Monday, November 9, 2009

The Scarlet's Better

The 300th game in Beaver Stadium was not one for the record books. A top ten crowd of over 110,000 fans were shocked, stunned, disappointed, and to a large degree embarrassed by the play of their team in this contest. At least the weather was nice.

Maybe that was the problem . . .our team had no experience playing in good weather. Perhaps we should have hosed the field down and kept the game balls wet.

I jest. There are no excuses. There were no bad calls to speak of, and Penn State might have gotten the benefit of the only controversial play—did Clark cross the goal line? I was sitting in the opposite end of the stadium so I don’t know. It survived a review, but I think if the call on the field was no score, that would have been upheld as well. Fortunately, the call was in our favor and it happened at a point in the game where it still meant something, tying the score at seven.

I said before the game that I thought the opening drive would be key, that if Pryor was successful early on it would give him confidence. And while the defense held the Bucks to three and out including two incomplete passes by Pryor, we fared no better on our first possession, having to punt.

And that’s when things went bad. A 41 yard punt return by Small set up Ohio State for first and goal at the nine. They scored two plays later on a scramble by Pryor. Pump up the ego. The monster was alive. IT’S ALIVE! I knew this bode poorly for us. Even a top 10 defense is going to have a long day when the field is shortened by 91 yards.

Thanks to poor special teams play on punts and an offense that could not move the ball, Penn State played most of the first three quarters with poor field position. In fact, our best field position of the day came in the fourth when the Buckeyes had to kick-off from the 20 yard line due to an unsportsmanlike penalty. There’s a surprise. Sportsmanship has never been a high priority at THE Ohio State University from Woody Hayes punching a player to Cooper’s team running up the score after Adam Taliaferro was carted from Ohio Stadium with a serious neck injury. Sour grapes? You bet. But they make a fine whine best served cold.

But this game was not about running up the score. Ohio State played a great game. Their coaches had them prepared, the players executed well, and the team that deserved to win was victorious. Basically, the whole thing sucked.

For Penn State fans, though, the result is a bag of mixed emotions. Most serious fans—those that are not delusional like myself—considered a prediction of 10-2 to be a pretty good year. That is certainly attainable, although neither game left is a gimme. Indiana had THEM and !*w@ on the ropes. You never know what kind of game the Spartans will bring.

And logic would dictate that losing to the two best opponents is nothing to be ashamed of. They are both ranked teams. It’s not like we lost to Akron or Eastern Illinois. We beat the teams we should have beaten and lost to those that played better than we did.

But let’s take a moment and over-analyze this a bit further. We did not lose to the two best teams in the country. Even Purdue managed to beat the Buckeyes. And !*w@ was beaten by a Northwestern team that we already disposed of. Both of those teams were beatable. We just failed to do it. Purdue and Northwestern succeeded where we failed. Now how do you feel about the season?

Worse yet, we failed miserably. On national TV. AT HOME. Twice. The stadium announcer flashed the message before the game started “!*w@ LOST!” All we had to do was win. The stage was set. Guido cued the entertainment. But our team failed to support the cast of 110,000. I am actually getting tired of THE GREAT SHOW. The marketing folks at PSU are obviously milking this thing for everything they can get out of it. But after the emotion of the videos are gone, and the drum major has flipped and all the hype is left behind as the ball is actually kicked off, wouldn’t it be nice to see some great football as part of that great show?

Color coordination by the fans and Zombie nation only go so far. (I really enjoy all the pageantry of Penn State football and the Beaver Stadium experience—when we actually play football and mostly when we win.) But after awhile, it’s like putting lipstick on a pig, when the end product isn’t what you really wanted all along. Do you want a date with a twenty year old, or a date with an eighty year old wearing too much make-up and pretending to be something she isn’t? Do I go to the game to watch videos and yell “PENN STATE” or do I go to see them beat a hated rival? I certainly don’t go expecting them to play like they did last Saturday!

I’m not asking for miracles or an upset here. We were favored to win. We were expected to win. Did we come out playing like we should win? Is there any leadership on this team? I watched Clemson later that night when they fell behind to Bowden’s team and one of their players started yelling at the others. The result: Clemson came on like gangbusters and won the game. Does anyone on our sideline care?

Why did we punt with 5:48 left in the game? We even took a time out there—and still punted. Not even a fake. How can we expect our guys to play all out when the coaches give up? Give me a break. You're down THREE scores. Are you hoping they fumble the punt? Are you expecting a turnover deep in their territory? Granted, nothing we had seen offensively all day suggested we could make a first down, but punting sent a clear message. This game was over at the 6 minute mark. Pack up the tailgate. See ya next week. There's always next year.

The bigger question is, though, would leadership even have made any difference? There are some serious issues that always seem to get covered up with make-up and window dressing for most of the season, but always seem to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times. Let’s take them one at a time.

1. Special Teams. While they may not have cost us this particular game, it certainly made an uphill climb more steep. I feel we would have beaten !*w@ had they not blocked a punt for a TD. Had we not kicked off to Breaston in 2005, I think we would have won that game, although you can never be sure when there’s a referine around.

We all know this. Joe even said he was “worried” about the kicking game this week. When do we stop worrying and actually DO SOMETHING about it? When do we stop losing games or making things more difficult for our team by these gaffs that could and should be avoided? There’s no closing the barn door because the horse ran away on this one. The horse is long gone and probably dead by now as we continue to beat it each and every week. And when we don’t have a special teams problem—it’s not because we fixed anything. Those are the games where the mascara and rouge are ample enough to cover up the ugliness of it all. That problem is still there, waiting to be exploited by a Carr, Tressel, or Ferentz.

Our punter may actually be too good. He consistently out kicks our coverage, which is basically only two guys going downfield. We don’t block any punts so I’m curious as to what the other 9 players are doing? On one punt, Boone was knocked down and still got up and managed to tackle the return man to save yet another disaster. When Ohio State punted, our guys were fair catching with at least three Buckeye defenders surrounding the receiver. Are they that much faster? They only average 38 yards a punt, but their net is 35. We average 45 yards a punt but only averaged a net of 30!

2. Offensive Line. Why can we only manage a good offensive line every 3-4 years, and a great one maybe once a decade? Is it recruiting (which is ultimately the coaches’ responsibility) or is it coaching and development? Every other team in college football has to contend with turn-over by graduation or attrition and injuries. Yet teams like Florida and Alabama and USC and Ohio State seem to reload more frequently than they rebuild. Yes, schools go through down periods. This isn’t a down period. This is a cycle that has been going on for DECADES. A friend of mine thinks the problem began when Craig Cirbus left PSU for Buffalo, which is around the time when Dick Anderson came back to take over the offensive line. Are he and Kenney getting the job done? Is a good line every 3-4 years the benchmark for success. If not, why aren’t we addressing this? There is simply no reason why we can’t recruit the same caliber of athlete as Ohio State. Period.

3. Play-calling. How many times this season have we seen Clark sneak on the goal line? I can remember at least two (stretching the ball out to the point where it could be fumbled!) and I’m sure he’s done it more than that. Hell, he did it and failed the third down play before he supposedly scored. Don’t you think that Ohio State would have seen that tendency on film? Do we try to out think ourselves? Oh, they will be expecting that. But if they are expecting that, they probably will think we won’t try it. So maybe we can surprise them by doing what they expect us to do? Seriously. He barely made it as it was.

Did we call only one screen pass? I did not see any reverses. Did we even throw to Moye?

Why does our playbook shrink against better teams? We are playing right into their hands. The defense is supposed to limit our options, not our own coaching staff. I’m not saying we should have run some kind of gimmick play on the goal line, but can’t we be a little more creative than a QB sneak?

And my Buckeye Buddy Dick already had emailed me before I got home from the game:
Toddy you're just going to have to schedule more Temple's, E. Illinois, & a few more chumps to pad Joe's win record. Only thing you hillbilly's excell at are spittin on people, throwing urine & other human waste on your visitors. All class baby. Please do the big ten a favor & drop out. bunch of drunken hillbillys do not belong.
your best bud Brutus

Believe it or not, I don’t schedule these games. I’m also not one of the University presidents that voted PSU into the league. Sorry Dick, but I can’t help you there.


The numbers are consistent with what we witnessed on the field. Penn State had only 9 first downs and SIX of them were in the first half. On only two drives did we put together more than one first down in a row—four of our first downs came on the only scoring drive of the day. We lost time of possession by almost nine minutes, and most importantly, we held the ball for only 2:43 of the final quarter.

From GoPSUsports:
Team Totals OSU PSU
Rushing 10 2
Passing 5 5
Penalty 0 2
Rushing Attempts 49 30
Average Per Rush 4.7 2.5
Rushing Touchdowns 1 1
Yards Gained Rushing 245 95
Yards Lost Rushing 17 19
Completions-Attempts-Int 8-17-0 12-28-1
Average Per Attempt 7.4 4.5
Average Per Completion 15.6 10.4
Passing Touchdowns 2 0
Total offense plays 66 58
Average Gain Per Play 5.3 3.5
Fumbles: Number-Lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties: Number-Yards 9-86 4-31
PUNTS-YARDS 8-304 10-458
Average Yards Per Punt 38.0 45.8
Net Yards Per Punt 35.5 30.8
Inside 20 3 1
50+ Yards 1 3
Touchbacks 1 1
Fair catch 4 1
KICKOFFS-YARDS 5-329 2-128
Average Yards Per Kickoff 65.8 64.0
Net Yards Per Kickoff 47.0 48.0
Touchbacks 0 0
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD 7-130-0 1-0-0
Average Per Return 18.6 0.0
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD 2-32-0 5-94-0
Average Per Return 16.0 18.8
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD 1-0-0 0-0-0
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD 0-0-0 0-0-0
Miscellaneous Yards 0 0
Possession Time 34:02 25:58
1st Quarter 7:48 7:12
2nd Quarter 8:01 6:59
3rd Quarter 5:56 9:04
4th Quarter 12:17 2:43
Third-Down Conversions 6 of 16 4 of 16
Fourth-Down Conversions 0 of 0 1 of 2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 2-2 1-1
Sacks By: Number-Yards 2-13 0-0
PAT Kicks 3-3 1-1
Field Goals 1-1 0-0


Penn State won the coin toss and deferred.

The Blue Band Drum Major stuck both flips. Didn’t help.

Attendance was 110,003—the sixth largest crowd ever. Didn’t help.

Ohio State takes a 13-12 series lead all-time.

Thanks to a Clemson win, Joe is still 5 wins ahead of Bobby.


Ohio State is right on pace to share or win the Title. Everyone on their knees in homage to their greatness.

Northwestern defeated the Hawks 17-10. Michigan State cruised to a victory over Western Michigan 49-14. Illinois upset the Gophers, 35-32. Wisconsin beat Indiana 31-28. And Purdue beat THEM 38-36. The Spoilermakers haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 1966. RichRod is breaking all kinds of records out there!

Next week:

Penn State hosts Indiana.
Illinois hosts Northwestern
Ohio State hosts !*w@
Minnesota tackles South Dakota State
Purdue hosts the Spartans
Wisconsin hosts THEM


1. For Penn State—haven’t we suffered enough this decade?
2. For Oklahoma—seriously, you gotta feel bad for Sam Bradford and Co.
3. For the Ducks—treed by Stanford
4. For UConn—tough year with a player death and a couple of close losses


Indiana comes to Beaver Stadium next week.

Here’s the Hoosiers season:

Western Kentucky W 19-13
Western Michigan W 23-19
Akron W 38-21
THEM L 33-36
Ohio State L 14-33
Virginia L 7-47
Illinois W 27-14
Northwestern L 28-29
!*w@ L 24-42
Wisconsin L 28-31

The Hoosiers were hosed by the refs in games against THEM and !*w@. They played Northwestern and Wisconsin tough. Who the hell knows what happened against Virginia?! This is a dangerous game. They won’t be awed by our colors or videos. I doubt all the students bother to show up in the student section. (So? Prove me wrong!) They’re coming to play football and we had better do a better job than we did this past weekend, or we could end up in a rinky-dink bowl very quickly.


Anonymous said...

You nailed it, Todd. A complete disgrace and embarrassment. While we were whupped up in all phases of the game, the most glaring deficiency is the O-line. Once upon a time, we used to recruit the likes of Keith Dorney, Munchak, Farrell, Conlin, Hartings, Marco Rivera. I could go on, but I think the point is clear. You cannot establish either a running game or a decent passing attack without a good OL. Whether poor recruiting, poor development, or some combination thereof, I am not astute enough to determine. But the bottom line result is putrid and one way or the other, it comes back to the coaches. They aren't getting it done. It's past time for a major shakeup, but we all know that is like peeing into the wind. If I thought that venting would help me feel better, it didn't...

Anonymous said...

i said it before and now you said it..i'm so sick of the greatest show..enough is enough..i dont even enjoy going to the big games anymore, between traffic,due to the part that they keep taking parking away, the way penn state whores itself out to all..i love penn state but she is nothing but a whore..god that the story of so many mens