Sorry for the lateness of this week’s preview and prediction. A long weekend, associated travel, and any number of aging Turkey ailments have conspired to delay this irascible fowl’s malinformed musings and pellucid prognostications until now. At this late hour, I can only offer a cursory effort. A thousand pardons!
All right. Enough already with the apologies. I need to get on with this so someone can stand up in the audience and yell, “You lie!”
We start by looking at the Nittany Lions’ performance last week against hapless Akron. Offensively, the running game was a disappointment, through no fault of the running backs. The offensive line sucked throughout, missing assignments and even running into each other at times. As this Turkey has noted many times in the past, it takes lots of practice and game experience to produce a cohesive and competent offensive line. This unit just started working together this summer. It’ll be a while until they’re up to speed. On the other hand, they did a decent job at pass protection. Remember, though, this was Akron. We won’t know how good they really are until Iowa rolls into town in two weeks.
The big surprise was the amount of work given to Devon Smith, a impressive, albeit lilliputian, freshman. Joseph Vincent Paterno, is that you coaching out there? Oy, playing freshmen, already? Pretty soon you’re going to start tweedle-dumming and tweedle-deeing, but I digress. Smith wound up with 7 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving, and 43 yards on his two kickoff returns.
With decent pass protection, Daryll Clark was able to operate in the pocket with ease, completing 29 of 40 passes for 353 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. However, he’ll have to be more patient with his check-downs, as he seemed to want to force the ball into coverage on several occasions. It is not a great idea to throw to a receiver with three defenders close by when you have another option that is more open. Duh! Clark’s backup, Kevin Newsome, another freshman, got some good game experience going 3-4 for 26 yards.
We expected the defensive secondary to get some tests, but Akron was not up to the task except for one 40-yard touchdown play. So, we still don’t know whether they’re going to be effective.
The defensive front seven were solid and effective. The ability of Larry Johnson to come up with a front four rotation was key, and it appears that he’s got a good scheme going. The defensive line was impressive. Linebacker play was excellent, too. Navorro Bowman injured his groin, giving Nate Stupar a chance to show his stuff. Bowman will probably continue to rest his groin this week. Sit back and have a toke, Navorro.
I have to say that the kicking game looks shaky this far. Collin Wagner, a State College kid, missed two of three field goals, one of the misses being 28 yards. His kickoffs were good. Let’s see how this goes this week against Syracuse, though, before we start pissing and moaning about getting Fera in there.
The game got ugly in the second half, as the Lions slept through it, but tightened up a bit after Akron scored their lone touchdown at the end of the third quarter.
So, what’s coming this week? The Syracuse Orangemen (0-1, 0-0 Big East) face the #5, 6, or 7 (depending on whose poll) Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at high noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The Orangemen are coming off a heartbreaking 23-20 overtime home loss to Minnesota.
Syracuse doesn’t have much of a running game, having run for only 90 yards against Minnesota, and they’re going to have even less of a running game against Penn State. So, they better rely on their converted basketballer QB, Greg Paulus, to throw up a shitload of 12-foot jumpers and a couple of “prayers” from mid-court (as we say in basketball circles), metaphorically speaking, of course. You see, Paulus played basketball at Duke, but was given a year of eligibility to play football at Syracuse after his basketball career ended. Before last week’s game, the last time Paulus played organized football was in high school, in 2004. It showed. Throwing mainly short passes, Paulus was 19-31 for only 167 yards. That said — I just confirmed myself as a total hack writer by writing “that said, …” — anyhow, that said, Paulus will have to come out throwing because a) the Syracuse running game sucks, and b) Penn State’s defensive secondary still needs to be tested. After last week’s non-test by Akron, Paulus and the Syracuse receivers will need to provide that test. So, test away, basketball boy!
After very little bullshit this week, that brings us to the weekly wanking you crave, the vaunted, valued, virtuous, verisimilitude of the perfunctory, punctilious pontification known as the Official Turkey Poop Prediction of the Week! But first, let me just say that Greg Paulus thinks he’s faced some tough crowds playing basketball on the road at the Dean Dome. Well, Basketball Boy, may your welcome to Beaver Stadium be a painful lesson in what a home field advantage really is. OK, so back to the outta my butt prediction. Current gambling line is 28.5 points with a 51-point over/under. That suggests a final score of something like 40-12. I firmly believe that Penn State can score more than 40, but I don’t think they will. Not if they fall asleep, as they did in the second half against Akron, anyway. So, I’m saying that the Nittany Lions don’t cover the spread yet again this week. Penn State 37, Syracuse 10.