Yeah, you read that correctly. After whipping the snot out of the Kent State Golden Flashes Saturday, 24-0, our old friends, the sports media men and women, have rewarded Penn State with a drop in the Associated Press ranking from #22 to #23. Isn’t that wonderful?
I mean, the Nittany Lions actually covered the spread this time, contrary to this Turkey’s prediction, and they played a dull, but lopsided game. Oh, sure, the opponent is a proverbial cupcake, but should the ranking drop after a victory, any victory? This Turkey thinks not, but I won’t dwell on it because it doesn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things, especially at this time of the year.
After the first quarter, in which the Lions scored a couple of quick touchdowns, the first on a Rob Bolden sneak from the one and the second with Evan Royster punching it in from the three, things settled down. After the second touchdown, I was fielding some impertinent comments about my prediction being way out of whack with reality. What did they think? Penn State was going to score 56? Not this team with this offensive line. My prediction turned out to be about 9 points too high. That’s more like it for PSU.
So, we fell asleep in the second quarter. Hell, it was the right thing to do for me. I was fasting for Yom Kippur while Jackstand and Zbeard were cramming down food and guzzling wine. It was significant deprivation this year, because it was Jackstand’s cooking I was missing, not my own. He does a helluva job with his souped up barbecue, which produces a 700 degree steak cooking environment instead of the typical 450. (I will not divulge Jackstand’s true name or location, lest his insurance underwriter find out.) I’ll bet it will do hot dogs in, like, 30 seconds, especially if you like that Cajun treat, Blackened Wiener. But I digress. Nothing happened in the second quarter. The score was still 14-0.
The first two Penn State drives of the third quarter ended in disaster. The first disaster was a fumble on the PSU 46 by Evan Royster after a three yard loss on first down after the second half kickoff. Kent State took the ball to the 30 and then missed a 47 yard field goal. The next abomination occurred after PSU started moving the ball, when Rob Bolden was intercepted on the PSU 46, his second of the day. Then the Lions added three by way of a Collin Wagner chip shot when they stalled at the 10 yard-line after a long drive during which they took almost 10 minutes off the game clock. During the drive, Royster was benched in favor of splitting the running duties between Stephfon Green and Silas Redd. Head Coach Joe Paterno said only that he wanted to try some other things out to jump start the running game. Royster sat out the rest of the game looking dejected.
That is kind of interesting, because Royster was the main thrust of the running game last year. What has happened to him? He hasn’t rushed for over 40 yards in any of the three games this year. Some say that he has gained weight and is slower. Others blame the offensive line. No doubt, both play a role in this continuing drama. However, what about attitude? Is Royster still the gung-ho guy he was last year, or is he flapping in the breeze? This brings up the question of team leadership, which also might be involved in Royster’s decreased productivity. A freshman quarterback is nobody’s leader. He has to earn the respect of the upperclassmen over time. Brett Bracket, a senior, was elected captain, but he’s a backup wide receiver. I’m not saying that Brackett is not a natural leader, and I’m not saying that Bolden will never be one, but for right now, I think the leadership vacuum is quite noticeable and it represents a valid concern. Perhaps Royster needs someone to grab him by the testes and tell him to get his head in the game. I dunno. What do you think?
Anyhow, I’m certain that the Royster situation has been on all of your minds, given the poor start he’s suffered this season. He left the game with 11 rushes for 38 yards. Green had 11 for 59 and Red, 6 for 24. So, something is obviously wrong.
Going into the fourth quarter, Penn State led 17-0. They were able to add one more touchdown on a spectacular 48-yard pass play from Bolden to Devon Smith at 8:37. After that, Kevin Newsome took over at quarterback and Silas Redd became the feature back. And that was all she wrote, with the final score 24-0.
It was a perfect late summer day, with temperatures in the mid-70s and a sunny blue sky. Yet paid attendance for this game was only 100,610, some 7,000 under capacity. This was easily seen on the TV screen, as about the top third of the student section was empty. It was a noon game, and I warned you about those in my preview post. There is decidedly less energy in da house for noon starts with non-conference cupcakes.
Let me give Kent State some credit, though. Although their running game was essentially shut down by the Penn State defense and by the absence of their star running back, their sophomore throwing machine, Spencer Keith, completed 20 of 36 passes for 170 yards with the Nittany Lion front seven providing constant pressure. Penn State had 382 total yards, but sloppily committed three turnovers—Bolden’s two interceptions and Royster’s fumble. Kent State hung in there for three quarters with the game in reach, but hope was lost when PSU scored its final TD.
Bolden is a rookie, and those interceptions were rookie mistakes. He’ll do better as he gains experience. In the meanwhile, he’s still on his honeymoon and no one is going to criticize him. He didn’t seem to let the picks bother him, and he rebounded quite well from last week’s pounding at Tuscaloosa. So, this Turkey thinks he’ll be fine.
We’ll be back later in the week to take a look at the next fine opponent, the Owls of Temple University, from the City of Brotherly love. There sure are a lot of brothers lovin’ it up there in Philly. Anyhow, catch y’all later!