PSU: Is this what good defense looks like these days?
Through three games, Brent Pry looks like the best halftime adjuster in the country.
Penn State’s defense coordinator oversees a unit that hasn’t allowed a third-quarter point. And during the past two games, his Lions have barely allowed the opposition to breathe post-halftime.
Disparage the competition all you want, but you can’t quibble with the results.
vs. Pitt, 3rd quarter: Panthers net minus-2 yards, losing 15 on the ground. They lose another 10 yards and a safety on penalties. PSU posts 2 sacks and 6 tackles for loss.
vs. Kent State, 3rd quarter: Golden Flashes net 6 yards, losing 27 on the ground. PSU posts 4 sacks and 6 TFLs.
It seems formulaic: Bend but don’t break (too much) while feeling out the opponent, make the other team one-dimensional by adjusting to stop the run, then swarm the quarterback.
The arrows are all pointing up. The defense has improved from game to game, markedly so.
And yet …
And yet something seems to be missing. There doesn’t seem to be a clear leader of the young unit; perhaps Amani Oruwariye comes closest. There seems to be a reliance on gang tackling, with the entire gang being needed and defenders holding on for dear life until the help arrives. There haven’t been many big hits or clean runs at the guy with the ball.
I wonder, is this just the way defensive football is going to look these day? Penn State isn’t the only team pushing the envelope on offense, and wide-open attacks tend to put defenses on their heels. Also, defenders are required to avoid striking with their helmet, even accidentally. Maybe ultra-aggressive, high-testosterone defense just isn’t possible in today’s game.
The PSU offense is so much fun to watch, I guess Lions fans can get used to a business-like defense that quietly gets the job done.
Will the progress continue, or are the last two games a mirage, soon to be exposed when the B1G heavyweights come calling?
Maybe there will be more good signs against Illinois. Micah Parsons and the other young players should keep getting better. A lot of guys are playing, so depth is an asset.
And, of course, the offense is averaging 53 points per game, so there’s margin for error.