He’s not saying much about the offensive line in public, but the Nittany Lions’ venerable head coach Joe Paterno has been fuming privately. His distemper spilled over onto the sideline at last weekend’s Syracuse game, as he replaced ineffectual guards Eliades and Stankiewicz with Troutman and Barham. It’s ironic that NHL hockey season just started, because now Paterno seems to be replacing lines on the fly — and the puck wasn’t even in the neutral zone.
We know that we have some new guys and we moved some other guys around. However, we at The Nittany Turkey (Artificially Sweetened, the Mouse, and I), feel that the present starting group has had enough time to show what they can — or more evidently, cannot — do.
So, now that Troutman has shed 20 pounds or so from his corpulent peak of 325, how about starting him? How about coming to the realization that Wisniewski might not be functional at center?
We are coming to the edge of the Big Ten season, and the Nittany Lions are not going to succeed without a running game. Moreover, they’re not going to have a running game if they stick with this offensive line.
Scout.com reports as follows:
“The big issue is the interior. Stefen Wisniewski is picking up one of the most challenging positions on the field (center). The guards (Matt Stankiewitch and Lou Eliades) are having a tough time picking up their roles consistently.” Observers indicate that first-team practice reps are now split between Stankiewitch, Eliades, Quinn Barham and Johnnie Troutman. “[The coaches] are trying to find the right combination heading into Big Ten play.
One more week to tune up, then comes Iowa. It’s almost too late to be farting around with different combinations. However, something has to be done; 2.2 yards per carry is abominable, and will lose games for Penn State as the Big Ten season progresses.
About that, Ron Musselman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, says:
The team’s trademark running game has ground to a halt because of ineffective play on the offensive line. The Nittany Lions rank 94th among 109 Division I teams, averaging only 107 yards per game.
Did any of you ever — ever — think you would see a day when Penn State couldn’t move the ball on the ground? That end of first quarter goal-line stand by Syracuse was pitiful. Well, not for them — it was a great defensive stand — but for Penn State it was damn well pitiful! The coaches’ exasperation with the Lions’ running game led them to hedge their bets in a similar situation in the fourth quarter. After two unsuccessful attempts at blasting the ball up the middle from the 2 yard-line, Clark threw the ball to tight end Mickey Shuler for the TD. I was sitting there wondering whether they were going to continue to try to knock down that brick wall by breathing heavily in the direction of the goal line. The line sure as hell wasn’t surging and PSU was telegraphing its play calls directly to the Syracuse sideline — or so it seemed. The Orangemen sure as hell were stuffing the middle as if they had Paterno’s famous script in hand.
Jay Paterno agrees that the play calling in short yardage situations is too predictable by the opponent. In that same Ron Musselman article, he states:
“I think there’s something to that, absolutely,” he said. “… I think you never want to be where [the other team is saying], ‘Hey, they’re going to do this, they’re going to do that.’ And we may be that a little bit on the goal line. We’ve not been a real good goal-line team. That’s one area we have to improve tremendously.”
No kidding. They haven’t been a good goal-line team, that’s for damn sure.
It seems likely that Dick Anderson will be making some changes. At least this Turkey hopes so.
Temple is the last of the four-touchdown spreads. Then it gets serious. (I’m not counting Eastern Illinois. That game is scheduled for October 10. I’d be surprised if it is on the board at all!)
I’ll be back later in the week with my take on Temple, and, of course, the Official Turkey Poop Prediction.