Know The Enemy – Penn State

Byline: Chris Logue and it is a good one…

It’s go time for another week, another opponent and worst of all, a whole new slew of athletic receivers, running backs, most of which I am sure can run the wheel-route, and a quarterback that can beat you in a myriad of ways. This could just as easily be time-stamped in 2016 heading into Death Valley and Clemson, but this year’s edition of that is in Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions.

While I would love to be the sole interpreter of Penn State this week, I also felt that it would be doing our readers an injustice. This edition of “Know Your Enemy” comes with a guest, Centre Daily Times Penn State beat writer, John McGonigal. John pulls no punches and lets it all fly which is why he fits the bill to be our guest this week.

John provided incredible feedback and you’ll notice it throughout our inside look at what our Panthers face this week in Centre County.

Last week, Penn State drubbed Akron 52-0 and did it in a multitude of ways. Whether it was breaking a long, very strong, streak of not having a return for a touchdown, intercepting Akron quarterback, Thomas Woodson or if it was quarterback Trace McSorley and his trusted back, Saquon Barkley, Penn State looked good. Very, very good at that. It’s no mystery that McSorley and Barkley will be the key drivers for PSU on offense, it goes back to the basics, deep in the trenches who kick-starts this offense.

“Outside of Barkley and McSorley, I think an underrated guy on this offense is center Connor McGovern. I could’ve gone with flashier picks like breakout wide receiver Juwan Johnson or tight end Mike Gesicki — who I think will lead the Nittany Lions in all receiving categories this year — but McGovern is a guy who guides the offense,” says McGonigal.

Like Pitt who has shifted and mixed the offensive line over the past two seasons, McGovern is amid transition himself, “The Penn State staff moved him to center in the offseason after the departure of senior Brian Gaia — the Nittany Lions’ lone loss from the o-line — and McGovern has lived up to all expectations so far, being more vocal and impressing against Akron.”

Reed and I exchanged emails and we both had the same feel that a lot of what Penn State wants to do and should succeed in doing is planting roots in the trenches and making it their own, and it seems as though McGovern is sturdy in that task where “[McGovern] had a lot to do with that, and the lineman will play a key role in the Pitt game.”

How big of a task do the Panthers have this week on the defense? Look for yourself at PSU’s last game’s offensive stats:

PSU Game 1

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2017’s DEs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

This is the fifth of a longer POV series looking at the individual positions which need to be re-filled in 2017 and whether we will meet the PRODUCTION we had in those positions. We will not factor in true freshman at this point.

DE 17.pngWe have been blessed as a team to have had Ejuan Price at the defensive end position on our defense these last six years… that’s not a typo as two of those years were injury redshirts seasons.  His constant and stalwart play masked some other problems we had on defense last season;  mainly pressure on the QB from his fellow defenders.

Wait! you may say we had a ton of sacks and we sure did with 43 which was good for 6th nationally.  But what is hidden there is that translates to only 8% of the times 592 times the opposing QBs dropped back to pass.  As we know those same QBs ripped us apart on the other 92% of those pass plays.

So – as we know and are reminded all the time, stats can be deceiving. Here we see 43 sacks and think that is fantastic and it pretty much is, but is was the lack of constant pressure from the other DE position and the LBs that fell by the wayside… and helped to account for those 331 yards passing per game against us.

But that is the heart and soul of a Narduzzi defense.  Stop the run and put strong pressure on the quarterback.

That worked out pretty well in 2015; 2016 was a completely different story however as the other team’s passer had more than enough time to throw those intermediate and deep route completions for a substantial 12.4 ypc rate and 28 TDs.  You may think 12.4 ypc given up isn’t so bad but let’s remember that it happened 350 times to our defense.

That is a recap of what happened.  Here are who helped it to come about from the DE position. First, as mentioned, we had Price who was just plain fantastic from that spot. 13 sacks for losses of 92 yards and 23 tackles for loss (TFL) for a total 123 yards…  ‘Nuff said. He was great for us.

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Time of Possession Effect; Myth or Truth?

The two teams battling in a football match always try to control the play clock.

They do that for a variety of reasons but the main ones are that if you have the ball the other team can’t score and the longer you hold onto possession of the ball the better chance you get to score. Pretty basic stuff.

Another is the more tired the opponent’s defense gets by being on the field for so long makes the odds for catching them in a mental or physical mistake thus taking advantage of that for quick scores and points on the board.

That is the theory anyway. I suppose it works that way but I’m just not sure that helps get a “W” in the win column any more than striking into the end zone quickly and often to garner more points than the other guy does.

Time of Possession, or TOP,  is easily the most misunderstood statistic in football I think.  Since our 2016 season ended I have read many Pitt fans say that our defense was on the field too much and got too tired to be effective. Thus the imbalance in TOP was responsible for the large amount of points per game our defense gave up.  Hmmm…

I wondered if that is true so I did some digging.  My findings are this – I really can’t tell if TOP is all that much of an indicator in the outcome of a game.  I know that sounds very wishy-washy but hold on. Here are some facts to think about first.

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