Penn State was able to remember temporarily how to play football in the second quarter of a game the #7 Nittany Lions (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) would ultimately win over the Indiana Hoosiers (3-8, 1-6 Big Ten), 34-7. Then, they lapsed again until they came out of the locker room after the intermission when the Nittany Lions, overwhelming favorites but leading by the slim margin of 10-7, finally got serious about putting the game away. It still wasn’t as easy as it could have been—and rightly, should have been
When will these guys ever learn that they have to play an entire game? They come out with wan, bemused looks on their faces in the first quarter on both sides of the ball and they proceed to give opponents hope when they should be closing them out early. Letting the other guy hang around the whole first half can lead to some nasty surprises, and we PSU fans and pseudo-pundits have had quite enough surprises this season, thank you very much.
Is it the “snake charmer” game plan now? Lull an overmatched opponent into a false sense of security by playing down to their level in the first half and then pouncing on them after the break. Unfortunately, that type of play is anathema to fan enthusiasm. We can’t cheer while we’re sleeping. Think that’s what they want? Nahhhh. Nobody coaches like that. If they really had planned it this way, as it seems they have all season long, they would put the second- and third-string in for the first half in order to have the first-string ready when it came time to play. Or do they need a half to get warmed up?
Daryll Clark is still in a slump. His passes lacked pinpoint accuracy, although he wound up 20-36 for 239 yards and two touchdowns. He also had eight rushes for 26 yards. Unfortunately, he was a bust with respect to the running game, having coughed up the ball twice. In looking at both plays, it did not appear as if either defender could have stripped the ball if Clark hadn’t let go of it. This Turkey wonders whether Clark has completely recovered from the concussion he suffered in the Ohio State game—emotionally, if not physically. Yea, verily, to cut Clark a little slack, the game day weather was crappy and ball grips were slippy. After the game, Paterno said Clark had “one of those days” and he kept him in there so Clark could regain his confidence and work his way through his problems.
Of course, as expected, after a couple of bad games, there are a veritable plethora of fans calling for Devlin just as they did when they wanted Morelli to play when Michael Robinson struggled. If fans were doing the coaching, things would be so perfect, right? WRONG!
After playing the magic flute for the Hoosiers in their opening drive, giving up three first downs, the Nittany Lion defense eventually decided to play a little smashmouth. From that point on, the defense yielded only three more first downs, a total of six for the game. They made one big mistake from that point, allowing the diminutive Marcus Thigpen to bust loose for a 57-yard touchdown run. Penn State gave up only 180 yards rushing and 57 yards passing. They forced one turnover; however, they lost the battle of turnovers three to one.
In spite of all its mature talent, the offense seemed to have its collective head up its collective ass. The quintessence of cranial rectal implant technology was exemplified by Dennis Landolt’s holding penalty on a screen play. The object of a screen play (Dennis, are you listening?) is to let the pass rushers get through the line so the linemen can run interference in front of whoever is running the ball. Generally, the offensive linemen act like they’re pass blocking for a count and then let the defenders get through to threaten the quarterback, who dumps the ball off to an eligible receiver stationed behind the rushers just before he is sacked. Landolt not only held his man, impeding him from getting through to the quarterback, but also, for good measure, he shoved the guy toward the developing play. Totally bush league, head up the ass play.
Did the Nittany Lions party too late last night? Are they going to use the noon kickoff to explain it? The weather? Neither of those are anything but lame-o excuses. Man up, guys! You’ve got too much talent to be delivering some of these half-assed performances we’ve seen. As for today, I’m done yelling at them, so I can tell you that they delivered 442 yards, of which 180 were on the ground. Leading rushers were Evan Royster and Derrick Williams, with 63 and 61 yards, respectively. On the other hand, this same Hoosiers’ defense allowed Central Michigan’s backup quarterback to throw for 485 yards and four touchdowns.
Deon Butler passed Bobby Engram on the all-time receptions list, with 167 career catches. Today, he had 56 yards on five catches.
Did anybody see Andrew Quarless out there? Clearly, Mickey Shuler started and played most snaps at tight end. I was wondering whether Quarless, a Ganja Three Action Figure, got demoted to third-string, as he should have been after last week’s two ignorant drops.
Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno coached once again from the press booth and says that he won’t be on the sideline again for the Michigan State game next week. Joe has finally admitted that he might need total hip replacement surgery, perhaps as early as the day after the Michigan State game. This Turkey had a total hip replacement seven and a half years ago and I highly recommend that Joe goes for it. The pain one suffers when the hip cartilage is shot and bone rubs on bone is indescribably intense, it is with one all the time, to the extent that it disrupts sleep, and it’s even worse when a hip replacement candidate puts any pressure on it, such as by walking or even just standing. It is a level of pain that disrupts one’s thought processes. Let’s hope Paterno is not so stubborn, as is typically his wont, to opt for the surgery. This is one operation the orthopedic surgeons have pretty much mastered. Complications are few and rehab is reasonably short. The best thing about it is regaining one’s former lifestyle. This Turkey has been regularly doing 10-13 mile hikes since the six-month milestone, with no hip pain at all. Nothing even feels unnatural. This is quite a contrast to the years leading up to surgery. I know exactly what Joe is going through, although his is probably worse because he is 20 years older than I. But I digress, albeit passionately, as this is a subject in which I’m deeply involved and well versed.
That takes care of the wrap-up for the Indiana game. This Turkey knows that he beat you all up by harping on the sleepy-time antics of the Lions in the first half, but I don’t know why it has to happen week after week after week, ad nauseam. A win is a win, but against a lot of decent teams, the hole PSU dug for themselves in the first half would have been fatal. They have two games left to fix the problem, because the teams they face in those games will be much better equipped to take advantage of Penn State screw-ups and lethargy.
Coming up: the big battle for the vaunted Land Grant Trophy, as Penn State hosts Moo U. on November 22. Paterno says that Michigan State is playing as well as anyone in the Big Ten at the moment, and it’s pretty hard to argue with that. Fortunately, kickoff for that game is scheduled for 3:30. The game this year turns out to have a higher purpose beyond the crappy trophy. It is for all the Big Ten marbles and a trip to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl. There should be no lack of enthusiasm. God, I hope so.