Pull My Finger

Quaecumque sunt veraThis year’s Homecoming game features an undefeated, untied conference opponent, and Penn State’s first ranked opponent of the year, somewhat surprisingly in the purple uniformed Northwestern Wildcats (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten). The ‘Cats are primed for a letdown after last week’s sound, 44-29 thrashing of poor ol’ Indiana, in which they generated 704 yards.  (However, the good news is that the Hoosiers were able to ring up 425 on the wimpy NWU defense.)

Can one classify a game in which there are 1129 yards of offense as a “pitchers’ duel”?

Meanwhile, Penn State (3-2, 1-0) seeks its second conference victory, in a topsy-turvy year in which it is possible for either Ohio State or Penn State to win the Leaders’ Division and then not participate in postseason play, thanks to draconian NCAA sanctions. So, there’s a lot more at stake here than initially meets the eye.

Speaking of Larry Johnson, Jr., the chronic ne’er do well is at it again, this time in Vegasssssss. Maybe he’ll wind up sharing a cell with O.J., and they can together spend the rest of their days looking for the real killer, and perhaps blaming “old coaches” for Nicole’s death. Paterno is safe, but look out, Dick Vermeil!

I guess the big question is whether this guy Kain Colter is for real, or just a statistic. The junior running back carried 14 times for 161 yards and four TDs—but wait! That’s not all! He also had nine receptions for 131 yards and managed to complete one out of three passes with an INT, exemplifying Darrell Royal’s maxim that if you throw the ball, three things can happen and two of them are bad. David Jones of PennLive.com writes that Colter’s major goal is to have a game in which he amasses 100 yards passing, 100 yards rushing, and 100 yards receiving. This guy appears to be a handful, but we’ll know a lot more after seeing him perform in this game, facing what is arguably the best defense thus far.

That defense, particularly the linebackers, has to show up for this game. Mike Mauti doesn’t have artificial issues like coaches raiding the team at the NCAA’s behest to motivate him. I’m not a doubter — I think he’ll come through. However, I’ve got a real problem with this defensive unit shutting down in the second half. That crap has to stop. Particularly in the third quarter, with Colter and company, you snooze, you lose.

Meanwhile, back in the backfield, sophomore quarterback Trevor Siemian awaits and he is no monkey. The lad from Windermere, Florida, which is right around the Turkey’s trotting grounds, is having a remarkable year, sporting a 137.8 QB rating. The Wildcats’ opponents haven’t been replete with sparkling defensive secondaries, no, man, no the likes of Syracuse, Vandy, BC, South Dakota, and of course, Indiana, against whom Siemian completed 22 of 32 for 308 yards and one INT. Clearly, ol’ Trev hasn’t been facing much resistance. That all changes this week.

As if that’s not all, junior running back Venric Mark, a 5-8, 175 lb bowling ball, can find holes and slam through them. Venric hit the Mark last week, with 29 carries for 139 yards. He’s a steady guy in the backfield who has also been known to catch a pass or two during a game.

While the Nittany Lions showed a little something during the Illinois game, our feelings about this team are far from solidified.  That’s probably due in part to the liquid situation at running back. Hack sportswriters are known to label this “running back by committee”. OK, so we don’t have anyone like Larry Johnson, Jr. to count on for 40 carries and 200 yards per game, but Penn State can still have — and must have — a sound running game. Crippled from the start by the departure of feature back Silas Redd for greener pastures, along with injuries to Bill Belton and Derek Day, the ground attack can wait no longer for the results of the experiment to arrive. Zach Zwinak has emerged as the 100-yard guy. Who would have thought that at the beginning of the season. The running game needs to get ungetrakt against NWU.

Although it is still honeymoon time for Bill O’Brien, fans are starting to realize that their new head coach, who many PSU pussies didn’t want when they saw him dressing down Tom Brady on the sidelines of a Patriots game (“We’re Penn State… we don’t want a coach who is mean and yells at players… O’Brien is crude OMGOMG” — yeah, like Paterno never yelled at players, right? Oh, yeah, Joe’s behavior gets the Homey Hypocrisy Exemption, but I digress)— is a superb offensive coordinator. After watching variants of the Brown single-wing for 50 years, this guy is a joy to watch — and he provides a decided advantage over other teams, even the elite ones. BoB know offense.

And what a wonderful thing it is for this aged, foul fowl to see the tight ends completely immersed in the offense! We’ve been asking for it for years, having squandered a veritable plethora of pro-caliber tight ends, indeed, not having to include one in any significant portion of a game plan since the departure of Kyle Brady. In fact, last week, another Kyle — freshman tight end Kyle Carter — was the leading receiver, and Carter is the second leading receiver for the season to date.

This is not to say that the offense should rely completely on tight end productivity, and it doesn’t. Allan Robinson is the leading receiver, and he can stretch the field both ways.

It remains to be seen how O’Brien and Ted Roof will do on the other side of the ball. The defensive secondary remains a worry.

Special teams haven’t yet solidified for Penn State this year and that aspect might represent the difference in this game, which the sports books have deemed to be a close one.

The noon start is problematical, too. Although it’s at home, it’s Homecoming, damnit! That means partying with alums and hangovers and all. With the crowds at Beaver Stadium looking anemic this year — worse than in other years in which an inferior product has been put on the field — student involvement must increase and become more passionate. Bill O’Brien knows that, and accordingly, he made a personal appeal to the students to show up on time and support their team. Also, an informal groundswell has precipitated an unofficial white-out status for this game. We don’t have Guido around to declare them officially anymore!

The weather. What is it they say? Give it five minutes and it will change? Well, you can bet Cardale Jones‘ stupid Buckeye ass that early October is the time to make that old bromide come true. Our friends at AccuWeather.com® are predicting a sprinkle or two in the morning, with a high of 62F/17C/290K, as a weak cold front moves through the area.

Have I covered all the intangibles? The game will be broadcast on ESPN, and the same crew as last week (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, and Jenn Brown) will handle the announcing chores.

I almost forgot a little bit of a plug for our opponent’s institution. It must befuddle some of today’s undereducated youth to think that someone would call a university that is right smack-dab in Heartland, U.S.A. Northwestern. Whassup wit dat? (I’m picturing Kenan Thompson in a red velvet suit with some sexy backup singers intoning, “Oooooooooooooooo whee…..whassuppppppp….. wit daaaaaaaaat…”) Situated in Evanston, Illinois, just outside Chicago. Northwest? Yeah, well, way back when, what we now know as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin (plus an itty-bitty little slice of Minnesota) were the Northwest Territories. Yeah, I know. That moniker lacked foresight, because there was a lot of territory more norther and more wester to be involved in our manifest destiny expansion. So, when John Evans founded the university in 1851, it was with recognition of the former name of the area that he named it. Cool beans.

If ever there were an Ivy League of the Midwest, it would have to include Northwestern. Well reputed graduate schools in Management, Medicine, and Law put it right up there among the top universities in the US. The School of Communication and the Medill School of Journalism have produced many famous media wonks, actors, and commentators. USNWR ranked NWU #12 in the US.

Charlton Heston
“Soylent Green is peopllllllllllle!”

So, who, you ask? Who’s our representative Willie the Wildcat NWU alum? Oh, man, the list is long, including prominent figures like Rahm Emanuel, Rod Blagojevich, Adlai Stevenson, Saul Bellow, and Justice John Paul Stevens, as well as Julia-Louis Dreyfuss, Zoey Deschanel, Stephen Colbert, and Tony Randall. However, just because I liked the iconic film Soylent Green, I have chosen Charlton Heston as our Northwestern University poster boy, a posthumous award in his case. We also liked the former NRA president’s support of Second Amendment rights and love for guns. And oh, by the way, Charlton Heston was not his original name. He was born John Charles Carter.

Whither then, the Official Turkey Poop Prognostication?

Forthwith, my friends. Stay thirsty.

The gamble-ators have expressed doubts that Willie is worthy of the 5-0 record. After all, they barely beat Syracuse by the slim margin of a point out of close to 100 scored in the opening game of the season. Penn State is favored by 2.5 points with an over/under of 47, suggesting a predicted final outcome of 25-22 in favor of the larger felines. We’re still having a great deal of difficulty with our predictions this year, perhaps relating to an occult fecal impaction of the optic nerve, producing a shitty outlook—I dunno. Hell, last week, I thought Illinois could give the Nitty Kitties a battle. I was wrong. Now, this week, if I make it a runaway, I’ll be wrong again. I don’t think much of NWU’s defense, but I worry about Colter. With the PSU offensive line healthy, I’m feeling very confident in the capabilities of the Nittany Lion offense. Megacats 27, Mildcats 23. Take the over. PSU beats the spread again.

I’ll be back later with a game recap and a towel to wipe the egg off my face.

To my readers: I love you. What would I ever do without you. I sincerely thank you for reading my meager literary contributions here and I hope I don’t piss too many of you off.