The title above represents my impression of the Wisconsin game: a comfortable win in comfortable environs, played with a high comfort level among comfortable players. The coaching even seemed more comfortable than usual. I suppose that a blowout win gives the appearance of comfort at all levels, but this Turkey thinks there’s more to it than just its superficial aspect. This team has indeed somehow become more comfortable. And before we leave this ad nauseum abuse of the comfort theme behind, let me just say that the 109,000+ fans no doubt consumed great quantities of liquid comfort on Saturday night in State College.
OK, the facts. State beat #19 Wisconsin 38-7 to bring both schools’ records to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s vaunted running game was effectively curtailed by the Nittany Lions, with P.J. Hill held to a season low 70 yards. Penn State consistently won the battle of the trenches. The PSU Blogosphere’s favorite whipping boy, Anthony Morelli, looked more like a real quarterback, going 16-28 for 216 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. And Rodney Kinlaw, the mid-season replacement for the deposed Austin Scott, had another fine day, as did his backup, Evan Royster, with 115 and 68 yards, respectively, a touchdown each, and no fumbles.
Morelli kept hitting Terrell Golden—primarily because Terrell Golden was consistently wide open, a forgotten man in Wisconsin’s game plan. With the defense busy covering Butler, Norwood, and Williams, Golden got a bunch of easy throws early in the game until Wisconsin reacted—slowly. Morelli looked much more poised in his stationary pocket presence (which moves about as much as a concrete bunker). He seemed—what’s the word I abused above?—comfortable out there.
Of course, the Nittany Lions’ defense seemed to have forgotten about true freshman Kyle Jefferson because, I suppose, they were too worried about Travis Beckum. Jefferson wound up with six receptions for 124 yards, whereas Beckum caught five for 70 yards.
It was good to see both offensive and defensive lines performing well. This Turkey had previously thought that the offensive line was a bust from Day One this year, and that they would never come together. Well, wonder of wonders, they played like men out there against Wisconsin, not like the McCabe Sisters.
The game plan was significantly more wide-open than what we’re accustomed to. The Offensive Brain Trust (OBT) felt that they could throw on Wisconsin’s much-maligned secondary. So that’s what they did. Even on first down. It was refreshing to watch this brand of football, and I hope that it gives the OBT enough confidence to employ it in the future. (Yeah, I know—next week we are on the road in Indiana and we’ll come out running up the gut…)
Both teams had issues that held them back. Wisconsin’s P.J. Hill had a nagging groin injury, and the Badgers’ best wide receiver, Luke Swan, is out for the season. The Nittany Lions had off-field issues too numerous to mention here, but covered well elsewhere. Interestingly enough, Chris Baker and Knowledge Timmons, both rumored by the usual on-line wonks to be suspended, actually played in this game, while Chris Bell and Phil Taylor did not. However, Baker and Timmons usually are starters, and both sat for the first half. Bell and Taylor practiced on Wednesday, but Baker and Timmons were there in street clothes. Paterno would only sat that Bell and Taylor were in his doghouse. These four are all rumored to be complicit in the Sunday morning rumble at the HUB following the Iowa game.
All in all, it was a satisfying and refreshing win in the wake of the continual negative publicity the program has received of late. If this is a harbinger of things to come, the Nittany Lions could win all of their remaing games but one, that one being Ohio State the week after next. Still, combined with the well-played Wisconsin game, a successful road trip to Indiana could prove inspirational enough to give the Lions the confidence needed to fight the Buckeyes to the death. After all, undefeated teams are being knocked off right and left this year, so OSU’s number might well be up in a fortnight. But I digress. The road trip to Indiana comes first and if there’s too much looking past it to the Ohio State game, then it will become a trap game. So, cuidado, hombres! I’ll be back with a look at that game on Wednesday.
More Turmoil in the Top 10
Does anyone want to win the Still Somewhat Mythical National Championship (SSMNC) this year? Yesterday saw yet a couple more high-profile losses by heretofore undefeated teams. LSU, formerly #1, went down to #17 Kentucky in triple-overtime. Unranked Oregon State beat #2 Cal. So who’s left undefeated? Ohio State, Boston College, South Florida, and Hawaii. I would expect that the rankings this week will be OSU #1, BC #2, and USF #3, followed by one or more one-loss teams, and then Hawaii (because they’re a more lightly regarded WAC team). However, if Ohio State should happen to lose to either Penn State, Wisconsin, or Michigan, let’s say, and BC loses to Virginia Tech, FSU, or Miami, we might be looking at a SSMNC game involving USF and Hawaii. That would be retarded.