Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bluish White Thoughts on a Gray Day

The weather called for scattered showers and cooler temperatures.  And while the thermometer did drop, the rain did not fall on Bill O'Brien's first Blue-White scrimmage.  Could that be a sign?

I tailgated with a friend at the new Lewis Katz Law Building.  As a physician, I felt like Daniel in the Lion's Den, or a shipwrecked survivor surrounded by sharks.  There were fins to the left.  There were fins to the right.  And I was the only bait in the building.  Actually, the food was great, the building is beautiful and I had a great time.  Nate Stupar's sister guided us on a tour of the building!

It is always a difficult task to break this scrimmage down and make any sense of it.  In almost every case, the results are meaningless; the pursuit fruitless.

But you don't want to stare at a blank screen.  Well, maybe you do.  Maybe that would be better than the actual blog.  But now we're waxing too philosophically for a blog devoted primarily to football.

So I will attempt to summarize my thoughts on the 2012 Blue-White Game.

The atmosphere.

The attendance was estimated at 60,000 and I think that would have been exceeded easily with better weather or less scary meteorological prognostications.  There also appeared to be significant numbers in the parking lots that did not actually go into the game.  All-in-all, it was one of the larger crowds for a day with less than pleasant weather.

I took comfort in seeing Larry Johnson, Sr. on the sideline.  Vanderlinden was probably there, but I did not personally see him.  I miss Joe.  For as much as I complained about his conservative play calling, lack of recruiting in these last few years, and various other sundry coaching decisions, I really felt his absence today.  Penn State football is just not the same.  Maybe never will be.  Maybe it will be better.  Who the hell knows at this point?

On the other hand, I saw a coach walk out onto the field after one of his QBs threw an INT (Bolden) and talk to the QB.  I saw him do some coaching.  In the past 10 years, I'm not sure I saw Joe do anything on the sideline but yell at the refs or McQueary or get hit.  I saw another QB (Jones) celebrate a big play with his head coach.  Like . . . Did you see that!  That's what I'm talking about!  I really liked to see that kind of communication and rapport between coach and players.   Whether that will ever translate into points on the scoreboard or wins in the record books, time will only tell.

Granted, Joe wouldn't have been on the sideline for this game anyway (he always was up in the pressbox), but you know what I'm talking about.  There is a hole left that will take time to heal, and I have not yet healed.

The Scoring System.

First impression?  WTF.  (That was my first impression when I heard the announcement that O'Brien was to become Penn State's 15th Head Football Coach.)  But just as I am growing to like O'Brien as our coach, I found the point system more interesting as the game went on.

For my readers who did not attend or see the game, Blue was the defense and White was the offense.  Unlike other years (since 1950?) the blue team did not take a snap on offense.  Rather, the defense scored points by making plays.  Hence . . . .

2 points for Gryffindor for an explosive play!
 7 points for defensive TD
6 points for a turn over
4 points for a sack
2 points for a tackle for loss
1 point for forcing a 3 and out

The score almost started at 1-0, but white converted a fourth down to take the 3 and out point off the scoreboard.

For the offense, the scoring was different as well . . .

6 points for a TD and 1 for the PAT
3 points for a field goal
2 points for a play over 15+ yards (an explosive play!)
1 point for the PAT

The final score was Blue (defense) winning 77-65 over the White (offense.)

The Quarterbacks.

All six QBs played in the game. I know!  Where did these other two come from????  Tyler Lucas (SO) and Garrett Venuto (SR)?  It makes my head hurt!

I don't think any single QB stood out over the others.  MacGregor actually had a really nice drive to put the first TD on the board.  Bolden threw some nice passes, but then he threw some bad ones as well, including at least two interceptions.

None of the QBs ran the ball.

There were 5 INTs and 8 "sacks" overall.  I put the sack number in quotes because all the defender had to do was touch the QB to down him and I think it was pretty clear that in an actual game situation, several of those would not have been sacks as the QB could have spun away.  But we have what we have to look at.

My gut feeling?  Paul Jones will be the starter, and McGloin will be the annointed back-up.

Here's what Coach O'Brien said about the QBs in his press conference:
I feel pretty good where we're at quarterback-wise. I really have to watch the film, I really do. I've got to see the film. It's hard to see from the sideline. But, all three of those guys (Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden, Paul Jones) made some plays today. And again, I have to reiterate, all three of these guys, we've asked a lot of them. We've asked them to learn a system that's totally different than anything they've ever learned, and that takes time. And different guys learn at different rates, and some guys get it right away, other guys get it the next day, other guys get it two days from now.

So we have to let it soak a little bit, let it soak for ourselves as a staff, and then we'll make a decision headed into training camp on who we're going with or who the top two are.

Paul Jones has gotten better every single day. Paul Jones and I have a unique relationship because we both have unique senses of humor. He's been a fun guy to coach, and I'll keep between he and I what he needs to do to win the starting job, but he made a lot of strides this spring, and he's doing better in school, and I've really enjoyed being around Paul Jones.
The offensive line.

I was not impressed with the o-line.  We could not run up the middle, although maybe that is because the defensive line is pretty good.  Who knows at this point?  Eight sacks is not a good stat for the o-line either, although as I said before, some of that was the fact that a mere touch brought the QB down and the QBs didn't run when they could have, but I think this will be a weakness heading into the season.  I could be wrong . . . new strength and conditioning program will play a role, and I think McWhorter (o-line coach from Texas) will do a better job than our old staff at getting these guys ready to play.

Other notes:

Enjoyed seeing Ki Jana Carter.
Limited playing time for Silas Redd.
Belton and Zwinak looked good at RB.
Robinson (So) led the team with receptions and looked good.
O'Brien stated in the post-game conference that fans only saw about 10% of the playbook today.  Whew!
Defense appears to be ahead of offense at this point but that is to be expected.
Defenders played up at the line of scrimmage on receivers.  Is that even allowed????


Jim O'Hora - Stephon Morris
Red Worrell - Matt Stankiewitch
Frank Patrick Total Commitment Award - Steve Urkel  John Urschel

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