Blitz the Owls with Penn State

Welcome to the FOS Game Week Blitz for Penn State’s battle against the Temple Owls.

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.
KICKING OFF

MH: Aside from the defense shutting down the nation’s No. 1 rusher, the win over Indiana wasn’t pretty, but it was a win, which is just what the Nittany Lions needed. Penn State is one game from becoming bowl eligible, but given the struggles on offense and special teams, nothing is a given, even against Temple.

ND: I call the win over Indiana sloppy but James Franklin called it the prettiest win he’s had. The Lions snapped a four-game losing skid and got one game closer to being bowl eligible. But, the same problems continue to plague the Lions – inability to score in the redzone and pass/run blocking. Lions square off against a Temple team that is also very much in the bowl hunt and had a big win (in the pouring rain) against East Carolina a few weeks ago. Temple hasn’t beaten Penn State since 1941. These Owls have a real shot at getting another win in the series.
DIRTY DETAILS

Who: Temple vs. Penn State

When: Saturday, November 15th at 12:00 pm ET, 9:00 am PT

Where: Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA

Series: Penn State leads 38-3-1

TV: ESPN2

Line: Penn State favored by 11 points
PSU PLAYBOOK

MH: Let’s take a closer look at where the Nittany Lions stand heading into their road clash against Temple.

RUSHING ATTACK: Penn State’s ground game rolled up 162 yards, 92 of which was on the record-setting touchdown run by Bill Belton. So the ground game is far from consistent at this stage, but that’s not to say the unit isn’t make some strides, but the line needs to get consistent on opening lanes.

TAKE A PASS: Once again, Christian Hackenberg struggled, tossing a pick-6 and going 12 for 29 and two interceptions. This issues go way beyond the offensive line and are rotted in his mental clock and progression. The coverage sacks, mental mistakes and poor passes are snuffing out drives, which is not good news for PSU. Hackenberg has to get things straightened out and the coaches have to implement some things (hurry up, slants, curls) that help him get back some confidence.

GREAT WALL: Penn State’s defensive front continues to be a force for the squad. The Lions remain No. 1 in the nation against the run, allowing 2.49 YPC and 85.6 rush yards per game. This is a huge advantage for PSU. If the offense can start finding it’s way it’ll give the defense an even bigger boost.

CATCH IT: Good news on the air attack front is that Penn State has an array of receivers who are emerging as targets – so Hackenberg has a strong supporting cast. Geno Lewis, DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin, Mike Gesicki and Saeed Blacknall have all shown they can ran tight routes and make impressive grabs. This should help the passing game tremendously once the mental mistakes are hammered out.

GET BACK: The Nittany Lion linebackers have become a formidable force in recent weeks; aside from the beast that is Mike Hull, Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell combined for 15 tackles, eight of which were solo. This should be key in PSU’s coverage of Temple’s option game.

ND: In this section, I will review this week’s opponent, the Temple Owls.
LION IN THE NEST: The Owls’ Head Coach, Matt Rhule, was a Penn State linebacker in the mid 90s and was an Academic All Big Ten performer. Rhule started his coaching career as a volunteer with Penn State before moving on to Albright College. After stints with Western Carolina, UCLA and the New York Giants, Rhule landed in Philadelphia in 2006. Rhule took over as the head man in 2013 and has been successful ever since. The Owls are one win away from a bowl appearance.

RUN DON’T WALK: P.J. Walker leads the Temple Owls as a sophomore QB. Walker is a good running QB and could be one of the best that the Lions have faced this year. He has a very strong arm but his mechanics are still a bit raw. But, he can run and he can make every throw on a football field and that makes him very dangerous.

DUAL THREAT: The Owls bring two excellent backs to Happy Valley. Senior Kenneth Harper leads the team in rushing. He reminds me of Larry Johnson Jr – thick legs, broad shoulders and he’s got a high-end gear. Meanwhile, Sophomore Jahad, who actually went to high school with QB PJ Walker, is a very good back and he has excellent hands. This is a team that likes to run the option and relies on these two fine backs to move the football.

RECEIVING TREATMENT: WR Jalen Fitzpatrick injured his leg during the loss to Memphis and his status is a game-time decision. The Harrisburg High grad is by far the best receiver that the Owls have. He is a security blanket for PJ Walker. His loss could be devastating to a team that really needs a balanced attack against the Lions.

DRESSED TO THE 9s: DT Matt Ioannidis is a beast. His teammates selected him as one of the toughest players on the team, which is why he gets to wear a single-digit number along with the others on the team recognized. He leads the team in TFLs and second in sacks.

WORTH THE PRAISE: The Owls are tied for the nation’s lead in fumble recoveries with 17. DE Praise Martin-Oguike has been johnny-on-the-spot by forcing 5 fumbles alone. His 5.5 sacks also leads the team. After missing two seasons, he is really having a breakout year. Clearly, the defensive line coach, Elijah Robinson, who played at Penn State, is doing an excellent job with this defensive line.


KEYS TO THE GAME

MH: MH: If Penn State's offense can just protect the ball and get some semblance of consistency and balance it will be key for the defense to stand tall. Thank means Hackenberg has to spread the ball around and the coaches have to get him some quick routes to spread the ball around in order to build some confidence.

ND: This Owl defense is unbelievable in generating turnovers. The Lions should win this game if they can protect the ball and play the field position game. My key to the game is take what’s there and punt to play another day.


PREDICTIONS

MH: If Penn State can mount even an adequate offensive performance they should be able to find success. Penn State’s defense will likely struggle at first with Temple’s option attack, but should settle down and get into a groove.

Penn State 17, Temple 10

ND: Despite the point spread, this Owl team has the ability to make some explosive plays on offense even if the PSU team bottles them up for most of the game. And, I’m not sure PSU’s offense will be any different than last week. This one will be a low point punt fest that could go either way but I think Sam Ficken will save the day.

Penn State 13, Temple 7

Until next time,

Fight On State!

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