Last week, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien won his first game.
This week, he extended his winning streak to two games. It’s might not seem like much, but it’s a start.
Senior quarterback Matt McGloin threw for 318 yards and accounted for three scores as Penn State (2-2) beat Temple (1-2), 24-13 at Beaver Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The win marked the Nittany Lions’ 38th against Temple, where they hold a commanding 38-3-1 all-time series advantage.
Though it wasn’t pretty, it was a sound win for O’Brien’s Nittany Lions. Penn State controlled time of possession, held the Owls to just 237 total yards, and got off the field on third down defensively. An Achilles heel for an otherwise solid Nittany Lion defense had been third down for the first three weeks of the season. But the Lions held the Owls to just 3-12 on third down, a marked improvement from earlier games that saw Ohio and Virginia convert more than 50 percent of their third down opportunities.
Another area deemed for necessary improvement was the kicking game, where sophomore Sam Ficken struggled mightily two weeks ago at Virginia, and missed an extra point against Navy. Ficken rebounded nicely in hitting all three of his extra points and even tacked on a 20-yard field goal for the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
Penn State also saw sophomore receiver Allen Robinson catch yet another touchdown from McGloin – a 41-yard score on a fourth down – in the first quarter to put the Nittany Lions up 7-0. After averaging under four yards per carry through three games, the Lions racked up more than 170 yards on the ground against Temple, but still averaged just over four yards per attempt. Without starting tailback Bill Belton since week one, it’s easy to see why the Lions have struggled in the ground game.
On defense, the Lions were stout in the front seven against Temple’s rushing attack all day long. Penn State stuffed tailbacks Montel Harris (10 carries, 23 yards) and Matt Brown (four carries, 26 yards) and forced the Owls to try and beat them through the air. Quarterback Chris Coyer led the Owls with 64 yards on 13 attempts, but was held to 124 yards and a touchdown through the air as Penn State controlled the clock for 36 minutes and 52 seconds as opposed to Temple’s 23:08 time of possession.
Senior linebacker Michael Mauti again led the Lions with nine tackles, while defensive tackle Jordan Hill disrupted on the inside with seven tackles and a sack on the afternoon. Per usual, a bright spot for the Owls on the day was specialist Brandon McManus, who hit two field goals and boomed six punts for a healthy 48.5 yard average.
McGloin’s 318 yards were a career-high for the former walk-on. Last week against Navy he tied his career-high of four touchdown passes. Sophomore tailback Zach Zwinak filled in this week for the injured Belton and carried 18 times for 94 yards in giving the Lions’ ground attack some needed speed and agility. Senior fullback Michael Zordich, who handled the bulk of the duties last week against Navy, rushed for 75 yards on 15 carries. Receiver Allen Robinson caught a touchdown pass for the third-straight game and had 82 yards on five catches. Robinson leads the team in receptions with 29 through four games. Redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Carter caught five passes for 70 yards and is the teams second leading receiver behind Robinson.
Penn State hasn’t lost to Temple since 1941, and owns a 23-game winning streak in the series (Seven wins from 2003-2011 were vacated as part of Penn State’s NCAA sanctions). The Nittany Lions begin Big Ten play next Saturday when they travel to Champagne to take on Illinois.