This Turkey’s so-called infallible season forecast was so putridly protounprescient that I might as well have predicted a (still somewhat mythical) national championship.
Reader Parkeyboy was the first to react to my flawed prognostication. He was right on the money when he said, “You usually have a bleaker outlook which I find somewhat comforting. This year’s forecast has me feeling a little uneasy. No offense… How long will it be before we beat Michigan? Who knows? But you’re right, I do not see it happening this year.” I had predicted that the Nittany Lions would win games with all but two regular season opponents: Michigan and Wisconsin. Hey, at least I was correct about Michigan! So, let me apologize to Parkeyboy for screwing up the season.
Another big booboo was my preaching gloom and doom about the offensive line. I opined, “Even to become a mediocre Big Ten line, theyâ€™ll have to play together for a third of a season to understand what real game pressure and speed is all about.” They did better than that, obviously. I had stated that A.Q. Shipley was “barely adequate” at center. He turned out to be not only an excellent center, but also an inspirational leader for the unit—perhaps the only true leader on this team.
I could not have foreseen the demise of Austin Scott as a player or the effectiveness with which Rodney Kinlaw and Evan Royster stepped in to salvage a running game (with the help of the unexpectedly good offensive line). Had this duo not replaced Scott, the season would have turned out worse than it did, although how much worse is debatable, in light of some of the coaching decisions that left us bemused, bothered, and bewildered throughout the season.
Holy crap, I don’t want to harp on the coaching, which is an issue that I managed to avoid in my season prediction. As such, it is not germane to this self-critique. However, this being my blog, I’ll digress when I feel like it—and I sure as hell feel like it. How can I fathom the weird coaching about which the curmudgeonly Joseph V. Paterno continually deflects press questioning with a hand wave and an irascible, “You guys don’t know what you’re talking about!” at every press conference? How much longer can we tolerate the “none of your business” attitude expressed by Paterno, who has repeatedly issued crapolalia about leaving running the football team to him? Some coaching low-points of this season—nah, I’m not going to list them. You all know what they are. Paterno is not accountable to anyone other than God Almighty, whom he sometimes addresses in the first person.
My pre-season sentiment was that this group of Nittany Lions had the talent to go 10-2, and I still feel that way despite the underperforming proof in the pudding of a 8-4 actual record. How the talent was used was a problem but so was the motivation or lack of same evident throughout the season. I’ll stick to my guns about something that I’ve said regularly: this team lacks an inspirational leader. The tri-captaincy of Connor, Golden, and Morelli failed miserably. How could you call it leadership when Morelli taunted fans in an opponent’s stadium during a losing effort? Did it smack of leadership when Golden took that taunting a step farther with crotch-grabbing gestures? Aside from losing their captain status, their asses should have sat for several games for that infantile behavior. Nothing happened. It was business as usual. If these guys were supposed to be leaders, they should have carried the team’s weight on their shoulders, and that means not shielding Morelli from the press after losses, for one thing. This all smacks of, “You can be captain, son. Dad is the coach.” In any case, without leaders the team came out flat week after week, starting slowly and finishing weakly. They played down to the level of inferior competition and failed to rise to the level of better foes.
The big, winning Wisconsin game could have heralded a turn back to team health, but it didn’t. It turned out to be a big tease, a momentarily positive anomaly in the midst of a negative year.
Who would have foreseen a defensive collapse this year? This Turkey sure as hell didn’t. Yet the Penn State defense, long a reliable cornerstone, was weak in 2007. I didn’t think that could happen and neither did anyone else. Although I had some queasiness about the defensive line, I hopped on the bandwagon with respect to linebackers and secondary. I was pretty much 180 degrees out of phase with reality about the secondary, which proved to be no great shakes. Scirrotto disappeared for much of the season and Justin King did not perform anywhere near close to his vaunted potential. To compound their problems (or perhaps in recognition of them), the coaching staff saw fit to play them so far off receivers that the McCabe Sisters lined up in trips bunch with Alan Greenspan at quarterback could have burned them for 500 yards a game. This legacy of the 80s defenses of Jerry Sandusky must go. It does not work with the big, fast receivers of the modern era in college football. Hell, Buffalo and Indiana torched this pass defense. What further evidence does anyone need?
I need to reread this before I issue any more projections. Penn State’s football woes will not miraculously disappear no matter what I predict. It might be a long while before the Lions are competitive again in the upper echelon of college football. Assuming that they still can recruit talent—and that’s a big if—the coaching issues must be resolved eventually. That’s not an overnight fix. (I marvel at the commentary out there that suggests that if Penn State brings in a big name coach to replace Paterno, whenever that time comes, everything will be OK instantly.) Hell, Notre Dame must have thought that when they replaced Tyrone Willingham with Charlie Weis; just observe what that did for the Fighting Irish. Some programs go through several iterations of coaching staff replacements after the departure of long-time coaches before they get it right. Alabama in the post-Bear period is an example of how screwed up things can get. Doesn’t look like they’re ever going to get it right. But we’re Penn State, you say—it can’t happen here. Oh yes it can, homies! The same folks who will be choosing and hiring the new coach whenever that happens are the folks who have accepted the current situation for years.
I am optimistic about next year’s offensive line. Beyond that, I’ll reserve judgment for now.