Penn State Snap Counts vs. Buffalo: Rotations Remain Heavy in Tight First Half

By Dan Smith on September 10, 2019 at 11:00 am
Sep 7, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Jahan Dotson (5) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Buffalo Bulls at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State defeated Buffalo 45-13 in week two, despite falling behind 10-7 at the end of the first half. The Bulls spent a lot of time with the ball, and it showed in the play and snap counts.

Ultimately, though, this game allowed us to get a more clear view of playing time distribution between first, second, and third team type players. By needing nearly three full quarters to build a comfortable lead, the Nittany Lions were not inclined to rest the starters as they were against Idaho a week ago.

Note: "Redshirt Watch" is running as a separate piece this season and will appear later this week.

Offense (49 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team / Reserves
QB Sean Clifford (48) Will Levis (1)  
RB Journey Brown (18) Ricky Slade (14) Devyn Ford (12) / Noah Cain (7)
WR-H Jahan Dotson (47)    
WR-X Justin Shorter (34) Daniel George (10)  
WR-Z K.J. Hamler (47)    
TE Pat Freiermuth (43) Nick Bowers (13)  
LT Rasheed Walker (37) Des Holmes (12)  
LG Steven Gonzalez (43) Mike Miranda (5) Bryce Effner (1)
C Michal Menet (48) Mike Miranda (1)  
RG Mike Miranda (26) C.J. Thorpe (23)  
RT Will Fries (48) Caedan Wallace (1)  
  • Offensive Line Remaining Committed to 7-Man Group: Des Holmes is not a co-starter, but they continue to deploy him. Meanwhile, Thorpe and Miranda are co-starters at right guard, having alternated through two games. Miranda may have a slight edge due to his positional flexibility, as he once again played all three interior positions.
  • Wide Receiver Rotation Tighter: Aside from the quarterback position, the one tighter position was wide receiver. Only George received time as a reserve wide out, though that was cut short by an apparent hand injury early in the second half.
  • Running Back Question: The running back picture is murkier than ever. Slade was on his way to leading the team in carries, but was benched after a fumble on the first second half possession. Brown and Ford were the leaders after that, with Cain mixing in just slightly less.

Defense (91 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team / Reserves
DE Yetur Gross-Matos (45) Shane Simmons (22) Daniel Joseph (20)
3DT Rob Windsor (48) Fred Hansard (22) Damion Barber (16) / Yetur-Gross Matos (5) / Shane Simmons (1)
1DT P.J. Mustipher (40) Antonio Shelton (38) Judge Culpper (10)
DE Shaka Toney (45) Jayson Oweh (31) Adisa Isaac (13) / Smith Vilbert (6)
OLB Cam Brown (70) Charlie Katshir (10) Lance Dixon (6)
MLB Jan Johnson (50) Ellis Brooks (27) Max Chizmar (6)
OLB Micah Parsons (65) Jesse Luketa (19) Brandon Smith (6)
CB Tariq Castro-Fields (68) Keaton Ellis (17) Donovan Johnson (14)
S Garrett Taylor (68) Jonathan Sutherland (23) Drew Hartlaub (2)
S Lamont Wade (55) Jaquan Brisker (42)  
CB John Reid (50) Trent Gordon (41)  
  • Debuts: CB Johnson, DE Vilbert, DT Barber
  • Defensive Line Remains Three Deep: Sean Spencer continues to roll three lines deep on the defensive line. Lack of trustworthy depth hurt them there last season, and they appear intent on running that many players for as long as they can.
  • Twists on Passing Downs: Brent Pry's unit was a little more unpredictable on passing downs. As stated in the preseason, they are mixing Lamont Wade into the "star" position as a pseudo-slot corner, taking some of the pressure off of Reid. Meanwhile, for the first time, a defensive end other than Gross-Matos slid into defensive tackle on third-and-long; Simmons did so for a play in the first half.
  • Linebackers Seeing Less Rotation: Concern about depth at linebacker was a theme coming into the season, as coaches expressed that they did not have six that they'd feel comfortable with. They appear to believe that, as they are reluctant to put Katshir out there. A good chunk of his action came after Brown left with a minor injury that he would return from on the same drive.