Wisconsin Snap Counts: Freshmen Dominate Playing Time at Receiver

By Dan Smith on November 12, 2018 at 8:06 am
Nov 10, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive linesmen Cole Van Lanen (71) grabs the jersey of Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons (11) while attempting to tackle Wisconsin Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor (23) during the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Wisconsin 22-10. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State defeated Wisconsin by two scores, and for this week, that is enough. Let's see how they did it with personnel.

Offense (74 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team / Reserves
QB Trace McSorley (71) Tommy Stevens (3)  
RB Miles Sanders (65) Tommy Stevens (7) Ricky Slade (4) / Journey Brown (3)
WR DeAndre Thompkins (60) Cam Sullivan-Brown (13) John Reid (1)
WR Jahan Dotson (45) Justin Shorter (17)  
WR K.J. Hamler (47) Mac Hippenhammer (20)  
TE Pat Freiermuth (67) Nick Bowers (20) Jon Holland (1)
LT Will Fries (74)    
LG Steven Gonzalez (70) Mike Miranda (4)  
C Michel Menet (74)    
RG Connor McGovern (74)    
RT Ryan Bates (74)    
  • Polk Benched, Freshmen Dominate Playing Time at Receiver: Juwan Johnson remained injured, and Polk was benched after another poor performance with multiple dropped passes against Michigan. This meant that Thompkins was the only non-freshman receiver to see the field (Reid appeared as the back man on the game ending victory formation). Shorter played his second game as a Nittany Lion, while Dotson was moved outside and started there. This swapped him with Hippenhammer, who returned to backup slot receiver.
  • Offensive Line Shuffle: Fries had been behind Chasz Wright for several weeks, but last week jumped back ahead of Wright on the depth chart at right tackle. The twist this week was Fries flipping to left tackle, with Bates going to the right side. Another change had Miranda appearing for a series. It did not appear to be injury related, as Gonzalez was on the field goal unit on the series Miranda appeared in the game.
  • Slade Returns: The true freshman saw game action for the first time since Michigan State. He was still the fourth running back onto the field, after Stevens (in his LION role) and Brown, but his snaps were not garbage time snaps.
  • More Two Tight End Sets: With more freshmen being relied on at receiver, including two true freshmen, the Nittany Lions are using more two tight end sets with Freiermuth and Bowers. This includes short yardage situations, but also some regular situations.

Defense (58 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team
DE Shareef Miller (50) Shane Simmons (6) Daniel Joseph (3)
DT Kevin Givens (50) P.J. Mustipher (10) Yetur Gross-Matos (1)
DT Robert Windsor (50) Antonio Shelton (7)  
DE Yetur Gross-Matos (46) Shaka Toney (11)  
WLB Micah Parsons (46) Koa Farmer (12)  
MLB Jan Johnson (31) Ellis Brooks (8)  
SLB Cam Brown (49) Micah Parsons (4)  
CB John Reid (49) Donovan Johnson (3)  
S Nick Scott (57) Lamont Wade (2)  
S Garrett Taylor (52)  Jon Sutherland (6)  
CB Amani Oruwariye (46) Tariq Castro-Fields (39)  
  • Parsons Finally Plays Like a Starter: In game number ten, the Penn State coaching staff finally played Micah Parsons starter minutes at linebacker. Farmer started each half of football at weakside linebacker, and is still technically the starter, but he clearly took a backseat in this game. Farmer appeared at the end of the first half with Parsons, with the latter apparently briefly playing strongside in place of Brown.
  • Short Possessions Allow for Tighter Rotations: The offense was on the field more, and the defense got off the field quickly with consistency. This meant less rotating and more time on the field for the starters. Defensive tackle C.J. Thorpe, linebacker Jarvis Miller, and cornerback Zech McPhearson did not play, while Simmons, Joseph, Shelton, Brooks, Johnson, Sutherland, and Wade all saw single digit snaps.
  • Random Mid-Field Goal Line Package Fails: For whatever reason, Penn State sent out six defensive linemen on a Wisconsin first-and-10 on its own 40 yard line, early in the third quarter. This involved removing the cornerbacks and replacing them with defensive tackles. Penn State usually employs this in goal line and short yardage situations, though even that is done rarely. Doing it here made no sense. It was not a case of that package being left on the field after Wisconsin picked up a first down against it, either. The bizarre decision did not pay off, as Taiwan Deal ran off tackle for 37 yards.
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