Inside the insulated world of the Illini football players and coaches, I guess it’s important to sound confident and keep some level of confidence in place. Maybe the sun is still shining in that world.
But where the fans live, it’s raining. There is thunder and lightning and the sirens are sounding.
From Arrelious Benn, wide receiver from Washington, D.C.: “We just didn’t execute. Little penalties and stuff. There’s going to be a lot of negativity coming at us and we just need to stick together.”
From a blogger: “I don’t remember the Illini playing this poorly since the Gary Moeller era. It just seems the primary problem is mental and related to how much character this group has or doesn’t have.”
From Juice Williams, quarterback from Chicago: “We just have to work on the little things. It’s nothing major that’s going on. We’re just doing things that beat ourselves.”
From a blogger: “What’s most troubling is there is no passion with this team. The players have no urgency…that shows on the field. You sit and watch the game, waiting for something positive to happen and it’s all so boring to watch. I was checking the channels for the National Chess Championships for something a little more exciting to watch.”
From Brent: “After watching the film (of the Ohio State game), it was little things, a play here, a play there and we’re in that game. I don’t think there was anything that affected us as far as weather or their fans, just little things.”
From a blogger: “We started out well until the first interception. Ohio State made the adjustments they needed. Miracles? It will be a miracle if we win another game. I hope the coaching staff has invested and saved their money wisely.”
And, finally, from a blogger: “Damn! Why didn’t you tell me the National Chess Championship was on? I was switching between the game and the Discovery Channel, watching the wildebeest cross the Serengeti plain one more time.”
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Suspect #1: Strength & Conditioning Program
Is it my imagination or do most of the PSU players seem to be smaller (muscles) than many D1 competition. It just seem that I look at some other teams players and they seem bigger than ours. Also, I look at players that leave PSU and go to the NFL and they seem to get much bigger in the first year. Is it more time in the weight room, supplements or a different type of lifting program.
Suspect #2: The O-line
PSU had recruited very well in the past 4 years except for OL. And it shows.
The only time our OL is good is when it is full of seniors. We have a number of highly rated recruits that take way too much time to develop. I watch other programs with youngsters on the OL, and somehow they can do the job. Why is that so much different at PSU?
Suspect #3: Coaching: Jay Paterno
Ever notice the good PSU quarterbacks of the past 20 years? Colins and Robinson...One year as the starter. Actually every single quarterback who played more then one year degressed after their first season and prime example is Mills who got worse every year. Clark in his second season is not disappointing me with my theory of Jay ruining quarterbacks that start more then one season. Jay finds a way to ruin quarterbacks.
Suspect #4: Coaching: Joe Paterno
RIP Spread HD, we hardly knew ye! Joe Paterno main suspect...
Can we put paterno back in the booth?
I'll begin by saying that I love Joe Paterno and everything that he has done for Penn State football and for Penn State University. No coach has ever done more for his/her University, and no one person has ever meant more to Penn State. I'll also preface by saying that I was one of the staunch supporters when all of the "JoeMustGo.com" websites and media bashing was happening earlier this decade.However, as I woke yesterday and began reading some of the complaints about the game, it became obvious who was at the center (and who the cause was) of many of them.The complaints are generally the same after losses such as Saturday night:1) Conservative play calling in a big game.2) Play not to lose, instead of play to win.3) Loyalty to assistant coaches (Anderson and Kenney) despite lack of success.4) Loyalty to upperclassmen over more talented underclassmen (Mills over MRob, Morelli over Clark, Hull over ?), Wagner over Fera.5) Bend but don't break defense.6) Subpar special teams/no designated special teams coach.
Suspect #5: The Officials
Sorry: They Call The Personal Foul In The Flat / There's No Punt Blocked! Of course we could fumble or throw an interception the next play. And there's absolutely no way of knowing how the game would have played out, pro or con.But we would have been deep in Iowa territory with the 15 yards and even if we got nothing out of it, we'd be protecting the 10-5 lead and gain tremendous field position.And there was nothing.....nothing.....Saturday night to even hint that Iowa could sustain an 80 yard drive on PSU's D.
Suspect #6: The Schedule
iowa had 3 tough games (granted 1st game shoudn't have been)...we go down 11-10 and then proceed to turn it over on 3 straight possessions...think the loss had something to do with the fact that we played 3 teams who shoudn't be on the field with us?
Suspect #7: Special Teams
It really comes down to one thing - field position,….which leads to a bigger issue for PSU (special teams).
How many times has the breakdown/poor play of one of our special teams units is the root cause of a PSU loss. It's been happening since the 1993 game vs UM, when their WR took a punt back for a TD that broke open a close game. We lost the Big Ten title in 96 because of a punt return by Tim Dwight (1 pt loss to Iowa). There was the Wisconsin game in 03(?), where Calvin Lowry fumbled 2 returns. Breaston for UM returing a kick 50+ yds in 05 (to go aong with Kelly's 3 missed FGs). Benn for Ill costing us a game returning a kick off for a TD in 07. Over and over again through our years in the Big Ten, our lousy special teams cost us. When was the last time we blocked a FG? '99 vs Pitt?
Suspect #8: The fans
How can someone go to the game..knowing it's a "white out" and show up in green,yellow, orange or any other color than white? Everyone has known about the white out for almost a year? Come on now.
The Superstition Thread: What did you do to cause the loss? Whenever I leave my place I wear a different hat than the last time I left. I was up at 5 AM and out the door by 5:30 yesterday morning to attend to duties at Paternoville. I returned around 9 AM to grab some gloves, but I failed to go to the next hat in my rotation because the next hat up is a blue one and I didn't want to be "that guy" in the white out with a blue hat.A friend of mine texted me after the game and said she took responsibility because she didn't wear her Stef Wiz jersey for the first time in his 25 games as a PSU player yesterday.jrtfootball06 told me on the way home that he's retiring a Nike hat he bought last year because the two times he's worn it we've lost: the Rose Bowl and yesterday.
To be fair, the truth lies somewhere within all these issues--each aspect contributed in some way, except perhaps the fans. I was also disppointed by the number of orange, green and camo ponchos, but I seriously doubt that affected the outcome of the game.
Some fans (not listed here) also opine that the transfer of Devlin has played a huge role, given the fact that the coaches appear to be protecting Clark more (less running means less hits and less chance of injury). Was that situation mishandled? Personally, I am not a big fan of the platoon system, but this is a case where it might have been ideal. The times the system has failed, at least at Penn State, is when the playcalling wasn't adapted to the individual QB or one or both of the QBs was not very good.
But Devlin had real game time experience and skills, and brought a different dimension to the game as a drop back passer. Fo whatever reason, the coaches--orperhaps Joe alone--opted to put all the eggs in one basket, even if it meant losing Devlin.
But that alone did not cause us to lose.
This was a team loss that highlighted a lot of chronic problems at Penn State. We fans had high expectations, and perhaps undeservedly so. I saw one conservative messageboard poster make a comment before the season that this was the first year in his 30-40 years as a fan that he thought PSU would reload. Well, if reloaded, it was with blanks instead of live ammunition.
But I believed him--before the season. I thought the line would gel. I thought losing our placekicker wouldn't be a big issue. I thought our special teams would find a way to overcome not having a dedicated coach. I thought having an experienced senior QB would make a difference--positive that is, rather than a detriment.
I still can't figure out why PSU can't field a decent OL more than once every 3-4 years. Other teams lose players to injury and graduation, yet maintain at least average line quality. It has to be coaching--both in recruiting and developing players. The pattern is just too clear to be anything else. Good lines in 94, 97, 99, 02, 05, 08. In between--not so much. Interesting isn't it, that those years tend to be our best years in w/l percentage. Maybe we should be paying more attention to this part of the game.
This will be a difficult week for the coaches. How do you pick up the pieces and put them together? Unfortunately, knowing the history of PSU football, not much will change. Paterno will be convinced he was a play or two away--maybe he was maybe he wasn't, but if you didn't put a point on the board after the second possession that argument isn't really believable. Perhaps he would be better served to believe his team was a mistake or two away from winning, but even that may be stretching the imagination.
If he can't admit there is a problem, then he won't have any motivation to fix it. He sees no need for a special teams coach, so we will continue to have porous coverage, poor field position, punting blunders, and FGs on a prayer.
I had a bad feeling which began in the second quarter. I was helpless to do anything about it, but I was overcome with a sense that we wouldn't win this game. And how could that be? Home field advantage. Better recruiting. More experienced coaching (Paterno has lost more games than Ferentz has even coached!) Even the oddsmakers thought we would win. It simply wasn't meant to be.
One poster asked this question: When did it really happen that Penn State no longer played for National Championships? His answer: 1994 (or when we joined the Big Ten. That certainly has made the road to a MNC more rocky, but the BCS system has not helped either. Even an undefeated season (like Utah last year) doesn't guarantee you a spot. Even if we had gone undefeated this year, our strength of schedule may have kept us outside looking in. But the greater issue is this: why can't Joe put together an undefeated season? We can all argue until we're blue in the face about the debacle in Ann Arbor in 2005, but the reality was that we didn't put that team away--we allowed the refs to influence the game--our special teams failed to contain Breaston on the KO and our prevent D prevented us from winning. (I still think we would have pulled it out if it weren't for the bad calls, though!)
We have won only TWO Big Ten openers in this decade, and only two conference titles. How can you expect to play for National Titles when you can't take care of business in the conference?
And I fear I have rambled too long.
Monday, September 28, 2009
|Last week's ballot|
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The crowd of 109,316 were ready for blood and pumped. The stadium video warned !*w@ to "bundle up" for the WHITE OUT. Penn State opened the game in dominating fashion, forcing the Hawks to a three and out and then putting seven points on the board in one 79 yard pass strike to Chaz Powell. On the next series, Iowa ran four plays before Sukay intercepted Stanzi on the PSU 21 yard line. The Lions next drive was a 68 yard, 10 play drive that consumed 10:17 but resulted in only a field goal. But the we were moving the ball, and !*w@ was getting stuffed. It looked like the rout was on.
But then a funny thing happened. Penn State reverted back to the same formula that we saw in the first three games. A crisp team takes the field, takes the lead early, and then fumbles and stumbles its way through the next three quarters. Penn State did not put another point on the board, and aside from a missed field goal from 48 yards, the Lions did not get close enough to even sniff the red zone let alone score.
Personally, while the blocked punt was the game changing play, this stalled drive was where the momentum shifted. Penn State never got their groove back. I hate kicking field goals after a long drive like that—it’s a moral victory for the opposing team’s defense. We let them off the hook. We left them hang around. We gift wrapped this upset for them in pretty white wrapping paper.
It’s not like we couldn’t see this coming. I just said in my last post that this game was eerily reminiscent to last year’s contest—throw in some poor weather and the final outcome, and voila—déjà blue all over again.
We knew the offensive line had issues. Protection for Clark was again poor, and even the unveiling of the QB draw did not impress anyone. Clark looked particularly uncomfortable in the pocket and his throws were erratic, having three INTs on the day. He couldn’t even pass gas without being intercepted.
We knew the running game was shaky. Royster, normally solid, fumbled in the fourth quarter on a promising drive that might have tied the game with a two-point conversion, but those things happen. It just sucks that it had to happen in this game at this time against this team. But fumble aside, he had only 69 yards on 17 carries, and the Hawkeyes outgained us on the ground 163 to 109.
The gut response is to credit !*w@ for a great game. But the Hawks had two interceptions and were several dropped passes away from making the score look even worse. They played better than we did, but we played awful on offense. At times, Clark couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and these barn boys happened to be in the right place at the right time. I haven’t reviewed the DVR, and quite frankly I don’t think I can stomach that pain, but I think all the INTs were tipped or errant passes, rather than some defender making a great play on the ball—i.e. a QB having a better day would probably have pulled out a win. I can’t say honestly that this is a great !*w@ team. Good. But not great. I don’t think they will win the Big Ten but I won’t be surprised if the bastards prove me wrong. Children of the Corn are like that, you know.
All in all, the day was a dismal, dreary, sloppy wet disaster.
BY THE NUMBERS:
|NET YARDS RUSHING||163||109|
|Average Per Rush||4.4||3.3|
|Yards Gained Rushing||188||125|
|Yards Lost Rushing||25||16|
|NET YARDS PASSING||135||198|
|Average Per Attempt||5.2||6.2|
|Average Per Completion||12.3||16.5|
|TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS||298||307|
|Total offense plays||63||65|
|Average Gain Per Play||4.7||4.7|
|Average Yards Per Punt||35.6||35.7|
|Net Yards Per Punt||31.8||18.0|
|Average Yards Per Kickoff||55.4||61.8|
|Net Yards Per Kickoff||38.2||38.2|
|Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD||1-53-1||2-19-0|
|Average Per Return||53.0||9.5|
|Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD||4-94-0||5-86-0|
|Average Per Return||23.5||17.2|
|Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD||0-0-0||0-0-0|
|Third-Down Conversions||4 of 14||9 of 19|
|Fourth-Down Conversions||0 of 0||1 of 1|
|Sacks By: Number-Yards||2-7||2-15|
It may be cliched, but PSU did not deserve to win this game. Total first downs were close, but the return yardage and turnovers are insurmountable. Despite holding the Hawks to under 300 yards and 4 of 14 on third down, we still could not win.
Can we take up a collection to buy a special teams coach?
Penn State won the coin toss for the first time all season, a harbinger of doom apparently.
The Blue Band did not perform on the field due to weather conditions.
!*w@ has now won 7 of the last eight games, and tied the all-time series record at 11 apiece.
JoePa missed an opportunity to go another one up as Bowden’s team fell to USF. He has also failed in his quest to have an undefeated team in every decade he has coached.
Penn State snapped an 11-game home winning streak, and is now 7-10 in Big Ten openers, but only 2-8 since 2000.
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
The Buckyes pasted the Illini 30-0. They face Indiana next week on the road.
THEM narrowly defeated Indiana 36-33. I did not see the game, but folks that did agree that the referines were in A-game form and helped the Wolverines cinch the win. I am not surprised. Is anyone? The Wolverines travel to East Lansing to hose the Spartans next week.
Michigan State lost to the Badgers 38-30. Wisconsin heads to Minnesota next.
Minnesota beat the Wildcats 35-24.
1. For the wet and weary Penn State faithful
2. For Ole Miss
3. For California
4. For Miami
5. Enough tears in the top ten already
Yeah, whatever. Sure, the Lions could rebound and still make a run at the conference title, but who really cares about that. I certainly can see !*w@ losing a couple of games and if we can improve and beat the Buckeyes—hey, we can share another title. Woo Freaking Hoo!
The Lions travel to Illinois to face a team that is not doing well this season. The Illini opened with a 37-9 loss to Missouri, beat Illinois State 45-17 and were shutout 30-0 by the Buckeyes.
How Penn State rebounds from this loss will depend on what kind of leadership and heart this team has. I still think a one-or two loss season is possible, but not likely if we can’t solve these offensive problems. Remember the dark years of 2003-4—pretty good defense but an offense that couldn’t score. This loss is not that far removed from that.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Penn State fans far and wide, if you are coming to the game, you are going to get a wet a$$. There is no escaping it. Your feet are going to be muddy, your car interior is going to be trashed, you may get sick for a week, and all of that is quite distressing until you think of this:
Our university has assembled a game day program, the whiteout, which actually can make a difference in the game. Some of you may recall that I am a longtime skeptic of the notion that what the fans think makes any difference. Whether I root for UM to beat Indiana today will make zero difference, so strategic or tactical cheering of that remote sort is a waste of time. I go with a gut level analysis of who I hate the most--in this case Michigan; Go Hoosiers!--but I know it makes no difference.
But today in the rain and slop and the stink of cowshit from the dairy barns, my usual rule is void. When Iowa has the ball and their QB feels his femurs hum because 110,000 fools are screaming at him to fumble, slip, throw a pick, or in some extreme cases, die (I am not recommending this), the fans can and will make a difference in this football game. We can escape the usual ironclad rules, and make Iowa seek out a way to have their next game with us at Fedex Field or some other neutral site. The word will go out--you do not want to come to the Beaver.
What was once mythology will become a self-fulfilling prophecy--a prophecy of DOOM for the Outsider.I want Iowa to have prepared to go on some sort of hand-signal snap count because one set of human vocal cords will not make itself heard from the QB to the tackle a few yards away. Our D goes on the movement of the ball, their O has to figure out a way to act in unison without verbal communication. Every time it does not work and they either false start or get run over because one of their lineman is crouching in his stance after the ball is snapped, we break the rules of the game and the fans hand our defense an advantage. They get more frustrated. They forget assignments or make other mistakes. The advantage grows.
Haul your rain gear into the ballpark with you and sit there for so long as there is any doubt. You paid good money for these tickets and drove long hours to get there. You will not sleep worth a damn in your hotel room or RV if we lose, anyway. If we lose a close game and you can speak above a whisper by Tuesday, then unfortunately this loss gets chalked up to YOU.
I sat in the stands for Nebraska 2002 when Gardner picked off Lord and coasted 75 untouched to drive the final nail in the coffin of the Cornhuskers. The guttural, raging roar of the crowd was one of the loudest things I have ever heard. I had reverb in my ears like when you are standing in the open air at a jet show. On that day I saw the power of this-- an intimidating, brutal, merciless assault on consciousness. It disturbs one's equilibrium. That game was O-V-E-R.
WE DECIDE WHETHER YOU HEAR THE SNAP COUNT.
Friday, September 25, 2009
In addition to the primetime matchup between PSU and Iowa (the Lions are favored by 9.5 points), here are some other games of note:
In the Big Ten:
Purdue is an 8 point dog to the Irish. Upset pick of the week? The Boilers are playing at home. They beat Toledo 52-31 but narrowly lost to the Ducks, 38-36. They are coming off an inexplicable loss to Northern Illinois. Meanwhile, the Irish narrowly escaped with a W against MSU last week. Go Boilers!
The Buckeyes are picked big over the Illini, 16.5 faves.
Northwestern is a 2 point fave over the Gophers, which is interesting since Minnesota beat Syracuse who beat Northwestern. The game is a home game for the Wildcats, but I'm not sure there is much of a home field advantage there.
THEM has Indiana at home, with a spread of 19.5 points.
The Badgers are 1.5 favorites over the Spartans. The game is in Wisconsin. We don't play the Badgers, so GO SPARTY!
Other games of some interest:
Alabama is a 16.5 point favorite over Arkansas.
Florida faces off against Kentucky with a favored spread of 24 points.
Virginia Tech plays Miami (FL): Tech is a one point favorite, and I think PSU fans would probably just as soon see Miami fall, becuase if the Canes can get by Tech and Oklahoma, they may go undefeated. Then again, if PSU wins out, would a rematch of the 1986 Fiesta Bowl be so bad for a national championship?
Texas is a big favorite over UTEP--34 points.
Cal plays Orgeon and is a 6 point fave over the Ducks. In the great grand scheme of things, a Duck victory probably helps us with Cal breathing down our backs.
Akron is at Central Michigan (the Zips are 17 point dogs.)
Syracuse plays Maine.
Temple hosts Buffalo. Go Owls!
Penn State says it will employ enhanced security measures at football games the rest of the season, and that fans should give themselves an extra 30 minutes to get to their seats for games.
The athletic department announcement Thursday comes after a flurry of national security bulletins this week stemming from arrests in a terrorism probe.
Homeland Security officials have said they know of no specific plots against stadiums or other entertainment venues, but cautioned police and private companies to be vigilant.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
|NCAA Stats Comparison|
|Passes Had Intercepted||60||60|
|Pass Efficiency Defense||34||11|
|Fewest Penalties Per Game||6||16|
|Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game||5||9|
|Punt Return Yardage Defense||68||16|
|Kickoff Return Yardage Defense||106||51|
|Offense Third-down Efficiency||8||24|
|Offense Fourth-down Efficiency||53||99|
|Defense Third-down Efficiency||25||36|
|Defense Fourth-down Efficiency||16||80|
|Tackles for Loss||4||96|
|Offense Tackles for Loss||32||42|
|Pass Sacks Allowed||55||93|
|Time of Possession||22||11|
|First Downs Allowed||4||18|
|Red Zone Efficiency||101||21|
|Red Zone Efficiency - Defense||2||101|
|Average NCAA Rank:||42.89||47.24|
|Weighted Avg. Rank:||35.92||42.17|
Statistically speaking, this game is much closer than last year--and we all know how that turned out.
So far, Iowa has beaten Northern Iowa 17-16, blocking TWO field goals to preserve the win. They defeated Iowa State handily, and Arizona 27-24. No common opponents.
I don't know if it is safe to say that our opponents so far are better than UNI, which is a FCS team, but they are certainly probably close ot a Temple or an Akron. I really was impressed by how much Syracuse improved--they beat Northwestern this past weekend, but are probably not on par with Arizona, but perhaps closer than we might think.
The home field advantage is certainly in favor of the Lions.
What surprised me the most about Iowa's numbers was the defense--I thought they would be better than that, given two cupcake games and one mediocre Arizona team. And while the Lions are 4th in the nation in tackles for loss, Iowa is 96th.
It would appear that Iowa has an advantage in special teams, leading most if not all punting and kicking categories both offensively and defensively. Also of concern: Iowa leads the turnover categories.
If PSU limits turnovers and mistakes on special teams, this game should not be particularly close. I still stand by my assumption that we have not seen a fraction of the HD offense so far this year, and I think the O-line will continue to improve and the team as a whole will be emotionally up for this match-up. That is not to say that the Hawks aren't going to be pumped, aren't going to bring their A-game, or even be intimidated by the atmosphere. I just think if both teams play to their potential, PSU will win.
And I would not be surprised if the score isn't reminiscent of Minnesota 2005, when PSU pasted the Gophers 44-14 despite a sloppy start to the season marked by turnovers. Everyone was worried about containing Minnesota's running game--and we all worried about nothing.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Penn State linebacker Sean Lee is doubtful for Saturday's game against Iowa after spraining his left knee this past weekend in the Nittany Lions' 31-6 victory against Temple.Lee is expected to miss up to two weeks, but could return sooner if his rehab progresses as expected.
With Mauit out and Bowman still up in the air with an injury, we're starting to thin out a bit at LB.
He is not happy with the Utes, who led the NCAA in win streak until this past Saturday. No Rank for U---TAH!
Georgia Tech, Nebraska and Oregon State have also lost favor. . .
NO RANKS FOR YOUZ!
Florida takes over the number one spot by attrition, as Southern Cal takes their annual PAC -10 choke at Washington. I know--QB problems and all that. They still lost after looking like a #1 team against the Buckeyes last week.
Want rank? Then WIN. It's not that hard to figure out.
|Last week's ballot|