Zack Mills returned with a partially separated right shoulder, but it wasn’t enough to overcome an early 10 point lead by the Golden Gophers of Minnesota, as the Nittany Lions lost another one, 16–7. With the loss of Michael Robinson to a concussion, the offense—such as it was—has fallen on extremely hard times. The defense—well, at least we held Minnesota to 16 points, while allowing 288 rushing yards, half of them by Laurence Maroney. We must have looked like a formidable opponent to the pollsters, because in the wake of their victory, Minnesota jumped from 19th to 13th. Well, the Turkey has to find something positive! There were few bright spots to write about.
One such bright spot was in the linebacker play of freshman Dan Connor, who had eight tackles and a sack. Why is Derek Wake still starting, with Connor on the bench? Wake, who was credited for blocking a Minnesota field goal, would seem to be a reasonable choice for special teams. Connor and sophomore Paul Posluszny form the core of the linebacker corps of the future. In view of our continual poor performance against the run, we need them to be there in the present!
“We’re not as bad as some people think we are at stopping the run,” Paterno said. “We dropped passes, sure I’m frustrated. If we catch the ball and hold them to 16 points … it’s a different ball game.”
So, let’s see, Joe…if we hadn’t dropped the passes, we would have contained Maroney? I’m still scratching my head over this non-sequitur. Maybe Joe meant that our rushing defense is good because the safeties eventually catch the runners. Of course, they’re playing 20 yards off the ball in Cover 2 zone.
Another bright spot, possibly, maybe was the first touchdown in six quarters. When the Lions got close to scoring, rumor has it that they put in a call to the FBI, because they found a quantity of white powder that they hadn’t seen before—but it turned out to be the goal line. (OK, OK, the Turkey admits to recycling an old Tampa Bay Buccaneers joke!) This point of light occurred on a six-yard toss from Mills to tight end Isaac Smolko with 2:24 left in the third quarter, which turned out to be our only score of the game.
The Big Ten replay system was put to its first test in a PSU game early in the first quarter, as the replay officials made a miniscule adjustment in the spotting of a ball in the PSU red zone, as Minnesota threatened. All well and good, but when a dubious-looking call went against the Nittany Lions later in the game, nothing happened. No replay. I don’t know whether the officials are trying to limit the number of replay interruptions per game, or what. Draw your own conclusions. The Turkey does not wish to accuse the Big Ten of anything untoward.
It is hard to find much good to say about this game. In the words of Joe Paterno himself, “There are no highlights when you lose.” I suppose we could take pride in “holding” the Gophers to 401 yards of total offense, which was their lowest of the season.
Where from here?
“We just have to find some people who can make a play,” Paterno admitted in his post-game press conference. “We’re going to have to bite the bullet on some people who had a chance but didn’t get the job done when it’s on the line. We’ll take a good look and see where we are.”
Where are we, Joe? We’re 2-3 and tied for last place in the Big Ten with the likes of Indiana and Illinois. That’s where we are. With five games under our belt, we’re talking about “finding people who can make a play.” Two questions beg for an answer: why are we just figuring out who can play, and why are we not recruiting first-rate offensive talent? With six games left—the meat of the season—we are talking about searching for the players who might not exist, at least on this particular team. Can we get it together or is this wishful thinking? After all, the pivotal game for the season is this week’s contest with Purdue.
What lies ahead is distressing. If we want to have any hope of going to the Motor City Bowl, we have to win three of the remaining six games. The Nittany Turkey is struggling to find three potential wins in the rest of our schedule.
In October, we face #9 Purdue, Iowa, and #18 Ohio State. Purdue has been leading NCAA Division I-A in scoring offense. They were a bit below their total points average this week in beating Notre Dame in South Bend 41-16. The Iowa Hawkeyes are in the middle of the Big Ten pack, having beaten Michigan State but having been beaten by Michigan previously. Still, Iowa scored 17 points against Michigan, which has proven to be enough to beat Penn State, with our current offensive woes. Ohio State is coming off a tough loss to (we all thought) lowly Northwestern, thus their drop from #6 to #18 in the polls.
In November, it’s Nortwestern, Indiana, and Michigan State. We might be able to count on Indiana to roll over for us, but the other two are anything but certain wins. In fact, after the Wildcats just put the hurt on OSU, this turkey has to say that November is in dire shape.
I thought that the tradition was to schedule pussy opponents for homecoming. Apparently, this year’s game either slipped through the scheduling cracks or nobody thought much of #9 Purdue (4–0, 1–0) when the schedule was made. Boilermaker quarterback Kyle Orton has the makings of a real stud. They are averaging 549 yards total offense and 47.3 points per game. However, their only Big Ten victory was over weak sister Illinois, 38–30. Purdue’s first big test was Notre Dame this past weekend; they handled the Fighting Irish in South Bend, winning by a score of 41–16. There are still many question marks. If the mighty Nittany Lions can step up to this task for homecoming, they can regain the confidence they have been missing of late. Of course, they’ll have to get a confidence boost before playing this game if they hope to win. Catch-22?
This cynical Thanksgiving fowl will go out on a limb with his prediction for this week. Assuming that Joe plays Connor and Mark Rubin, and Alan Zemaitis does not play like Terri Zemaitis, and we catch more passes than we drop or have picked, I will optimistically predict that we’ll hold Purdue under their season average while putting a few points on the board ourselves. My sunny-side-up, no-holds-barred, we-will-find some-offense, “you must be nuts” prediction is Purdue 38, PSU 27. And you can take that to the sperm bank.