If someone from Mars were to have seen the first half of the Penn State – Ohio State game and then immediately put into a coma for the return trip to his planet, upon wakening he would have asked, “By how much did Penn State win?” He would have been shocked out of his Size 3 Martian shorts when he was informed that Penn State wound up being blown out 38-14.
“I think [McGloin] got a little bit too anxious. That’s what usually happens with a young guy.” —Joe Paterno
The first half was a display of dominant football, the best half of football this Nittany Lions team has played all year, controlling the ball and scoring two touchdowns on what is arguably the best team in the Big Ten Conference while allowing them a single field goal. Before this game, Penn State had never scored more than one touchdown and 13 points in an entire game in Ohio Stadium since joining the Big Ten.
Both teams made halftime adjustments. Ohio State stiffened its pass defense. Penn State stiffened its anal sphincter.
Joe Paterno dialed back the big play offense that had allowed PSU to dominate the first half, opting for ball control football to sit on what appeared to be a decent lead. Time and time again we fans have seen this behavior in big road games, invoking the spirits of Bo and Woody in playing some rock ’em, sock ’em terrestrial football.
It didn’t work. This is a team that was outclassed talentwise and needed gimmicks to win in the arch-enemy’s backyard. The aggression and risk taking in the first half achieved superior results. However, if you want to play smashmouth against Ohio State, you better have the goods.
Derrick Moye, Graham Zug, Brett Brackett, Devon Smith, and Justin Brown all took a backseat role in the second half, as did walk-on quarterback sensation Matt McGloin. In run-happy sphincter mode, the Lions came out running on first and second downs, usually ending up in third and long. It didn’t help that for most of the half they were down to a single running back, freshman Silas Redd, who is hardly the guy one would choose to be the point man for the Loc-tite Steel Sphincter Smashmouth HD offense.
When OSU took a 24-14 lead with about ten minutes left in the game, Sphincter Mode yielded to Desperation Mode, which of course led to Mistake Mode. McGloin threw his second pick-six of the day, which nailed the Nittany Lions’ coffin shut. For the Lions, it would be nothing but three-and-outs for the remainder of the game, while the Buckeyes added another touchdown just because they could.
Now, I’m not saying that Penn State would have won this game if their coaching brain trust had not gotten constipated in the second half, but at least they would have had a chance. Paterno defends this style of play by pontificating that against good teams you don’t want to make a mistake that will lose the game. It turns out that in this case the gigantic mistake was coaching anally for the second half, in which there were two big mistakes and several little ones on the field to boot. By the time Paterno went back to the pass, everyone in Ohio Stadium and in the vast television audience knew that Penn State had to pass. McGloin’s confidence was visibly shaken at that point, too, and as the captain goes, so goes the ship. He’ll probably be blamed for the loss because of the two interceptions, but in reality it was ol’ Bear-Snare Butt himself.
Rob Bolden came in at the end and threw three incompletions. At least he won’t be blamed for any of this.
So, with two games to play, the Nittany Lions still look ragged. The next opponent is Indiana, upon whom Wisconsin just laid a 83-20 shellacking yesterday. Then, Michigan State and, thankfully, the end of this tempestuous Big Ten season. Rumors are, of course, flying by all over the place about this being Paterno’s last year.
This Turkey is hoping that the Michigan State game will be his swan song. I further hope that President Spanier and the Board of Trustees set the criteria for the search to exclude anyone with close coaching ties to Paterno, including Tom Bradley, Larry Johnson, Sr., and Jay Paterno. This program needs a new broom to sweep it clean. Sphincter Mode, the soft zone (inherited from Jerry Sandusky), and the prevent defense must go. And while we’re at it, some new blood will be helpful in taking a good, hard look at the strength and conditioning program, as far too many PSU players are getting hurt on the field and, as I’ve previously noted, those reaching the NFL seem to be more fragile than other rookies. Joe will go out his way—and I hope he is spared the obnoxious treatment Bobby Bowden got—but when he does, this crumbling program needs to embark on the immediate implementation of a top-to-bottom rehabilitation strategy that will bring back the glory of dear old State over the subsequent five years. While you can’t expect immediate results from a new coach, he must immediately commence to swing the wrecking ball before he can effect a renaissance. But I digress yet again.
The Lions, now 6-4 (3-3 Big Ten), don’t deserve a decent bowl game, but they’re liable to do better than their record would suggest, just because the greedy bowl promoters know that they have a cash cow in Penn State.
I haven’t looked at any of the rags this morning, but I bet that at least one hack headline writer comes up with “A Tale of Two Halves.” Just sayin’…