By: Thomas Frank Carr
- Not the Same TempleTeam
Temple is replacing three of their four secondary players, a star middle linebacker, and defensive tackle on defense. On offense they are replacing their top three receivers, and all three of their interior offensive lineman. This team will have a very hard time repeating their production vs Penn State this year.
The one advantage that they have so far is that they are so new and unknown. Playing Army week one and Stony Brook week two leaves very little effective tape for Penn State to watch. They could come out and surprise Penn State, though that is unlikely.
A very emotional DaeSean Hamilton met the Penn State media after the Pitt game. His drop on the final drive that would have set Penn State up deep in Pitt territory still haunting him. He said after the game that he felt he let the team down and that the loss was squarely on his shoulders.
While that is clearly not the case, Hamilton will most likely be determined to have a big week this week to make up for what he feels was a game-costing drop. It would be nice to see both Hamilton and fellow wide receiver Chris Godwin both get going in the same game. This might be the game to do it.
- Must Win (Convincingly)
A win is a win, is a win ect. Yes, a win still counts the same way in the tally no matter how it happens but this year Penn State must begin to ‘pass the eye test’.
Here is the simple fact; this temple team does not have the athletic talent to keep up with Penn State. Last year they were a senior heavy team that played tough, smart competitive football and caught Penn State off-guard and at their worst. That will not happen this year, three weeks into the season.
That means that Penn State must show maturity and growth in this game by beating a team that they should beat, and beat them soundly.
- Injury Update
A huge hole opened up in the linebacking corps last week when Jason Cabinda didn’t suit up with a wrist injury. The Nittany Lions are fortunate to have two players able to play that spot with Nyeem Wartman-White as the backup middle linebacker. The two reserves, Manny Bowen and Jake Cooper, had mixed results in relief duty. Bowen had a much better game, but still make some mistakes. Jake Cooper in particular struggled reacting to Pitt’s shifting and sweep plays.
Cabinda is invaluable to the defense but if he’s not going to be available for an extended period of time, the young linebackers are going to have to elevate their game, quickly. One option would be the junior linebacker playing with a protective club around his hand and wrist. Head coach James Franklin says it’s an option, but not all the time,
“Again, that’s up to the doctors. We’ve had guys played with clubs before. There’s a lot of details and specifics that go into whether you can play with a club or not.”
Of course it’s a Franklin policy to not go into specifics about injuries so we will have little idea whether or not that is an option. For now, it will be on Brandon Bell, and Wartman-White to carry the load for the linebackers.
The most dangerous weapon for the Owls is running back Jahad Thomas, who burned Penn State last year for 135 yard and two touchdowns. He’s also the only returning skill position player outside of quarterback Phillip Walker and tight end Colin Thompson. Both Thomas and Thompson are injured and questionable for the game. Thomas hasn’t played this year due to injury.
If Thomas and Thompson can’t play it should be a struggle for Temple to move the ball today.
UPDATE: Jahad Thomas is expected to play today and linebacker Brandon Bell was seen walking in on crutches into the stadium. If the Nittany Lions are down two starting linebackers and Thomas plays, it could even the odds significantly for Temple.
Givens sustained a nasty hit where he appeared to go limp during the second quarter of the Pitt Game. Franklin said that any player who sustains a questionable hit is entered into the concussion protocol. Givens is a disruptive force inside and does a great job penetrating the offensive line and causing chaos in the backfield. The Temple offensive line is replacing the entire interior of their line this year with new starters. That could provide an even matchup for the Nittany Lions on Saturday. Having Givens, despite his struggles vs the run last week, would be a huge addition.
- Gap Responsibility
The biggest storyline to come out of the first two weeks for Penn State football has been “gap responsibility”. In the first half vs both Kent State and Pitt, the Penn State defense was shredded on the ground. Penn State allowed 219 yards rushing to Pitt in the first half alone last weekend.
But in the third and fourth quarter vs Pitt, the Nittany Lions only allowed 126 total yards. Granted, 115 of those were on the ground and Pitt had three explosive runs of 15 yards or more, but compared to the first half, Penn State improved dramatically. It was the reason that they were able to claw their way back into that game.
The young defensive tackles, no matter who is on the field, must play with better gap discipline. The gaps are considered the spaces in between offensive players on the line of scrimmage, with the “A” gaps on either side of the center between the guards and so on. Each defensive player is responsible for a certain gap. Simply remembering that last week helped,
“Really it was really as simple as us being gap sound. If you’re a defensive tackle and you have the A gap, or defensive tackle and you have the C gap, you cannot allow the offensive lineman to lull you away from your gap, because now you put the linebacker in conflict.”
There’s also the simple fact that Pitt beat up on Penn State in the first half. Kevin Givens is a tremendous talent, but he’s not strong against the run yet. When he went down in the first half, the defensive line played a bit better. That isn’t so say that Given’s shouldn’t play. Once he gains experience, he will be one of their best defensive linemen. It’s simply that last week Robert Windsor and Antoine White were playing better against the run.
The defensive line talked about playing as one this week, instead of trying to make a play by themselves. They will have to improve upon that this week and going forward to be able to compete in the Big 1o this year.