The defense completely neutralized the Panthers' offense and the offense managed to mount drives and put points on the board. However, what else did the game tell us?
Can quarterback Anthony Morelli and the PSU offense make adjustments on the fly?
Yes. At least in this clash they did. The coaches expected FIU to come out "fast and hard" with a focus on applying pocket pressure. However, the Panthers settled into their zone scheme, pulling back on the pressure.
The offense subsequently made adjustments to some of the breaks in their routes to capitalize on the "zone releases" and transitions, which is "why you saw big catches in wide open spaces," one team source told us.
Terrell Golden and the wideouts found wide open spaces.
Morelli also had to adjust his game and directed several route changes in the huddle/sideline during breaks based on what he saw from the coverage. This is why there were some early miscues — like on one overthrow of Jordan Norwood in the first quarter. Norwood broke out when he was supposed to break in, which was said to be one of those quick adjustments. "They had some early miscues, but they deserve a lot of credit for shifting parts of the scheme to get some big pickups [with the pass]," one of our observers said.
Morelli also spread the ball around, hitting eight different receivers during the game.
Focal point: The passing game needs to work on refining the timing of the passes. There were a lot of diving receptions, which if caught in stride would have resulted in additional yardage or even touchdowns.
Is the young defensive line ready for action?
A resounding "yes" in this game. The front four played impressively fast and aggressive and showed incredible endurance in applying straight ahead pressure to collapse the pocket around FIU's Wayne Younger. The defensive ends of Josh Gaines, Maurice Evans, Aaron Maybin and Jerome Hayes provided a solid rotation and tossed in enough change-ups to keep the FIU line confused on its shifts.
Although Jared Odrick had a bang-up game at tackle, I was particularly impressed with the power Ollie Ogbu displayed in his bull-rush. My only question is if he is that good, how impressive must Abe Koroma be to have earned the starting job before he was sidelined with a broken foot?
Focal point: FIU did get smart, taking advantage of PSU's defensive aggression and picking up significant yardage with the screen pass. This and some situational over-pursuits could pose issues against a resourceful offensive coordinator.
Can Austin Scott block?
For the most part, yes. Scott showed a prowess to take out defenders on some key plays. In fact, if you watch the second touchdown caught and run by Mickey Shuler, Scott threw consecutive blocks on two defenders.
For a guy who has had questions swirling about his ability to throw a block, Scott was instrumental in creating the time Morelli had in the passing game.
Scott stands up a pass-rusher to give Morelli time.
Focal point: Scott consistently goes low on his blocks, tossing his body at the defender's legs. On a miss, this will take him out of the play and leave Morelli exposed. Working to engage and set the block rather than haphazardly throwing his body at an assignment will help to control the situation and mitigate the risk of a missed block.
What will happen with PSU's punting game without Jeremy Kapinos?
Jeremy Boone showed he has a solid leg, booting five punts for an average of 47.4 yards and a long of 54 yards. He managed that 54-yarder from deep within PSU territory (the 23-yard line). He put enough air under it to force a fair catch, as well.
Focal point: My only concern with Boone's punting is the time he takes to run through his motion. It tends to be slow and deliberate, unlike Kapinos, who had a very quick motion. A team with speedy special teams coverage could pull off a block if that motion is not sped up.
Will Morelli have better awareness?
We already talked about his ability to find gaps in the FIU zone. He also impressed me with his ability to move on a macro and micro level. First, in terms of moving with the pocket and the entire unit, he appeared to be greatly improved. He was aware of when the line moved and made adjustments with his feet.
On an individual level, there were five different occasions where he used his footwork to sidestep a would-be tackler. He seems to understand now that it's about shifting the angle rather than all out running to avoid a sack. He looked very poised in the face of pressure.
Focal point: Morelli did take two sacks for 8- and 9-yard losses. In both of those instances he appeared to have his vision locked on the flat, waiting for a receiver to open up. Getting more consistent on his awareness will be a big factor in his success as the offensive line continues to adjust and improve.