Somehow, this Turkey foolishly and inexplicably got caught up in a spirit of rampant optimism following the sloppy Akron game. I said the following in last week’s prediction:
I keep coming back to whether our offensive line is up to the task. I think that our front-line defense can keep the game close, unless theyâ€™re on the field too long. Iâ€™m thinking that Coaches Dick Anderson (who, by the way, is old enough to have been the graduate assistant who led this Turkeyâ€™s Phys Ed class at â€˜State), and Bill Kenney have made great strides with the offensive line. But will it be enough? I think it might be. I think Morelli can throw two or three TD passes and Tony Hunt can gain 100 yards, too. And I think Johnson, Conner, Shaw I and Shaw II, and Posluszny will have the upper hand with B-Quinn. Hey, Jason Whitlock, the same AP voter who placed Notre Dame at #10 this past week also picks Penn State to win this game. So, why canâ€™t a Turkey? What the hell! Penn State 26, Notre Dame 22.
Was I nuts to pick State as the winner?
I think I waffled enough in the above paragraph to avert a trip to the nuthouse.
I hit the nail on the head when I said that the front seven could be effective unless they were on the field too long. They were indeed on the field too long, and it was a weary defensive line that started the second half with a 20–0 deficit.
I stated that the offensive line would have to improve—and it did—giving Morelli protection and opening holes for Tony Hunt. Was that enough? No, not when the rest of the offense is intent on giving the game away.
Special teams let us down in a big way. Yet another botched field goal was annoying. Jeremy Kapinos was off his usually effective punting, averaging only 35 yards. And the punt protection team stood there with their thumbs up their asses when Charlie Weis called a fake punt.
Turnovers reminded me of 2003-2004. A fumble by Morelli on an option run in which he looked awkward and out of place was a killer, as it wound up in Zbikowski’s hands with nothing but green between him and the end zone. What were our coaches thinking? Morelli is at his best in the pocket when he’s not handing the ball to Tony Hunt. Paterno takes the blame for Morelli’s other turnover, a Robinson-like mortar round interception. Morelli heaved the ball straight up into the wind and let it come down up for grabs. I guess Joe didn’t calculate the wind.
The linebackers were there when we needed them, which was often, given the weary defensive line and the ineffectual secondary. That secondary couldn’t cover this Turkey and his 86 year-old mother on a stop-and-go route. Furthermore, they hit like my 86 year-old online prescription mother.
OK, so we lost 41–17. The Nittany Lions got the crap kicked out of them by a better team. I was wrong. My predictions will reflect the realities of this team from here on.
Remember what I said at the outset, before I became the Phil Grosz of Florida:
Brady Quinn is a legitimate Heisman candidate. The Irish defense, however, is not exactly world class. Ohio State rang up 620 yards against it in Januaryâ€™s Fiesta Bowl. If PSU can exploit that weaknessâ€¦ Well, we still canâ€™t win. Not even if the McCabe sisters were substituted for the starting secondary would we have a chance of winning. Those of you who are going to South Bend, take along an extra six-pack of Old Bushmillâ€™s. The game will be worse than your hangover.
I just want to show you that my insanity was a temporary phenomenon. The Thanksgiving Bird was wrong about one thing in the above paragraph—the Notre Dame defense has improved quite markedly since the Fiesta Bowl.
But what about our defense? Posluszny, Conner, Lee, Shaw…those guys are solid. Alford and Johnson? They looked a lot better in the Akron game but they were outclassed by Notre Dame. We had no pass rush to speak of. The secondary? As I said, they were giving receivers a huge cushion and then not making them pay when they inevitably caught the ball. They were hitting like pussies. Safeties shouldn’t look like they’re afraid to put the hurt on the ball carrier. Overall, they did not have a big game attitude. They had no fire. They looked like they were wondering what to do next. Not good. We knew they were raw, but we thought that our vaunted coaching staff could bring them up to speed for this game. We were wrong.
What about the coaching, too? When even this bullshitting Turkey knows that one big key to the game was to put pressure on Brady Quinn on every down, but particularly passing downs, one would think that the coaches would get it. Instead, how many times did we see a three-man rush? How many blitzes did we see? Not very damn many. Quinn had time to survey the field, pull a sandwich out of his pocket, eat it, look up, wait for someone to open up, finish the sandwich, and then deliver the ball to a wide-open receiver. The vaunted Sandusky BBDB defense might work to some extent between the twenties, but when the opponents are in the red zone, it might be nice to pressure the quarterback for a change instead of rushing three and dropping back eight.
In short, we were outplayed, outcoached, outscored, and outstatted. We got a good old-fashioned ass-kicking.
I’m thinking that Austin Scott ought to be red-shirted. I’m not giving up on this season, but I’m going to be more realistic about our chances.