of the entire weekend in college football. Like a pair of (undersized and very slow) outside linebackers, they pin back their ears and get after it. Sometimes they come through with big hits, other times they miss. But they always enjoy themselves.
MH: What a game. It’s tough enough to beat the No. 13 team in the nation without an incompetent officiating crew. As an interesting aside, it appears that they back judge who botched eyeing the clock on the OSY field goal was also on the 2002 crew where Joe Paterno ‘ran down’ the ref, Dick Honig. Be honest, are you really surprised? Now the Lions have to bounce-back from an emotional game to face the Terrapins.
ND: The Lions battled back last week and though the result on the scoreboard was not favorable, the performance on the field was encouraging. The Lions stay in the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium and welcome Big Ten rookie, Maryland, this weekend. The Terps are looking to reemerge from their shell after being run over in Madison by the Wisconsin Badgers.
Who: Maryland vs. Penn State
When: Saturday, November 1st at 12:00 pm ET, 9:00 am PT
Where: Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA
Series: Penn State leads 35-1-1
Line: Penn State favored by 3.5 points
MH: Let’s take a closer look at where the Nittany Lions stand heading into their homecoming clash with Maryland.
GRAB IT: The receiving game has spread out in terms of not only scheme, but targets involved. Nine different receivers caught balls against Ohio State with DaeSean Hamilton leading the way with 14 catches for 126 yards. Saeed Blacknall had a nice emergence as well with four catches, including a touchdown grab despite an uncalled pass interference. The tight to get more involved though against Maryland. Jesse James, Kyle Carter and Mike Gesicki only had six catches between them. They’re too important of a dimension to not get more involvement.
TIME OUT: Give credit to the offensive line; yes they struggled with their run blocking…again, but they managed to give Christian Hackenberg plenty of time in most cases on passes. Unfortunately, the QBs mental clock is still running slow as he is taking too many coverage sacks. This needs to be addressed quickly to eliminate it as a drive killer.
RUNNING ON EMPTY: The loss of Zach Zwinak early in the game was a big loss and one you hate to see, particularly with a senior. Now the load gets tossed on Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch, who are both capable backs. Unfortunately, the offensive line could block of a mere 60 yards against the Buckeyes. The saving grace is that Maryland is 108 in rushing defense. UMass is 101 against the run and Penn State posted 247 yards against the Minutemen.
LOCK DOWN: Penn State’s defense has been getting even more impressive as of late. The staff has been focused on turnovers and defensive points and Anthony Zettel’s pick-six was a nice boost to that. Toss in Hull’s interception and some key third-and-short shutdowns a the defense was instrumental in shutting out OSU in the second half. They will need to be alert for the array of looks the Terrapins throw out. The front four will have to get a good push to keep C.J. Brown moving around and out of his comfort zone.
FOOT LOOSE: The punting game continues to be the Achilles heel of the Nittany Lions. With an average of 34.5 yards per punt, Penn State simply cannot gain an advantage in the critical battle for field position. I am not sure I see an answer to this, since it’s happening even when teams don’t put on the pressure.
ND: In this section, I will review this week’s opponent, the Maryland Terrapins.
SHELLED:Maryland came into the Wisconsin game ranked as the 102nd best team in the nation against the run. The output of the game was that they dropped to the 108th best team. Maryland is yielding 212.4 yards per game on the ground. As a point of comparison, UMass is giving up 200.6 yards per game.
OPTIONAL OFFENSE:CJ Brown, who was recruited by James Franklin, leads the Terrapin offensive attack. Maryland runs a very diverse offense that features several option looks and many, many screen passes. CJ Brown is the QB leading the way and he is very fast and elusive. Though his numbers don’t show it, he is not very accurate beyond 15 yards. Most of passes come right around the line of scrimmage and he throws loopy passes to the outside. His accuracy on those loopy passes is the main reason that the Terps don’t have more wins.
DIGG IT: Stefon Diggs is one of the most talented and dynamic receivers in the conference. He is extremely quick and is able to bust a long play whenever he gets his hands on the ball. The Terps, to their credit, do everything they can to get the ball in his hands. If there is a player that the Lions should be concerned with, it is Stefon Diggs without a question. He is my leading candidate for WR of the Year in the Big Ten.
TWERPS:The front 3 for the Maryland defense is very undersized. The tallest player is Nose Tackle, Darius Kilgo, at 6’3”. The best rusher is Andrew Monroe, who has a non-stop motor but at 5’11” (in his cleats), he loses the leverage battle against the bigger Big Ten offensive lineman. Regardless, he is 3rd in team history in sacks with 21.0.
SHOULDERING THE LOAD:The loss of LB Matt Robinson to a shoulder injury has really been an issue for this defense. He is one of the best defensive players the team has but Cole Farrand has stepped up in a big way. Though he lacks the necessary lateral speed to be a huge playmaker, he is constantly making tackles. He had a double digit tackling streak broken against Wisconsin.
SAFETY DANCE: Sean Davis is an excellent safety. With the lack of production from the front seven, Davis has stepped up as the team’s leading tackler from the safety spot. He has 17 tackles against a Wisconsin rushing attack that flattened the Terps. Regardless, watch for him to play more as another linebacker to shutdown the Lions’ rushing attack, which will clearly be the focus this week.
KEYS TO THE GAME
MH: The Lions have to get amped for this game as a redemption contest. They have seen they can beat strong teams when the playing field is level. As such, they need to come out fast and hard in this game and avoid the slow starts.
ND: After a controversial night game that ended in heartbreak against their biggest rival (despite what Rutgers thinks), the Lions now have a 12 pm start against a team that they are expected to beat. The Lions can’t sleepwalk into this game. The Terp option attack and the explosiveness of Stefon Diggs can create a deficit that the Lions will struggle to climb out of if they don’t come out of the game strong. My key is start the game out with energy and to play aggressive in the first quarter.
MH: I see the variety of Maryland’s offense causing some early issues, but with some adjustments the defense should manage to control it. The Lions should be able to mount a balanced attack and get some solid drives together.
Penn State 24, Maryland 14
ND: I expect the option game to create some issues for the Lions early but the defense will settle in and the Lions’ running game will grind out a solid win in front of the home crowd.
Penn State 27, Maryland 14
Until next time,
Fight On State!
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