Penn State beat Temple 34-27 at Beaver Stadium Saturday, gaining a measure of revenge for last year’s 27-10 upset loss in Philadelphia.
And the Nittany Lions did it in true walking-wounded fashion — especially on defense.
Even before the game began, four starting defenders were in street clothes — LB Brandon Bell, LB Jason Cabinda, CB Grant Haley and DE Evan Schwan. During the game, MLB Nyeem Wartman-White went down with (another) knee injury and did not return.
The fact that the ’backer corps was hit so hard was especially worrisome, seeing as James Franklin’s team was extremely thin there to start.
Yet somehow, PSU managed to not only beat the Owls. But it did so in a fashion that — well — was troubling and encouraging at the same time.
The troubling aspect? If not for a rash of PSU mistakes, this game would have been a blowout.
The encouraging aspect? Even with the patchwork linebacker group, the Nittany Lions toughened up when they had to and emerged with the victory.
“I’m very, very proud of how they handled that,” Franklin said.
MAN OF THE HOUR
Walk-on LB Brandon Smith did not have the best statistical game of any Lion. Not even close. But nobody personified this win more than the redshirt junior. He took over the all-important Mike duties when Wartman-White went down and came through with eight tackles, a pass break-up and half a tackle for loss. Talk about next man up.
WR Chris Godwin was just too good for the Owls. He had seven catches for 117 yards and a score. His 52-yard TD opened the scoring in the game.
We know he had an ugly pick and bobble of a shotgun snap (he was having contact lens issues on the latter). But QB Trace McSorley was outstanding at times. He hit on 18 of 24 passes for 287 yards and the one TD. He also ran two yards for a score.
Penn State was on the verge of salting away the win multiple times but kept stumbling over its own feet, so to speak. So the hammer did not drop until near the midway point of the fourth quarter, when RB Saquon Barkley popped a 54-yard TD to make the score 34-24. Barkley was bumped up early in the game and missed some time. And when he returned, he initially seemed a bit off. But then he blew through the middle of the Temple line for his long TD.
When Barkley was out, PSU rotated backups Andre Robinson, Miles Sanders and Mark Allen, and it worked well. Robinson carried six times for 24 yards and a score, and was strong in short-yardage situations. Sanders had only three carries but averaged nine yards. He’ll learn from the second-quarter red-zone fumble that ended his day as a ball-carrier.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
TE Mike Gesicki’s strong junior season continued. He had a pair of receptions for 62 yards, including a 52-yard, one-handed circus catch.
• K Tyler Davis continued to be clutch for the Lions, making both of his FG attempts (40 and 30 yards).
• Kickoff specialist Joey Julius shook off a very bad boot vs. Pitt with six touchbacks Saturday. He did send one out of bounds. But Franklin said that is better than missing on location and giving a return man a chance to pop something big.
• P Blake Gillikin had two punts downed inside the 20, with one inside the 1-yard line.
• PR John Reid continues to look like the real deal.
• DT Parker Cothren was strong in the middle if the line, with seven tackles 2.5 tackles for loss and half a sack.
• After giving up 341 net rushing yards in a loss to Pitt, the PSU defense held Temple to just 38 net yards on the ground. Nice bounce-back effort, particularly by the heart of the defensive line.
• After giving up 10 sacks in the loss in Philly last year, PSU’s offensive line gave up — you guessed it — zero this year. The Owls only had five total tackles behind the line.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
• PSU continuing to have offensive issues in the red zone. The Lions scored TDs on only two of six trips inside the Temple 20. Sanders’ fumble ended one, which was understandable for a true freshman. But another chance came undone when Joe Moorhead called a reverse that was snuffed out (and that was followed by a hold).
• The continuing game of musical kickoff return men. Brandon Polk entered the mix this week, opening the game with a 35-yarder. Then Sanders and Nick Scott got chances.
• Another complete brain cramp on special teams. This time, punt return up man Amani Oruwariye allowed a rugby style kick to hit off his leg. The ball took a funny hop, preventing Reid from scooping it up, and Temple recovered at the PSU 1 to set up a TD.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE
• WR DaeSean Hamilton was held in check most of the day. But in the fourth quarter, he came through with two catches for 50 yards and also recovered the Owls’ desperation onside kick near the end of the game.
DID YOU NOTICE?
• Bell was on crutches but seemed to be moving around very well on them.
• Wartman-White was in street clothes and on crutches in the second half.
• Starting WR Saeed Blacknall missed his second straight game with what appears to be a right hand injury. He was replaced again by DeAndre Thompkins, who had three catches for 36 yards.
• Chance Sorrell, a deep reserve on the O-line, was also on crutches. He had a significant brace on his right knee.
Will the banged-up PSU defense be healthy enough to slow down Michigan's offense in the Big House next week?