Welcome back, turkophiles and turkophobes everywhere! Wait, I was the one who was gone. Never mind! I took a sanity trip to southwest Florida to do some swamp tromping, and now I consider myself well-adjusted. That’ll last about until Saturday!
We’re here today to preview and predict the forthcoming game pitting hapless, feckless, meaningless, and damn near lifeless Purdue (1-8, 0-5 B1G) against the once mighty, see-sawing, fumbling, bumbling, yet awe-inspiring Nittany Lions ( 5-4, 2-3 B1G). Both teams lost last week, Purdue at the behest of Iowa, 38-14, and as you well know, PSU fell to the Golden Gophers 24-10.
On paper, out of left field, and out of other dark places, this would seem to be an eminently winnable game for the short-handed Lions, a “lock”, as it were. The Boilermakers are in the tank in just about every statistical category, both offensive and defensive. They are truly the suckiest team of the sucky, albeit once proud Big Ten Conference. They’ve won only one game, over Larry Bird’s alma mater, Indiana State, but even that was by less than a touchdown. They ran completely out of steam for the Buckeyes, who beat them 56-0 on November 2. The previous outing against Moo U. was also a shutout, 14-0. They average only 11.8 points per game. PSU homies, better known as The Sanguinarians (cue Spring Song by Mendelssohn — OK, I won’t start that shit again!), can’t see this one going any other way but a win. They’re not yet willing to concede that the talent drain and injuries have made this game a lot closer than it might have appeared to those who still think Penn State is a national title contender and have dismissed it out of hand.
In fact, this turkey did just that way back when. I wrote the following, prior to this season’s inception:
Purdue. Another dregs of the Big Ten season ahead for the Boilermakers. Are you reading this, Larry Cottrell, retired from UCF and living somewhere up there back home in Indiana? The Boilermakers suuuuck! Posting a solid (?) 6-7 record last year, including minimum bowl eligibility so they could get the shit kicked out of them by the Oklahoma State Cowboys 58-14, the Boilermakers notched wins over such superpowers as Eastern Kentucky, BDU (Brick Dick University), Marshall, EFU (Epic Fail University, aka Iowa), The Illinois Laughingstock, and in-state rival Indiana. Can you see Purdue actually winning in Beaver Stadium? I sure as hell can’t.
Arguably, Purdue has a pretty difficult schedule, with the roughest patch leading up to this game. Early in the season, they battled #21 Notre Dame hard, losing by a touchdown, then crumbled at Camp Randall 41-10. Northern Illinois laid 55 points on them, and Nebraska 44. They have allowed an average of 37.2 points per game.
Their running game is atrocious. A mere 68.1 yards per game, and 2.4 yards per carry. Of course, against Penn State’s notably porous rushing defense, they might do better than that, but still…
All they’ve got is a passing attack that has produced 191 yards per game. Between freshman quarterback Danny Etling and freshman receiver DeAngelo Yancey, they’ve got a thang going. Yancey averages 19.9 yards per catch. But they’re freshmen and that should tell you something about the Purdue offense. So should the fact that aside from two senior tackles, the starting offensive line is composed of two freshman guards and a sophomore center. They just aren’t going to be able to run on Penn State, and Etling will need to get the ball out of there quickly to avoid the mighty DaQuanslaught, as the Boilermakers rank 113 in sacks allowed, averaging over three per game.
Much to the chagrin of this week’s alumnus of the week, there is no way an offense with no essence of running ability can employ his invention, the play-action pass. Read more about Purdue alumnus Hank Stram below.
Obviously, with no running capability and a penchant for allowing sacks, you might want to consider this an impotent offense. That’s a pretty fair assessment. However, there is no redemption in the defense. Look at any category and you’ll find pain and misery. The Zombie Apocalypse. If there’s any game that should make the Nittany Lions temporarily feel good about themselves, this is the one.
But, you know what? Some of Penn State’s performances rival Purdue in frustration factor for fans. In third down completions, Purdue ranks 114th. Penn State is a dominating 112th. That suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. A .316 conversion percentage bites the big one. In turnover margin, they both rank 105, with a sparkling -8 average. That suuuuuuuuuucks. These two categories paint them both as losers.
I hate calling my boys losers, but I will if they can’t clean up those two things. They’ve played nine damn games and they’re still making fundamental errors. I can’t walk around with my head up my ass pretending that this is a great team that should easily handle our peers from Indiana. They couldn’t beat the other team from Indiana; why should they be able to beat this one?
I won’t tell you what you already know. Ben Kline is gone for the year, but you know that. You know how well ZZ and Belton should run against this defense. You know that Allen Robinson is playing with a hurt shoulder and will be testing the one decent cornerback Purdue has. You know all that and I’m lazy today, so I’m not writing about it. Akeel Lynch might make an appearance, as he’s been practicing.
Desire to Win
What this game boils down to is the desire to win. If our guys aren’t too demoralized by the mediocre season, it’s an easily winnable game. Remember that they’re pretty much leaderless, and the pouting Allen “Gimme da Damn Ball” Robinson isn’t exactly doing his share of motivating by whining about not getting the ball. This is a noon start being played out in a stadium with probably about 25,000 empty seats, broadcast on the fetid backwater of BTN. No one cares, other than die-hard fans of both schools. This could be a setting for an emotional letdown. I don’t know what goes on in the locker room, and I don’t really know how strong a motivator is Bill O’Brien. For this leaderless team with its fragile ego, he simply has to be that.
So, I’m thinking that it will come down to more than just statistical superiority once the boys hit the field. I’m thinking it will be the motivation of these two squads with nothing to play for that matters. Fundamentals, boys. Just keep matriculatin’ the ball down the field, boys. No screw-ups. Turnovers’ll killya. Third down conversions’ll killya.
The weather should be no factor in this game, as our intrepid weatherman predicts a high of 55°F on a calm, partly cloudy day.
This section is for K. John. The officials will miss calling lots and lots of holds. See Purdue holding. See Penn State holding. Hold hold hold. Cheat cheat cheat. Officials suck and they’re all out to get Penn State, who should be 8-1 as I write this. Given that they have more talent than anyone but Ohio State, there should be no way to lose four games unless the black helicopters are circling and directing the officials to undermine the hapless Lions (cello). And if you’re not careful with that crazy shit, you might wind up being Lavon Chisley’s cell mate one of these days!
So, whattya think? Did Urban Meyer’s secret plant in the Tallahassee DA’s office dredge up those year-old rape charges against Jameis Winston? Sorry for the non-sequitur, but it wasn’t worth a whole post. I’m lazy today.
Opponent Alumnus of the Week: Hank Stram
The great and legendary football coach Hank Stram is today’s opponent alumnus of the week. Stram was born in Chicago in 1923, son of a Polish-born professional wrestler named Henry Wilczek, who wrestled under the name Stram. He grew up in the beautiful suburb of Gary, Indiana and later attended Purdue, where his academic and football career began in the early 1940s, took a break for his military service in World War II and finished up in 1946-47.
After his playing career and graduation, Stram became an assistant football coach from 1948-1955 and the head baseball coach for the Boilermakers from 1951 to 1955.
It was his professional football coaching career that we all remember about Hank Stram, particularly his time with the AFL Kansas City Chiefs. Stram was a motivational genius and a football innovator. The play-action pass offense is credited to him, as is the I-formation, the two-tight end offense, and the triple-stack defense. He coached the Chiefs from 1963 to 1974 and took them to two Super Bowls, losing the first to Green Bay in the inaugural Super Bowl before the leagues merged, and the beating Minnesota in Super Bowl IV, the first super bowl after the merger.
Stram was the first NFL head coach to wear a microphone on the sidelines, and many of his finer moments have been preserved for posterity as a result. Fans of football history revel in hearing his classic quotes, like, “Just keep matriculatin’ the ball down the field, boys!” or “Kassulke was running around there like it was a Chinese fire drill!”
ESPN ranked Stram 16th in their Greatest Coaches of the NFL. Although his winning percentage doesn’t look all that swift, it was tainted by his post-KC stint as head coach of the original New Orleans Saints — “the Ain’ts”. He wound up his NFL career 131-97-10.
Late in life, Stram was devastated by diabetes and had to be wheeled up to the stage for his induction to the NFL Hall of Fame by his former quarterback, Len Dawson. Too weak to speak at the event, Stram had previously recorded his acceptance speech, which was played for the misty eyed audience. Hank Stram died on July 4th, 2005 in Covington, Louisiana, at the age of 82.
Official Turkey Poop Prognostication
Oh, yeah. We’re here. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Purdue is the tasty yellow chicken — looking good. We’re all lickin’ our lips over this one, because Purdue purdon’t!
This season thus far, the Turkey is 6-3 straight up, 5-4 against the spread, and 5-4 on the over/under. I’m just about as mediocre as the Nittany Lions.
So, how do the punters in Sin City see this? They don’t. No one cares. However, the line on the game at the moment is PSU favored by 21.5 with an over/under of 45. Pitiful! That suggests a final score of 34-13 in Penn State’s favor.
Piffle! I watched a sputtering offense last week that made one of nine third downs and couldn’t keep the defense off the field. I watched two bookend turnovers that pretty much bracketed an incompetent offensive performance that had only one good drive. With plenty of credit due to last week’s opponent, even though at times it seemed as if either they wanted to give us a break or the officials did, they dominated the game. Even the black helicopters couldn’t help Penn State win if they played like that. So what can we look for this week? More incompetence on offense, an even thinner, weaker defense, and an overall lackadaisical attitude if the trend is maintained. Fortunately, even with all those negatives, Penn State has enough juice to win this one. Penn State 24, Purdue 13. Take Purdue and the points — 21.5 is a juicy spread. And with these two offenses, ya gotta take the under.
I’ll be back after the big game with my post-game observations.