Senior Day was a bittersweet affair in Happy Valley as the Penn State seniors, including the last of whom Joe Paterno recruited, played their final snaps in Beaver Stadium. The bye week leading into the game and White Out environment were not enough as PSU fell 28-16 to Michigan. Let's look at the lows and a few highs from this game.
THE LOW FIVE
Play It Again: It's been a common theme through this season, but Penn State's offensive play-calling still leaves a lot to be desired. The Lions' run game showed a complete inability to get a jump laterally on Michigan's defensive front, but offensive coordinator John Donovan continued to go to it. It remains to be seen if James Franklin opts to make a shift for the sake of his offense or digs his heels in.
Opportunities Lost: In another recurring theme of 2015, Penn State's defense created opportunities with stops and turnovers, but in most cases the Nittany Lion offense squandered them, largely due to an ineffective red-zone scheme. The Lions had to settle for field goals when they were inside Michgian's 10-yard line on multiple occastions, which simply doesn't get it done in a game like this. As an aside, PSU is not a good third-down team, converting 3 of 14 Saturday.
Not So Special: On the whole special teams were again a liability for Penn State — the muffed punt, along with weak punts and short kickoffs, handed Michigan major opportunities in the battle for field position, which resulted in some key scores and eventually put the game out of reach for PSU. On top of this, the coverage team allowing the late big Michigan return was atrocious. Special teams get a major plus for the blocked punt (shown above), but on the whole it was a down day. This has to be a major focal point for the PSU staff heading into 2016.
Tick Tock: I am sure many fans are tired of the repetitive nature of these lows — which is indicative to the issues of this Penn State squad — but the team's clock management is horrid. Wasted timeouts are plaguing this team and simple miscommunications, like Christian Hackenberg coming off the field on the final fourth down and letting nearly 25 second roll off the clock with no timeouts. It's a comedy of errors that isn't funny to the PSU faithful.
That's a Wrap ... Or Not: While Penn State's defense has some shining moments (see the highs below), the open field tackling is consistently bad, with some major whiffs. Even when the players manage to connect, they often fail to wrap up, which results in too much extra yardage for the ball-carrier.
THE HIGH FOUR
Frontmen: PSU defensive front bottled up Michigan's run game for 87 yards on 30 carries and created two turnovers. On the day the front played tough, but it simply wasn't enough against QB Jake Rudock, who was calm under pressure.
Lion Heart: While he had his issues in this game, I am tipping my hat to Hackenberg, who hit eight different receivers, converted a critical fourth and 10 and ran for a key third and 14. He showed a lot heart at times in this game. I am not sure he should have been in the game late after taking some big hits (which seemed to have him dazed), but he played tough and protected the ball on the whole.
Fighter: While the game got away late, Penn State, depsite all the issues, played tough and continued to give Michigan a game. Given everything, this game should have probably been out of reach at halftime, but the Lions battled back. If they convert the red-zone field goals into touchdowns it's a different game. But you know what they say about ifs and buts.
Crowd Control: Penn State fans pulled off another solid —not spectacular — White Out atmosphere. Part of that probably had to do with it being a noon kick, while the other part was due to the late arrivals. However, Beaver Stadium looked slick donned in its dress whites.