Oh, sure, this Turkey thought that Penn State would get off to a slow start on Saturday. After all, it was a 12:00 P.M. start, and those are problematical. Furthermore, the troops had to be demoralized after the big loss at home at the behest of the Buckeyes the previous week. Indiana, in the meanwhile, had little to lose and much to gain. They could become bowl eligible with a win. Their record was uninspiring though, tempting this week’s opposition to take the Hoosiers too lightly, even though they had been in striking distance of victory in every game except the Virginia disaster. However, even with all those suggestions that the Nittany Lions would get off to a slow start, the extent of FUBARage that they would display in this game boggled this old gobbler’s birdbrain imagination.
The result belied the circumstances. The Lions (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) overcame some significant self-created adversity to extinguish the hopes of the Hoosiers (4-7, 1-6 Big Ten), by the deceiving score of 31-20. Penn State had gone into the game better than a three touchdown favorite and not only once again failed to cover the spread, but also were playing catchup during most of the first half.
I’m not going to drag you through all the details of this cockeyed game. If you see game stats, the one that sticks right out at you is Penn State’s four turnovers. If you didn’t see the game, it was enough to give you nightmares about the special teams you didn’t think could get much worse than they have been all season. Sorry, but they’re going backward. Fortunately, there’s only one more game for them to screw up.
My God, what a mess! Darryl Clark’s interception with 8:41 left in the first quarter was only mildly awful, but it was a portent of things to come. Although it resulted in an Indiana touchdown, one could easily forget about it during the special teams nightmares. But before we get to those abominations, let us make time for another interception, this one in the red zone, with Penn State driving with 1:43 left in the first quarter. Penn State was pissing in the wind once again.
After a three and out, Indiana punted. See Astorino catch the ball. See Drew run. See Drew play. See Drew fumble. See the nice man with the white shirt fall on it. Oh oh oh! As the quarter drew to a close, this Turkey was already completely pissed off. Three damn turnovers in one quarter of football! Was this Penn State?
Thus, the first quarter was completely FUBAR, and the Nittany Lions were lucky to get out of it trailing by only 10.
The second quarter was pretty uneventful in its early boringness. Penn State finally was able to get on the board with a 33-yard Collin Wagner field goal with about three minutes left.
The fourth turnover of the first half would occur forthwith. After another three and out, Indiana punted to Graham Zug, who wound up going backward six yards before fumbling the ball away on his own 29, setting up the Hoosiers for what appeared to be another scoring opportunity, which would have left the Nittany Lions in a very bad way heading into the locker room. However, the defense held, and the Hoosiers’ field goal attempt was no good, so with 55 seconds to go, Penn State called a time out.
Clark drove his men down the field, and with the help of a facemask penalty set up on the Indiana 13. On second down, Clark hit Evan Royster for six, and with the addition of the extra point, the game was back to a flat-footed tie.
More incompetence was to be seen on the opening kickoff of the second half. Jerome Hayes fielded the kick and of course, the announcers all thought he was Graham Zug, because he, too, wears #5. After a decent return of 35 yards, Hayes fumbled the ball. Fortunately, it was covered by James Van Fleet at the Penn State 45. Unfortunately, this already screwed up play cost Penn State dearly, as the Nittany Lions lost their third string running back, sophomore Brandon Beachum, for the rest of the year, having suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during the scramble for the ball.
Hey, what do you want from a defensive end? What was he doing receiving a kickoff, anyway? When Joe Paterno talked about personnel changes on special teams in last week’s press conference, is this what he had in mind? It seems to me that whatever the hell our coaching legends, geniuses, and heirs apparent did to supposedly correct the problems with special teams made them go from bad to worse! Whose bright idea was it to put Hayes in there?
The turning point of the game occurred with about seven minutes left in the third quarter. Navorro Bowman picked off a Ben Chappell pass and took it 73 yards to da house. This time, he did not appear to be winded at the end. Penn State was up 17-10 at that point and things started looking better. The scoring wasn’t done, but the Nittany Lions would not relinquish the lead, as heads started coming out of asses, and the rampant and disgusting errors thankfully abated.
Once again, the incompetent first half conspired to keep Kevin Newsome, who will be next year’s starting quarterback and who has had precious few reps in non mop-up situations, on the bench until the very last Penn State possession. And thus, next season, the Nittany Lions will be led by an inexperienced sophomore on the Earn While You Learn program. The second opponent of the 2010 season will be Alabama — in Tuscaloosa. That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen!
Penn State did not dominate this game on either side of the ball. Indiana was able to pass for 298 yards, 100 more than the Nittany Lions, who fortunately were able to rush for 181 yards. Evan Royster led the charge with 95 yards. Clark went 17-28 for 194 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
All in all, the penultimate game of the Nittany Lions’ regular season was not very much fun to watch. This looked more like a team playing its first or second game of the year.
The special teams have not come together this season, and neither has the offensive line. For all you folks hoping for a big bowl opponent, those of you who say “Joe always gets the guys up for the big games!” just think about Iowa and Ohio State. Hear me — even Vince Lombardi couldn’t get these special teams and offensive line in shape at this stage of the season without wholesale personnel changes, which ain’t going to happen. Hell, beating Moo U. is not a certainty, yet some of you are already spouting platitudes about how well Penn State does with SEC opponents. Let’s say that this bunch draws LSU. What do you think are their chances?
So, I’ll leave you with that question as I write the next post in which I ask the magical question (again) — WTF??? PSU is considering adding an annual fee of up to $600 per seat for season ticket holders and taking some pretty decent seats away from students so they can augment season ticket sales. I think there are going to be a helluva lot of pissed off Nittany Lion Club members real soon now!