Give Army. The Black Knights dug in and would not go away against Penn State at Beaver Stadium Saturday. The game went down to the wire, with the Nittany Lions winning 20-14. Here are the highs and lows:
THE HIGH FIVE
COUNT IT: It wasn't a pretty outing for the Lions any way you cut it, but Penn State scraped together another victory, albeit against another opponent it should have been able to put away early. Granted PSU wasn't at full force, but neither were the Black Knights.
DON'T BREAK: Army took Penn State to the edge, having a final opportunity to grab the win. Despite bending at times, the Lion defense didn't break thanks to some late pressure and a key fourth down sack by LB Jason Cabinda, who incidentally led the team with 14 tackles (six solo) and forced a fumble.
THAT'S MINE: The Penn State defense picked up where it left off last week when it came to turnovers, forcing three of them, which were instrumental in this game. Unfortunately, the offense could only manage 10 points off the opportunities. Conversely, the Lions deserve credit for holding onto the ball throughout the game. No turnovers for PSU.
TOE-ING ZONE: Joey "Big Toe" Julius was key once again for Penn State, going two for two on field goals and two for two on extra points despite some sloppy conditions.
YOUNG GUNS: Penn State's young players — like Nick Scott, Mark Allen and Johnathan Thomas (all redshirt freshman) — stepped up to fill in key roles as Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley remained sidelined. None of them tore things up individually, but the three combined for 99 yards, with Scott leading the charge with 54 yards and a touchdown.
STATE SALUTE: It was great seeing so much military representation throughout Beaver Stadium, which served as a fitting tribute for the visitors.
THE LOW FIVE
MISSED ASSIGNMENTS: While the defensive front created turnovers and key opportunities, as the game wore on the front seven were undisiciplined at times with their assignments, allowing Army's triple-option to pick up big yardage gains at times. The success PSU had came less from dicipline and more from sheer overpowering of Army's front.
WRAP IT UP: This game was plagued by poor tackling by Penn State defenders. Too often guys failed to wrap up or reverted to the ol' "wrecking ball" technique that Army ball-runners often bounced off. The technique has to get better, particulary with the defensive backs.
VANILLA FLAVOR: Aside from the drive highlighted by the deep pass to Chris Godwin and the touchdown pass to Mike Gesicki, the staff's play-calling was largely conservative and unimaginative — marked by repeated up-the-gut runs that Army quickly figured out.
DISCONNECTED: Penn State's passing game had it's moments, but on the whole the attack was plagued by overthrows, underthrows and dropped passes. Again, there moments with deliveries to Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, Brent Wilkerson and Gesicki, but the air attack has to start getting consistent, particulary in the short and intermediate zones. On the day Christian Hackenberg ended up going 10 for 19 for 156 yards and one touchdown.
TAKE THE THREE: The Lions are too often settling for field goals instead of touchdowns, which is largely tied to the conservative play-calling. In this one it felt like the coaches felt that field goals were adequate, which nearly burned PSU in the end.
GOTTA KICK: Punter Chris Gulla has seen a dropoff in recent weeks since his stellar Rutgers' performance. In this game he had five punts, one inside the 20 and shanking one for 11 yards. This is something the staff will have to figure out as it gets into the meat of the conference scehdule.