PHILADELPHIA - The final score will show Penn State defeated Temple 14-10 at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday and that the Nittany Lions were utterly underwhelming against a team they regularly dominate.
What it won't show are the three possible scoring drives that went by the boards as Penn State's special teams unit turned in one of its worst performances in recent memory.
In the first quarter, Penn State took the ball following Temple's first touchdown and drove 41 yards in six plays to set up a 45-yard field goal attempt for placekicker Evan Lewis. Lewis missed the kick, and the Lions wouldn't get a chance to score again until late in the second quarter, when Silas Redd scored on a 17-yard touchdown run.
Toward the end of the half, Penn State once again got the ball after a Temple score, this one a field goal that put the Owls up 10-7 with 32 seconds left after the kickoff. Quarterback Mattew McGloin was able to hit wide receiver Derek Moye for a big 39-yard pass play to set up another field goal attempt, but that one, a 40-yarder from backup kicker Sam Ficken, was blocked, and another decent drive from the offense went for naught.
Finally, Penn State had a chance to tie the game at 10 early in the fourth quarter after a Chaz Powell interception set the Lions up deep in Temple territory. The offense advanced the ball to the Owls' 19, giving Lewis a 36-yard attempt for some redemption. He responded by kicking the ball off the right upright to deny Penn State points yet again.
Those three misses cost Penn State nine points that could have made a 14-10 final score a 23-10 final score. That's the difference between a pretty convincing win, and a rather uncomfortable one, and the Lions know they have to get better.
"Special teams are very important, and we lost the special teams battle today," safety Drew Astorino said after the game. "So yes, we're going to have to work on that this week."
The disastrous special teams play wasn't limited to the field goal unit, however. In the third quarter, Anthony Fera had a punt blocked by Temple, and the Owls recovered it on the Penn State 39 yard line.
Penn State's defense stood strong on the ensuing defensive series to keep Temple off the board, but the Owls were very close to getting points off of that miscue, which could have been deadly for the Lions at that stage of the game.
After the game, linebacker Glenn Carson explained the meltdown.
"We had four guys on our shield, so we shouldn't have let that happen," Carson said. "That's something we got to look at and work on."
Needless to say, coach Joe Paterno wasn't pleased with his kicking game in his post game press conference.
He pointed out that the three field goal misses not only took points off the board for the offense, but also undid a lot of the good brought about by the defenses three forced turnovers.
"Today, our poor kicking offset the fact that we did a really good job as a team on turnovers," Paterno said.
Lewis is now 1-for-5 kicking field goals this season for the Lions. If that doesn't turn around soon, a lot more forced turnovers might go for nothing, the offense and defense might not be able to bail the special teams out and happy endings like Saturday's could become harder and harder to find.