Let me be the last to ring in with my comments about the Alabama game. Let’s face it: yesterday was the first full day of the 2010 NFL schedule, so who had time to blog, already? Soitenly not dis Turkey.
As you know by now, the then #18 Nittany Lions traveled to steamy Tuscaloosa to square off with the #1 Crimson Tide of Alabama on Saturday night. The results were not pretty. When the final gun sounded, Penn State had been able to muster only a single field goal, while Alabama had visited the end zone three times and kicked one through the uprights for a final score of 24-3. I won’t go into excruciating statistical details. You’ve probably already reviewed all of them and were as disgusted by them as I was, particularly with the four turnovers.
As outmatched as PSU was, they would have had to play a near perfect game to have a chance to win. While the turnovers in themselves did not lose the game for the Lions, not committing them might have kept the game closer. However, good defenses cause turnovers, and I think we can conclude that Alabama has a pretty damn good defense.
Other screwups compounded the problems for Penn State. Anthony Fera showed his human side with a couple of shanked punts that weren’t about to win any field position wars. In my pre-game column, I had expressed a great, big question mark about Fera’s punting, given that he had logged only one punt against weak Youngstown State. And, of course, our offensive line, still truly offensive and not yet ready for prime time, did its share of screwing up. We observed that DeOn’tae Pannell, our best apostrophed name, but a screw-up at guard, was relieved by frequent Paterno doghouse resident Johnnie Troutman, with whom he had been rotating during the YSU game. Troutman came in and promptly screwed up.
Looking across to the other guys, one has to conclude that Alabama is a legitimate number one team. Without two stars, Heisman winning running back Mark Ingram, and defensive end Marcell Dareus, arguably their best players on offense and defense, the Crimson Tide functioned nearly flawlessly, making dispatching the hapless Lions look easy.
When Ingram returns, he’s going to have a battle with Trent Richardson for playing time. Richardson is a monster who bench presses 460 lbs and runs like a bull, only faster. When he ran at the Lions’ strength, it was like that bull was running through a picket fence. Richardson rang up 144 yards and a touchdown. Watching him carry defenders on his back, I could see this guy playing in the NFL—like next Sunday!
Recalling my prediction of 38-6, this Turkey expected a poorer performance from Penn State. The defense was putrid, not forcing a single turnover while allowing the Tide to roll up over 400 yards, but they could have been putrider. Allowing 24 points instead of 38 averts at least some embarrassment, as does the offense managing to get a 3-pointer to avoid the insult of a shutout.
This Turkey was worried about injuries to PSU players’ bodies and psyches, particularly with respect to our young quarterback, Rob Bolden. Fortunately, Bolden avoided bodily injury, as his much maligned offensive line was able to provide protection such that through 29 pass attempts, he was not flattened a single time. The one serious physical injury occurred on the opening kickoff when Gerald Hodges, a decent special teams linebacker, rolled up his leg. It remains to be seen how deeply injured the Nittany Lions psyches might be, but was replacing Bolden with Kevin Newsome in the fourth quarter just a little stupid? Sure, Bolden is the starter and we don’t want to see him hurt, but wasn’t it a blow to his self-confidence? When you’re down in the fourth quarter, you want your starting quarterback in there with the game on his shoulders.
The game was a learning experience. It revealed the flaws in every unit, every component, every player the coaches put on the field.
Irascible head coach Joe Paterno declared in a turbid post-game free-for-all interview with the media that “We were outplayed and outcoached.” I think he might have been a little rough on himself and his staff. Frankly, I thought the game plan was fine, more aggressive than I thought it would be, given Paterno’s history of tightening up the anal sphincter for big road games. I had expected it to be a Woody Hayes style offensive game, but it was far from it. Bolden was given the green light to throw the ball downfield, pass on early downs, throw over the middle, and so forth. I think that the coaches realized that Alabama’s defensive line was not going to allow the struggling, suddenly ineffectual Royster any running room, particularly given the state of the PSU offensive line, so they knew they had to throw. Perhaps that this is what Paterno was so pissed off about after the game. They couldn’t play his kind of game!
Then again, there are haters like Ohio State homeboy David Jones of the Patriot-News, who gives me enough good reasons to pick on him, who say that Penn State’s game plan was too tight. Which game were they watching? Did they ever see a Paterno team with a green quarterback throwing repeatedly on first down? I didn’t think so.
I won’t dispute the notion that Penn State was outplayed. Hell, the results are right there on the scoreboard for all to see. Penn State players on offense, defense, and special teams were not sharp and couldn’t execute the plays given to them by the coaches. We want to blame the coaches when our team loses, but we can’t sit back acting stupid about a collection of players who as a whole lack the necessary talent and gumption to win big games. Desire can be coached only to a certain extent. If it doesn’t show up on the field, it isn’t the fault of the coaching staff. It’s da playaz, yo.
So, who of you perennial optimists out there are looking for an 11-1 season and a trip to the SSMNC?
I CAN’T HEARRRRRRRRRRR YOU!
Let me offer an apology, if I may. In my pre-game commentary, I got carried away in describing the adversity Rob Bolden would face in Bryant-Denny Stadium. “…[he] will be playing against the SSMNCs in a hostile stadium loaded with 100,000 rednecks yelling ‘Rooooooooll Tahd!!’ and hoping he gets his brains knocked out his nostrils.” Folks, that was offensive and I’m sorry I wrote it. Alabama fans have to be among the nicest, most football savvy fans in the nation. I can say this from personal experience over many years as well as the tweets from our fans who made the trip to Tuscaloosa. They’re not rednecks. They’re southern gentlemen and ladies who know the meaning of southern hospitality. If PSU is going to lose on the road, let it be places like Tuscaloosa where they have class and where they appreciate good football. Alas, there aren’t many such places left.
Back to what we learned from the game, our running game is in a shambles, and something must be done to shake up the squad. Sure, Alabama could make anybody trying to run on them look bad, but our backs sucked against the mighty FCS Penguins the previous week. What is it with Evan Royster. He had 32 yards on 9 carries. Stephfon Green couldn’t even top that, with 5 carries for 13 yards—a 2.6 ypc average. This is not even Woodyball. Two yards and a cloud of dust leads to three-and-out. Sophomore Devon Smith (2 for 8 yds) and freshman Silas Redd (5 for 26) yards looked better than their upperclassmen colleagues. Redd was particularly exciting, although by the time he got in, the game was well in hand for Alabama and their defense was getting weary. Nevertheless, I say give these two some more playing time and see what happens.
In summary, it was a beat-down. This was the wrong year to schedule Alabama, especially at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and especially on the anniversary of legendary Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s birth. Alabama comes to Beaver Stadium next year, and I hope to hell the Nittany Lions are ready for them by then. This year, they clearly weren’t.
I’ll be back later in the week with a look forward to the mighty Kent State Golden Flashes.