“We just have to keep pounding fellas. This is a game that’s going to be a four-quarter football game,” Ohio University head coach Frank Solich told his troops before the game, as his Bobcats were about to face the once mighty Penn State Nittany Lions on their emotion laced home turf where a crowd of 100,000 was expected.
“You don’t like to lose. Our team doesn’t like to lose, just like the other team. We didn’t play well enough to win the game. We are going to check out the tape … and move on.” —Michael Mauti
In reality, the attendance didn’t quite reach that mark, but those who showed up were emotional and loud — for the first half. Penn State’s new coach, Bill O’Brien, told them to be that way at Friday night’s pep rally. All teams respond well to an energetic, vocal crowd. But O’Brien damn well didn’t tell them to shut up after the first half!
I haven’t read the morning reviews of the game, but how many times can I stomach seeing the hackneyed “A Tale of Two Halves” or worse yet, by someone out there, no doubt, “A Tale of Two Halfs”? Charles Dickens (who goes by the rap name of C-Dick) is spinning like a lathe in his Westminster Abbey Poet’s Corner grave, but I digress. I’m here to tell you my own tale, which if one must allude to Dickens with a laser focus on the future, would more closely relate to “Great Expectations” followed by “Hard Times.”
Yes, it was the best of times and the worst of times as the Nittany Lions (0-1, 0-0 B1G) went down in defeat to the Ohio Bobcats (1-0, 0-0 MAC), 24-14.
The best of times first half was replete with energy, emotion, and experimentation — plus several unforced errors. The Grand Experiment in this case was trying out Gerald Hodges as a return man for kickoffs and punts. This, of course, was not listed on the depth chart; Hodges was shown there only as a first-string linebacker. However, he had done return duty in his high school senior year, so big surprise, O’Brien thought he should get a shot at it. After a couple of lackluster returns, Hodges promptly lost the job by fumbling on a punt return that set up a three-pointer by the cats, their only score of the first half. Nice try, Gerald. Now get back on Dee Fence!
A variety of returners worked the rest of the game, with Bill Belton showing the most promise for the future. He returned two kicks for 45 yards in the second half. However, given Penn State’s depth issues, using the feature back for returns is problematical enough in itself.
The Lions had things pretty much under control in that first half, which they ended up by a score of 14-3. This Turkey was preparing steaks for the barnyard critters when he heard from zbeard, the old billy goat, “We’re on the verge of a blowout…” I responded with, “I’m not seeing it that way. Why do you think that?” I don’t remember the response but that’s unimportant, as you all know what happened. Ohio U players obviously paid attention to Frank Solich’s admonition to just keep pounding.
But to be fair, the PSU defense was indeed shutting down dual-threat quarterback Tyler Tettleton, and the score would have been more lopsided were it not for two lost fumbles. (The other one was by tailback Bill Belton, as Penn State was driving toward Rufus’ goal line on the first series of the game.) We could have possibly, maybe, perhaps been looking at 21-0 at the half without those errors, peradventure. I suppose that qualifies as the verge of a blowout.
C-Dick couldn’t have written a sharper segue from best to worst and the Nittany Lions came out flat in the second half and remained flat for the rest of the way. I say this with no disparagement meant toward the Bobcats, as they made excellent adjustments and played with fervor and conviction the entire second half. McGloin was missing targets on offense, and the defense was giving up yards. All-in-all the tide turned against Penn State.
The play that broke Penn State’s back early in the third quarter was a third-and-seven situation in which Bobcat Ty Tettleton lofted a deep pass to the middle of the field that surely looked like it would be a Penn State interception, but was tipped by Stephen Obeng-Agyapong — right into the waiting arms of the streaking Landon Smith for a 43-yard touchdown. That narrowed Ohio’s deficit to three with 10:40 left in the quarter. After that, the Nittany Lions seemed to lose touch.
Seven minutes later, Tettleton drove it into the end zone himself, for a 14-10 lead. Penn State’s defense was nowhere to be seen. The big guys were visibly tiring in the withering late summer heat. The lumbering leviathans turned into belching behemoths. Tettleton took full advantage of the time he was given by his offensive line manhandling the vaunted Penn State front seven to pick apart an unseasoned and depleted PSU secondary. He added one more insurance touchdown with 2:55 left in the fourth quarter, a 5-yard pass to Donte Foster culminating a 14-play, 6:42 drive that started at their own seven yard-line. That one put the nail in the Nittany Lion’s coffin.
The Penn State offense couldn’t mount successful drives against the Ohio defense. It was the Ohio front seven that dominated the second half, running roughshod over the Penn State O-line. While the Bobcats were shutting down the Nittany Lions’ offense, the defense was accorded little time to rest.
Penn State’s attempt at a two minute drill lasted fifty-six seconds and was terminated by a Jelani Woseley interception of Matt McGloin at the Ohio 36. Ohio then ran out the clock.
It would have been worse if Ohio had a field goal kicker. Matt Weller was a sickly 1-3, missing from 44 and 39 yards, but making a 22-yard chip shot after Hodges’ fumble.
Injuries could prove costly for Penn State, as Bill Belton and Stephon Morris were both carted away in the second half with injured ankles. Both are questionable for next week’s game against Virginia. We should know Monday. Would-be return man Gerald Hodges (whom I don’t think we’ll see returning any more kicks) left the field with an injured leg, as well. Dealing with injuries constantly can dig a hole in the pocket, which is why medical insurances are a must. If you’re looking for help, Sweet Lawyers in Costa Mesa are the best in business for help.
Not only did it seem that physical abilities were wearing down in the second half for the Penn State defense, but also so were emotional intensities. The stadium crowd didn’t help. Late coming back from the concessions (which now take credit cards, which probably delayed quite a few), Beaver Stadium was putting out noticeably fewer decibels as the third quarter began. The freak play with the tipped ball resulting in a Rufus touchdown put a further cramp in their style, and by the end of the quarter, you could hear a pin drop in that place.
The sideline blonde interviewed Bill O’Brien at the end of the first half. “Are you as calm as you look?” she said. He responded that he was. Perhaps he was settling into too relaxed a groove, too early, too. I don’t think he could have anticipated the letdown in the second half, but it was his job to prevent it.
The stats tell a sad tale. Tettleton was 31-41 for 324 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions; on the ground he had nine carries for 47 yards with one touchdown. He spread the ball around to ten different targets. Lead rusher Beau Blankenship ran the ball 31 times for 109 yards against the PSU front seven. In all, the Bobcats gained 175 yards on the ground to rack up 499 total. They were error free and converted 13 of 21 third downs. Blechh!
Penn State stats are a bit misleading because of the relatively good first half, but by the same token if OU had played a good first half, they would have killed the Nittany Lions. Matt McGloin threw 27 completions of 48 attempts for 260 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The Lions could manage only 92 yards rushing, with Belton handling most of the chores. He carried 13 times for 53 yards before he had to leave the field with an injury in the third quarter. Total yards for the Nittany Lions were a stinking 352.
ESPN announcers Dave Pasch and Brian Griese were fair in their handling of the Penn State scandal situation, exhibiting restraint and sensitivity toward the Paterno family, even showing a mini-shrine at the site of the former Paterno statue. The only negativity was a completely honest assessment by Griese when he said that with this loss he felt that Penn State could win only three or four games this year. Many of you will bitch about that but how far off can he be?
BigAl came close with his projection of a 20-17 Ohio win, with three Penn State turnovers. Meanwhile, this Turkey went down in flames, having predicted a 17-16 win by the good guys. The only thing I got right was that the humongous hulks of the defensive front seven would wilt in the heat. As the season wears on, heat will be less of a factor, but lack of depth will definitely rear its ugly head.
There was a certain ambivalence of sentiment about this game. Lots of people paid lip service to the notion that “this team had nothing to play for but pride, and thus nothing to lose.” That’s an old cliche that doesn’t quite wash — ever. But in view of all the unknowns, having not seen this team or this coach in actual NCAA FBS Division competition before, your Turkey has no doubt that there were many who were at least secretly cautiously optimistic. That pre-season positivity will abate quickly without wins, eventually to be replaced by stupefied silence, followed by dispassionate denial, and later sadly, apathetic acceptance of Penn State’s place in the NCAA FBS Division pecking order for the next several years.
Team pride should have been good enough to beat this opponent in the opinion of many of us. However, the reality is that they were not in a position of having “nothing to play for”. Instead, they were carrying on their backs the responsibility of redeeming themselves in front of Penn State fans, who have enough success in the past to demand it from any team wearing the blue-and-white. That’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of those who have never carried it before.
We’re going to have to learn how to enjoy games a little differently now, as the villain Mark Emmert vindictively asserted. We’re going to have to set our sights lower. (I bet some people were thinking that this team could compete for the SSMNC this year (if only they were allowed to play in the game) — there are always a few who are blind enough to the limiting factors to harbor unrealistic expectations at season’s outset. In this Turkey’s opinion, all of this number one crap is an NCAA plot to generate more money while hypocritically decrying Penn State’s desire to compete at the highest level. We’ll have to be thankful for smaller miracles: a brilliant completion from McGloin to Allen Robinson, the defense holding Navy’s ground game to 80 yards, a great interception by Adrian Amos, or an amazing run by Bill Belton. Those of us who are hard core Nittany Lions fans will not go away. I watched every game in 2003, all games during “The Dark Years” and took away something good from each one, even the losses, even the 6-4 loss to Iowa.
Sure, we like to see wins, all of us! However, it is the “swing voters” about whom I am concerned. Will they start dropping like flies after one or two losses? I sure as hell won’t miss those who want “all or nothing”. Let them swing over to cheer for Alabama or USC so their swinging monkey asses won’t be disappointed as much. Hell, let them root for Ohio U, which could well go undefeated this year! I just don’t want them around here hanging crepe, spreading their lugubriously whining negativity for all those mediocre years that lie ahead of us, fer cryin’ out loud! I’m too damn old for that. I would prefer to spend my remaining years in peace, seasoned with an occasional soupçon of joy. Hence, those “swing voters” who can lower their expectations a bit and enjoy a still good game against quality opposition even if it turns out to be a loss are welcome company. The best part is that I don’t foresee any blowout losses among Penn State’s remaining opponents; the worst is that I’ve been known to be wrong occasionally. 🙂
So, please shed no tears at this juncture, Nittany Lions fans, and wish our erstwhile opponents from Ohio a successful season. They’re looking pretty good, given that it was an early season tune-up for them in front of a crowd at least double the size they’re used to. Let’s put that game behind us, giving credit where due.
It is time to start thinking about the Cavaliers, who beat the Richmond Spiders 43-19 this week. I’ll be back later in the week with a look at that match-up.
Well. I’m not ready to throw in the towel. There were some encouraging signs, and some issues that I guess should have been expected for this team.
First, I didn’t expect the talent of our team to expand exponentially with the arrival of BoB. Think about it, Mauti is probably the only person with NFL caliber talent that did not play last season. Hodges, Amos, Hill and a few others were all part of last year’s team that played well above their talent level overall, but that’s about it. Everyone else is pretty much guys who were average talent starters from last year, were coming off an injury, a back-up position, red shirt or are brand spanking new.
The only “transfer” we missed was Redd. Fhortt and Fera aren’t playing in their new cities due to injuries and unless there was a bottle of water from Lourde’s stashed in the PS trainer’s room, they weren’t going to be playing here. Brown was an okay player last year, but I don’t think he makes that big of an impact on Saturday if he stayed (didn’t see what his stats were for the Sooners and don’t care.)
So I think it’s going to take some time for these guys to get their sea legs with not only new schemes for the offense and defense, but the press still treating this like some high colonic for PS every time we play football this season and all the questions dealing with jerseys and Paterno and “Sweet Caroline” instead of football just adds un-neccessary distraction to the mix.
I liked the new offense, and the new defense. But I think they found out there’s a big difference playing against your own offense or defense in practice (even though you’re running a scout team) vs. the real opponent in a game atmosphere.
And people, please stop saying we need to go back to Bradley’s cover 2/3-I hated it then and I hate it now, besides it sure as hell didn’t work against Houston with a similar 3 step drop QB.
I felt pretty good at half-time thinking that we held them to three points instead of a TD after the fumbled punt. If Belton doesn’t fumble we probably score on that opening drive and if a few passes were a little more accurate (or not dropped) who knows, we might have been talking 28-0 going in at halftime.
But then half-time ended!
Now I know the body is a magical piece of machinery, and the adrenal gland may be the most remarkable cog in the whole works. It must have been pumping out gallons of that stuff for the players prior to kick-off with the crowd in the game, lettermen lining the tunnel, and 600 PS athletes from other sports on the field and on top of all that, playing a fairly decent first half. But when it shuts down and you use up what you’ve pumped out, the crash and shutdown is phenomenal. It was obvious that the emotion of the crowd and the importance of the game (in the team’s eyes) kicked that gland in to full flow production for the first half.
Coming out on the field probably feeling pretty good about themselves but then the crowd pretty much goes south emotionally and the decibel level drops to near Wal-mart levels, combined with the freakish deflection/touchdown early in the 3rd and I can understand why the team looked like like they did in the second half.
Yeah it was hot, but there we’re 8 guys in the D-line rotation. Yeah, Hodges and Morris went out, but Mauti, Hull and Carson were still making plays. The DB’s looked a little bit confused at times, but with the exception of the missed interception and I believe the one long pass (which was more YAC than the ball in the air) they didn’t play bad. And you could probably say pretty much the same thing on the offensive side of the ball other than they seemed to not be able to get anything going consistently; a couple of overthrows didn’t help either (at least the drives weren’t all three and out like last year.)
So now my 12-0 prediction is shot in the ass!
Going forward. Maybe the best thing for these guys is to go on the road-if I were BoB and it were possible, I’d get them out of State College on Tuesday! I think the environment there has a dark cloud hanging over it and like it or not, does have a pretty strong influence on the team.
I’m also tired of hearing about healing, a new chapter, turning the page and how they have the added responsibility of bringing the university and town out of the abyss-BULLSHIT! They need to play for themselves and only themselves. The crowd certainly didn’t try to give them a lift in the second half did they?
I also think BoB (out of necessity) built these guys up in to thinking they were a hell of lot better than maybe they were going in to the opener. Now that reality has set in, hopefully they’ll see the effort it’s going to take to win in this environment with the talent they have.
They say a team makes it’s biggest improvement between the first and second game-we’ll see. The Cavaliers were supposed to be the toughest of the four non-cons, but Ohio was a helluva lot better than I thought. We’ll see.
I still think there is potential here and while disappointed at how the second half played out, I’m not discouraged.
I was able to get some tickets for the Navy game, so I’ll wear my white jersey and yell like a maniac and besides, I figure Navy’s fans will probably be less obnoxious than some of ours!
The Nittany Turkey says
Alright, I’ll be James Kilpatrick to your Shana Alexander. Wait, no I can’t do that because I agree with too much of what you wrote, but I’m far from agreeable today, so…
IMHO, the heat did cause problems for the front four (or front eight, if you insist) because the offense couldn’t sustain a damn drive and thus left the D on the field too damn long in the second half. TOP was 19:53 to 10:07 in the second half. The defense had to be on the field for 49 plays. Yeah, they were tired.
I wonder what O’Brien said to them in the locker room at halftime. If he was wise enough to know about that second half letdown, he should have coached them through it. Of course, if the talent isn’t there, and I don’t think it is, there ain’t much a coach can do.
Yeah, we lost people to graduation and to Emmertization, but last year’s team sucked, too, when you get right down to it. They were pretty lucky to win the many of the games they squeaked by in. So, you take a pretty untalented team, remove its two most talented players and one dual-purpose kicker, who, yeah, wouldn’t have been able to play if injured, so same difference, and you’ve got a group of guys who suck even worse, even if you add in Mauti.
So, yeah, we’ll see how Virginia plays out, but it’s an away game, a nooner, and I’m not expecting much. Still, I’ll revel in the new playbook on offense and on defense both.
And just who in the hell is crying for the return of the Sandusky BBDB zone? Not this Turkey!
My 5-7 prediction is as shot in the ass as your 12-0. Now I have to say 4-8.
Frosted my arse when I started seeing comments right after the game with Bradley’s picture saying “Do you miss me now?” No I don’t! I’ve cast my lot with BoB and his Merry Men.
Was that a freudian slip that you mentioned Sandusky? I don’t miss him either.
The Nittany Turkey says
No Freudian slip. I’ve always attributed that soft zone BBDB to Sandusky, not Bradley. That’s why I call it the Sandusky zone. The fact that he’s a pariah due to his showering proclivities doesn’t erase his attribution and I feel no compunction about mentioning the name of the despised jailbird in that regard.
Yes, I feel for the victims.
I could never possibly miss that defense. For it to work it required safeties like Polamalu and Ed Reed, and it wasted talented corners who played 10 yards off receivers. An example of how that defense would ruin cornerbacks was Alan Zemaitis, who had plenty of talent, but washed out in the NFL. (Yeah, I know, he was trying for a position behind Ronde Barber, but still.) But Justin King is still playing. I’m rambling.
No, I don’t miss either Sandusky’s or Bradley’s defense.
The offense performed better than I expected. but it’s not going to be very good without a running game. If D-Day is the best backup State has, we better hope that Belton recovers quickly and stays healthy. A one dimensional dink and dunk passing offense isn’t going to work any better than its predecessor. Particularly when McPick can’t hit the deep patterns to keep the defense honest.
But the defense was really disappointing. Houston exposed State’s inability to defend against the quick passing game and everybody we play this year (except maybe Navy) will try to exploit that weakness. The Roofster’s blitz package wasn’t working, but he was too stubborn/stupid to try something else – like maybe going to a nickel.
Ohio is good for a MAC team, but, in B1G terms, Ohio is Northwestern. Losing to Northwestern is not a total disgrace, like losing to Youngstown State would be, but giving up 499 yeards to a .500 level B1G team is not encouraging when your offense is going to be mediocore, at best.
The Nittany Turkey says
Yeah, that last paragraph is pretty accurate in my opinion. I’ve said that the PSU defense has to be good because the offense cannot possibly create enough points to overcome any kind of a deficit that poor defense would enable.
I think the defense will get better and so will the offensive line, but so will the quality of the competition. Though his receivers might improve, McGloin won’t, and I hope to hell Belton just had a minor sprain. A bad game against Virginia will get into these guys’ heads even further.
The damn slant has beaten the PSU defense for the past decade or so, and that obviously hasn’t changed under BoB. What does it take to learn how to defend it? Until that time, no one will have to study Houston tapes — they’ll just use it.
Letting Ohio U control the game clock as they did in the second half was inexcusable. The offense has to be able to control the ball, and as you say D-Day isn’t the guy to be the ball control runner.
Me thinks you’re going to be seeing more of Dukes and Lynch in the backfield. Since a walk-on is a walk-on is a walik-on, I think Bench is right around the corner from getting snaps.
The Nittany Turkey says
Bench off da bench. Prediction noted.
I’d love to see Dukes in there pounding it out! Talk about wearing down opposing defenses!
The Nittany Turkey says
(I think everybody has to stop thinking that we’ve got guys playing on this team like Ki-Jana and Kerry on offense and Brown, Hali, and Pozluszny on defense. They’re nowhere near that caliber and they’re not going to get there, either!)