Lots of people think that Penn State still is in the running for a BCS bowl this year. That might well be the case, but I cringe at the thought of crappy special teams play making the Nittany Lions a laughingstock in a big, highly visible BCS bowl.
I don’t think the coaching staff has any answers for the lousy play. In fact, the big guy himself was his old, testy self at the press conference, throwing out flippant responses to serious questions about the special teams’ incompetence.
Yes, indeed. Joe Paterno’s got me worried. He says that he’s going to go out there and show them how he did it at Brown, where he still holds the record for most yards gained on punt returns in a single day. Perhaps the Nittany Lions would be better off with Joe returning punts at 83 years of age, bionic hip and all. When it gets down to Joe offering to do it himself, then you know there’s something to worry about. It might have been tongue-in-cheek and, yeah, he was talking about practice, not the actual game, but how bad is it when the old man himself offers to take over? Pretty bad.
So, here we are, facing the last game of the year with a dysfunctional special teams unit — still. Well, “still” is too bland a word in that context, as they’ve gone from bad to worse. This is a season of regression to the mean, not of raising the level of play. It seems pretty obvious that many of the special teams guys don’t want to be out there, and those who do aren’t getting support from the rest. When you can’t count on guys like Graham Zug, you know it needs to be nuked and rebuilt from the ground up.
I’m not suggesting a special teams coach. The NCAA only allows each school so many coaches. If I was as smart as all the message board geniuses, blogwonks, and lowly sportswriters who think a special teams coach is a pat solution that will transform this fucked up recon platoon into an elite company of fighting men, I’d be pontificating about it here. However, I’m obviously not that smart, as I have no solution to propose. I tend to agree with Paterno that personnel changes are necessary on the field, though, although this is sure as hell not the right time of year to be thinking about that. The special teams coach deal is TFE (that means “too easy”), much akin to changing the head coach if the team has a losing record. You can’t fire the team, so fire the coach. That’s the way fandom works these days. This Turkey is of the opinion that if you don’t have the personnel on the field, you can’t do the job. I’m sorry to say that this year’s personnel pool is largely mediocre, if not in talent, then in attitude. Accordingly, don’t expect any marked improvement between now and the end of that wonderful bowl game you are all hoping for. Moreover, you ain’t going to see what you perceive as a panacea — the vaunted special teams coach — anytime soon.
There. I got that off my chest. Now on to the Michigan State game. Moooooooooooooo U!