I Was Wrong!

by Ben Goldfarb on September 16, 2012

in Penn State Football

My Official Turkey Poop Prediction for yesterday was so far off the mark that I felt I must own up to my epic fail. This is probably my worst prediction of all time.

As you know Penn State (1-2, 0-0) beat Navy (0-2) 34-7. Navy actually outgained the Lions by 50 yards and thoroughly dominated time of possession, but their four turnovers stick out like a sore thumb on the stat sheets. Navy shot themselves in the foot. The Nits didn’t fix their third down problems; they converted three out of eight. But Navy was far worse, at four for fifteen. Total Yards for the Midshipmen were 391 (17.8 chains) , for the Lions, 351 (1.6 furlongs).

Matt McGloin threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Allen Robinson became the first PSU player in three years to notch three touchdown passes in a single game.

Four turnovers by Navy. Gerald Hodges’ first quarter interception of a Trey Miller pass at the Penn State 10 saved a score and turned into six points for the Nittany Lions. I bet they’re kicking themselves all the way back to Annapolis. Penn State was able to convert only one of three recovered fumbles into points, that being on a Mike Hull run back 74 yards for a touchdown. Navy’s possessions came in fits and starts, and they couldn’t mount a decent drive until the fourth quarter when they scored their only points. They punted only once, because they were too busy handing the ball to Penn State to kill drives.

Sam Ficken, you ask? Whither of ol’ Samme? Well, no field goals attempted, so we don’t know if he improved there, but he sailed a no-excuses extra point attempt wide left to give us an indication that he’s still a work in progress, to be kind about it. And did you see the nose on that kid?

The running back situation was temporarily resolved by running Mike Zordich out of the tailback position instead of fullback, supplemented by Curtis Dukes. Together they ground out 97 terrestrial yards or 17.6 rods.

McGloin was 13-21, spreading the ball — sort of — among eight receivers. I say “sort of” because looking past the five catches by Allen Robinson and two by Zordich, the other six had one each. Converted quarterback Paul Jones was one of them, gaining seven yards on his catch.

There is still much reason to worry about the defensive secondary when Navy, a triple-option team, can beat them deep for receptions of 38, 28, and 21 yards.

All in all, this Turkey thinks the Lions are improving somewhat. They were turnover free, thank God. They’re beat up at running back and they have a ragtag receiving corps. It seemed clear to me that the defense was uncomfortable with the triple-option. Navy is a pretty mediocre team, so in meeting mediocrity with mediocrity, the better mediocrity won. Don’t be expecting any 34-7 routs of Ohio State or anything. If you’re about to put on the rose colored glasses (with blue and white trim), please wait until these guys have beaten someone good, which is still not likely to happen. But keep smiling at least until Saturday. Savor the win. Bill O’Brien sure did.

O’Brien got his first Gatorade shower, but he was smiling. It was also his first win with the New Nittany Lions. One down, 408 to go.

Announced attendance was 98,792.

Around the B1G, Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois, Purdue, the #17 Mishiganers, and Iowa beat patsies. #12 Ohio State avoided an upset by Cal, 35-28; Northwestern scored late to cinch a win over Boston College, 22-13; #10 Moo U. was clobbered by the #20 Fighting Irish, 20-3; Wisconsin narrowly escaped a loss to Utah State, 16-14, as the Aggies missed a late field goal try; and Indiana dropped a close, high-scoring contest to Ball State, 41-39.

Expect a shake-up in the Top 25 in da morning, as the #21 Cardinal of Stanford shocked the #2 USC Trojans (ribbed and lubricated for her pleasure), 21-14. They shut down our boy Silas Redd, who had 13 carries for 17 yards (albeit with two touchdowns). But Alabama is a solid #1, having beaten the Razorbacks 52-0, and LSU should move into the #2 slot vacated by the Trojans after whipping Idaho by the slightly lopsided score of 63-14. Oregon will be sucked up to #3 with a 63-14 win over Tennessee Tech; #5 FSU beat Wake 52-0, so there’s your #4; and #5 Oklahoma was idle.

I’ll be back with a prediction for the tilt over across the state with Temple, now that I’m thoroughly confused.

 

 

BigAl September 16, 2012 at 11:10 am

I was wrong too. But not about State. I overestimated the quality of the opposition. Virginia is a very mediocore team and Navy doesn’t have FBS level talent.

None of the 9 teams left on State’s schedule are unbeatable either. Seven of them have already lost and the remaining two, Northwestern and Ohio State, look vulnerable. State COULD beat any of them, except Ohio State, on “any given” Saturday.

Despite what the blue kool aid drinkers are thinking today, State didn’t solve its problems on Saturday. Ficken is still a head case, the “tailbacks “(except Dukes and Belton) are a step too slow for FBS competition, Robinson is the only receiving threat, the safeties still suck, and State’s performance drops off considerably in the 2nd half.

State may have been one play away from a 2nd half collapse against Navy. Navy had a 3rd and 16 at the State 35 with about 4 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter when their back up quarterback’s pass hit a receiver at the two yard line and he dropped the ball. It would have been a difficult catch, but, had he held on, the score would have been 20-7 and Navy would have had plenty of time to score two more touchdowns. State’s offense only generated one second half touchdown. And that one resulted from a short field and a lucky bounce.

Joe September 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I sat in Section EG on a fabulous September Saturday around the 25 yard line and there is a different picture to be seen when you watch these guys in person and you see the entire play unfold on both sides of the ball. A lot of your points may be correct for now, but I think there is going to be continuous improvement in this operation as we move through the schedule.

First point-my initial prognostication on this season was based on your opposition observation-the B1G does suck this year. Across the board-every team including OSU (if it weren’t for a DB playing Miller to run and leaving a receiver WIDE open for the game winning score, the outcome might have been different). May not happen, but everyone is beatable by this PS team.

Second Point-It’s obvious that we don’t have a real breakaway threat out of the backfield like Oregon, but who was the last one we had? Ki-Jana Carter? The backs are serviceable and might be a little more breakaway-ish if/when we start using some screen packages. Remember you had a fullback playing TB in Zordich this week and Dukes is a pretty big hoss who I think would do well if he could catch the ball in space. I don’t think Belton or Day are true breakaway threats based on what I saw in the first two games but we’ll see. That being said, picking up 4-5 yards a pop is not bad running game productivity. Oh and “I’m transferring to USC for business reasons” Silas Redd’s performance Saturday-hardly breakaway caliber at 13 carries, 17 yards.

Third Point-Ficken at least got all of his kickoffs in the end zone (I think only one was returned, but short of the 25). PAT’s and FG’s are an adventure, but the kid can kick for distance (based on warm-up observations) and it would appear he just needs to put all of the mechanics together. Punting is a concern. A 35 yard average does not win a field position battle, but this is the girl we brought to the dance, so I guess we’re stuck with her. Besides I like going for it on fourth down instead of punting anyway!

Fourth Point-With the right players, this offense is going to be a gem. Watching the shifts, formations and different packages throughout the game brought a smile to my face (compared to wanting to throw the controller through the flat screen in previous years). I’ve also got to believe that we still have only seen a small part of the playbook. BOB does game plan for his opponents as the formations and calls were based on the defense Navy was using and were different than the first two games. There was also more TE involvement this week. On a side note, Christian Hackenburg has remarked after the VA game that BOB’s system is something that he feels he can have great success with.

Fifth Point-True Robinson got most of the receptions, but that’s because he was open and was most likely McGloin’s first deep read. Watching the other receivers as the play unfolded, you could see most of them open underneath. I think there might have been one pass where McG might have made the wrong read and was lucky it wasn’t picked. McGloin would have picked up a TD on the 4th and goal if Carter hadn’t stopped and then tried to restart his route in the back of the end zone. He was wide open if he would have just kept running! James, Gilliam, Carter and Jones all had balls thrown to them.

Sixth Point-Defense. Sorry this game was never in doubt. Roof had the triple option defensed pretty much perfectly throughout the game. Check out the FB’s stats-he’s the key in a TO offense. There was defensive line penetration on almost every play and some of the hits on the Navy backfield were positively gruesome. I’ll give the Navy QB’s credit, they escaped a bunch of what appeared to be sure tackle for loss plays by the sheer grace of God. Even if Navy would have closed to 20-7 as you suggest, the defense was playing too well to allow them to get back in this game. There were a couple of third down passes that were like replays of the first two games, where the safeties appeared to have good coverage, but the receiver came down with the ball anyway. It’s obvious to me that they need to find a corner to allow Amos to get back in a true safety position. Overall the defense played a better game than they did against VA.

Seventh Point-Yep that was a remarkable bounce catch for the TD, but Williams was OPEN and just did not catch the ball. Every team needs a bounce here or a bounce there (ask Ohio in that first game). From my viewing point, the Navy dropped pass at the two was not as close to being catchable as it might have appeared on the broadcast, but oh-well. The end result is it was not caught. (Seems we had a similar play last week at the end of the half that Bench threw in to the end zone and even though a difficult catch, maybe it should have been caught.) Coulda, shoulda, woulda doesn’t work in my book as there is no way to prove conclusively that a different result in one play changes the final outcome when you’re down by 13 with about 20 minutes of football left to play.

Last point-They did solve one of their problems on Saturday; they are no longer winless!

At this point, I don’t know what the hell their record will be at the end of November as to me keeping people healthy is the biggest concern and a potential wrecking ball for the season (Donovan Smith, Massaro, Belton and Day were all on the sideline), but watching the attitude and week to week performance improvement on both sides of the ball I like their chances to be moderately successful. There also looked like there were more cheeks in the seats for the Navy game than for Ohio, but it was a helluva supportive crowd!

So I’m going to continue sipping the Kool Aid, and give these kids and coaches some credit for what they accomplished Saturday. Try a sip, you might like it.

Seriously, remember this roster was inherited, had marginal talent (with the secondary being the most ignored by the previous administration), had bullshit sanctions imposed, the team raided for players, new coaches and offensive and defensive schemes and terminology and everyone and their brother telling them they couldn’t succeed in this environment especially with a first time head coach.

Well they had the emotional and VOCAL support of the fans in attendance on Saturday (the crowd was loud!) and there is visible evidence that this team is giving everything they have both physically and emotionally. And the product is good considering all of the above.

In the 50+ years I’ve been following PS, this is probably the team I’ll remember the most, maybe not for their on field results, but the absolute character and dedication of the guys that were on the field Saturday. And if they win 6, 7 or 8 games this year under these circumstances, BOB should be coach of the year (at least in the B1G).

Don’t know if they showed it during the game broadcast, but having the teams assemble first in front of the Navy midshipmen and then in front of the PS student section to sing the respective alma maters was spectacular!

BigAl September 16, 2012 at 11:17 pm

You’re right. The best way to evaluate a team is by watching them in person, especially from a vantage point behind the goalposts. You can’t really evaluate how well the receivers run routes or how well the offensive linemen block by watching TV.

There’s no doubt that O’Brien’s offense is a big improvement over Joe’s. And from what little I can see on TV, the offense lineman seem to be stronger and more aggressive. I just don’t see a whole lot of talent at the skill positions. I’ll take your word that the receivers are open. But, if they are, then McGloin isn’t finding them.

The problem with lack of tailback speed and vision (Day in particular missed some holes) will start to burn them in B1G play because most of the D Lines and linebackers are better than Navy’s or Virginia’s. Those 4 and 5 yard gains State got against Navy and Virginia will turn into 2 and 3 yard gains and the offense will become a one dimensional passing scheme that can’t control the clock.

The only saving grace is that most of the B1G teams have lousy quarterbacks and pedestrian offense schemes and they won’t be able to take full advantage of the lousy safety play. By the end of the first two B1G games we should be able to tell if State has any shot at a winning season. Even finishing 6 and 6 would be one hell of an accomplishment.

But I still can’t see State doing better than 3 and 5 in B1G play. The fall off in 2nd half performance is an ominious trend that figures to get worse as injuries and lack of depth start to take a toll. If McGloin should get hurt, they probably won’t win any game he can’t play.

Joe September 17, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Day didn’t play as you mentioned above, neither did Belton.

I think Zwiniak maybe had a carry or two, but Zordich and Dukes were the primary ball carriers.

Also Zordich was a FB playing TB and he did have a tendency to run “tall” on a lot of carries.

The Nittany Turkey September 17, 2012 at 4:50 am

The only thing Penn State has proven to my satisfaction is that they’re capable of playing in their old milieu, the pre-B1G, pre-BCS domain of eastern independents. I said playing, meaning putting up a good fight, but not necessarily winning. They’ll be fine playing Navy, Army, Maryland, Pitt, WVU, Syracuse, etc. You, know, the ones whose pennants used to fly atop the east and west stands when you could still see Mount Nittany. Remember when the parking guys used to sit in the crappy bleachers in the open (south) end? Yeah, now there’s a fucking Club Nittany there blocking the view of Mt. Nittany, but I digress.

Sorry, ol’ 50+ year optimist Joe, but I bet you thought the 2003 team was going to go 12-0, too, at the beginning of that season after Larry Johnson, Jr. had carried the team to 9-4 on his back the previous year. I appreciate your defense of your original projection, but you’ve left quite a few things to pick on, which curiously weren’t picked on by good ol’ BigAl.

I’m not convinced that the defense is to be given great credit for their work in this here Navy game. Penetration is great, if it disrupts the triple-option, but if you’re running the damn triple option or having sex, you want penetration. The defensive end is always on the radar, and the QB has to make the read quickly to see if he or she pinches down or what. So, now, on to the fullback. The Navy fullbacks got the ball 15 times for 35 yards. Now, maybe back in 1962—I’ll take your word for it—the fullback was counted on for big yards, but in latter day triple option offenses, the fullback is there to keep the defense honest. (I couldn’t recall 1962, because I just started following PSU football in 1964). So 2.3 yards average on 15 carries ain’t too bad for the “dive back”. What worries me is the seal and it isn’t happening if you’ve got three runners averaging over nine ypc, and one more averaging over eight. You’re happy with PSU runners getting 4-5 yards a pop. Why should you be content with a defense that allows that same number? I must be naive about this high falutin’ option business.

Nonetheless, I’ll credit the Big D for three fumbles and an INT. I hope the plus-size guys can stay on the plus side of that stat.

I am pleased with McGloin’s progress and increasing maturity. I would be pleased with receivers getting open if it wasn’t for the two facts that this was Navy, with probably the suckiest defensive secondary Penn State will face, and the Lions don’t have enough receiving options to beat halfway decent defenses. And contrary to your wishful thinking, I believe that B1G defenses are better’n’at. They ain’t the Steelers, but PSU ain’t got no Peyton Manning, either.

However, with the sucky Navy defense on the field, the Lions managed only 341 total yards. This was by no means a dominating offensive performance. Navy had the time of possession 36-24, they had 22 first downs to PSU’s 16, etc., etc. What’s that you say? “Stats are for losers?” No, they’re for the other guy who’s trying to make a point. Navy’s defense sucks, and we’ll probably see at least six defenses that are a helluva lot better during the remaining games.

I am also happy with the variety of plays and fresh look. But duh! How long overdue was that? Twenty years?

I’m still going to stick with my projection for the year. This team isn’t even 2003 mediocre. That 2003 team had a few guys on defense that wound up in the NFL, including Jay Alford, Rich Gardner, Tamba Hali, Scott Paxson, Anwar Phillips, a young Paul Posluszny, Derek Wake, Alan Zemaitis, and um Ed Johnson, (some of them All-Pro); and one murderer, Lavon Chisley. They had long-time NFL OT Levi Brown and former NFL fullback Sean McHugh. Yet, they got their asses kicked by BC, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa, OSU, Northwestern, and Moo U. that year. There was a woulda coulda shoulda in there with OSU. I guess the Buckeyes, who would finish #4, didn’t take a 2-6 team very seriously, because they won by a point. Our lads beat only Temple, Kent State, and Indiana that year.

Why? Issues at the skill positions, in the BigAl sense. Austin Scott and Michael Robinson were listed at tailback. There was one decent vertical receiver, Tony Johnson. They managed to score 14 points or less against all Big Ten opponents, except against unranked Wisconsin (23) and OSU’s anomaly of a game, in which they had 20.

We did have a kicking game in 2003. A fellow named Robbie Gould was the place kicker and an ex-Steeler named Jeremy Kapinos was the redshirt freshman punter.

I’d say Zack Mills and Matt McGloin are about even, eh?

So, I’m still advising you to protect your retinas from the glaring deficits in this team by putting down the rose colored glasses and donning some coool shades. These guys have a long roe to hoe, and it just starts to get interesting in two weeks.

—TNT

P.S.
Didn’t get to see the alma mater display, but that’s the cool kind of stuff that makes college football what it is (or what it should be). I like it.

Joe September 17, 2012 at 10:38 pm

So glad to see you’re prepared to join the talking head experts on ESPN and provide your detailed analysis of why beating Navy didn’t amount to jack shit because of your detailed statistical analysis.

Well you know what, a win is a win and pretty or ugly, no one remembers at the end of the season what it smelled like, and I’ll take as many like the one over Navy this season as they can produce.

So I’m an optimist, rose colored glasses, glass half full, yadda yadda, yadda guy so what. After I carried the thought of Joe’s three futile attempts to score against Alabama in the 1979 Sugar Bowl with the infamous SI cover of cut-off jerseyed Barry Krauss stopping Mike Guman at the goal line stuck in my mind for months until my wife finally said get over it, it’s only a frickin’ game!

So now I watch, because I love PS football. Yep I get pissed when someone makes a bonehead play and would love to see them in contention for a NC every couple of years, but we ain’t Alabama and never will be.

I’m an engineer so statistics are real to me when I’m designing something, but relying on statistics to measure the potential success or failure of a team’s performance is a waste of time and effort. The roadside is littered with teams that were great statistical performers who didn’t accomplish shit. Seems we hit 8-1 last year (before IT happened) with some of the most godawful offensive numbers ever seen. Remember “All he does is win!” John Shaffer?

No this team is short on 5 star talent (as was last year’s and the seasons you mention), but there is a bond here and they are behind their coach and the coach has their backs, so there is something of an intangible at work here.

This may be the last game we win this season or we could run the table-who the ‘eff knows, but for now I see something here and it’s something that’s been missing at PS during a lot of the past seasons and I like it. And you know in those first two games if a tipped pass becomes an interception instead of a reception for a TD and just one more FG is made and guess what, we’re 3-0.

So you can pan the talent, compare this team to the old “Beast of the East” days, or just perform statistical analysis until you’re blue in the face it won’t matter, because what you see on the field is all we got.

So a suggestion from “ol’ 50+ year optimist Joe”, pour yourself a Yuengling Lager, make a bowl of popcorn and watch “Hoosiers”. You might see that you don’t have to be the best to be the best and there just may be something in the works here that turns out pretty damn good!

Oh and I do have “cooool shades” and they aren’t fuckin’ rose colored.

The Nittany Turkey September 18, 2012 at 12:34 am

I am a natural born cynic, but I watch every game and attend some because I am, always was, and always will be a Penn State fan. That I am sometimes harsh in my judgment of the team in the clinical sense does not mean that there is any absence of pro-PSU sentimentality. Although it isn’t always possible — I couldn’t pick against the Nits in the opener because I felt for them — I try to boil out that component when I’m writing.

If I were to write about David and Goliath, not knowing the outcome, I would probably not give the spunky David a chance against the lumbering leviathan. It takes someone with much more vision and faith than I to write the one story out of a thousand that comes out differently in the end.

You went on record with a 12-0 prediction, so you apparently did your own analysis, statistical or emotional, in order to arrive at your position. I disagreed. By the end of the season, I’ll be no more correct than you are but we can agree on one thing: it is great to have a team on the field that cares about what it is doing and to have a coach on the sidelines who is deeply engaged in bringing the standard of play up to date. Welcome to Century 21.

You win some and you lose some. Stats are for losers, right? So is carping about the play that would have turned a loss into a win. I know a guy who is still pissed off that Sacca threw that pick six to Miami. You mentioned Barry Krause and Mike Guman. I can’t erase that as well as a similar stubborn-ass Paterno trick against Michigan fifteen years later. Four tries at it from the two, all fullback dives, and not even a thought of a play-action bootleg or anything creative. Joe thought it necessary to prove something by going at the opponent’s strength. Right up the gut. Yep, thanks Joe, may you rest in peace.

John Shaffer was an amazing case. All he did was win. Buddy Ryan got rid of Cris Carter because all he did was catch touchdown passes. Strong opinions work out sometimes; other times they make you look like a fool. I’m not afraid of the latter and don’t mind admitting that I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to football, and my pontification is meant to be more humorous than food for the serious student of the game. That doesn’t stifle my expression though. My opinions will not please everybody. I think Buddy Ryan probably said what everyone else says about opinions.

Sometimes, I wish I could be the cockeyed optimist of song. Smelling the sweet waft of the lavender of hope is certainly a more pleasant olfactory sensation than breathing the stench of the offal of despair. However, once in a while, when despair turns to hope, as it did in 2005 — just for a brief moment — the world was a sweeter place, even for this old curmudgeonly turkey right here.

The other old guys at the home don’t listen to me, either.

—TNT

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