For the third straight week, there was a glaring problem with the Nittany Lions. Well, in that Temple game there were quite a few glaring problems.
But there was giant black hole on that team that barely beat the Owls Saturday, and for once it wasn't the shuffling and play of the quarterbacks. It was the special teams - more specifically, the place kicking.
Junior Evan Lewis has handled virtually all the PAT and field goal attempts so far this season - Lewis has 12 total attempts to true freshman Sam Ficken's two.
But the chances haven't exactly led to positive results. Lewis is an ugly 1-for-5 on field goal attempts this year, including missing from 45- and 36-yards out. He is 6-for-7 on PAT attempts, missing during the opener against Indiana State.
Ficken's missed field goal served as Penn State's first blocked attempt of the season, coming before the end of the opening half Saturday. It was a 49-yarder, which is why Ficken was on the field for the try in the first place, and he had to kick the ball at a lower angle, easier to block. But the defense still was able to get the push up the middle to block the kick, which Joe Paterno credited as both a nice play by the Temple player and slow kicking by the Lions.
"That still does not condone the fact that we got one blocked," he said at his Tuesday press conference.
Penn State also had its first blocked punt of the season Saturday. The Lions were lucky to not have that come back to hurt them. Credit that to the quality of opponent, but more to the play of Penn State's defense.
After having three punts blocked in 2009, the coaching staff switched to a spread punt formation for the 2010 season, and has continued to go that direction this year. Strictly by how the formation looks, you might think it's destined to fail. Going by the numbers since the change, Penn State has had two (the Outback Bowl loss to Florida and Saturday) punts blocked.
Paterno chalked Saturday's blocked punt up to carelessness by a player. For once, I agree with the coach.
"... Having a blocked punt, that was just absolute carelessness on the part of one person who just had not had any problems prior to that," he said. "I think he just got a little bit nonchalant about it and hadn't been hurt and that kid came up and blocked it."
As long as the 'carelessness' issues are settled (and they better be) the punting game won't be a problem for the Lions. Anthony Fera and Alex Butterworth have both increased their average distance from last season.
The special teams issue comes in when you leave points on the field. Nine points were left off the board by Penn State's three missed field goals Saturday. A 23-10 score at least looks a little better than 14-10.
Prior to the start of the season, the thought among the media was that Fera would be handling all the place kicking duties. Then, the redshirt sophomore got into some "off-the-field antics" and the starting job went to Lewis.
It took one game of Lewis' poor kickoffs to get Fera back onto the field to handle that job. It should have only taken three games for Fera to take over the rest of the place-kicking duties as well, but it won't. I fully expect to see Lewis kicking field goals against Eastern Michigan. Paterno doesn't feel Fera has beaten out Lewis for the job.
"Fera has got a chance to come back now and hopefully he'll get in the groove," Paterno said. "Fera did not practice with us in pre-season in some places because of some off-the-field antics. So he's now getting back in the groove.
"Hopefully he'll start to put some of that stuff behind him and he'll be better, then maybe he'll be more productive than he's been. And maybe he can beat out the kid that's ahead of him right now (Lewis). I don't know."
This coaching staff is too stubborn to make that move right now. But in Paterno's defense, he doesn't have many chips to play with here.
Only he and the rest of the coaching staff know if Fera or Ficken can even kick the ball any better than what we've seen from Lewis. Maybe Lewis really is the best place kicker Penn State has - a scary thought indeed.
Unfortunately, Lewis, Fera and Ficken are the only options for Penn State. This isn't the NFL where the team can go out and sign a free agent kicker. And I highly doubt Paterno is going to find a better kicker just walking around campus.
The place kicking is a major hole on this team, but it's one that likely will only see a temporary patch, at best, for right now. Hopefully, Penn State coaches are out right now recruiting some of the top kicking prospects in the country.
But for the rest of the season, the Lions will have to make do with the best of what they have. Now, let's just hope that's not Lewis.
Quote of the week: "Maybe I should have (coached from the wedding.) There's some debate about that baby." Joe Paterno, commenting Tuesday on missing Adam Taliaferro's wedding because of the Indiana State game.
Chris McFarland is the news editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org