Offensive tackle Ryan Bates was a little apprehensive when he sat down with his teammates to watch film of Penn State’s 21-19 victory over Iowa — particularly the last, game-winning play, when Bates stood and watched after quarterback Trace McSorley rolled away from his side.
“When I knew the play wasn’t coming this way, I just turned around and watched,” Bates, the left tackle, said after the game Saturday night. “I’m going to get yelled at when I watch the film.”
No worries. The redshirt sophomore said Tuesday he didn’t hear anyone talk about his performance during the play and added, “It didn’t look as bad as I thought it would.”
The 6-foot-4, 312-pound graduate of Archbishop Wood High School was part of an offensive line that helped the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions roll up 579 yards of total offense in 99 plays against the Hawkeyes. Still, Bates knows his unit has work to do in advance of Saturday’s game against Indiana at Beaver Stadium.
“We know how special we are,” Bates said. “We consider ourselves the best offense in the country. We feel we’re playing well right now, but there’s always room for improvement. But we know our potential. We know the sky’s the limit for us.”
One issue against Iowa was an inability of the Lions to finish drives. They had five drives of 10 or more plays, but only two resulted in scores. They crossed midfield 11 times in 14 possessions, but only five drives advanced into the red zone.
The Hawkeyes sacked McSorley four times — two more than the Lions had in their first three games combined — and deflected four passes at the line of scrimmage.
Bates said the unproductive drives were a matter of execution.
“It’s executing your assignments, making the right calls, making the right reads,” he said. “It’s an 11-man sport, and if just one man messes up, the whole system goes down. All 11 guys have to do it.”
Bates also said the length of Iowa’s front four was an issue, with five of its eight linemen on the first two teams standing 6-foot-5 or taller. He said in such a case, it’s important to prevent the defender from getting his hands on the blocker.
Bates recovered a fumble, catching the ball in the air after McSorley was stripped by defensive end Parker Hesse on a pass play early in the fourth quarter.
“I kind of snagged it out of the air, and I had to hold on for dear life,” he said.
As for his own play, Bates said he picked up his aggressiveness against the Hawkeyes.
“I thought I played pretty well,” he said. “I feel like I wasn’t that physical against Georgia State. I tried to make an emphasis to be more physical in the run game, and I thought I did that versus Iowa. I thought I got after it on the run game more than I did earlier this season. I’m happy with my play with the exception of some hiccups here and there.”
Bates wants to keep up the intensity Saturday against Indiana. The Nittany Lions’ 45-31 victory over the Hoosiers last season marked Bates’ first game at left tackle. He started the game at left guard but moved over after an injury to Paris Palmer, and has remained at left tackle ever since.