What we learned: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
10:00
AM ET
Lessons learned from Penn State's 24-17 overtime win against Illinois in Week 10:

1. You can never count this team out. Surviving unprecedented sanctions? Check. Trailing by a touchdown against Michigan in the final minute and coming back? Check. Trailing by a field goal against Illinois in the final two minutes and coming back? Check. Winning overtime games? Check and check. Penn State might not be the best team, but it sure has to be one of the most resilient. The Nittany Lions are making plays when they need to so, although the wins aren't the best looking, they're still wins. Most people predicted PSU to finish 7-5 or 8-4 and, right now, that's not out of reach. Its record should meet expectations this season.

2. This secondary is incredibly soft. Put Adrian Amos at cornerback, bench Trevor Williams, change the personnel packaging so that those two are on the field with Jordan Lucas. It doesn't matter. Penn State's secondary is playing poorly. Defensive coordinator John Butler is taking heat but, with slow safeties, it's difficult to press because big plays could become even more commonplace. Butler is handicapped by the lack of talent in the secondary. If there's one thing Illinois coach Tim Beckman did right, it was passing on nearly seven out of 10 plays. If you thought a few adjustments would improve this defense Saturday, you were wrong. Adjustments or not, it's going to be a long November for the the Nittany Lions defensive backs.

3. Zach Zwinak is slowly changing his ball-carrying habits. The 240-pound tailback with the fumbling problems wore gloves Saturday, the first time in his college career he has opted to do that. But Zwinak was also clearly mindful, during every carry, not to turn the ball over. He tightly gripped the ball with two hands and made sure to protect it. Illinois, almost comically, kept trying to strip the ball on Zwinak's first carry -- but he held on to it. It's too early to say he's out of the woods, but he's taking the right steps. Bill Belton is the top guy, but he can't carry the pigskin 36 times every game. Zwinak should see more time as the season progresses, as long as those fumbling issues evaporate.

4. Christian Hackenberg is the comeback kid. Three games, two comeback drives, two overtime wins. He played it relatively conservatively Saturday, but he bounced back from his worst game of the season in a big way. He drove his Nittany Lions downfield -- twice -- to tie up the game in the final five minutes of regulation. If there was any doubt Hackenberg lacked poise, file that away. He'll be just fine.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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