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: It was another tough loss for the Lions, but one that was rooted in a series of blunders and mishaps for the Penn State squad. While the defense is playing sky-high the offense is sputtering and the special teams have been bi-polar. We’ll see how they can handle a team that is also struggling in Indiana.
ND: A tough loss to Maryland has the Lions now looking at the schedule trying to determine if there are two more wins that are likely to help the Lions become bowl eligible. The Lions square off against a Hoosier squad that has talent but has been obliterated at the QB position and that has caused a significant tailspin for fourth year coach, Kevin Wilson. But, with the Lions struggling mightily on offense, every game on the schedule will be a challenge.
Who: Penn State vs. Indiana
When: Saturday, November 8st at 12:00 pm ET, 9:00 am PT
Where: Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana
Series: Penn State leads 17-1
Line: Penn State favored by 7 points
MH: Let’s take a closer look at where the Nittany Lions stand heading into their road clash against Indiana.
PASSING JUDGEMENT: Christian Hackenberg continues to struggle and struggle mightily with his decisions and overall performance. What is interesting is that when PSU goes hurry-up the and the offense tend to get a spark. On the touchdown drive against UMD he went six for six for 54 yards and looked like Hackenberg of old. Not sure why the Lion coaches don’t go no-huddle early and often from this point on. Overall his mental clock is just off and taking coverage sacks on a continual basis are a liability to the offense.
NICE BOOTS: On a bright note, PSU has arguably one of the best kickers in the country in Sam Ficken, who hit three field goals as a PSU kicker for the first time since the early 1980s. Ficken has shown he’s a weapon and a reliable one at that. The key is having the ability to actually move the ball into range for him.
SHANKAPOTAMUS: On the other side of the kicking game the punting for the Lions is simply atrocious. It is killing the team in terms of field position and consistently putting the defense at a massive disadvantage. It may almost be better to let Hackenberg kick it from under center since it will tack on 10 yards to the punt distance. There were some points last weekend where punts got some favorable rolls, but honestly the game is just a low point for the squad.
FRONT MEN: The defense continues to play the weak hands the offense and special teams deal them very well, all things considered. In fact the Lions are back to No. 1 in run defense in the nation by holding the Terrapins to 33 rush yards. That’s the good news, but again, getting short field situations handed to them regularly puts the unit at a massive disadvantage.
CATCHING ON: It was promising to see TE Kyle Carter get in on the action (and with slant routes in the hurry-up) and also for Penn State to throw a fade route to Jesse James (for a TD). The key is getting the tight ends, including Mike Gesicki involved even more to wrap up the season in order to exploit the mismatches.
ND: In this section, I will review this week’s opponent, the Indiana Hoosiers.
PASSED OUT:Indiana is on its third quarterback of the season. Nate Sudfield came into the season as an experienced starter but went down with a shoulder injury. In that same game, the 2nd string QB, Chris Covington suffered an ACL injury. The Hoosiers turned to Zander Diamont, a true freshman. There is some indication that Nate Boudreau could some action but he is also nursing a shoulder injury in his throwing arm. Regardless, the Hoosiers have only passed for 35 yards in the last two games combined.
THE ICEMAN:Because of the Hoosiers’ struggles on offense, RB Tevin Coleman has not gotten the publicity that fellow Big Ten RBs Melvin Gordon or Ameer Abdullah have. Yet, he leads the Big Ten in rushing yards and is 3rd in the nation overall. Coleman is a big, physical back that has tremendous speed. Even with no real threat of a passing game, Coleman is having very good games. Look for the Lions to load up the box to limit Coleman’s big plays.
JUST WYNN: Shane Wynn is a dynamic WR for the Hoosiers. He is an exceptional punt and kick returner. He is also a guy that the Hoosiers will throw to from all over the field and he is also an awfully good runner. His first carry of the season last week resulted in a 75 yard TD. At 5’7”, Wynn has a ton of wiggle but he is very explosive with the ball in space.
LINE ‘EM UP:Indiana utilizes a 3-4 defense and their front 3 are very big. The front three of Adarius Rayner, Nate Hoff and Bobby Richardson average right 6’2” and 300lbs. Indiana has struggled against the run and isn’t much better at getting pressure on the QB. But, their size and scheme will certainly create issues for Penn State.
SAFETY DANCE:For the second week in a row, the Lions will face a squad with an exceptional safety. Antonio Allen has recovered from an ACL injury last year and his sophomore campaign has been excellent. He leads the team in tackles but really does not play near the line of scrimmage; he just has a nose for the football and is seemingly always near the action.
GETTING THE BOOT: After a shaky start to the season, placekicker Aaron Del Grosso was sent to the bench having connected on only 1 kick (of 23 yards) out of 4 attempts. The Hoosiers have seemingly found a solid kicker in Griffin Oakes. Oakes made his first start against Maryland when he made 3 out of 4 kicks including a 58 yarder. He is 5 of 7 for the year and could play a big role in this game if the Penn State punting game continues to give the opposition field position.
KEYS TO THE GAME
MH: Penn Stat has to absolutely protect the ball. The forced errors, like Hackenberg’s interception and Haley’s kickoff fumble are back-breakers the Nittany Lions cannot afford in this game. They should be able to beat the Hoosiers, but if they continue to beat themselves the struggles will continue.
ND: Like last week, this is a game that Penn State should win. Coach Franklin has indicated that the Lions are making some changes to the gameplan in an effort to jumpstart the offense and score some points. But, the key to the game is to not get too cute and to find some consistency. If the Lions find something that works, they need to stick with it. The Lions can win this game by simply eliminating turnovers and playing field position.
MH: I don’t expect a lot from the offense and think that Sam Ficken will be relied upon heavily to get points on the board. Who new we’d be seeing passing struggles with the early hype we saw around Hackenberg this season. In the end, assuming they can hold onto the ball, PSU should be able to get a win.
Penn State 23, Indiana 13
ND: This will be another ugly performance by the Lions. The 3-4 scheme of Indiana will create protection issues for the Penn State offensive line. But, the inability to throw the ball will, eventually, catchup with Indiana and help the Lions leave Bloomington just 1 win short of a bowl game.
Penn State 20, Indiana 10
Until next time,
Fight On State!
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