Sunday, October 6, 2013
What we learned: Week 6
By Brian Bennett
Lesson learned (the hard way) from Penn State's 44-24 loss at Indiana in Week 6:
1. The issues with the pass defense are real and worrisome: Penn State players didn't want to relive their loss to UCF this week when talking about Indiana. But the defense went out and basically repeated the same performance against the pass. The Hoosiers have a legitimately powerful aerial attack and possibly the best overall receiving corps in the Big Ten. Still, the Nittany Lions -- outside of an Adrian Amos interception off a tipped ball -- were mostly unable to make stops, harass the quarterback or deflect balls in the air. Indiana threw for 336 yards -- or 48 more yards than UCF managed in its win at Beaver Stadium -- and scored 31 points in the second half. There just aren't enough playmakers on the entire defense, as Deion Barnes has been held in check, and linebacker Mike Hull is battling through injury.
2. Allen Robinson needs some help: Robinson was nearly Superman against Indiana, catching 12 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. But he can't do it all alone. The Nittany Lions' second-leading receiver, Brandon Moseby-Felder, did not play Saturday because of an ankle injury, putting more pressure on the other receivers and tight ends to deliver. It was good to see Kyle Carter healthy and adding six catches for 79 yards, but no one else had more than 35 yards receiving. Penn State's vaunted tight end corps has dealt with injuries and hasn't been the weapon we expected in the preseason. Head coach Bill O'Brien also was too quick to go away from the running game against an Indiana team that was last in the Big Ten in rush defense. When Christian Hackenberg is throwing 55 passes and completing only 18 of them to people not named Allen Robinson, that's a problem.
3. It's not going to be easy: O'Brien has done such a great job of managing the sanctions so far that it was easy to think Penn State could avoid being crippled by them. But a 20-point loss to Indiana -- in a game the Nittany Lions trailed 42-17 with 10 minutes left -- was the worst loss of the O'Brien era and pointed to troubling depth and personnel issues. O'Brien mentioned in his postgame news conference that his team is competing with 61 scholarship players and 40 walk-ons, and when guys like Felder and Hull get hurt or aren't 100 percent, that makes matters even worse. With Michigan and Ohio State up next and Nebraska and Wisconsin closing out the schedule in back-to-back weeks, Penn State could be in for some more pain before this season is over.