Obscure Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs reference notwithstanding, this Turkey thinks that the Nittany Lions are going to need to shape up in a hurry to get the Big Ten season started with any kind of a statement. However, that is a topic for a later post. This one will be devoted to “It is what it is” and the somewhat disappointing Temple game.
Penn State (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) came into the game ranked #5 nationally. In the past two years, they had easily handled unranked Temple (0-2, 0-0 MAC), so all the prognosticators out there were convinced that the Lions could light up the Jumbotron with a veritable plethora of points. This Turkey had mixed feelings. There was no way the Lions were going to lose this game to the Owls, but I felt that it would be a lot closer than most expected. I did, however, think that they could beat the spread for the first time this year. I was wrong about that part. I had them just beating the 30.5 point spread at 37-6. They wound up not covering, the final score being 31-6.
Penn State is not getting the point production expected out of them by gamblers, blogsters, and media wonks this year, against so-called “patsy” opponents such as Akron, Syracuse, and Temple. Recall that during the off-season, lots of writers and barroom bloviators were completely dismissing these first three opponents, and then further declaring the rest of the season an “easy schedule.” How many of them are re-thinking their 12-0 and 11-1 regular season predictions now? I know, I know. I’m being the consummate pessimist again. After all, we did see some semblance of a rushing attack this week (which I’ll caution you to take with half a grain of salt, because it was against Temple). However, in your heart of hearts — or at least in your logical mind of logical minds — does this look like the #5 team in the country?
This Turkey believes that ranking to be inflated by about 10 positions, although polls at this juncture are next to worthless. We just saw #1 Florida’s invincibility challenged by Tennessee, and we saw #3 USC getting dumped by Washington. Last week, #2 Oklahoma lost to Brigham Young. Until Week Eight, these things are meaningless, merely providing fodder for the aforementioned barroom bloviators and material-starved blogsters. Hell, some blogs and major media outlets even conduct fan polls. What could be more meaningless than what a bunch of homeys think about their favored teams. But what the hell. People don’t even analyze issues when they’re voting for President these days. Voting with their hearts instead of their brains renders useless results. Anyhow, do you really think that Penn State, lacking a cohesive offensive line and battle-tested defensive secondary, absent an even halfway decent kickoff coverage scheme, is better than #12 USC or #13 Ohio State? Well, Cincinnati is #14, and I’m not about to suggest that PSU isn’t as good as the Bearcats. So let’s, for the sake of argument, propose that they’re a worthy #14 in the Turkey Poop All-Too-Early-In-Da-Season Unilateral Single Vote Poll. Phil Grosz, please enumerate five reasons (with consecutive integer numerical prefixes for your paragraphs, please) why I’m wrong in my simple-minded, birdbrained reasoning. Drawing on your vast repertoire of comparisons to past teams, please waste my time expostulating on those vacuous parallels. Tell me how we’re #5 because Wisniewski used a towel to dry his crotch the same way Jeff Hartings did in 1993. Whatever.
Oh, yeah. I’m on a roll tonight. No doubt, I’m pissing off all three of my readers. Nobody wants to agree with me, I know. Hell, not even you, Mom?
In my highly opinionated pre-game article, I wrote that Royster and Green would have to run for at least 190 yards in this game to convince me that they were able to have a chance against Big Ten front sevens. The entire rushing offense was 186 yards, of which Royster had 134 — and 119 of those were in the first half. (All of this while having flu symptoms and, in Paterno’s words, “feeling lousy.” All things considered, Royster had one helluva good individual performance day, and just think about what he’ll be able to do when he’s feeling well!) Green had only 19, although he a touchdown on the ground and doubled as a receiving option with two catches for 28 yards. So, anyhow, 153 yards is not 190. I can be as arbitrary as anyone else, but I chose that 190 yard line of demarcation for a reason. I forget what the hell it was, but it doesn’t matter. If I can’t pull something out of my ass every now and then, I have no business blogging sports or sitting in a bar discussing who will win on Dancing with the Stars. But I digress. Are you convinced that the offensive line can support the run against Iowa later this week? I’m not. And whose opinions count, besides yours and mine.
To be fair, it is indeed true that many team members were suffering from some flu-like ailment this week, which has affected many college team thus far this year. We weren’t seeing individual players at their physical peak, and furthermore, some players had to be isolated during the week to avoid spreading the Swineskin Flu, which didn’t help in preparing for this game.
There was one change on the offensive line, which is still not living up to pre-season expectations (well, except mine). Johnny Troutman replaced Matt Stankiewicz as starting left guard. Blocking was still deficient, and for the first time this season, the pass protection was breached on several occasions. Fortunately, the Owls chose to not sell out on the run, as had Akron and Syracuse before them, leaving their safeties back in their normal position.
Phil Grosz and everyone else writing or commentating on Penn State football can say what they want, but the proof is going to be on the field. Microanalyzing this stuff from the desk in one’s study doesn’t mean a damn thing. So, why the hell would you read this? As Phil would say, here are five reasons.
1. Assuming that you have an important meeting coming up when you need to be adversarial, this will provide a warmup for you. You can get pissed off at me and then carry it forward into the meeting, much to the chagrin of your opponents.
2. Please disregard #1 if you are a proponent of the modern, pussified non-competitive approach to interpersonal relationships. But if you’re not competitive, what the hell are you doing hanging around football fields, anyhow.
3. You want to laugh at an idiot, making idiotic pronouncements straight out of left field.
4. You’re a hot babe who has long wanted to get into my pants and you think that flattering me about my writing is the key to the zipper. Well, you’re wrong, honey! I’m all Jenny’s, and don’t you forget it.
5. It is possible — albeit akin to the fabled “Butterfly Effect” — that through some strange coincidental quirk of alternate reality, the Nittany Turkey is right.
And thus, I offer my conclusion that in spite of Royster’s great day, the running game is not yet ready for Big Ten prime time. The forthcoming week will determine whether I’m right or wrong, but if I’m wrong, you still have four good reasons to continue reading this trash!
OK, so back to the game. Darryl Clark had a less than stellar day, as Temple was able to put some pressure on him for the first time this season. He went 16-20 for 167 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. The Zugster had but a single reception, and the Moyeburger, although snagging four, had only 31 yards. The leading gainer among all receivers was Andrew Quarless, with three receptions for 45 yards.
Special teams are still an issue. As I had briefly mentioned above, the kickoff coverage was nothing short of horrendous. The Owls averaged 24.8 yards per return. This is Temple, folks. What’s going to happen when we run into some Big Ten returners with an extra gear? The Nittany Lions did a little better on punt returns, giving up 7 yards per return. However, the bright spot is Jeremy Boone’s punting. He averaged 47.8 yards. Moreover, Colin Wagner did not miss a field goal this week; however, he seems to have trouble getting kickoffs into the opponents’ end zone.
Meanwhile, on defense, Penn State was not able to get enough pressure on Temple quarterback Vaughn Charlton to contain him, something that lowly Villanova had been able to do. Charlton went 15-33 for 205 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Villanova was able to intercept him three times. However, as expected, Temple wasn’t able to move the ball on the ground against the best part of the Nittany Lion defense, winding up the day with a net production of 46 yards.
The Nittany Lions have given up seven points or fewer in their first three outings this year, the first time that’s happened since 1996. However, the first opponent that year was USC, not Akron.
We’ll be back later in the week with a look at the big clash with the Iowa Hawkeyes, and with anything else that comes to mind in the meanwhile.
With the Nittany Lions’ Big Ten schedule on the near horizon, we offer the following prayer: May the Schwartz Be With You!