Sunday, October 27, 2013
What we learned: Week 9
By Josh Moyer
Lessons learned from Penn State's 63-14 loss against Ohio State in Week 9:
1. Defensive problems go very deep. Giving up 63 points -- the most since Nov. 25, 1899 -- makes that pretty evident. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on nine of their first 11 drives, amassed 686 total yards (the third-highest total in OSU history) and averaged 8 yards a carry on 51 carries. The debate now centers on what those problems can be traced to -- although an easier answer might be what they don't touch on. Bill O'Brien acknowledged his team wasn't prepared well enough, but the talent level on this defense just isn't on par with past Penn State teams. The secondary remains a weakness, the linebacker corps is thin and inexperienced (outside of Glenn Carson), and the defensive ends have had mixed results stuffing the run. Depth is an issue, talent is an issue, and preparation -- at least this week -- seemed to be an issue. This isn't a problem that will be fixed overnight, or even this year. The Nittany Lions will need at least another season or two to rise to mediocrity. They need some playmakers. And fast.
2. Bill Belton is the top RB right now. He rushed for 78 yards by halftime, which is pretty impressive considering OSU didn't allow any other players to surpass 74 yards throughout an entire game. Belton was explosive, patient, consistent and was one of the lone bright spots for PSU in the first half. (He finished the game with 98 rushing yards.) By comparison, Zach Zwinak carried just three times and once again fumbled -- and got an earful from his head coach. Zwinak is the type of tailback who can wear a defense down, but until he gets his fumbling issue under control, Belton likely will be the main ball-carrier going forward.
3. Christian Hackenberg still has some learning to do. The true freshman hurt his shoulder after a late hit, but that didn't excuse some of his passing decisions. He overthrew a few wide-open receivers and tossed two interceptions, one of which came before the hit. Hackenberg has played well overall this season, but this was definitely a setback. The Buckeyes don't have a great secondary -- they rank No. 79 in the country in passing yards allowed -- and Hackenberg still finished with a season-worst QBR of 12.1.