Any essence of confidence gained in the opening day victory against Akron was lost at Chestnut Hill on Saturday night, as the Nittany Lions just plain blew against the Eagles of Boston College, losing 21-7.
I missed the first quarter due to the combined effect of a late return from Cedar Key and a major ESPN GamePlan/Tivo wardrobe malfunction. I came home from Cedar Key, which was under a full evacuation order due to the predicted arrival of Hurrican Ivan, to find that Tivo was happily recording the Georgia-South Carolina game, which incidentally was not available in my area. ESPN had evacuated the PSU-BC game to an adjacent channel. I guess I didn’t miss much, other than a disputed roughing the kicker call, which must have caused the boys to pout, or something. Actually, there were two roughing the kicker penalties in the first quarter. Apparently, the other one was non-controversial. For a team without a LaVar Arrington, I would expect to see perhaps two roughing the kicker penalties in a season, not in a single game.
Those fouls were just the beginning of the comedy of errors at Chestnut Hill. It got worse. I tuned in just in time to see the first—and most excusable—of four interceptions thrown by Zack Mills, two of which occurred in the BC red zone. Penn State committed a total of five momentum destroying turnovers. Apparently, the Nittany Lions were also under a full evacuation order and were heading out on I-95. Their presence on the field was debatable.
On the other hand, Boston College did everything right. Their quarterback, Paul Peterson, put together drives that looked more like those of the New England Patriots than a non-top 25 college team. Peterson has skills like those of an NFL quarterback. By comparison, Mills looked like a high school second-stringer.
The exception for Mills was the first drive of the second half, in which he was four for four. The drive culminated in a 13-yard scoring pass to little used wide receiver Ryan Scott. BC’s lead was narrowed to seven points. I was thinking that Joe must have riled the boys up in the locker room at halftime, and that they had a shot at winning. Alas, that drive was the only bit of well played football Penn State would show in the entire game.
The defense was under a full evacuation order, too. They could not stop the run. I mean, simple, up the gut running plays were good for ten yards. What the hell was that all about? The holes in the defensive line, coupled with slow linebackers with poor reactions, would have been sufficient to have enabled me to make first downs running behind BC’s offensive line. On a fourth and one play, BC without hesitation called exactly what I would have called against that defense: a run right up the gut. It worked. BC had only 124 yards on 39 rushing attempts, but it seemed like more. The reason for that was that Peterson picked apart our secondary with his competent passing game, going 23-31 for 199 yards. Of the rushing yards, 113 were gained by Andre Callender, a red-shirt freshman replacement running back, who also had three pass receptions for 18 yards. We couldn’t even stop the second team! My assessment of our defense? They really suck!
The offense was similarly impotent, starting with the offensive (truly!) line. Our running plays went nowhere, as reflected by the game total of 73 yards rushing. Mills’ passing (24-42, 269) was more effective—rather, it would have been if not for the four INTs. Penn State has rarely been a team that can come back from being down at halftime. We just don’t have the big play capabilities. Whether it be the coaching philosophy or a depleted wide receiver corps, it is a struggle to get back into ballgames when we’re down. With the running game not a factor and only a couple of wide receivers to worry about, the Eagles put the clamps on Penn State’s scoring offense.
Tony Hunt handled most of the rushing chores. He was supplanted late in garbage time by senior third-stringer Mike Gasparato, which leads this turkey to wonder: where the hell is Austin Scott? He must be in the Paterno doghouse once again. He’s not “bumped up,” as far as I know. Scott’s playing time has been an enigma to Penn State fans for a couple of years now.
Special teams—which according to the turkey’s color analyst, R.D., are coached by committee—did their part to turn this midsummer night’s dream into a nightmare. To the aforementioned roughing penalties, add one extremely stupid block in the back that negated a decent runback plus an inexplicably stupid instance of fair catch interference, and you have a small idea of special teams with their heads up their asses. These guys need work. They need to develop some discipline and control.
I’ll sum this up by saying that we looked like a high school team out there. One good touchdown drive and one possible punt block that was muffed by the officating crew were the only bright spots.. I have nothing more to say about this game. Like the final act and final scene of Hamlet, everybody died. The rest is silence.
Next week: UCF (0-2). The Golden Knights were soundly thrashed by #10 West Virginia this week, 45-20. In their opener, they lost to Wisconsin 34-6. Let us hope that the Lions can regain their roar against UCF. The Big Ten schedule starts the following week.
This turkey will be in the Baltimore-Washington area next weekend, but he’ll try to catch the game in a PSU-friendly sports bar. The column may be delayed a day because of travel encumbrances.