The final score 36-31 doesn’t tell you much about this game. It was that close. The Indiana Hoosiers were worthy opponents. As for my prediction (45-17), I underestimated Indiana’s offense and overestimated the Nittany Lions’. The win brings the Nittany Lions’ record to 6-2 (3-2 Big Ten) while inspiring a meaningless #24 ranking in the AP poll.
The win has to be classified as bittersweet due to significant injuries. Matt Hahn tore his ACL, which will probably end his football career. Jared Odrick, who had broken his hand in the Wisconsin game, broke a bone in his ankle against Indiana. He was able to play with a broken hand, but he won’t play with a broken ankle. He’s out for the year. Thus, the already banged up defensive line is even thinner than before.
Were you surprised at how easily Indiana marched down the field in its opening drive? Where is our vaunted defense? Kellen Lewis wound up torching us for 318 yards passing, going 30-48 with 3 TDs. They, like other opponents this year, have challenged so-called lock down corner Justin King, which has been a successful strategy all season. (And this lad wants to go to the NFL after this season? I’ll once again exhort King to think twice about that, especially since he’s been playing with his thumbs up his ass the whole season and every Big Ten coach knows that he can be beaten.) By predictably concentrating on stopping the run in the defensive game plan we sent the following message to the Indiana coaching staff: “You can’t run on us, so try the pass. It has worked for others.” I’d say that 48 pass attempts pretty much says that they took our advice seriously. James Hardy, Indiana’s 6’7″ Junior wide receiver, was responsible for most of the damage, with 14 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns. He was lined up on King.
Meanwhile, when the Nittany Lions got the ball, they came out throwing. Did that surprise you, too? I was fully expecting “sphincter mode.” But the offensive brain trust had Morelli throwing out there, short routes but nevertheless passes, particularly in the first half before the anus clamped shut. (Hey, why is it that when an offensive plan is acceptable to us “expert” fans, Galen Hall gets the credit; whereas when the plan sucks, it’s Jay Paterno who gets the raspberries?) I suppose it can be argued that they were throwing safe swing passes all day, which are only slightly less risky and slightly more effective than running the ball on every down. I often wonder whether our offensive coaches shouldn’t have their testosterone levels checked. Morelli went 22-32 for 195 yards, 2 TDs, and one very unnecessary interception, in which he led Butler by about 10 yards, dropping the lob right into the waiting arms of an Indiana safety who was playing center field in the end zone. Unlike the Indiana offense, PSU’s was balanced, with Kinlaw, Royster, Hahn, and Morelli running for 192 yards. Yes, I said Morelli. While A-Mo wound up with -2 yards net, he actually had one 11-yard scramble for a first down that was ugly, but effective.
In the second half, sphincteritis kicked in, and were it not for Indiana’s fortuitous turnovers, the Nittany Lions could have very easily lost this game. One thing is for certain: we still have red-zone problems, as evidenced by Kevin Kelly having kicked three second-half field goals of 22, 21, and 2o yards. That equates to kicking from the 5, 4, and 3 yard-line. All three fizzled drives started with an Indiana turnover. So, the Lions semi-squandered three sparkling opportunities, getting a total of 9 points instead of 21. Something is very sick when the defense hands the offense the ball inside the 20 and the offense can’t do anything about it. It fully equates to discovering a different hot, naked girl in one’s dorm room three nights in a row and having no clue as to what to do with them, consequently telling them to put their clothes on and go home. The play calling was definitely that timid. I guess it was with the self-deprecating realization that the Lions don’t know what they’re doing inside the twenty that our coaching geniuses kicked an extra point instead of going for two in a situation that called for it in the second quarter.
Indiana deserves a lot of credit for what they’ve done with this team. They’ll probably wind up being bowl eligible this year. I believe that the Penn State defensive squad has a new found respect for the Hoosier offense. Kellen Lewis and James Hardy are seriously talented athletes. Hats off to the Hoosiers.
OK, then. With this one safely in the win column, it is now appropriate to look ahead to next Saturday’s showdown with #1 Ohio State. Number One, my ass. I don’t think they’re any closer to actually being the top team in the country than they were last year when the pretenders were embarrassed by the Gators in the Still Somewhat Mythical National Championship Game (SSMNCG). They just happen to be winning a war of attrition, playing patsy-ass opponents while the likes of LSU play tough games against REAL teams. We already know that everybody in the Big Ten sucks this year; just add wins over Akron, Youngstown State, Kent State and a 2-5 Washington team to victories over the dregs of the Big Ten (Northwester, Minnesota, Purdue, and Michigan State) and you have a fraud pretending to be Number One. They’ve got a helluva good defense (on paper) and they’ve got the swagger of a champion. But should they be so fortunate as to wind up with their ass in the SSMNCG, they’ll get the aforesaid ass soundly kicked once again. I’ll be back on Wednesday with more irreverent, albeit insouciant, commentary about these pretenders and the Nittany Lions’ chances against them. This Turkey thinks they can be beaten, but should that happen, I further think the importance of such a victory shouldn’t be overinflated. First things first. We’ve got to win. Sure, the Big Ten sucks this year, but bragging rights accrue to those who beat the best, even if it’s the best of the worst.
With regard to Justin King…Rumor is (based on a couple message board postings I’ve read) he injured his shoulder pretty bad on the interception in made back in the ND game. I actually remember this play and him looking like he hurt it pretty bad by his reaction after the play. Supposedly he will need surgery after the season to repair the injury. Like I said, this is just based on MB postings, so take it with a grain of salt, but it does make sense and would help to explain King’s problems this season and his tentativeness in tackling.
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks for the info, T.C. I’d like to believe that there is a good reason for King’s less than stellar performance this year, and those rumors could certainly provide a plausible explanation. Whether or not they’re true, King would be wise to play another year of collegiate ball before he declares for the NFL draft.