I hate these stupid early season “tune-up” games. I hate writing about them. This mental block has kept me from writing about Temple, which has kept me from writing about Eastern Michigan, which has kept me from writing about anything else out of guilt for not writing anything about Temple. Now, I’m writing from a sense of last minute obligation, a modicum of counterprocrastination, as it were. So, this article will suck. It will be a combination of a rant about the Temple game and a look forward to tomorrow’s Beaver Stadium clash with the mighty Eagles of Directionality. Go ahead and read it. I dare you.
I mentioned last week that Temple would be the quintessential trap game. You know, noon start, big spread, team just coming off a hard fought loss, Temple with a new coach and unbridled optimism, Temple with nothing to lose and everything to gain, etc. It kind of played out that way, giving Temple fans hope until hope finally ran out on them. The mood among Penn State fans, however, was glum, prompting Jay Paterno to state on Facebook, “I didn’t see the last few minutes, but I thought we won.” It sucked that the Nittany Lions needed to score a touchdown halfway through the fourth period to overcome a 10-7 deficit and beat Temple, which was in the game until the final minute. So, it didn’t feel like much of a win.
Jay’s point is well taken. A win is a win is a win. He added that “we have many things to work on.” Yes, like field goal kicking. Between their two kickers, PSU was 0-3 in field goal tries. They were fortunate to make two PATs the old fashioned way. I’m actually somewhat surprised that Paterno didn’t attempt two-point conversions. How could he have any confidence at all in kickers at this point? The offensive line is still a shambles, too, and with the exception of Derek Moye, who suddenly learned to catch, notching seven receptions, and Justin Brown, with six, receivers still can’t catch. The quarterback wars persist, but neither quarterback is inspiring great confidence. The running game is good, not great. Silas Redd didn’t top 100 yards against Temple.
But the big story is that Penn State still cannot do its job of scoring touchdowns once inside the opponent’s thirty. The Lions had the edge over Temple in time of possession, first downs, total yards, and turnovers, yet they barely beat the Owls. It used to be that the Lions having to settle for three because of conservative play calling inside the thirty used to piss me off; now, we cannot even count on the three due to the aforementioned kicking morass. As Joe Paterno says, “Make it look like you’ve been there before!” Well, we have, and it sucks.
This Turkey predicted a somewhat higher scoring game than it actually was. I suppose that I thought the Lions were farther along than they actually are. I correctly predicted that they would have to come from behind to beat the Owls, my feeling having been that Penn State rarely does very well early in away games with noon starts. Having not seen a breakout game for this team yet, I cannot make very optimistic predictions. The problem as I see it is not that they need to improve — that is obvious — but whether they can improve. I’m not certain that this team has the wherewithal to accomplish that.
Moving along to this week’s noon start — ahem! — the Nittany Lions (2-1) square off with the high-flying Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-1), who are just coming off a 31-3 loss to their non-directional cousins from Ann Arbor. The Yinzers from Ypsilanti were never really in that game, in which Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson ran roughshod over the Iggle defense for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson has the capability of being a one-man wrecking crew against a sloppy defense. Surprisingly, though, this week’s Mid-American Conference foe ranks 29th in total defense.
Run, run, run. See the eagle run. Eagle have clipped wings. Not much of a passing threat at all. Instead, they hand the ball off to sophomore scat back Javonti Greene, who has piled up 358 yards in his three games this season. Of these, 85 were earned against the Wolverines. Junior quarterback Alex Gillett tucks the ball away and runs, too. He’s got 211 net yards thus far. So, it’s really up to the Penn State front seven to contain these two. I think you’ll see a lot of eight and maybe nine in the box against the witheringly slippery running attack. Against Michigan, there was barely a passing attack, but the Eagles ran for 207 yards, mostly on the legs of the aforementioned backs. Even being behind by big numbers most of the game, EMU attempted only six passes. (Why aren’t they called the Emus?)
Meanwhile, the Penn State rushing offense is somewhat hampered by the non-game injury to Brandon Beachum, who has been Silas Redd’s backup. Beachum, who sprained his ankle, will not play, opening the door to someone farther down the depth chart. Will it be Curtis Dukes? That’s an interesting proposition, inasmuch as we haven’t seen Stephfon Green play yet this season, and Dukes was one of Green’s customers in Statestoregate. If Green is in Paterno’s doghouse, then surely Dukes must be, too, right? I mean, which is the worse offense, buying a cold one for a minor or drinking one as a minor?
Inasmuch as the unconfirmed rumor that Kerry Collins would be leaving the Colts and coming back as a Penn State graduate assistant with a special year of playing eligibility granted to him by the NCAA (inspired by a payoff from Indianapolis fans) turned out to be false, the quarterback tag team continues with no clear winner in sight. Doesn’t this suck? This Turkey thinks it bites the big one and JJ (JoeJay) better shit or get off the damn pot.
Speaking of the pot, we all know that Penn State’s field goal kicking is for shit. So, they stall inside the opponent’s 30 and run draws on third and long to position the ball for kickers who have about as much chance of putting one through the uprights as I have getting a job in the Obama Administration. Why not unleash shock and awe instead of playing analball if you’re going to come away with no points doing the latter? Huh? Huh? I don’t think kickers can improve from a nofer game to be anything resembling a weapon in a week. Throw the damn ball! At least Lion receivers catch the ball sometimes and Lion quarterbacks are on target sometimes.
So, here we go again. Noon start, lackluster opponent from a lesser conference, the quarterback do-si-do, semi-competent offensive line that can’t hold blocks long enough to effectively protect whichever quarterback is in there, and little or no production from the kicking game — a veritable can’t-miss game! On the scale of 0-to-10, where ten is Must See TV and zero is I Wish I Had Another Heart Walk This Week, this one is dropping like a NASA satellite that has fallen out of orbit, having a one in 3600 chance of mortally wounding a human. This is a tune-up for the big showdown next week in Bloomington, where the Big Ten season commences. OMG WTF, are they ready? We better see significant improvements across the board this week, or the big, bad Hoosiers will whoop the Lions. That would truly suck.
As always, we conclude with the Shameless, but Official, Turkey Poop Prediction. But first, what do we know about Ypsilanti? Weird name, no? The city got its name from a hero in the Greek War of Independence, Demetrius Ypsilanti. If it weren’t for Ypsilanti, Greece would be part of the Ottoman Empire and Greeks would be vassals of Allah, much like many of the citizens of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Oh, and did you know that Tom Monaghan opened the very first Domino’s Pizza in Ypsilanti in 1960? One more amaaaaaaaaaaazing fact: Ypsilanti is home to the world’s most phallic building, the Ypsilanti Water Tower, which is referred to locally as “the brick dick”. In the picture at right, the brick dick is shown dwarfing a bust of poor old Taki Ypsilanti, who now must persevere in pedastalar perpetuity in the penumbra of the lithophallus, ruing his penuriously puny penile endowment. So sad. Another fact: Dann Florek, the hardass captain from Law & Order: SVU, is a famous graduate of the prestigious institution. Other than that, Ypsilanti is merely a little town between Detroit and Ann Arbor, but I digress. Penn State is favored by 29, but with an over/under of only 44, meaning that the punters and their customers don’t think much of either team’s ability to score points. I’m going to have to agree with the gamblers on that one. I’m also going to tell you that the Penn State defense will largely contain Greene and Gillett, leaving only an inept passing game for the Eagles. Disaster for the Eagles is what that spells, already. Penn State 3o (that’s four touchdowns, one of two extra points, and one of two two-point conversions), Ypsilanti Polyphallic 6.