Mid-Season Review: 6 Down 6 To Go!


1--Red Zone Offense is improving: We were able to run for 3 red zone TDs against a staunch Hawkeye defense that had not given up a rushing TD in the previous 33 quarters. We were three for three in the red zone against Iowa for 3 TDs, pretty impressive.

2--Quarterback Competition is Heating Up: After Forcier's benching, it appears that Robinson will get more reps with the "ones." The final six games will really show an increased competition for playing time between Forcier and Robinson.

3--Offensive line has improved: We have limited sacks, negative yardage and have established a running attack that is #23 nationally and #2 in the Big Ten. We really need to change our time of possession, we are last in the Big Ten. Coach Rod doesn't seem to emphasize this important phase of the game, but our opponents do and they are controlling the game, the game's tempo and are gaining more offensive plays while keeping our offense off the field. Now, we will be tested by the likes of Penn State, Illinois and Wisconsin on the road and Ohio State. Are we up to the challenge? Our next Big Ten opponent, Penn State, leads the conference in total offense, scoring and total defense allowing only 10 points per game. Penn State has only allowed 2 rushing TDs all year. They are also the conference leader in sacks averaging better than 3 sacks per game, and tackles for loss averaging 9 per game. Penn State is the least penalized team in the Big Ten, and has the best red zone defense allowing only 4 TDs in 12 opponent visits in 6 games. Penn State still has a great shot at winning the Big Ten title if they beat Ohio State at home, and the Buckeyes defeat Iowa at home. If Iowa loses one other game, Wisconsin or Minnesota, it would be the Nittany Lions to the Rose Bowl in that scenario if they also beat us and Michigan State on the road.

4--Passing Game is a Problem: We have no "go to" guy! Our receivers are not getting open when Forcier is forced into scrambles. Senior Mathews has 7 catches in 6 games. Our receivers aren't getting the job done. Odoms is our leading receiver and he is only averaging 3 receptions and 35 yards per game. We are not getting much production from the slot position. Our starters: Koger, Odoms, Stonum and Hemingway really need to improve along with reserves Savoy, Mathews, Webb and Grady. Teams are defending us well, Iowa's pass defense is one of the best in the nation and they had no problem handling our receiving corps. Our passing offense is ranked #96 nationally with only 179 yards per game, this must improve if we are to be an offensive threat and challenge to quality defenses. Penn State has the #2 pass defense in the conference behind Iowa so we really need to have a big game on October 24.

5--Injuries to Molk and Moundros have really hurt the Offense: Grady was handling Moundros' duties in the Iowa game, and Moosman's move to center, Huyge to Right Guard and Dorenstein to Tackle has helped fill the void; however, we miss both Molk and Moundros for sure. Maybe they can return for some of the last 5 Big Ten games.


6--Defensive Line Improved against Iowa: We did a much better job against the running game, and had some pressure on the quarterback with 2 sacks by Graham. We did not show this against Notre Dame, Indiana or Michigan State so hopefully we can build on this because Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State will be playing "mash mouth" football.

7--Quick Linebacker/Spinner Position is a Problem: Our defensive scheme is now a 3-4 as we have added a linebacker for more speed and manueverability at the expense of a defensive end position. Teams are running at this position, and to our right side with great success. Roh and Herron have not been making plays or at least enough plays.

8--Safety Play is Poor, and doesn't appear to be improving: Kovacs has been a pleasant surprise in run support, but all safeties, Williams, Wolfolk and Kovacs have been poor in pass coverage especially on deep routes. Teams are challenging us, and we are not up to the challenge. The 3rd and 24 completion against Iowa with a 47 yard pass set up a red zone that put Iowa in control of the game for good at 14-20. Penn State's offense features the most efficient quarterback in the Big Ten, Daryll Clark, and an offense that averages of 427 yards per game, 239 in the air and 188 on the ground. Penn State has the most first downs and best 3rd down conversion rate, 55%, in the Big Ten. Can we cover Evan Royster?

9--Missed Tackles and YAC: Yards After Contact are killing us: At the start of the year, we appeared to be a better tackling team. Once we began the Big Ten season, the opposite has been true; we are not a good tackling team and we continue to miss tackles while letting teams get significant yardage after initial contact. I guess we are a little better than last year, but still not a good tackling team.

10--Teams are attacking the Middle of our Defense (the Heart): Do we have heart? Teams are designing plays to attack the middle of our defense with screen passes and deep routes along with scrambles. When our inside linebackers release for coverage, they are still responsible for their middle zone and are not getting the job done. When we blitz, the middle is exposed. Our safeties are not getting the job done in the middle of the field either. Do we ever see teams like Ohio State leave the middle of the field exposed for big plays? No, that is why they win championships.

Special Teams

15--Kickoff coverage has been adequate, but we lack intensity: Since Moundros left the kickoff coverage team due to injury, we have lacked intensity and miss tackles while refusing to pin our opponents inside the 20. Penn State does not have great kickoff returns so maybe we can gain field position advantages at home.

16--Punt phase of the game is as good as there is in NCAA Football with Mesko's incredible hang time allowing our flyers to get down in coverage. We are #3 nationally in net punting. Our flyers, James Rogers and J.T. Floyd missed a big tackle setting up a 20 yard punt return, and on the next play Moeaki took it "to the house." We need to really quash Royster on punt coverage on October 24.

17--Punt returns are killing us: Mathews has been bad, and he has now been replaced by Hemingway. That fumble by Mathews in the Iowa game really hurt us. We really need to establish a sure-handed, speedy and elusive threat here for 2010 because our 2009 punt return game is bad. I don't know if Hemingway is the answer, but Mathews is not the answer here.

18--Kickoff returns have improved with Stonum as a deep threat. Stonum is our leading all-purpose yard gainer with over 700 yards, and 500+ on kickoffs.

19--Place Kickers have been adequate: Bryan Wright and Jason Olesnavage has done an adequate job so far. They may be really tested in the last 5 Big Ten games where a field goal may decide one or more of these games.


20--Two biggest concerns on the team don't look like they may be "fixed" in 2009, and will require solutions through recruiting, Spring practices and the 2010 season. Our passing game needs to really be accelerated, and probably will with second year quarterbacks and the addition of 5 new receivers while only losing Mathews. Our defensive backfield must be solidified, we have two recruits and we are in on several top recruits to sign in February, 2010! The defensive scheme in 2009 will take a year to develop much like the offensive scheme did in 2008, and we are seeing offensive improvement in 2009.