Secondary has sprung leaks

When a team is 4-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country, there aren’t an abundance of big concerns.

Certainly, the field goal operation — snapper, holder, placekicker — is one as Tyler Davis is no longer automatic. Four times from within 41 yards he’s either missed or had his field goal attempt blocked.

Going with the placekicker — a singular player rather than a position group — is a reach. Plus Davis has enough of a track record that we’ll give him a slight pass.

Cory drew first pick this week and is offering up the offensive line so I’ll address the secondary.

The Nittany Lions are ranked 10th nationally in pass defense efficiency. They’re only allowing 158 yards per game, have intercepted six passes and allowed just two touchdown receptions.

But let’s throw out Akron and Georgia State and zero in on the Pitt and Iowa games.

Pitt only threw for 154 yards, but a couple of catchable long gainers were dropped that could have kept the Panthers closer in the first half, while the game was taking shape.

Last Saturday’s performance at Iowa was of greater concern.

The Hawkeyes threw for 191 yards. Of those, just 48 came in the first half, but the Lions allowed 106 in the fourth quarter, including a 70-yard screen that caught PSU in a blitz, and nobody was home in the PSU secondary.

Grant Haley is an excellent cover corner and is always around the ball. Marcus Allen has proven to be a ferocious hitter and leader.

The other safety position, between Troy Apke and Nick Scott, remains a work in progress. Apke was beaten for the Hawkeyes’ first touchdown and got lost on Akrum Wadley’s 35-yard run that almost won the game. Fellow safety Nick Scott overran Wadley’s 70-yard TD.

Normally reliable Christian Campbell also had tough day at Iowa, allowing a 30-yard catch in the third quarter and, along with Allen, was penalized for pass interference.

All are seniors except Scott, who has another year available.

Keep in mind Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is in his first year as a starter and is not Sam Darnold, who torched the Lions for 453 yards and five touchdowns in the Rose Bowl.

Indiana’s Richard Lagow, who looked good against Ohio State, should provide a stiffer test Saturday than the Lions have seen this season.

That means the Penn State secondary will have to play better than it did in the second half at Iowa, where had it not been for Saquon Barkley’s greatness and Trace McSorley’s late-game heroics, the Nittany Lions would be 3-1 today.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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