Five Things We Learned: Army vs. Penn State
Army came to town last Saturday for Military Appreciation Day at Beaver Stadium. The game was much closer than predicted, ending 20-14 in Penn State’s favor. Here’s some things to take away:
1. Penn State needs to capitalize on opponent’s errors
Another rainy day in Happy Valley resulted in another game full of sloppy play, only each team had their own way of showing it.
Army struggled to execute their triple-offense early on as they mishandled their very first snap, turning it over and allowing Penn State to get its first touchdown on the board. The Black Knights continued to put the ball on the ground, mostly in unforced situations, three more times in the first half and seven times total for the game.
Of those opportunities, Penn State was only able to pounce on three of them, all of which occurred in the first half. The Nittany Lions took those possessions and put up 10 points, which sounds solid until you realize all three possessions started on Army’s side of the field.
Had the Lions fully capitalized on these situations, they could have distanced themselves in a game that came down to a last drive halt.
2. Sluggish offense continues to stifle team
The defense continues to need to carry the offense towards victories week in and week out, and the numbers show it.
In one corner, you have the No. 15 defense in the country in yards per game and the second best in the country in team sacks.
In the other, you have an offense ranked in the bottom 12 of the nation in total yardage. They only put up 264 yards against an Army defense that is not exactly arduous.
Coach Franklin voiced his opinion on the offense after the game. “We’ve got a long way to go and I’m not happy with where we’re at,” he said.
3. Allowing big plays still an issue
Once again, the Penn State defense looked stout with the exception of several incidents where Army was able to gain big yardage.
PSU gave up runs of 56, 22 and 20 yards and allowed 17 first downs. If you add on the Knights only pass attempt and completion, which went for 32 yards, it would account for nearly half of Army’s total yardage.
Limiting big plays will continue to be a must, especially against teams with more balanced offenses in conference play.
4. Jason Cabinda: Linebacker standout
Amidst the lingering issues with the football team’s linebacker depth, a new star has emerged. That man’s name is Jason Cabinda.
The freshman was forced to step up once again in desperate times as veteran LB Brandon Bell sat the game out. Cabinda responded with a team- and season-high 14 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
His two sacks were possibly the biggest defensive plays of the game. The first resulted in a 23-yard loss for Army due to a fumble, and the second clinched the game for Nittany nation as it forced a turnover-on-downs during an imposing last-minute drive by the Knights.
It is uncertain when Bell will find the field again, but in his absence Cabinda has provided production for the defense thus far.
5. James Franklin no longer has to worry about point spreads
When asked after the game about Penn State’s inability to cover the predicted four-score spread, Coach James Franklin went on a tangent, talking about his brief history with gambling and the need to stay positive.
“I have no concerns about point spreads,” Franklin fired back at the reporter. “I lost $20 when I was 24 after college and I almost threw up. That was the last time that I gambled.”
Lucky for Coach Franklin, he can have the luxury of not having to worry about 20-point spreads, and instead relax in knowing they will likely be seen as a pick’em or underdog the rest of the season.
Penn State has played its last non-conference game and will go against a set of B1G teams with a combined record of 29-6. So far this season, their opponents have a combined for a record of just 10-12, with their only conference win coming against Rutgers who sits at the bottom of the conference.
The road only gets harder for the Lions, and an emphasis on production will be paramount.
Ryan is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.