We knew that the would-be bowl eligible Nittany Lions (6-4, 3-3 B1G) could run all day on the porous Purdue (1-9, 0-6 B1G) defense, but we didn’t know what sort of game plan Bill O’Brien would employ to beat the Boilermakers. It turned out that he relied heavily on the rushing attack to do the job quite well, rushing 58 times versus 23 passes for a total of 501 yards.
Zach Zwinak was the featured running back of the week, with 26 carries for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bill Belton added 19 for 81 and a touchdown, and we saw the return of Akeel Lynch who carried the ball 9 times for 44 yards. Although Zwinak and Belton were able to get some tough yards on their own, this turkey is encouraged by the progress of the offensive line. I will remind you, however, that this was Purdue, the dregs of the Big Ten in just about every category — except maybe kick returns, and I’ll touch on that later.
The passing attack was tame, and while Hacky committed one egregious error, he survived a day on the upswing, completing 16 out of 23 for 212 yards, with one passing touchdown and the aforementioned heinous INT. Allen “Gimme Da Damn Ball” Robinson led all receivers with 8 catches for 98 yards, while the ball was spread around to other receivers, including freshman tight end Adam Breneman, who scored the only passing TD.
Both teams, as expected, were sloppy with the ball, but Penn State managed to reduce its season differential by one to -7, whereas Purdue augmented its differential to -9.
Amazingly, Penn State was penalized only twice for 15 yards, which means they got away with a lot of holding, while Purdue were assessed 61 yards on five penalties. I don’t know why I mentioned penalties — I never have made a big deal out of them before — but I wanted to touch on the holding thing just because.
Now, look at this: third down conversions were 10-12!!!! Holy shit, that’s 83%! But I’ll remind you that this was against Purdue.
The Penn State defense held up well, speaking of third downs, allowing only 4 of 11 and holding hapless Purdue to 264 yards, of which 223 were through the air. But you can’t run on Penn State — not if you’re Purdue, anyway — so the mere 20 rushing attempts yielded a crappy 41 yards. Alas, they allowed Purdue to score 21 points, which equaled Purdue’s point output in the four prior games — BELIEVE IT OR NOT!
As I predicted, special teams suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked. Although Penn State never had to punt, which meant that one point of suckage — namely, Alex Butterworth — didn’t get to rear its ugly head. And Sam Ficken was one for one, so that wasn’t an issue. However, all of the potential good or benignity in general was wiped out by a 100-yard kickoff return by junior running back Raheem Mostert from, of all places, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, about 35 miles from here. Yeah, nobody stayed at home on that return. Without it, Purdue would have been held to the number of damn points I told you they’d score.
I am pleased that the boys were able to score 45. Sure beats having 45 scored on them. On the other hand, put this in perspective. It was against Purdue, the crappiest team in the B1G. There is no statement gleaned to have been made here, even though some Sanguinarians will say that Penn State actually won 70-3 (I guess the 3 would be the three extra points because the touchdowns didn’t count due to cheating) and they’re really 9-1 at this point, poised to win out and show the world what an 11-1 team with the best offense and second best defense in the B1G really looks like. OK, that’s them, and this is I, your cynical and sometime all too realistic Turkey. Whazzup wit dat?
I’ll tell you. Win or no win, we’re dealing with quite an ordinary team here. Some writers have used the word “average”, but I have no idea just what the hell that means. I think it is a sloppy adjective meant to be a euphemism for mediocre or even crappy. I’m saying ordinary, meaning replete with flaws and nothing spectacular — middle of the B1G pack material at best. The 3-3 conference record is a very accurate depiction of what they are and where they are. But they’ll get better eventually. How much better is anyone’s guess, as the sanctions and the scandal will have a negative impact on recruiting, whether we like to admit it or not, as will the forthcoming flux at the prexy’s office and potentially in the AD’s office and head coach’s position. This is not going to be an easy hole to dig ourselves out of, and even if we beat Wisconsin and Nebraska, I’ll probably go into next season expecting 6-6 at best, along with a potential visit to the Toilet Bowl in Kohler Wisconsin on Christmas Eve.
So, am I bitter because my prediction sucked? Nahhhhh. PSU whacking the spread and hitting the “over” never pisses me off. It’s an unexpected pleasure. But I’m now 7-3 straight up, 5-5 against the spread, and 5-5 on the over/under.
Looking forward, we have two games left. At the beginning of the season, I regarded both of them as losses. Watching Nebraska falter through the middle part of the season and get bitch-slapped by Moo U. last week made me believe the 7-3 Huskers might be beatable, but putting the whole thing into perspective, I was looking through rose colored glasses. We tend to do that, you know. Think about “what is” in terms of “what should be if only…” Well, I’m still sticking with my 6-6 prediction for the season, but it will still be interesting to see how these guys step up for Nebraska and Wisconsin. Hey, at least Nebraska is a 3:30 start!
On another note, how about ex-Nittany Lion quarterback Matt McGloin today? In his first NFL start, subbing for the ailing Terrelle Pryor, McGloin threw for 197 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, leading Oakland to a 28-23 victory over Houston, the Raiders’ first away game victory. He received plenty of favorable comments from the broadcasting booth, and one Tweet I saw nominated him for secretary-general of the moon.
I’ll be back soon with some real (i.e., not out of the ass) comments about the Nebraska game, and of course, the usual flawless prediction.