Morelli OnLion: The Defense Rests

For the first time since 2007, the Penn State football team defeated Iowa. The last time that happened, Anthony Morelli (no relation) was quarterbacking the Nittany Lions. The score of that game was 27-7. And while Saturday’s win over the Hawkeyes was not nearly as lopsided, it was still a huge win over a team that Joe Paterno’s squads have struggled against.

In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll take a closer look at Penn State’s defensive effort against the Hawks, have our weekly Two-Minute Drill and look ahead to this week’s homecoming game with Purdue.

Let’s start with the defense.

The Defense Rests

While Saturday’s 13-3 win over Iowa wasn’t pretty, it was a much-needed shot in the arm for the Lions, who are now 5-1 overall, 2-0 in the Big Ten conference. Coming into the game, Iowa had been averaging nearly 38 points per game. But that hardly fazed the Nits, who let the Hawks get on the board early with a field goal but shut them out for the three quarters that followed.

“For the first time in a long time, I thought we played a complete game defensively,” said Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. “We didn’t have that lapse, we didn’t have that lull in the game.”

Make no mistake about it: This was the best performance by a Penn State defense in quite some time. The Lions racked up five sacks and forced three Iowa turnovers. When the dust settled, the Hawks had just 253 total yards.

The game was reminiscent of the 2004 game with Iowa that ended in a 6-4 defeat. This time, however, the Lions got just enough offense to win the ballgame.

But the offense was not the story on Saturday. It was the defense. Bradley was thrilled with the way they delivered blow after blow before eventually hammering the Hawks with the knockout blow.

“They smelled it, they wanted to finish it,” Bradley said. “I said to them the last two drives, ‘We’re going to finish this off the right way. We’re not going to have a lapse.”

They didn’t. As a result, Penn State is sitting pretty at 2-0 in the conference with another winnable game this week.

Two-Minute Drill: Iowa

Game Ball To … Silas Redd

While the defensive effort was phenomenal, we simply cannot overlook the performance of running back Silas Redd, who racked up 142 yards on 28 carries – an average of 5.1 yards per carry. While Redd did not score a TD in the Lions’ win, he was running with authority. That’s something we hadn’t seen through five games. If he keeps running like that, the Lions will be tough to beat as they get to the meat of their schedule.

Silas Redd gets the game ball for his effort against Iowa on Saturday.

What Was He Thinking? Kirk Ferentz.

We normally like everything the Iowa coach does, but some of his decisions on Saturday were head scratchers. The Hawks put the ball in the air 34 times, rather than trying to establish the ground game. There were some very makeable third- and fourth-downs when the Hawkeyes made puzzling play calls. All in all, not Ferentz’s best day and he probably saw that when he sat down to watch the game film.

Numerology … 133-31.

Not to beat a dead horse, but those are the passing yards by Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden on Saturday. Can you guess what number belongs to each QB? Well, if you’ve followed Penn State football at all this season, you’d know that the 133 belongs to McGloin, while the 31 is Bolden’s number. That being said, it’s somewhat hard to believe that Bolden remains first off the bus and the Nittany Lions’ starter.

The Countdown

5. Matt McGloin – Once again, the former walk-on sparked the Lions when they needed it most. He finished the afternoon 12-of-19 for 133 yards and one TD. He did throw a bad pick in the end zone, but it didn’t come back to haunt the Lions. Oh yeah, he outplayed Rob Bolden. Again.

4. Drew Astorino – The senior safety had an impressive afternoon, racking up 11 tackles, six of which were solo jobs. He was all over the field on Saturday and was the catalyst for Tom Bradley’s defense.

3. Still, Hill and Carson – No, it isn’t a law firm. Those tacklers were right behind Astorino when it came to tackles on Saturday. Devon Still, Jordan Hill and Glenn Carson each had a half-dozen tackles. They were some of the “and others” who contributed to the victory.

2. Silas Redd – We already gave him the game ball, but Redd deserves another mention here. In addition to his 142 rushing yards, he had eight receiving yards for 150 all-purpose yards. It was an impressive effort from the Lions’ stud back.

1. Tom Bradley – Penn State’s defensive coordinator had the Lions ready to roll on Saturday and they put forth an impressive effort. The Hawkeyes had just 84 yards on the ground and 169 through the air. Most importantly, the Penn State defense kept the Hawkeyes out of the end zone.

Gameday: Purdue

On paper, this appears to be a game the Lions should win. The Boilermakers are feeling a false sense of security after defeating Minnesota, one of the worst teams the Big Ten has seen in years. Look for the Lions to get an early lead and cruise from there.

Gantdaily.com prediction: Penn State 20, Purdue 6.

Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics for gantdaily.com. He’s also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at morellionlion@gmail.com. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!

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