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Penn State 45, EMU 7

September 8, 2013

Tweet of the weekend comes from left tackle Andrew Wylie:

Well, it certainly reflects some of the gameplay. This is not “Whose Line is it Anyway?”; the points are not made up.

EMU defense

The EMU defense played surprisingly well for the first 40 minutes, then completely collapsed in the final 20. The Eagles stopped seven of Penn State’s first 10 drives, forcing the Nittany Lions to punt five times, grabbing an interception, and taking a fumble back for a touchdown. To reduce it to a simple number, the defense allowed Penn State a net 10 points (17 points allowed, minus 7 points scored by the EMU defense) through the first 40 minutes. Against a decent B1G team, I think that’s pretty good.

Then, late in the third quarter, they cracked.

Through most of the third quarter, as the teams traded punts, EMU gradually lost the field position battle — due in no small part to the inability of the Eagles’ offense to do anything, though short punts and poor coverage also played a factor. As the Nittany Lions started their drives deeper and deeper into EMU territory, another Penn State touchdown seemed inevitable. For a brief moment there was hope, as consecutive sacks by Hunter Matt and Pat O’Connor pushed PSU to the edge of field goal range, but a 20-yard third-down run by Zack Zwinack seemed to break the back of the EMU defense. The Nittany Lions converted on a 4th and 4, and Zwinack punched the ball into the end zone on the following play.

At that point, with EMU down 24-7 and the offense showing no signs of life, all the air seemed to go out of the defense, and Penn State zipped down the field for touchdowns on their next three possessions. On those three fourth-quarter possessions, the Nittany Lions amassed 244 yards and 21 points — both nearly half of Penn State’s totals — on just 17 plays.

Grade: I’d give them an A for the first 40 and a D- for the final 20; average those and call it a B-.

EMU special teams

EMU’s special teams performance was a mixed bag, with some good individual performances as well as some real stinkers.

The field-goal kicking was unquestionably the low point of the game for EMU. Seven minutes into the game, on EMU’s second possession, the Eagles lined up for a 45-yard field goal attempt; however, Dylan Mulder never got to attempt the kick, as backup quarterback Mark Iannotti — in as the holder — dropped the snap and wound up having to fall on the ball to prevent any further loss in yardage. Early in the second quarter, trailing 14-7, EMU lined up for a 42-yard field goal. Mulder did get to kick that one, but he pushed it wide.

EMU only had two kickoffs (c.f., lack of scoring), 57 yards after Hunter Matt’s touchdown and 59 yards to open the second half. That’s not much of a sample size, but averaging 58 yards per kickoff puts you in the bottom 20 nationally. Maybe Kody Fulkerson needs more practice?

On the other hand, Austin Barnes got plenty of reps yesterday, taking 11 punts. Although his average of 41.9 yards per punt is nothing to brag about (it’s about the national average), he did have two touchbacks and placed four punts inside the 20, which is not too shabby. However, on three punts where he was (or should have been) just going for sheer distance, he just managed 36 yards, 37 yards, and 48 yards.

After you subtract the two touchbacks, there were nine returnable punts, but only three of those were returned, although Penn State’s average punt return was more 11 yards, which is a bit high. On kickoffs EMU allowed returns of 25 and 19 yards; 22 yards allowed per kickoff return is entirely respectable.

Tyler Allen returned four Penn State kickoffs 101 yards, for a very good average of 25.3 yards per return.1 Demarius Reed returned two punts an average of 10 yards, which is not bad.

Grade: Punting, coverage, and returns were all pretty good, while kickoffs were bad and the field goal unit was terrible. Roll it all together I give them a C.

EMU offense

On one level, reviewing the EMU offense is simple. The offense’s job is to score points; when an offense fails to score any points, they have utterly failed.

The EMU offense failed to gain a first down on seven possessions (out of 132 total).

In the second half it got even worse, as EMU ran 24 offensive plays and only gained 44 yards, a pitiful average of 1.8 yards per play.

Here’s the real problem: early in the game, the EMU offense had some success moving the ball, but it was all short passes. With no effective down-field passing threat, Penn State eventually closed up on the line of scrimmage and shut down the short game too. I feel like this is similar to what we saw from the offense last year under Ken Karcher; although they’re passing more than in the prior years, they’re still keeping everything short, and it doesn’t really help to open things up.

Particularly in a game like this — a game no one expects you to win, a game no one thinks you even have a chance to win — why come with such a conservative game plan? Why not try for a big play, try to shock the world?

The answer is clear, it has been for a while, and we’ve discussed it at length: Ron English does not play to win; he plays “not to lose”, he goes with the conventional play, he does exactly what’s expected. Even with a new offensive coordinator, it’s crystal clear that this philosophy permeates the entire program, filtering down from the top.

The problem is, what’s expected is an EMU loss.

Grade: There were some bright spots, but in the end, offense is judged by points scored. F.

Overall

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m fed up with Ron English. I’m fed up with his excuses. I’m fed up with his overall approach to football. The defense seems to be improving since he took over as defensive coordinator this year; maybe, like Stan Parrish, he’s a good coordinator but isn’t cut out to be a head coach. That would be a textbook case of the Peter Principle at work, which is not an uncommon thing. The bottom line is that this team continues — for what will be the fifth straight year — to display the kind of offense that will leave them generally uncompetitive in the MAC.

Something has to change, and if Ron English doesn’t change it, someone else will.

Overall grade: D+.

Up next

For now, for at least the next several games, and most likely for the rest of this season, Ron English remains the head coach. I may complain about him, and I may express my dissatisfaction with the team’s performance, but that won’t stop me from cheering for the team week in and week out, and I hope it doesn’t stop you either.

Next weekend the Eagles will continue their non-conference schedule with a trip to face future B1G team Rutgers. If you’re not going to New Jersey to cheer for the Eagles, I hope you’ll join me in cheering for them from home (or your dorm room, or a sports bar, or a friend’s house…) on our next Saturday open thread!

  1. Amos Houston also returned one 10 yards, right at the end of the game. []
  2. Excluding the 17-second possession at the end of the first half in which they ran Ron English’s favorite offensive play. []
9 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2013 10:37 am

    Wylie you and the team believe that and us fans and parents do, but the coaching staff does not and will not and I don’t think their on the same page. the coaching staff seem like their going thru the motions. it seems like they don’t want you’ll to win those big upset game and it hurts as a fan and parent to see the way they manage the game and the game plan they go in with, it like they don’t give you’ll a chance to win which is not fair to the players or the team. it a sick feelin to go to the game and see you’ll have the potential to win and the coaching staff takes that away from you’ll with the play callin or the lay down and play dead attitude and let them win its crazy. wylie I wish you and the team the best this game and for the rest of the season, but a coaching staff with no fire doesn’t need to be there

  2. Jes Knappin permalink
    September 9, 2013 1:58 pm

    Penn St., a subpar Big Ten Team, was way out of EMU’s league. Too much time on field tired out the EMU defense. Punting was inconsistent (some good-some bad). EMU offense never showed up. Couldn’t run and couldn’t pass. Game stats speak volumes. Rushing – 61 yds.; Passing -122 yds.; Punting – 461 yds. Don’t have to know the final score of this one to chalk it up in the W or L column.

  3. Kenneth Barna permalink
    September 9, 2013 4:07 pm

    Dear Jes Knappin,
    The reason the offense never showed up, is as J sat said: “The offense was never given a chance because of the dumb play calling”. I don’t care if your school is playing ‘The Little Sisters of the Poor’, to run off tackle plays as 80% of your offense, and the other 20% flat passes, the other team’s defense will have no trouble defending that offense.
    Were we lied to? I was under the impression that Coach Parrish was going to open the playbook. Yet, If you didn’t know that Ken Karcher was no longer on Eastern’s staff, it sure looked like he was back.
    Why doesn’t Eastern run reverses, more than one screen pass a game, how about some sweeps, maybe roll out the quarterback in throwing passes? If, things don’t change in the next game or two, you better get in line for your basketball tickets, because the football season will be over.

    • Jes Knappin permalink
      September 9, 2013 4:32 pm

      So is limited play calling due to on-field talent, off-field coaching or a combination of the two? I’m relatively new on this blog and I’m a little wary of being too judgmental too early. I do know that if the sad W/L doormat record continues this year, it will adversely impact recruiting results. Which leads me to the question, “If the coaching staff knows they are on their way out, how strong is the EMU recruiting effort?” That question alone should give the EMU athletic director “pause for thought.”

      • Ken permalink
        September 9, 2013 4:42 pm

        Honestly, I don’t think EMU has poor talent on offense. Bronson Hill is a pretty good back. Not too sure about the receivers since they don’t get called often, but they seem decent. Benz isn’t too bad but again, I have little to go on. But it’s pretty sad when I can figure out what EMU is going to run next and I’m just a photographer.

  4. Jes Knappin permalink
    September 9, 2013 5:15 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree that play calling creativity comes from the sideline. First two games seemed a little lacking in this area of responsibility. But that brings me back to my on-field talent or sideline talent question. I do think it’s important for the offense to “mix up” or maybe a better description is to “add to” the play calling in the next two games. QB Benz took his HS team (Maine South, Jr & Sr years) to impressive back-to-back state championships in Illinois and I watched the punter, Barnes, (O’Fallon) his Jr. year keep his team in a playoff game for almost two quarters before the offense began to click for the win. Do I understand this correctly that Fresh. QB playing in Penn St. game negates his RS status? If so that was a definite coaching miscue. Game was over! Why? Coaching frustration or an indication of perhaps a new starting QB?

    • cmadler permalink*
      September 10, 2013 5:50 am

      After playing on Saturday, Roback can not redshirt this year. The “play four seasons in five years” rule is laid out in section 14.2 of the NCAA Division I Manual. According to section 14.2.3, “Any competition, regardless of time, during a season in an intercollegiate sport shall be counted as a season of competition in that sport, except as provided in Bylaws 14.2.3.1.1, 14.2.3.1.2, 14.2.3.1.3 and 14.2.3.1.4.” None of those exceptions are applicable here. Reading further, the only possible way he could count this year as a redshirt year would be if he were to become injured and qualify for a hardship waiver (aka “medical redshirt”). But short of that, no, his redshirt is off.

      • Jes Knappin permalink
        September 10, 2013 1:44 pm

        Whoops! Coaching miscue, unless the decision was already made to play Roback this year prior to game. Just hope decision was not “spur of the moment” based on Penn St. game. EMU was not expected to win, chalk the stiff competition up to good experience and move on with the season. RS status is blown, so full speed ahead and give Roback playing time. It’s early in his college career, but maybe he’s ready. Guess it’s time to find out.

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  1. 2013 EMU opponent watch, week 2 » Eagle Totem Eagle Totem

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