Redshirt freshman Chester Stewart filled in for redshirt senior Adam DiMichele after he injured his shoulder on the fifth play of the game.
Stewart had a terrible day, throwing three interceptions and barely getting any time in the pocket to think.
But this was his first collegiate game. Against the 16th-ranked team in the country. In front of 105,000 people.
That’s not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, so let’s give him a pass.
When the game was scoreless, the Owls couldn’t get anything going.
When Penn State was leading by multiple possessions, the Owls didn’t really attempt to run and couldn’t get anything going.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
After DiMichele went out, so did the passing game.
Seniors Bruce Francis and Travis Shelton were basically invisible, but to their credit, they really didn’t have a whole lot of time to get open because Stewart was forced to scramble on most plays.
Seven sacks, 0.6 yards per carry, an injured DiMichele, a battered and bruised Stewart…
No, it wasn’t a particularly good day for this group.
Junior defensive tackle Andre Neblett had seven tackles, including a tackle for a loss, and a forced fumble. But, that was pretty much the extent of the positives.
Penn State ran all over this group, totaling 324 yards on 45 carries, including four touchdowns.
The improvements made in Buffalo were negated here, although the opponents the Owls were playing against have to be taken into consideration.
Once again, there were a bunch of missed tackles.
But, junior John Haley did add six tackles, two of them for a loss, as well as a forced fumble and two sacks. Yet, his good stats cannot make up for a group that didn’t help out its front four all that much and didn’t cover the middle of the field all that well.
The injuries continue to hurt this group, but they need to do a better job, regardless of the opponent.
Redshirt junior defensive back Dominique Harris had an interception in the first quarter when the Owls were in the game, and with much of the focus going toward the running game, this group was largely focused on being the last line of defense.
The results weren’t bad, but then again, there’s not a whole lot they could have done.
Redshirt junior kicker Jake Brownell was responsible for the only points of the game for the Owls, and sophomore punter Jeff Wathne had 11 punts, including a booming 57-yarder in the first half.
The return game was also stellar, as Shelton took one back for 74 yards and sophomore cornerback Jamal Schulters took another back for 33 yards.
The Owls also limited elusive Penn State senior wide receiver Derrick Williams on punt returns, a marked improvement from the past few weeks.
With DiMichele out, Al Golden and his staff had their hands tied.
They meant to come out in their usual shotgun, three wide receiver formations and throw the ball a lot, but that didn’t exactly pan out.
While dominated defensively, the staff deserves credit for calling the right plays in the return game, which set up the Owls’ offense in consistently good field position.
After two heartbreaking losses to Connecticut and Buffalo, the Owls lost their captain and leader in DiMichele for what most likely will be the rest of the season.
They probably should be 3-1 right now, but they’re 1-3, including a loss in the Mid-American Conference, and have a date Saturday with a solid Western Michigan team.
It will be another big test for the Owls, as Golden’s squad will once again have to respond to some adversity and “flip the switch” following another tough weekend of football.
Grade: In desperate need of something good to happen.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.