Suprisingly, defense was soft vs. Buffalo
For the sake of today’s debate, I’ll take the defense, which was supposed to be the team strength and may still be, we’ll see.
But some issues surfaced against Buffalo that signaled a red flag.
Buffalo kept the ball for 90 plays and 42-plus minutes. That’s hard to believe.
So if you’re looking for a reason why Penn State hasn’t yet been able to establish a run game and a No. 1 tailback — a definite concern (Cory drew first pick this week) — look no further than the Nittany Lions’ defensive play this past Saturday.
Penn State beat Buffalo with just three rushing first downs, and the Lions possessed the ball for less than 18 minutes and only ran 46 plays, which may be their all-time single-game record for fewest snaps. I scoured the media guide but couldn’t find that entry. Suffice to say it’s close.
Buffalo went 96 yards on one drive and had four possessions of 10 plays or more — including one for 19 in which it collected six first downs.
The Lions’ frequent substitution and overall depth in their front seven contributed to the big momentum swing in the second half that PSU carried 38-3. So credit the defense, sparked by John Reid’s game-turning interception return for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead in the third quarter, for that.
But Buffalo dropped back to pass 32 times and was sacked just once. If Penn State can’t get to Buffalo’s quarterback, do you think it can get to Iowa’s, Ohio State’s or Michigan’s?
Those teams will look at the Buffalo film, and their eyes will light up. Pitt’s might, too.
Buffalo not only kept a clean pocket and made several long receptions but had other opportunities with receivers it missed who were open deep.
State’s linebackers have shown good pursuit to the ball, but they also didn’t cover Buffalo’s tight ends very well.
Again, the sample size has been small, but much has been made about Yetor Gross-Matos being a first-round draft pick and the potential of the Lions’ young defensive ends, but they didn’t show up against Buffalo.
Pitt pounded Penn State for 231 yards in the first half last year — most of it on the ground — and then got away from the run, fell apart on special teams and totally lost its composure (led by its head coach) while unraveling in a 51-6 debacle.
Seeing how soft the Lions’ defense was against Buffalo ought to give Pitt and the tougher opponents on the schedule some confidence.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.