Penn State left the bye week and headed to Bloomington, Ind. for what could have served as a warm-up game before the rigorous Big Ten schedule begins. Indiana was ranked near the bottom in all the major defensive statistics, including rushing yards allowed (117th) and points allowed (98th), per CFBStats.com.
Similar to contests against Kent State and UCF, the Nittany Lions were unable to get the offense firing on all cylinders. With a homecoming date lined up against the Wolverines' stingy defense, things are not going to get any easier.
The Nittany Lions, now 3-2, seemed to be suffering from the same mental lapses on Saturday that they had been fighting all year: a botched snap on a field goal; costly penalties putting the offense behind the eight ball; a "fumble" in the end zone resulting in a safety.
This Penn State team is simply not talented enough to recover from mental mistakes. When they're unable to run the ball, the margin of error is even slighter.
Penn State's 70 rushing yards was their lowest total this year and the lowest outing since last year's game against Ohio State. Unlike the Kent State game, though, it wasn't a matter of play-calling. Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak never found a groove. The two running backs, who have a knack for breaking big runs, had long rushes today of 11 and 13 yards, respectively.
It starts with the offensive line. Both running backs were under pressure as they approached the line of scrimmage. Zwinak, in particular, did a great job of gaining yards after contact, but that contact often came early. The linemen never seemed able to get to the second level and block a linebacker, letting them roam free to the ball in support of the defensive front.
The passing game seems to be in slightly better shape, largely due to Allen Robinson. The junior wideout remains the lone consistent bright spot on this Penn State offense.
However, that won't be enough to salvage this season. Teams are going to start showing him more and more attention, forcing the offense to be more diverse. When Robinson went down with an injury Saturday, the thought of a Robinson-less offense should have scared those around the Penn State program. Without his production against the Hoosiers (173 yards), that game would have been even uglier.
The word "regressing" seems a bit extreme, but this Nittany Lion offense looked more efficient in the first few weeks of the season than it has since then. Whether it's a matter of coaching or not is difficult to say, but the coaches are in charge of righting the ship.
There's no time to sulk, as Beaver Stadium will be a "Whitehouse" next weekend when Michigan comes to town and a sellout crowd will be expecting improvement. Penn State needs to have a good week of film study and practice to climb out of this funk; otherwise, they'll be facing a long and unpleasant Big Ten schedule.