Sunday, October 3, 2010

De Ja Blue All Over Again

It's 6 a.m.  The alarm goes off, playing "I got you Babe."  The DJ comes on, "Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today."

It's coooold out there every day. . . when you lose.

And then, we Penn State fans get out of bed and we relive the same game over and over again, trapped in a never ending cycle of dropped passes, missed opportunities, slow starts, bad coaching decisions, clock mismanagement, youthful inexperience, and excuses.

_____ was a great team.  We were licked.  We got our ears kicked in.  Maybe we were outcoached.  The whole bit.

It's Groundhog Day without the humor of Bill Murray.

No one really expected us to win against Iowa.  Or Alabama.  But most Penn State fans would like to have seen our team be competitive.  At least for more than the pregame ceremonies and coin toss.  Wouldn't it be nice to make the other team sweat a little?  Maybe go into the fourth quarter only down by one score, rather than losing by three?  Is an upset every now and then too much to ask for?  Hell, we get upset more often than we beat teams who were favored.

Wouldn't it be nice to actually score a touchdown in a big game?

I read recently that as a team since 2000, Penn State is 3-17 versus ranked teams on the road.  In 13 of those games we didn't score a touchdown.

Ponder that for a moment.  I'll wait.  It's not like I've got anything to celebrate.  Even the Steelers lost today.  My life pretty much sucks.  But I digress.

Even in our best seasons of late, the spectre of football shortcomings appears.  Kicking off to Breaston in 2005.  A late INT and PI against Iowa in 2008.  A blocked punt versus Iowa in 2009.

It is certainly not Paterno's fault that punt was blocked.  But there was a breakdown in protection and it cost us the game.  Almost everyone squib kicks with seconds remaining on the clock--yet we kicked away to Breaston.  We frittered time away on the last possession of the first half this week, only to come up one play short and have to settle for a field goal.  Maybe that was karma--had we tried to score 6 and failed, we might have been shut out.

But when does the blame for the general sideline confusion and clock mismanagement not fall on the head coach?

Greg Couch wrote a telling article--and in it he concluded that Paterno should continue coaching as long as he wants.  But, he also said these things:
Oh, what a mess. This was something I hoped I would never see, a picture of Paterno that I don't want to be left with.
"We call plays and we've got to stick with the plays," Penn State receiver Devon Smith said. "Players come in and players run out."

Where is the problem?

"Kind of upstairs."

Theoretically, he wasn't talking about God, but rather the assistant coaches in the press box.

Fourth down: The offense lines up, but is about to be called for delay of game. Timeout. Then, Bolden tries to run the ball in, but is stopped.
"They came out in that play before they (called timeout)," Iowa linebacker Jeremiha Hunter said. "Then they came out in the same play."

So Iowa knew what to do.
What team doesn't know what to do against Penn State/Paterno?  This game alone was a study in frustration--just like the Alabama game earlier.  Even the final score was the same.

Penn State got off to a slow start, falling behind early.  The defense tightened up--or the opposing coach left his foot off the gas--you decide.  The offense had flashes of brilliance surrounded by ineptness that resembled an episode of the Keystone Kops.  This is the fifth game of the season--clock management issues should not still be a problem--especially multiple issues.  Dropped passes happen, but they are killing us.

And then down by 2 scores with four minutes to play, we punt the ball from midfield.  I should have turned the TV off then and went to bed.  The staff gave up--why should we fans not give up as well?  Any nightmare I might have had would not compare with the rest of the game at this point. 

After pinning them deep at their 22 yard line with an amazing 32 yard punt (amazing considering he had a 12 yard punt earlier in the game that set up a short scoring drive) our defense managed to let them run nearly three minutes off the clock before forcing another punt.  Too bad they didn't run out the clock, as Bolden threw a pick-six on the next play that dumped salt into an already festering wound.

Am I down on Fera?  Not really.  No more so than any other aspect of our pathetic game at this point.  Is it really his fault?  This is his first year punting.  Apparently, we haven't recruited anyone else to punt.  This is clearly a problem that lies with coaching--recruiting punters, getting them ready to play, teaching them how to pin an opponent INSIDE the 20, etc.  Same thing with the offensive line. 

Iowa is not that good a team.  Arizona showed the world that.  They somehow managed to get PSU, OSU, and Wisconsin all at home.  They'll win most of the rest of their games and be ranked.

Losing horribly to the number one team in the country isn't shameful.  Losing 8 of the last 9 to Iowa is.  No offense, Iowa.  Not being competitive anymore in big games--or being competitive once or twice in the last decade--is shameful for a school like Penn State which has so much to offer in terms of tradition and facilities.

Yeah, our graduation rate rocks.  So does our fencing team.  Is it too much to ask that our football program--which pays all the bills supposedly--not get a championship too?


sleepy11hollow writes:
Look at what has happened for the past 23 years since that unbelievable 86' Fiesta day victory over the Canes.
*16 different teams have been declared college football champions (Miami, 4 titles, Nebraska (3 titles), Florida (3), Florida State (2), USC (2), Alabama (2), LSU (2), Michigan (1), Ohio State (1), Notre Dame (1), Oklahoma (1), Texas (1), Tenneesee (1), Colorado (1), Georgia Tech (1) and Washington (1).
*7 teams have won multiple titles (look above).

*19 different teams have played for the national title with those teams losing and not winning a title including West Virginia (1), Washington State (1) and Virginia Tech (1)
But we will never return to that level until we can figure out how to "not lose" to teams like Iowa.


Penn State on paper looked much better than they did on the field.  We had two less first downs (15 to 17), slightly less than 3 minutes in time of possession disparity favoring Iowa, and 48 fewer total offensive yards (301 to 349.)

But we had only 54 yards rushing!

We were 1 for 3 in the red zone--and that was a field goal.

We held Iowa to 2 of 10 on third down conversions; but we went 3 for 13. 

We punted 9 times.  We kicked off only once to start the game.

Iowa won the toss and elected to recieve.
Attendance was 70,585.  I thought the alternating GOLD and BLACK stadium sections looked great.  The vertical stripes made the stadium look less fat.
We were Iowa's Homecoming Patsy--and played the part well.
The Buckeyes survived a trip to Illinois 24-13.
Denard Robinson beat Indiana 42-35.
The Spartans, sans their coach Dantonio who was re-admitted with a blood clot in his leg, beat the Badgers 34-24.
Northwestern outlasted Minnesota 29-28.
1.  Tennessee--lost because they had 12 men on the field on the last play.  Gave LSU a chance to run one more play and win.
2.  Florida--lost 31-6 to Bama.  Makes us look better, huh?
3.  Stanford--quacked 52-31 by the Ducks.
4.  Indiana--Who's yer Daddy?  Denard Robinson.
5.  Rutgers--lost 17-14 to Tulane
6.  Boise State--beat New Mexico State 59-0.  Still dropped a spot to Oregon.  Been there.  Done that.
Illinois comes to Beaver Stadium October 9.  Homecoming.
The Illini hosted the Buckeyes this past weekend and didn't make it easy for them.  Pryor missed a series or two due to a quadriceps injury, but he did return to play.
So far for Illinois:
L  Missouri 13-23
W Southern Illinois 35-3
W Northwen Illinois 28-22
L Ohio State 24-13
Penn State still has not played four quarters of football.  We are making too many mistakes.  I still think we win this game, but this team needs to show us that it can handle coming off this loss.  After Bama, we were fortunate enough to host Kent State.  Illinois may not be near the top in the Big Ten, but they are a league above Kent State.  No offense, Golden Flashes.
I just want to see us come out blazing.  Hit them hard and fast and don't let up until the final seconds tick off the clock.  Play with some enthusiasm.  No matter what the crowd yells, guys, each of you players--this team--YOU ARE PENN STATE!

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