Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Swamp Thing

Like some horrendous creature in a bad B-movie, the Florida Gator rose from the swamp and scared the cast of Nittany Lions into a litany of poor decisions like leaving the knife within reach and turning our backs on the supposedly dead psychomaniac, not protecting the punter, swimming too soon after eating, and throwing interceptions with rash abandon.

With five interceptions in the game and a blocked punt that was returned for six, this game was given away by the Penn State offense and special teams.

Penn State actually outgained Florida 350 to 279 yards and won time of possession by almost 5 and a half minutes.

After a dismal three and out to start the game, the Penn State D took charge and picked off QB Brantley on Florida's first offensive possession.  Penn State then moved the ball 61 yards with relative ease to go up 7-0.  We mixed things up and looked like a great team.  Looks can be deceptive.

The defense followed this up by holding the Gators to a three and out and PSU took over after the punt.  And that was when things started to go awry.  On a third and long, Black intercepted McGloin and returned the ball to the PSU 15 yard line.  The Gators, now with good field position and momentum, were able to capitalize and tie the game.

Both teams would bog down for awhile until the 6:48 mark in the second quarter.  Penn State tried to punt, but Patton for the Gators marched through Europe and the Penn State line and blocked the punt--the Gators recovered and scored to take the lead.

To our credit, the Lions did not unravel completely at this point and managed to tie the score thanks to a shanked punt by Florida, and added a late field goal to take a lead into the locker room.  Unfortunately, the field goal was from the three yard line and should have been six, but the offensive impotency that has plagued this team in the red zone most of the year reared its ugly head once more.

And, just like so many times this season, Penn State only played one half the game well, managing only seven more points in the final two quarters and throwing four more INTs including a pick six to sink their ship.  We made no adjustments in the second half and we did not adapt to Florida's adjustments.

More shennanigan's occurred on the sideline with McQueary trying to send in a play, Joe questioning him, he flips the mike down and says something upstairs, listens, he tells Joe, and Joe shakes his head and insists in doing something else.  A timeout is needed to prevent a penalty.

I have come to believe that having two people upstairs calling plays--Galen the running and Jay the passing--is simply a recipe for disaster.  It works once in a while.  Every blind squirrel finds an acorn.  But more often than not, it results in an offense with no consistency and no identity.

I thought the defense played a decent--but not great--game.  Let's face it, though.  This was not a very good Florida team.  This was a bowl game that matched two mediocre 7-5 teams and one of them was more mediocre than the other.

I can't lay blame entirely on McGloin, but his 5 interceptions did not help the cause.  Should the coaches have made a change?  Probably.  Ya think?  But are we really surprised that Joe stuck with McMorelli?  Loyalty is a cherished quality and an asset.  Loyalty to a fault, though, can be a problem.

Newsome didn't even come to the game and will likely leave.  Just like Pat Devlin who has led his team to the Division championship.  There are now rumors that Bolden will transfer.  This is clearly a coaching problem.  We are not managing our resources properly.  I have never been a Jay Paterno fan and I really wonder how much damage is being done.  Maybe that is the problem--he can't handle this many QBs at one time.  Every QB I see at Penn State regresses.  Michael Robinson thankfully had only one year at the position, and he had more talent and athletic ability than the subsequent QBs since him put together, and he overcame the cockamamie idea of forcing him to stay in the pocket. 

But if a coach is willing to stick with a guy who played like McGloin did in this bowl game, how likely is it that anyone will have a chance to pass him in Spring/Fall practice?  I must admit, though, I never thought Bolden would have had a shot last year, and he did.  Is he willing to take the chance?

I am actually genuinely worried about the future of this program right now.  The problems are mounting and I am losing faith that Coach Paterno can avoid the iceberg as the Titanic cuts through cold and unchartered waters.  Recruiting is down.  Talks of transfers are getting louder.  It's not like this has never happened before.  Jeff Hostetler left so as not to be stuck behind Blackledge.  But that worked out for Penn State.  The Devlin transfer--not so much.  A senior QB this year would have been very helpful.

And I'm not convinced that the future is any better.  We might return only two signal callers next year.  McGloin and Jones.  And while McGloin has shown he is capable coming off the bench to spark this team, he has not shown that he can win the big game yet.  And there are a LOT of big games on the schedule next year.  Throw in the usual revamping of the offensive line and the loss of Royster, and the slate of games which includes Alabama, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Ohio State looks daunting.

If Joe doesn't want to step down, so be it.  But some changes need to made.  We need a special teams coach.  Our kick-off returns are always bad.  Wouldn't it be nice to set up some field position once in a while and take some pressure off the offense?  How about blocked punts?  Iowa last year.  Florida this season.  That's a game a year that such gaffes are potentially losing the game for us.  Great teams can overcome these things.  We don't field great teams more than once every five years.  We need to maximize our strengths and reduce mistakes on special teams.

We need an offensive coordinator.  Not someone who was great thirty years ago coupled with unproven nepotism.  We need one mind planning out an entire game, reacting to what the defense is doing and making adjustments without having to play rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets to call the next play and "mother may I" with the sideline.

It would be nice to have a better offensive line coach--someone who can get these kids ready to play in one year, not three or four.

Don't get me started about strength and conditioning, because in the final analysis, this is the least of the problems and won't do anything if the above problems aren't fixed.

It's too easy to say that McGloin just had a bad day.  He did.  But the coaching staff did absolutely nothing to correct that problem.  And such blame ignores the other issues such as a lack of in-game adjustments, red zone play calling, and special teams play.

This loss was a team effort.  And the leader of that team is Joe Paterno.  I anxiously await seeing how these issues will be addressed next season.  Anxious.  Nervous.  Not very optimistic at all.


Ohio State plays Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

Wisconsin failed on a two-point conversion and fell to #3 TCU, 21-19.

Iowa won their bowl game against Missouri, 27-24.

Illinois also won against Baylor.

But the Big Ten went 0-5 on New Years day with blowout losses to Alabama (49-7) and Mississippi State  (52-14) by the teams from the state of Michigan.  Northwestern made a valiant comeback, but lost 45-38 to Texas Tech.

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