UNIVERSITY PARK, September 3. The Nittany Lions began their 2005 campaign with a less than impressive 23-13 win over the University of South Florida Bulls in their opener at Beaver Stadium. Neither the Penn State offense, nor the vaunted defense was extremely impressive.
The PSU offense, replete with new (for Paterno), spread formations was somewhat impressive early. That lasted until Michael Robinson lost the ball to end the first series. As the game wore on, however, the offense seemed to become more and more ineffectual against the upstart USF defense.
I though that there was some hope when the first offensive play from scrimmage was a long pass play. It turned out to be the only one of the game. After that, the passes were mostly short, safe sideline affairs. This is the Paterno philosophy—that the passing game is essentially a diversion to stretch the defense to provide some rushing room. The Bulls didn’t buy it, frequently cheating the secondary up to the line.
The Mighty Nittany Lion offensive line sucked big time on running plays. The term “surge” couldn’t possibly apply to anything the O-line did today. They sucked at pass protection, too. Of course, we expected that.
Nevertheless, Tony Hunt and Justin King had some pretty impressive runs, attributable to their individual effort. Aside from breaking a few big gainers, though, the running game bit the big one. We certainly didn’t expect so many plays that called Michael Robinson’s number. Hell, the offense was borderline impotent. Alas, their dose of Viagra, Anthony Morelli, spent the whole game getting pine splinters in his ass cheeks. Wonderful. Oh, and did I say that the offense gave up two fumbles and an interception? Doesn’t this seem like the start we got off to last year? Michael Robinson committed three of those three turnovers.
I didn’t know how long I would last before calling for Morelli, but now I’ve seen all I need to see.
I bet that Big Ten defensive coordinators will be salivating while watching the tapes of the Penn State offense. One of the big plays of the game, a slow developing reverse to Justin King, would be stuffed quickly by big, quick Big Ten defenses.
The defense gave up almost 300 yards and 18 first downs. They got burned for two touchdowns on exactly the same passing play to the same receiver. They allowed USF to go 2-2 in fourth down conversions. There were, of course, some outstanding individual plays—such as Alan Zemaitis’ interception that he ran in for a touchdown. But as a whole, this unit is not yet ready for prime time.
Perhaps some of the defensive issues relate to our geniuses who are sitting out some games on suspension or who have been declared academically ineligible, unnecessarily depleting the defense’s depth. Perhaps the defense was worn out by being on the field so much because of the inept offense. They are bound to be demoralizaed by an offense that cannot keep the ball for more than three downs at a stretch and that cannot put points on the board without the defense handing them the ball in the red zone with gift wrap and a great big damn bow. They looked tired in the fourth quarter. How are they going to look in October?
This game did not give me any great, warm, fuzzy feelings. I wanted to see some big, convincing wins over the first three patsy opponents. What did I get? A game that wasn’t decided until the fourth quarter. Penn State didn’t even cover the spread. I’m hoping that by the time the Cincinnati Bearcats roll into town next week, there will be major improvements. A good start will be to declare an end to the Michael Robinson experiment. Bring in Morelli!