Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Notch Second Straight Victory with 24-13 Win Against Temple
Fourth Quarter Update: Penn State 24, Temple 13
Penn State wrapped up the nonconference portion of its schedule 2-2, but it comes with another tough break as running back Mike Zordich left the game with an undisclosed left knee injury.
The Nits got a big day on the ground from Zordich, who finished with 119 all-purpose yards. Zach Zwinak also rushed for more than 80 yards on 15 carries.
The passing game? Not too shabby either, as Matt McGloin, threw for more than 300 yards.
Third Quarter Update: Penn State 21, Temple 6
Penn State’s second victory in 2012 is on ice as it heads into the fourth quarter with a 21-6 lead on Temple.
The Nittany Lions ran quite effectively behind Zach Zwinak, who saw six touches for 37 yards on the team’s lone scoring drive, an 11-play, 80-yard push that ended with Matt McGloin’s second rushing touchdown of the game.
Temple will be pressed to turn to the air in the fourth quarter, an area where it’s missed several big plays throughout the afternoon. Owls quarterback Chris Coyer is just 7-for-19 for 56 yards through the air.
Meanwhile, running back Mike Zordich is getting looked at by the trainers on the sidelines. Zwinak is the lead back the rest of the way, as Curtis Dukes has not seen any action at tailback today.
Halftime Update: Penn State 14, Temple 3
As Penn State takes a 14-3 halftime lead against Temple, it is worth wondering what is the future of the Penn State tailback position. Michael Zordich, inserted last week against Navy because of injuries to Bill Belton and Derek Day, has 106 total yards (62 rush, 44 receiving) in the first half and is clearly Bill O’Brien’s guy while his top-two backs rest up.
He is not shifty like Belton and not a low-to-the-ground runner like Day. But he does run hard, and downhill, and his background as the featured runner at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio, where he nearly twice rushed for 1,000 yards each of his last two seasons, is noteworthy. Zordich is also a senior, one with no bowl game or championship to play for, and he is fearless. He took a screen pass down the left sideline in the second quarter and hurdled for a 15-yard gain on a play that would get wiped out by an offensive pass interference penalty.
Does Belton, nursing a serious ankle sprain, return as the featured back when his health permits him? His speed, ability to change direction and catch the ball out of the backfield gave him great value. It still does. But Zordich’s style also has proven more than capable.
Of course, it is not that simple for Penn State. After the season, the NCAA is allowing all players to transfer without penalty until preseason practice 2013, provided they meet standard eligibility requirements. O’Brien needs to be cognizant of players unhappy with their role. Does Belton get miffed with a reduced role? Zordich and Day depart because of graduation, but there will be competition in freshman Akeel Lynch, who is likely redshirting this season. Can Penn State keep both backs? Even if they do, how much true experience returns if Zordich is the man moving forward?
It will be debated again and again for the rest of time in our sports culture whether it’s fair for someone to lose his job because of injury or ill fortune. Bill O’Brien’s former quarterback Tom Brady got his chance because of injury to Drew Bledsoe. Rodney Kinlaw became a 1,300-yard rusher in 2007 because Austin Scott could not stay out of trouble. Matt McGloin arrived on the scene because of Rob Bolden’s concussion two years ago at Minnesota.
O’Brien will have no choice but to ride his hot hand at running back. Michael Zordich is his guy now, and he’s showing no sign of letting up.
First Quarter Update: Penn State 7, Temple 0
Penn State is dealing with something it hasn’t seen much of this season: quarterback pressure.
On Penn State’s final offensive play of the opening quarter, Matt McGloin stood tall and found Allen Robinson nestled between two defensive backs on 4th-and-5. He made a nice double move to get open and then cut it inside for a 41-yard touchdown.
But pass protection was also questionable early, and McGloin has either had to force a couple throws or simply throw it away. By the offense’s second series, Penn State pulled two linemen, and substituted Eric Shrive in for Adam Gress at right tackle and Ty Howle, playing his first game since tearing a pectoral muscle in the summer, for left guard Miles Dieffenbach. Both Gress and Dieffenbach returned in the offense’s third series.
Penn State’s second drive looked promising until a holding penalty from tight end Matt Lehman negated an Alex Kenney catch and run inside the Temple five. Penn State would later punt.
The defense has played its part, shutting down Temple’s spread attack, and a 29-yard return by Jesse Della Valle set Penn State up inside Temple territory on the game’s only scoring drive.
McGloin finished the quarter 9-for-14 for 114 yards.
Updated at 2:16 p.m.
Penn State will be down another starter this afternoon, as defensive end Sean Stanley is out with an undisclosed back injury, according to a team spokesman.
C.J. Olaniyan is listed as the starter opposite Deion Barnes at defensive end, but also look for Anthony Zettel to get plenty of reps. He had a strong game last week in PSU's 34-7 victory against Navy, recording six tackles, including two sacks.
In other injury news, a team spokesman also said it's unlikely running back Bill Belton will be able to make it for a third-straight week. He sprained his ankle Sept. 1 against Ohio and hasn't played since.
Left tackle Donovan Smith is not listed as a starter in the team's gameday depth chart. A team spokesman said he was practicing Thursday.
It's been 71 years since Temple last beat Penn State, and that run of decadence should continue Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Of course, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien wants none of it.
"At no point in time do I ever address winning streaks," O'Brien said. "That has nothing to do with this game. Every year is different. I don't know what they were like in 1940, but in 2012 this is an excellent Temple team with a bunch of good players."
But the Temple team walking into Happy Valley on this day is not as good on paper as those that lost by a combined 13 points the previous two seasons. To totally discount Temple because of that is an infantile way to break down a football game, so . . .
1. Control Scrimmage: Temple no longer has Bernard Pierce, who now collects paychecks from the Baltimore Ravens. He was never able to complete a full four quarters against the Nittany Lions the last two seasons, and Temple suffered because of it. Scat back Matt Brown and Boston College transfer Montel Harris, who twice ran for more than 1,200 yards in the ACC, are going to receive the bulk of the carries, and quarterback Chris Coyer will run a lot too out of the shotgun.
What the Owls have not yet shown much of is a vertical pass game, and Deon Miller is the player on the spot after being slowed by a viral illness late in the summer. If Miller, who had three catches for 45 yards, including a 38-yard catch last year against PSU at Lincoln Financial Field, can find holes in a susceptible Penn State secondary, then the Owls may have a bit more room to run their bread and butter.
2. Balance in the Passing Game: Allen Robinson, who leads the Big Ten in receptions (24) and receiving yardage (322), has to have caught the eye of Temple coach Steve Addazio. It might be a stretch to totally take Penn State’s best offensive skill position player out of the game, but the more quarterback Matt McGloin spreads the ball around, the more it could set up Robinson. Alex Kenney and Kyle Carter are two guys that can run. And don’t count out Mike Zordich catching a couple passes either.
3. Start Fast: Temple runs what’s being dubbed the “Tebow” offense in recognition of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who helped lead the Gators to two national championships when Addazio was an offensive coach in Gainesville. Coyer won’t be mistaken for Tebow anytime soon, but if Temple can keep it close and is able to stick with its rush attack, it bodes well for another close game in the series. Penn State has scored touchdowns on its last two opening drives and has led at halftime all season. Force Temple to throw, and it opens the door for another victory and a 2-2 record heading into conference play.
PENN STATE (1-2; 0-0 Big Ten) vs.TEMPLE (1-1, 0-0 Big East)
SATURDAY, SEPT. 22, 2012, 3:35 P.M. (ET) • ABC/ESPN2
BEAVER STADIUM (106,572) • UNIVERSITY PARK, PA
TELEVISION: ABC/ESPN2 (outer market)
Mike Patrick (p-by-p), Ed Cunningham (analyst), Jeannine Edwards (sideline)
RADIO: Penn State Sports Network (60 stations):
Steve Jones (p-by-p), Jack Ham (analyst), Loren Crispell (sideline) Sirius: Ch. 138; XM: Ch. 200
Local: 93.7 FM & 1450 AM;
Temple broadcast: WIP (610 AM): Harry Donahue (play-by-play), Steve Joachim (analyst),
WEB: Gametracker & Audio at: GoPSUsports.com
SERIES: Penn State leads the series, 30-3-1 (seven wins vacated). The teams are next scheduled to meet on Aug. 30, 2014 in Beaver Stadium.
PENN STATE RECORD: 1-2, 1st year
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. TEMPLE: First Meeting
TEMPLE RECORD: 10-5, 2nd year
OVERALL RECORD: same
VS. PENN STATE: 0-1