Last night, this Turkey watched a televised NFL pre-season game pitting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets. Besides my quasi-rooting interest in the Bucs, being the NFL team that plays closest to the Turkey’s roost, I was hoping for a glimpse of PSU alumnus Alan Zemaitis in his new uniform. I was not disappointed.
Zemaitis, wearing number 29, took his familiar left cornerback position for the Bucs in the second quarter when the first team sat down. The position was the same, but how he played it was anything but. His coverage was tight and he even jammed receivers at the line of scrimmage. Toward the end of the first half, with the Jets threatening in the red zone, Zemaitis broke up a pass to the corner of the end zone which was right on target. (I wish he had done the same to that kid in the Michigan game last year, but I digress.) He had been blanketing the receiver stride for stride. This was definitely not the Penn State soft zone.
The TV announcer, Chris Myers, calling the replay, first mispronounced Zemaitis’ name and was corrected by his partner, Ron Jaworski. Myers then came back, referring to the touchdown saving play with the puniferous slogan, “He’s got ‘Zemaitis touch’.” Ouch!
Zemaitis has a lot of work ahead of him and it will be difficult for him to get significant playing time in a defense where the starting cornerbacks are Pro Bowlers Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly. However, we Nittany Lions are well aware of his strong work ethic and positive attitude, which should serve him well in the NFL.
In other NFL pre-season action, I was lucky enough to tune into the second half of a game between the St. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts in which undrafted PSU free agent Matthew Rice was getting his first game experience. Wearing number 69, defensive tackle Rice made himself very visible, sacking the Colts’ third-string quarterback twice. After the second unassisted sack, Rice raised his arms in celebration, a move that undoubtedly would have precipitated a stern talking-to by his old coach.
Michael Robinson, listed as a wide receiver on the roster, was used more as a halfback in his debut with the San Francisco 49ers. He had two receptions for 26 yards, but also wound up with 11 carries for 31 yards. His stint took place in the third and fourth quarters.
In this afternoon’s Steeers-Cardinals game, in which the Steelers sucked, Isaac Smolko, wearing #48, scored the Steelers’ only touchdown, catching a pass thrown by the Steelers’ fourth-string quarterback in the corner of the end zone in the waning minutes of the game, employing some impressive footwork to stay in bounds. Alas, it is doubtful that Smolko will make the team, inasmuch as the Steelers are already quite deep at tight end. Scott Paxson also got a call in the second half of the Steelers game.
Finally, he’s not a rookie, but Arizona Cardinal Penn Stater Bryant Johnson started out his season well with his performance in the first half of this game. He seems to be Kurt Warner’s favorite receiver. Obviously, things could change there if and when Matt Leinart ever ends his holdout.