The Morelli Era is officially—and gladly—over. With the Nittany Lions’ 24-17 victory over Texas A&M in the 2007 Valero Alamo Bowl, the curtain falls on one of the biggest busts in Penn State recruiting history. The great promise that Morelli’s rifle arm dangled before us when we fans were wanting to dump Mike Robinson in order to play the great freshman brought us the ultimate reward of an arm with no brain; a rifle with defective sights.
We need to learn a couple of lessons from the Morelli Morass. First, remember that we fans did, in fact, whine for playing time for Morelli over Robinson, because we thought we could make personnel decisions better than Paterno and staff. This is pure folly, but it is the cornerstone of sports blogs, message boards, booster organizations, and David Jones. Fans always think they know better. Fans are fickle. A screwed-up game or two and they want to dump the quarterback. Second, the guy who is sitting on the bench only looks better because he hasn’t been given the opportunity to screw up yet. It is inevitable that when he comes in, his honeymoon will be brief before we know-it-all fans find enough flaws to jump on his case.
And so it goes, like clockwork. That’s the nature of the beast. Fans second-guessing coaches is what sells beer. How ludicrous a premise it is that CPAs, roofers, and students could manage a sports team better than the guys who are paid to do it and who must live with their decisions when they go home every night! Anyhow, we decided that we needed Morelli and then we decided that he sucked. And now it’s over.
Morelli’s final performance in blue and white was the quintessence of his career. Poor decisions, balls thrown too tall for his receivers, and a mediocre 15-31 for 143 yards with one TD and one INT was pretty much what we had come to expect from AM. He was at his best handing the ball to Rod Kinlaw or Evan Royster, who chewed up 143 and 65 yards, respectively. Penn State rolled up 270 yards on the ground, including a 50-yard, one touchdown performance from future QB Darryll Clark.
The Clark Era preview consisted of six plays that left me wondering how A&M, coached by a defensive coordinator, could get burned by the same play each time. Clark’s rushing average was 8.3 yards per carry. Each time, Clark would line up as shotgun QB with Morelli flanked wide. By the way, in one such case, Morelli threw a great block to spring Clark. Here’s to you, Anthony! That hard head can be useful at times.
Give it two games next year and Clark’s honeymoon will be over. Hell, fans can’t leave well enough alone. We’re already bitching about Pat Devlin probably sitting on the bench most of next year. Chronic malcontents we are, but that’s sports for ya!
A&M, as we knew they would, burned the defense with a couple of things. The punishing running of Jorvorskie Lane, whose name is reminiscent of a tree-lined street in Warsaw, wore down the Nittany Lions’ depleted defensive front four. With that big load (reported to be close to 300 lbs) pounding on them all day, the boys got tired. Furthermore, for variety, A&M QB Stephen McGee and speedy running back Mike Goodson ran the option at the Lions, knowing the difficulties Bradley’s boys have had defending it. For variety, McGee also knew that Penn State can’t defend the slant. The result was a balanced attack with 164 yards in both running and passing.
CollegeFootballNews.com came up with an interesting treatise on what lost the game for the Aggies. Specifically, the instant analysis article postulates that when McGee called a time-out on 3rd-and-3 at 8:34, he gave the Penn State defense a breather that enabled them to persevere. The game was close enough that any such blunder could have cause it to go one way or the other.
And so it was that the 81 year-old legend Joe Paterno coached his 500th game to achieve yet another bowl victory, while the hapless Aggies augmented their dismal bowl record.
And now, the Turkey will take a break from football. After eating his requisite New Years’ Pennsylvania Dutch spare ribs & sauerkraut, which would have my Orthodox Jewish grandmother rolling over in her grave, I’ll embark on a four-day backpacking/camping trip in the frigid Panhandle of Florida, where Wednesday night’s low is forecast to be an unFlorida-like 14 degrees. If I survive the freeze-out, I’ll be back here to blow off about non-football issues for a while. After all, I’ve earned the break from dissing Morelli and putting up the lightning rod to attract shots at Paterno, Paterno, and Hall.
With all that in mind, this Turkey wishes all of his distinguished readers (both of you) a healthy and happy New Year. See you in 2008!