|Height: 6-1 | Weight: 194 | College: Penn State|
Zemaitis has been the mainstay of the Nittany Lions' stingy defense for the last two years. The team tri-captain and Journalism major led the nation's only defense that did not allow an opponent to score more than 21 points in any game during the 2004 season. The Nittany Lions were only the third team to accomplish that feat since Penn State joined the conference in 1993 (Wisconsin in 1993 and Ohio State in 2002).
Zemaitis is a well-built athlete with rare size for his position. Unlike other tall cornerbacks, he can flip his hips and change direction fluidly. He is a team-oriented player who does a very good job of mentoring the team's younger players, taking pride in his role as defensive captain. He is a smart, instinctive player with very good field vision and instincts.
Zemaitis was a standout three-sport star during his prep days at Spencerport Central High School, collecting eight letters during his career. He was a two-way back who collected 132 tackles (including 18 in one game as a senior) with three interceptions on defense and carried 206 times for 1,534 yards and 18 touchdowns on offense. On special teams, he returned ten kickoffs for 340 yards and four touchdowns.
Zemaitis was the first freshman to play on the varsity at Central and also as the first Division I-A player to come out of the school. In four seasons, Zemaitis earned All-County and All-State honors, was a team captain and MVP. He also was selected a member of New York's Golden 50 and the All-Greater Rochester Super 22 team. He served as the defensive captain for the New York squad in the Governor's Bowl, which pits the top talent from the Empire State against their counterparts in New Jersey. He also was proficient in the classroom, earning recognition as a Black Scholar-Athlete.
Zemaitis spent the 2001 season redshirting at Penn State. He appeared in 105 plays as a reserve cornerback and on special teams in 2002, earning his first career start vs. Louisiana Tech. He finished with 13 tackles (10 solos) and a stop behind the line of scrimmage.
In 2003, he recorded a career-high 71 tackles (49 solos) with a stop for a loss and a forced fumble. Zemaitis deflected eighteen passes and intercepted four others for a school single-season record 207 yards in returns (51.8 avg) and a touchdown. His 207 yards broke the previous mark of 179 yards by linebacker Dennis Onkotz in 1967. Twenty-three of his tackles were made in run support. An even more impressive statistic was the sixteen third-down drive-killing tackles he delivered.
What made that performance even more remarkable was the fact that he was not even expected to play that year. In January, he suffered a fractured orbital bone, fractured frontal sinus and a major concussion when he was involved in a serious car accident. But, through hard work, he slowly returned to full health. For his 2003 showing, he was awarded with All-Big Ten Conference second-team honors.
With opposing offenses now well aware of his ability, opponents began to avoid Zemaitis' territory. He was limited to 47 tackles (35 solos), but fourteen of those hits came on third-down plays, including five vs. the run. He deflected six passes and intercepted two others, but also did not allow a reception in two contests. One of those came vs. Courtney Roby against Indiana. Roby entered the game leading the nation in receptions, but was held without a catch for the first time in his career.
Zemaitis started the 2005 season at left cornerback, but also worked the slot against teams utilizing multiple-receiver formations (Northwestern, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue). He recorded 47 (34 solos) during the regular season. Zemaitis tied Marquice Cole of Northwestern for the Big Ten Conference lead with five interceptions. That figure ranks tied for fifth among NCAA Division 1-A defenders.
He led the team during the regular season with ten pass break-ups and also scored twice on a pair of fumble recoveries. He also led all major college starting cornerbacks by allowing only nineteen passes to be completed by an opposing quarterback. He also had five pass break-ups and an interception during the regular season. He returned two fumble recoveries for touchdowns totaling 51 yards and also caused a fumble. He allowed only 79 yards on thirteen receptions. Nineteen of his tackles were on third-down plays and one more on fourth down.
In 47 games, Zemaitis produced 178 tackles (128 solos). He posted 5.5 stops for losses of 17 yards, returned two fumble recoveries for touchdowns and caused three fumbles. He also deflected 34 passes and intercepted eleven others for 251 yards in returns and a touchdown. His 234 interception return yards rank third and eleven interceptions rank eighth in school history.
Positives: Rare-sized athlete with long limbs, well-defined body, good bubble, large hands and fluid change of direction agility Quick to read and diagnose plays and is rarely fooled at the snap Has a very good knowledge of the defense, making proper adjustment calls in the secondary Has the speed to stay on the hip of receivers on deep routes Can flip and run with the quicker wideouts and shows the hand strength and technique to reroute his opponent at the line of scrimmage Has the recovery speed to play his man either tight or loose Shows no wasted motion through transition and is quick to break in and out of his cuts Has better change of direction agility than most tall cornerbacks, possibly due to his ability to fluidly open his hips Shows the ability to keep plays in front of him and makes sudden moves attacking the ball Very alert, quickly seeing threats and reading blocking schemes Has the pass drop ability to get back into the deep zone quickly Best when playing the ball, as he times his leaps well to get the ball at its high point Shows an explosive burst closing on the ball Has the catch-up speed to recover and takes proper angles to shorten the field Can jump and make plays, doing a nice job of adjusting his body competing for the ball in a crowd Knows how to use his size to prevent receivers from shielding the ball Does a good job of extending his hands to catch the ball away from the body's frame Excels in run support, as he will leverage and get involved, showing urgency filling the rush lanes Does a good job of using his hands to slip past blocks and keep opponents from attacking his body Very effective wrap-up tackler who has the strength to maintain position and the leg drive to make the open-field tackle and collide with force on initial contact Does a very good job of wrapping when squared up in tight quarters.
Negatives: The PSU system requires him to play off the receiver mostly, limiting his ability to press (has the power to be effective jamming and rerouting the receiver when allowed to play off the line) Takes no wasted steps through transition, but the team's bail-and-slide backpedal technique takes away from his natural explosiveness (using this technique negates some of his range).
The thing you notice on film is Zemaitis' superb ball reaction skills. He knows all the defensive assignments and will even make adjustment calls in the secondary. He shows very good field vision and does a fine job of tracking the ball over his shoulder on deep routes. He is quick and crisp in his backpedal, and will not take any wasted steps in transition. His change of direction agility and lateral movement is evident when he works down the line of scrimmage in run force. He shows a very good burst and classic wrap-up tackling technique against plays in front of him.
Penn State uses a slide-and-bail technique and requires its corners to play off the receiver, but when asked to come up and press, Zemaitis is very capable of rerouting and jamming the opponent at the line of scrimmage. He has a sharp burst and good recovery acceleration on deep routes. Zemaitis also does a very good job of staying on the hip of the receiver. He does a good job of using his hands to knock his opponent off-stride and shows very good explosion while taking proper angles to shorten the field in pursuit.
Zemaitis knows how to use his size and strength to compete for the jump ball. He times his leaps to get to the ball at its high point and catches with hands extended away from the body's frame. He has natural hands to make the interception and his range could see him eventually shift to safety at the pro level (covers the field very well).
Zemaitis is a hard worker who plays until the whistle. He displays good toughness and plays very aggressively, especially in run support. His low backpedal and burst allows him to easily cover, whether in man or zone coverage. He has the ability to quickly turn and run with any receiver. He can flip his hips, redirect and explode to the ball working down the sidelines. He also shows the range to flip and run on deep routes.
As a tackler, he will bring force and effort behind his hits. He drives through the ball carrier and will usually wrap and secure rather than make passive arm swipes. He could use some additional strength to combat offensive linemen, but he has very good hand usage (swim, club moves) to slip past blockers and squeeze the rush lanes. He has the lateral agility to close and very good stop-and-go action, doing a very good job of planting his feet and driving forward.
This is a player capable of making an immediate impact at the pro level. With the emphasis on run containment and the quickness to handle receivers on deep routes, few cornerbacks in the collegiate or pro ranks have the athletic ability Zemaitis displays. The way he plays the game reminds me of Troy Vincent (Bills) and Patrick Surtain (Chiefs) in their prime.
Zemaitis started 34 of 47 games during his Penn State career He recorded 178 tackles (128 solos), including 51 third-down stops that killed opposing scoring drives Dominant in run force, he helped the defense that ranked eleventh in the nation in 2004, allowing only 291.5 yards per game Deflected 34 passes and intercepted eleven others for 251 yards in returns His 251 yards rank third on the school's career-record list, topped only by linebacker Dennis Onkotz (275, 1967-69) and safety Darren Perry (299, 1988-91) His eleven interceptions rank eighth in school annals behind Neal Smith (19, 1967-69), Pete Harris (15, 1976-78, 80), Darren Perry (15, 1988-91), Kim Herring (13, 1993-96), Junior Powell (12, 1961-63), Derek Bochna (12, 1990-93) and Brian Miller (12, 1993-96) His five interceptions in 2005 were the most by a PSU player since David Macklin's six in 1998 His three pass thefts vs. Michigan State in 2005 was one shy of the school single-game record of four by Mike Smith vs. Ohio University in 1970 Zemaitis also became the first player in school history to return two fumble recoveries for touchdowns in a season (2005) and career.
All-American first-team selection and rated the best cover cornerback in college football by The NFL Draft Report Added All-Big Ten Conference first-team honors from The Poor Man's Guide to the NFL Draft Semi-finalist for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's premier defensive back Also on the Bednarik (nation's top defensive player) and Bronko Nagurski (National Defensive Player of the Year) Awards lists Named team tri-captain Lined up at left cornerback, but also worked inside as a slot corner when those teams utilized a multiple-receiver formation Recorded 47 tackles (34 solos) with 2.5 stops for losses of 5 yards Led the team with ten pass deflections Tied for the conference lead and ranked tied for fifth in the nation with five interceptions for 17 yards in returns Only Aaron Gipson of Oregon (7), Anthony Smith of Syracuse (6), Jelani Jordan of Bowling Green (6) and Dion Byrum (6) had more pass thefts among NCAA Division 1-A defenders Also caused two fumbles and recovered two others, returning both for touchdowns totaling 51 yards Nineteen of his tackles came on third-down plays, adding another stop in fourth-down action Allowed nineteen receptions with no touchdowns during the regular season, the lowest total of any Division 1-A starting cornerback.
|2005 Game Analysis|
South Florida Opened the season with five tackles (4 solos) and a pair of pass break-ups Four of his tackles came on third-down plays Also recovered a fumble that he advanced 16 yards for a touchdown as the defense allowed no first downs in the first quarter in a 23-13 victory The game however belonged to the defense. The Lions allowed no first downs in the opening quarter, held the Bulls to just 13 points, intercepted a pass and forced a fumble that Zemaitis scooped up and returned 16 yards for a touchdown. "We need those," said Zemaitis, "anytime you can turn a turnover into points it is a good thing. The defense's goal is to get points, hold them under 21 points, get turnovers, and get three and outs." Zemaitis' 16-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter was the first fumble returned for a touchdown by Penn State since James Boyd had a six-yard touch-down return against Louisiana Tech in 2000. In addition, it was the Lions' first defensive touchdown since Paul Posluszny had a 15-yard interception return for a touch-down against Indiana in 2003. Zemaitis' fumble recovery was the first of his career. It also was the second touchdown of his career, as he returned an interception for a touchdown against Ohio State in 2003 Asked after the game how the PSU defense has changed since 2004, Zemaitis replied, "From the beginning of the game, we're out there to do the same thing, achieve the same objective that we were last year, and that is to try and get as many points as we can, as many turnovers as we can and to try and get as many three-and-outs as we can. We don't want them to get 21 points. We want them to get zero points. It's the same operation as last year.",,,In the first quarter, PSU's Tim Shaw caused a fumble when he tackled QB Courtney Denson after a draw play netted no yards and Zemaitis scooped up the ball, returning it 16 yards for a touchdown after eluding would-be tacklers WR Johnny Peyton and OT Mark Dile to give the Lions a 10-0 lead Zemaitis also deflected a pass by Pat Julmiste that was intended for S.J. Green and on the following play, Zemaitis pressured Julmiste, who threw a pass that was intercepted by safety Chris Harrell at the USF 29, as Zemaitis delivered a crunching block on tight end Derek Carter to spring Harrell for a 16-yard return. That interception set up a 1-yard scoring run by PSU's Tony Hunt Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-S. G Green-One catch for 14 yards.
Cincinnati Registered five tackles (3 solos), caused a fumble, intercepted a pass and deflected another Also made one third-down stop Set the tone for the day on the game's third play when Zemaitis stepped in front of a Dustin Grutza pass at the UC 25 for an interception that set up a PSU scoring drive that was capped by Michael Robinson's 1-yard touchdown run (11:31) In the third quarter, cornerback Anwar Phillips misread the play and Grutza capitalized on that miscue by hitting Mike Daniels with the throw, but Zemaitis came across the field to take down the receiver after a 16-yard gain In the fourth quarter, PSU's Kevin Kelly sent a kickoff 60 yards to the UC 5, where Bearcat Connor Barwin fielded the ball and raced up the field for a 31-yard return before Zemaitis stopped him at the UC 36 Later in that quarter, QB Nick Davila found Barwin for a 38-yard pass that looked like a sure touchdown, but Zemaitis came out of his assigned territory to make the cross-field tackle at the PSU 10, causing a fumble that the Bearcats would recover Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Earnest Jackson-One catch for 4 yards (first quarter), WR-Mike Daniels-One catch for 6 yards (third quarter).
Central Michigan Produced three solo tackles with a pass deflection while playing mostly inside in the team's nickel package Held his assignment, slot receiver Justin Harper to only 19 yards receiving The stellar play of the secondary allowed the PSU defensive line to register eight sacks and cause a fumble Speaking about the defensive line play after the game, Zemaitis stated, "We brought it all together today. We had a lot of good coverage in the secondary and the quarterback wasn't able to find his first read. Everyone was working hand in hand today and it led to all that pressure." Notable Plays-In the second quarter, Zemaitis sniffed out a flag pass by QB Kent Smith to Jacob Brown and dragged the receiver down after a 2-yard pick-up Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Justin Harper-Five catches for 19 yards.
Northwestern The secondary struggled, allowing 20 pass completions for 229 yards, but Zemaitis gave up only one catch for 16 yards He produced four tackles, including two that stopped drives on third-down plays In the first quarter, QB Brett Basanez was tackled by Zemaitis for no gain on a draw play, but it was nullified because defensive tackle Scott Paxson was flagged for jumping off-side Despite playing deep in the zone midway through the fourth quarter, Zemaitis charged to the line of scrimmage to bring down Basanez after the QB picked up 9 yards on a draw play Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Kim Thompson-One catch for 16 yards.
Minnesota Followed with three tackles (2 solos) and a pass deflection, adding another stop on special teams as the defense concentrated on stopping the Gophers' heralded running attack, limiting Minnesota to 113 yards on 32 carries (Gophers' worst rushing performance in 2005) Talking about the defense's performance in shutting down the ground attack, Zemaitis said, "It was a huge momentum builder and at Beaver Stadium, when you get the momentum it seems like everything can go right at that point. Our defensive scheme was simple. We really needed to almost play an umbrella-type defense. Keep everything in front of you. Be smart. Be disciplined. We needed to contain. Whether it's the quarterback rolling out or whether it's the running back rolling out, we've got to contain them inside and just close in on them and swam to the ball." Zemaitis made a touchdown-saving tackle on a first quarter 60-yard kickoff by Kevin Kelly that was fielded by Minnesota's Jakari Wallace at the UM 5. Wallace broke free from the wedge and raced 65 yards before Zemaitis torpedoed him at the PSU 30. On the next play at the PSU 30, Laurence Maroney was stopped by Zemaitis after gaining only 1 yard on a run off left tackle. On the next play, Zemaitis pressured QB Bryan Cupito, who threw an incomplete pass intended for Jared Ellerson Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Logan Payne-Two catches for 10 yards.
Ohio State Proving that the PSU program is back among the elite, Zemaitis and the rest of his defensive teammates excelled in a 17-10 victory over the Buckeyes Zemaitis was in on four tackles (3 solos), including two that stopped drives on third-down plays He man-handled speedy receivers Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn, Jr., before shifting inside to shut down 230-pound slot receiver Roy Hall Even though OSU controlled the clock for 31:42, the PSU defense sacked QB Troy Smith five times, caused three fumbles, held their ground game to 912 yards on 40 carries and allowed only 139 yards on 13 of 25 passes
Talking about the standout group of receivers (Holmes, Hall, Ginn) that OSU featured, Zemaitis said after the game, "They came in with a reputation, but our defense is the kind of defense where every player plays all out every time. Not one guy makes the play off, so any guy that we play against is going to seem like an average player. When they (OSU receivers) came in here, we were not going to let them beat us at all, deep or short, it didn't matter. I don't even know how many yards they got, but they didn't do too much of any-thing short or long. We went in there the same way; we didn't do anything special. That's what I think people are thinking, that we did something special, because they have #4 (Santonio Holmes) and #7 (Ted Ginn, Jr.). We just went in there and played our game. We love when people doubt us. Number one, our team plays for ourselves and our fans that we have here. We don't play for anyone else. We don't even need national exposure like we have. We will still go as hard." Nittany Lions safety Chris Harrell slipped on a second quarter play from the OSU 35, but Zemaitis came over to tackle Ryan Hamby after the 255-pound tight end caught a 13-yard pass from QB Troy Smith. Three plays later, he joined Harrell in stopping Santonio Holmes on a 5-yard flag pass In the third quarter, Zemaitis sniffed out the reverse from the OSU 40, tackling Ted Ginn, Jr. for no gain. On the following play, Smith threw a 6-yard pass to Holmes, but Zemaitis tackled him before the receiver could head up field Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Roy Hall-One catch for 3 yards (also covered Santonio Holmes, who caught two passes for 11 yards during that action).
Michigan Registered seven solo tackles with a stop behind the line of scrimmage Also caused a fumble that he recovered and returned for a touchdown Michigan was hoping to match All-Big Ten receiver Jason Avant against Zemaitis, but after shutting down the Wolverine receiver during the first quarter, Michigan shifted Avant to the opposite side of the field in order to light a spark under their stagnant offense After frustrating Avant throughout the first quarter, the receiver finally grabbed a second quarter pass from QB Chad Henne for a 4-yard gain Tailback Mike Hart broke free from the pack in the third quarter on a rushing attempt, but Zemaitis came across the field to tackle the tailback after a 17-yard pick-up (15:00) Now matching up against receiver Steve Breaston, Zemaitis covered the UM speedster tightly, resulting in three dropped passes. On a third quarter play from the UM 17, Breaston decided to take off on the ground on a pitchout, but Zemaitis blasted past tight end Tim Massaquoi to tackle Breaston for a 1-yard loss. On the next play, Hart again ran past the PSU defensive linemen, but Zemaitis was there to meet him and greet him with a crunching tackle after a 7-yard gain In the fourth quarter on a first-and-10 run from the UM 28, Henne took off for a 7-yard gain on a draw play, but Zemaitis stripped the ball from the quarterback and raced 35 yards for a touchdown with the fumble recovery (11:39) down the left sideline. A botched snap on the PAT led to kicker Kevin Kelly scrambling and picking up the loose ball to raced it into the end zone for an unlikely two-point conversion. Zemaitis' heady play was reminiscent of the third-and-8 situation the Lions faced with 50 seconds remaining against Ty Detmer and BYU in the 1989 Holiday Bowl. With Penn State holding a precarious five point lead, defensive back Gary Brown charged Detmer, ripped the ball free and raced 53 yards to put the game out of reach. Zemaitis' 35-yard touchdown run was his second return of a fumble for a score this season and his third career touchdown for his career Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR Jason Avant-One catch for 4 yards (note-Avant switched sides after the first quarter, finishing with 75 yards on eight grabs. Steve Breaston was then covered by Zemaitis most of the game, dropping three passes while catching one for 10 yards).
Illinois Made four assisted tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage and had a pair of pass deflections Zemaitis' main coverage assignment, receiver Derrick McPhearson was held to only a 7-yard catch, despite having eight other passes targeted to him (three drops) On the game's first play from scrimmage, Illini QB Tim Brasic threw a 9-yard pass to DaJuan Warren and Zemaitis assisted linebacker Paul Posluszny in making the stop Nine plays later, McPhearson caught his only pass for the day, good for 7 yards On Illinois' next drive, McPhearson attempted a reverse, but Zemaitis and middle linebacker Dan Connor converged to stop the receiver for a 1-yard loss On the next play, Zemaitis deflected a pass intended for Kyle Hudson With 2:19 left in the first quarter, Basic attempted a third-and-11 pass to Hudson, but Zemaitis again batted away the pass, forcing the Illini to punt Assisted Connor in tackling Basic after the QB picked up 5 yards on a draw play with four minutes left in the first half Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR Derrick McPhearson-One catch for 7 yards.
Purdue Played left cornerback, but also spent a lot of time playing the slot receivers, finishing with four tackles (3 solos) and a pass deflection Covering three different receivers, the Boilermaker opponents had only one completion of twelve passes thrown to Zemaitis' area (Dorien Bryant caught a 23-yarder when Zemaitis was not on the field) Assisted strong safety Calvin Lowry in tackling Jerrod Void after the tailback rushed for an 8-yard gain in the third quarter Forced Purdue to punt on their next drive when Zemaitis came from the opposite end of the field to bring down Kory Sheets after the receiver gained 8 yards on a third-and-9 toss from QB Brandon Kirsch 8:47 into the second half In the fourth quarter, Zemaitis first knocked a Kirsch pass intended for Brian Hare out of the receiver's hands and two plays later, covered Dorien Bryant, preventing the flanker from catching a third-and-7 toss from Kirsch and Purdue was forced to punt Head coach Joe Paterno was asked after the game if it shocked him that, at this point in the season, he was still talking about a Big Ten title, especially with what had happened in the last year or two PSU. The longtime coach replied, "I don't think so, I think this year we took on a new attitude. We have great leadership in Mike [Robinson] and Zemaitis [Zemaitis]: guys that don't really dwell on the past. We had a tough break at Michigan and we rebounded. I think that they aren't really looking at the past, they are looking from the here on." Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR Dorien Bryant-Two catches for 29 yards.
Wisconsin Led a strong defensive effort as the Nittany Lions held Wisconsin's heralded running attack to minus 11 yards on 34 carries With PSU ahead 14-0, Wisconsin drove 74 yards to the PSU five-yard line. On second-and-goal, rolling to his right, QB John Stocco attempted to hit tight end Owen Daniels in the back of the end zone but Zemaitis stepped in front of Daniels for a diving interception. Penn State then marched 80 yards in seven plays to take a 21-0 lead into halftime. For the eleventh time this year, the Lions turned a miscue into a touchdown when running back BranDon Snow capped a 7-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run With 2:40 left in the game, Zemaitis made a sensational leap to deflect a pass by Stocco that was intended for Brandon Williams After the game, Zemaitis was asked about Penn State's defensive legacy and replied, "There was talk that Wisconsin's team might be tougher than us. We've gone through a lot mentally and physically. When you put us all together all the personalities and the skills come together and creates a masterpiece. I really feel like our defense has what it takes to get the Big Ten title." Asked what it means to play for Joe Paterno, Zemaitis quickly chimed in, "Playing for Paterno is all good. Nothing has changed since the days we were losing. The turn around all began within the players and the senior leadership we have. We never left our eyes off the prize and I'm just fortunate enough to be here as a part of this team." Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR Jonathan Orr-Two catches for 24 yards (Orr had a 65-yard catch late in the game while covered by safety Calvin Lowry, while Zemaitis was assigned to Brandon Williams).
Michigan State It's been said that to be the best, you have to beat the best. Standing in the way of Penn State's Big Ten Conference title was quarterback Drew Stanton, a semi-finalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award and leader of the powerful Michigan State offensive attack that was averaging 507 yards per game. Coming into the game, the Spartans led the Big Ten in total offense, ranked second in passing offense and third in rushing offense and scoring offense. Enter the Penn State defense, which was led by Zemaitis and his three interceptions Michigan State seemed poised to answer Penn State's first score on its first possession, but Zemaitis intercepted Drew Stanton on the goal line and ended the Spartan threat Late in the first quarter, Zemaitis chased down 240-pound split end Matt Trannon after a 10-yard gain when cornerback Anwar Phillips was beaten by the MSU receiver and Zemaitis had to come from across the field to make the play. That followed with a pressure by Zemaitis on a third-and-8 play that forced Stanton out of the pocket, only to be sacked by defensive tackle Jay Alford for an 8-yard loss MSU was forced to attempt a 38-yard field goal, but it was wide left With four minutes left in the first half, Zemaitis sniffed out the draw and he and a slew of Lions swarmed into the backfield to stop Jason Teague for a 3-yard loss on a toss from Stanton Midway through the third quarter, an interception by Zemaitis and his subsequent 17-yard return set up Penn State's third touchdown, a 3-yard strike from Michael Robinson to Deon Butler that made the score 24-7 in favor of the Lions Zemaitis almost had another interception when he went up for a pass, crashed into Matt Trannon, only to see the ball fall to the ground on a second-and-11 toss from Stanton at the start of the fourth quarter. Two plays later, Zemaitis again applied pressure, resulting in a bad snap on a fourth-and-24 play that resulted in a 10-yard loss to the PSU 36. The Lions then marched down the field to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Tony Hunt with 4:58 left to play Zemaitis made his third interception of the game on the ensuing Spartan drive to seal the game well before Michigan State scored a touch-down on a 15-yard pass from Stanton to Kerry Reed with 0:53 remaining The victory gave the winner claim to the Land Grant Trophy His performance earned Zemaitis Walter Camp Foundation National Player of the Week honors His three interceptions were one shy of the school single-game record of four, set by Mike Smith vs. Ohio University in 1970 Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR Kyle Brown-One catch for 25 yards.
All-Big Ten Conference second-team selection Started every game at left cornerback, leading a defensive unit that was the only one in the major college ranks to not allow an opponent to score more than 21 points in any game during 2004 The PSU defense ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense at 15.3 points per game, the fewest it has allowed since the 1991 team's 13.9 points per game average Penn State improved its total defense average by more than 70 yards from last year's 362.4 yards per game The Lions' pass defense ranked seventh nationally, allowing only 162.3 yards per game The defense was superlative in the quick turnaround situations, allowing only four touchdowns and three field goals for a total of 37 points Finished with 47 tackles (35 solos), registering nine third-down stops on pass plays and five more against the run Had a stop for a 3-yard loss, six pass deflections and two interceptions for 27 yards in returns Did not allow a reception in the Central Florida and Indiana contests Gave up only one touchdown catch (vs. Purdue) for the season Had six games where he did not allow an opponent to gain more than 20 yards receiving.
|2004 Game Analysis|
Akron Opened the season with nine tackles (8 solos), with two hits coming on third-down pass plays and had another third-down stop vs. the run Notable Plays-Stopped the Zips' game-opening drive when he tackled Morris Ellington after the receiver gained only 2 yards on a pass from QB Charlie Frye Prevented a first down when he came from the opposite end of the field to tackle Jason Montgomery after a 9-yard gain on a toss from Frye in the second quarter and three plays, Zemaitis stopped Frye after the QB ran for a 5-yard gain. Three plays later, Zemaitis tackled Dan Basch for no gain after the fullback caught a pass from Frye Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Morris Ellington-Five catches for 38 yards.
Boston College Produced seven tackles (4 solos), including three stops vs. the run In the first quarter, Zemaitis stepped into the box to tackle tailback Andrew Callender after the Eagle gained 9 yards on a run off right tackle Came across the field to stop Mark Palmer after a 10-yard catch of a Paul Peterson pass in the third quarter, but the Eagles were penalized five yards on that play (illegal procedure). On the next play, Zemaitis made another cross-field tackle when he stopped Callender after an 8-yard gain on a run from the BC 21 Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Joel Hazard-Two catches for 16 yards (note-had a 10-yard catch while linebacker Derek Wake was assigned to cover him in the fourth quarter).
Central Florida Did not allow a reception while coming up with six tackles (5 solos), including one third-down stop Also deflected a pass Two of his tackles came on running plays In the first quarter, Zemaitis batted away a third-and-13 pass thrown by Kyle Israel that was intended for Luther Huggins, forcing the Knights to punt on the next play Israel lobbed a third quarter pass in the backfield to Brooks Turner, but Zemaitis alertly sniffed out the play and took down Turner at the line of scrimmage for no gain Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Leger Douzable-No catches.
Wisconsin Killed a pair of scoring drives by deflecting third-down passes and also had a 19-yard interception return, but did not record any tackles On a third quarter pass from QB John Stocco, Zemaitis batted away a pass intended for Brandon Williams and ten plays later on that drive (third-and-9), Zemaitis again deflected a Stocco pass intended for Darrin Charles Intercepted a pass thrown by Stocco at the PSU 3 and returned it 19 yards before being tackled by Williams in the fourth quarter Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- Brandon Williams-Three catches for 64 yards (note-Williams had a 36-yard catch in the third quarter while being covered by PSU safety Andrew Guman).
Minnesota Made three solo tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss and had another stop on a third-down play Two of his tackles came in run support and also deflected a pass Stopped tailback Marion Barber III after a 3-yard gain on a off left end in the first quarter Deflected a pass thrown by Bryan Cupito that was intended for Ernie Wheelwright in the second quarter Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Jakari Wallace-One catch for 21 yards.
Purdue Deflected a pass and came up with four tackles (3 solos), including one on a third-down play Stopped Taylor Stubblefield after a 3-yard gain on a pass thrown by QB Kyle Orton in the first quarter, but the Boilermakers were penalized 15 yards when Stubblefield (pass) interfered with Zemaitis on the play A miscommunication between Zemaitis and safety Andrew Guman in the third quarter resulted in Stubblefield catching a 40-yard touchdown pass from Orton Deflected an Orton pass intended for Stubblefield in the fourth quarter on a third-and-6 play Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Taylor Stubble-field-Seven catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Iowa Recorded four tackles, including one on a third-down play Forced the Hawkeyes to punt on their first drive of the second quarter when he tackled Sam Brownlee after the receiver gained only one yard on a third-and-6 pass thrown by QB Drew Tate Assisted linebacker Derek Wake in stopping Tate after a 4-yard gain on a second-and-goal QB draw from on Iowa's next drive Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Ed Hinkel-Three catches for 26 yards.
Ohio State In a battle of the league's two fastest players, Zemaitis recorded a solo tackle and deflected a pass while holding receiver Santonio Holmes to a career-low 20 yards on two catches Notable Plays-Third Quarter-Stopped Ted Ginn Jr. after a 5-yard gain on a first-and-10 reverse from the OSU 47, but OSU was penalized ten yards on the play when offensive tackle Kyle Barton was flagged for holding Zemaitis at the line of scrimmage (14:54) Forced the Buckeyes to punt when he deflected a third-and-5 pass thrown by Troy Smith from the OSU 6 that was intended for Holmes (3:16) Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Santonio Holmes-Two catches for 20 yards.
Northwestern Posted seven tackles (5 solos), including four stops in run support Zemaitis prevented a potential touchdown in the first quarter when he raced from the opposite end of the field to haul down Jonathan Fields from behind after the receiver caught a pass thrown by QB Brett Basanez for a 51-yard gain to the PSU 16 In the second quarter, Zemaitis again came from the other side of the field to run down tailback Noah Herron after a 30-yard gain on a run from left tackle On a 48-yard punt by Jeremy Kapinos from the PSU 34 to the NU 18 in the third quarter, Shaun Herbert fielded the ball, but was immediately dropped for a 1-yard loss when Zemaitis flew down field to deliver a crunching tackle at the NU 17 Put on a great performance inside the box in the fourth quarter to prevent a last ditch scoring drive. On a first-and-10 run by Herron from the NU 14, Zemaitis joined Matthew Rice in bringing down the tailback after a 4-yard gain. On the next play, Herron took off for a 13-yard gain before Zemaitis dragged him down. Two plays later, he assisted Calvin Lowry in stopping Herron after an 8-yard gain Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Kim Thompson-One catch for 11 yards.
Indiana Facing one of the country's elite receivers, Zemaitis held Courtney Roby to no catches for the first time in the Hoosier's career He recorded three solo tackles, including two on running plays and returned an interception 8 yards Intercepted a Matt LoVecchio first quarter pass at the PSU 4 and returned it 8 yards before being tackled by Courtney Roby Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Courtney Roby-No receptions.
Michigan State Closed out the season with three tackles (2 solos) Assisted safety Calvin Lowry in tackling Jason Teague after an 11-yard gain on a run off left tackle in the first quarter Zemaitis stopped DeAndra Cobb for no gain after the tailback caught a pass from Drew Stanton with 1:43 left in the first half Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Jerramy Scott-Two catches for 20 yards (note-Zemaitis was not on the field when Scott caught a 12-yard fourth quarter scoring pass).
All-American third-team choice by The NFL Draft Report All-Big Ten Conference second-team pick Started eleven games at left cornerback, making a remarkable recovery from a January car accident that saw him suffer a major concussion and a fractured orbital bone Led the nation with 207 yards (only player in the country to gain over 200 yards) on four interceptions, including one for a touchdown Led the Big Ten Conference and ranked seventh in the nation with 22 passes defensed (18 break-ups, four thefts) His eighteen pass deflections were the most by a PSU defender in a season His 207 yards on interception returns set a school single-season record, topping the previous mark of 179 yards by Dennis Onkotz in 1967 Only one other player (155 yards by Pete Harris in 1978) ever gained more than 150 yards via interception returns in a season at Penn State His 207 yards also established a conference record Ranked fourth on the team with 71 tackles (49 solos), including a very impressive sixteen stops that came on third-down plays Has 23 tackles in run support Also caused a fumble and made a stop for a 5-yard loss Allowed only one touchdown catch (vs. Wisconsin) by an opponent, but was limited by a back sprain in that game.
|2003 Game Analysis|
Temple Registered five tackles (3 solos) with three third-down stops and deflected four passes Came across the field to kill a first quarter scoring drive when he deflected a third-and-15 pass thrown by QB Mike McGann and intended for Zamir Cobb Came out of his territory in the third quarter to run down Cobb after a 24-yard gain on a third-and-2 pass from McGann Sniffed out the bootleg later during that quarter and tackled QB Walter Washington after an 8-yard gain on a draw play and two plays later, he batted away McGann's third-and-3 pass that was intended for Buchie Ibeh Again deflected a McGann pass intended for Ibeh midway through the fourth quarter and another by McGann to Ibeh on the Owls' next drive Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Buchie Ibeh-No catches.
Boston College Deflected two passes, intercepted another for a 13-yard return and was in on seven tackles (3 solos), including four stops vs. the run Batted away a first quarter pass thrown from the BC 44 by Quinton Porter that was intended for Grant Adams and in the third quarter, Zemaitis picked off a Porter pass at the PSU 24 and returned the ball 13 yards before Adams tackled Zemaitis at the PSU 37 Came across field to drag down Derrick Knight after the tailback gained 12 yards on a run early in the third quarter and then forced the Eagles to punt after Zemaitis batted away a third-and-7 pass by Porter at the BC 9 that was intended for Joel Hazard Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Grant Adams-One catch for 18 yards.
Nebraska Totaled 12 tackles, including five vs. the run as the Lions held the Huskers to 60 yards receiving Raced to the right side of the field to tackle I-back Josh Davis after an 11-yard gain on a run in the first quarter and four plays later, Zemaitis assisted safety Andrew Guman in stopping Jammal Lord after a 4-yard gain on a QB draw off right tackle Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR Mark LeFlore-Two catches for 22 yards (note-LeFlore caught a second quarter pass for a 10-yard gain while being covered by linebacker Gino Capone).
Kent State Delivered three solo tackles (all on third-down plays), deflected four passes and gained 26 yards on an interception return as the Lions allowed only 105 yards on 9 of 23 passes Deflected a first quarter pass thrown by Antwan Smith that was intended for Darrell Dowery and two plays later, stopped David Alston after a 2-yard gain on a run from the PSU 15 Intercepted a Darryl Polk pass in the third quarter on a third-and-7 play and returned the ball 26 yards, but fumbled the pigskin when he was tackled by defensive end Chad Bandiera and Kent recovered the ball at the KSU 18 Broke up a third-and-5 pass thrown by Polk and intended for Dowery midway through the third quarter On a 65-yard kickoff by David Kimball to the KSU goal line later in the third quarter, David Alston fielded the ball and returned it 20 yards before he was tackled by Zemaitis Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Darrell Dowery-One catch for 12 yards.
Minnesota Only had two solo tackles and a pass deflection, but one of those stops came on a third-down play while not allowing any opposing receptions Dragged down tailback Marion Barber III after a 9-yard gain off right end in the first quarter and on the next drive, Zemaitis chased down QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq after a 12-yard run Deflected a third-and-17 pass thrown by Abdul-Khaliq that was intended for Jared Ellison in the third quarter Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Aaron Hosack-No receptions.
Wisconsin Delivered six tackles (4 solos) with two third-down stops and batted away three passes Deflected a second quarter pass that was thrown by Jim Sorgi and intended for Brandon Williams and on the next play, he stopped Ernest Mason after the runner picked up 9 yards on a second-and-15 run. On the next play, Zemaitis batted the ball out of Lee Evans' hands on a third-and-6 throw by Sorgi, forcing the Badgers to settle for a 46-yard field goal Just before half time, a miscommunication on a switch-off with safety Andrew Guman resulted in Brandon Williams hauling in a Sorgi third-and-18 pass for a 20-yard score Read a third quarter draw play and took down tailback Dwayne Smith after a 13-yard gain In the fourth quarter, Zemaitis knocked the ball away from Evans on a third-and-8 pass thrown by Sorgi Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Brandon Williams-Three catches for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Purdue Followed with seven solo tackles, including one for a 5-yard loss and returned an interception 90 yards His 90-yarder was third-longest interception return in school history and the longest not to go for a score. The play marked the longest interception return for the Lions since Mark Robinson returned one 91 yards for a touchdown against Pittsburgh in 1981 Picked off a Kyle Orton second quarter pass and returned the ball 90 yards to the Purdue 6 before he was tackled by Taylor Stubblefield and Ray Williams. That play set up a 3-yard touchdown grab by PSU's Isaac Smolko Forced the Boilermakers to punt when he tackled Brandon Jones after a 5-yard gain on a third-and-12 reverse in the fourth quarter and on the next drive, Zemaitis tackled Jerome Brooks for a 5-yard loss on a run from the PSU 28 Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Ray Williams-Six catches for 45 yards.
Iowa Registered a season-high eleven tackles (10 solos), including seven stops on running plays, forced a third quarter fumble and deflected a pass On the game's first series from scrimmage, Zemaitis stopped tailback Fred Russell after a 1-yard gain on a run from the UI 34 Nailed Russell for no gain on a rushing attempt around right end with less than three minutes left in the first quarter Tackled fullback Ed Cervantes after a 13-yard gain in the third quarter, causing a fumble that was recovered by PSU's Paul Posluszny at the IU 24 (2:02), setting up a 24-yard touchdown toss by Lions' QB Zack Mills to Austin Scott Zemaitis not only stopped Russell after a 3-yard run on Iowa's next drive, but also saw Iowa receiver Calvin Davis penalized 10 yards for holding Zemaitis on that play Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Calvin Davis-Two catches for 27 yards.
Ohio State In the Buckeyes' multiple receiver formation, Zemaitis shifted to cover the slot receivers, producing five tackles (3 solos) with one third-down stop and two hits vs. the run He also returned an interception 78 yards for a touchdown Picked off a third-and-2 pass thrown by QB Craig Krenzel in the second quarter and electrified the crowd as he broke free from five would-be tacklers to race 78 yards into the end zone for his first career touchdown Came from the opposite end of the field on a post pattern pass thrown by Scott McMullen to catch receiver Santonio Holmes and drag him down from behind, saving a potential touchdown on the 38-yard play and three plays later, Zemaitis tackled tailback Lydell Ross after a 3-yard gain off right end Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR/CB-Chris Gamble-Two catches for 10 yards.
Northwestern Made four tackles (3 solos) Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Kunle Patrick-One catch for 18 yards.
Indiana Deflected three passes and was in on three tackles, including one on a third-down play On the game's opening series from scrimmage, Zemaitis deflected a pass thrown by Matt LoVecchio that was intended for Courtney Roby and repeated that process twice vs. Roby in the third quarter Teamed with Chris Harrell to take down BenJarvis Green-Ellis after a 15-yard gain off right tackle in the fourth quarter and killed the drive three plays later when he assisted cornerback Anwar Phillips in tackling Jason Sullivan after a 7-yard grab of a third-and-10 pass from LoVecchio at the PSU 28 Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Courtney Roby-Three catches for 13 yards.
Michigan State Closed out the season by not allowing any receptions, despite Penn State giving up 357 aerial yards with four touchdowns Credited with six tackles (5 solos), including a pair of third-down stops and deflected two passes Midway through the first quarter, Zemaitis brought the crowd to its feet on a 65-yard kickoff by David Kimbal that was fielded at the goal line by DeAndra Cobb, who exploded down the sidelines for a 54-yard gain before Zemaitis came out of nowhere to reach out and make a fingertip tackle from behind, saving a potential touchdown at the PSU 46 Deflected a Hail Mary pass on a throw from Jeff Smoker at the MSU 42 that was intended for Aaron Alexander (0:29) just before halftime Sniffed out the draw play and stuffed tailback Tyrell Dortch for no gain at the line of scrimmage on a third-and-1 run from the PSU 7 at the start of the fourth quarter and then batted away a pass thrown by Smoker that was intended for Kyle Brown. Six plays later (third-and-16, PSU 25), he stopped Aaron Alexander after a 5-yard catch of a Smoker pass, forcing the Spartans to attempt a 37-yard field goal that they missed Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Agim Shabaj-No receptions.
Played in every game, starting the Louisiana Tech contest at right cornerback Saw most of his action (105 plays) on special teams Finished with 13 tackles (10 solos) and a stop for a 4-yard loss Two of his tackles came on third-down plays.
|2002 Game Analysis|
Nebraska In his first extensive action, Zemaitis posted a pair of solo tackles In the third quarter, Zemaitis forced the Huskers to punt when he tackled Wilson Thomas after a 3-yard gain on a third-and-13 pass from Jammal Lord.
Louisiana Tech In his first career start, Zemaitis was in on three solo tackles, including one on a third-down play and also had a stop for a 4-yard loss Came across field to make a tackle on Chris Norwood along the left sideline after the receiver hauled in a 59-yard pass from Luke McCown on a third-and-10 toss in the first quarter Took down Alton Bryant for a 4-yard loss on a second-and-2 throw by Maxie Causey in the fourth quarter and on the next play, he stopped Bryant after a 4-yard gain on a third-and-6 toss from Causey, forcing Tech to punt (6:16) Main Pass Coverage Assignment -- WR-Alton Bryant-Three catches for 8 yards.
Northwestern Added a pair of solo tackles Tackled Jeff Backes after an 18-yard return of a David Kimball 65-yard kickoff in the second quarter.
Indiana Added two more hits Notable Plays -- None.
Michigan State Had another two tackles A David Kimball 63-yard fourth quarter punt was fielded by Ron Maples at the MSU 2 and returned 24 yards before he was tackled by Zemaitis.
Auburn (Capital One Bowl) Finished his first season with two solo tackles In the third quarter, David Royer's 33-yard punt was fielded by Roderick Hood at the AU 19 and returned 7 yards before he was brought down by Zemaitis David Kimball had a 75-yard kickoff to the AU 5 later in the third quarter, where Hood returned the ball 21 yards before Zemaitis stopped him.
Redshirted as a freshman.
2003: On Jan. 10, Zemaitis was involved in a serious car accident, suffering a major concussion and fractures of the frontal sinus and orbital bone. He was held out of spring drills, but claimed a starting job prior to the season opener.
Campus: 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash 35.5-inch vertical jump.
Attended Spencerport (N.Y.) Central High School, becoming the first freshman in school history to play for the varsity team Lettered four times in football for coach Anthony Lipani He also lettered in basketball and track, collecting eight letters during his career Two-way back who collected 132 tackles (including 18 in one game as a senior) with three interceptions on defense and carried 206 times for 1,534 yards and 18 touchdowns on offense On special teams, he returned ten kickoffs for 340 yards and four touchdowns Was the first Division I-A player to come out of the school In four seasons on the football team, Zemaitis earned All-County and All-State honors, was a team captain and MVP Also was selected a member of New York's Golden 50 and the All-Greater Rochester Super 22 team Served as the defensive captain for the New York squad in the Governor's Bowl, which pits the top talent from the Empire State against their counterparts in New Jersey Was also was proficient in the classroom, earning recognition as a Black Scholar-Athlete.
Journalism major who hopes to become a high school principal once his playing days are over Oldest of six sons (brothers: Bryan, Christian, Deon, Alex James and Eric) Born Alan Keith Zemaitis on 8/24/82 in Rochester, New York Resides in Spencerport, New York.