Perhaps you’ve seen the video of a miked-up Bill Belichick stalking some New England Patriot or other on the sideline and telling the unfortunate player in no uncertain terms, “Do your job.”
That’s not just a Patriot act, of course. It applies to all teams, on all levels of the game. And Penn State defensive end Garrett Sickels believes it applies to the Nittany Lions now, after they were gashed for 341 rushing yards in last Saturday’s 42-39 loss at Pitt.
The problem, he believes, is not inexperience, even though Sickels is one of just five starters back from last year’s defense, and the only returning first-team lineman. Nor does he think it’s injuries, even though five starters have missed significant chunks of action the first two weeks of the season (and there’s been no word from James Franklin about who might be available for this week’s game against Temple, a noon kick in Beaver Stadium).
Rather, Sickels believes it is a matter of getting back to basics. To, yes, doing that Belichickian thing.
“I just think we were trying to do too many jobs at once (against Pitt),” Sickels said earlier this week. “I think guys were just trying to make a play and not really playing their assignment. I think going into Week Three, guys have confidence now, we have game reps. But we just have to do our jobs.”
Franklin did not disagree, saying, “It's fundamentals and techniques that we need to do a better job of coaching.”
Franklin mentioned the squad’s youth, and how “those things show up” on the road. And he mentioned the shoddy tackling.
“That fine line of what can you do in practice with fundamentals and technique without live tackling … that's something we got to do a better job of coaching,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of emphasizing, embrace and understand throwing a shoulder is not good enough when you have big, physical running backs.”
At least the Lions, 116th among the nation’s 128 FBS teams in run defense through two games (245.5 yards per game), were better in the second half against Pitt than the first, allowing 226 yards on the ground before intermission, 115 after.
Sickels said his piece at halftime. So too did the other experienced guys, like linebackers Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell, as well as safety Marcus Allen.
“We just kind of all said, ‘Calm down — no one has to do anything extraordinary,’ ” Sickels said. “ ‘You just have to be 1-11th of the defense and do your job. If everyone does their job, they’re not going to get a play on us.’ That’s pretty much what we kind of preached at halftime, and it carried over.”
He needed to check himself as well.
“Sometimes I was trying to do too much and I messed up my assignment. It goes for everyone, at every position. Sometimes you just get too excited. You want to make a play. You want to get a big stop for the defense, but the way to do that is by doing your job and having the other 10 guys do their job.”
“Sometimes I was trying to do too much and I messed up my assignment,” he said. “It goes for everyone, at every position. Sometimes you just get too excited. You want to make a play. You want to get a big stop for the defense, but the way to do that is by doing your job and having the other 10 guys do their job.”
Middle linebacker Jason Cabinda did not play against the Panthers, and was spotted with a wrap on his left wrist. Bell left the game with an unspecified injury, as did cornerback Grant Haley and defensive linemen Kevin Givens and Evan Schwan.
“There were definitely some adjustments that had to be made,” Sickels said, “but the expectation on defense is if your number is called, if you’re up, there should not be a dropoff.”
He can only hope that proves to be accurate this week against the Owls, who hung a 27-10 defeat on the Lions last year in Lincoln Financial Field. It was Temple’s first victory over PSU since 1941, but just as some Penn State players were hesitant to use the word “rivalry” in regards to the Pitt game, Sickels would not use another R-word — revenge — in association with the Owls.
“After last weekend, I just want to see us approach this week all business and just make the corrections and improve on things we need to improve on,” he said. “The way we fought back last weekend, I know we’ve got character as a team, but if we don’t take care of the things we need to correct from last weekend, we won’t be successful. We’ve got to take care of ourselves before we really look at this game or a last-year aspect.”
And what he really believes they need to do, more than anything else, is do their jobs.