The Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) were roundly defeated by the much maligned Northwestern Wildcats (2-2, 1-0) by the score of 29-6. It wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicates. Northwestern established themselves early, quickly jumping to a 14-0 lead before the Nittany Lions put on their jock straps and scored their first points.
This is the first time since that wonderful 6-4 classic versus Iowa in 2004, also a homecoming game, that Penn State did not score a single touchdown in a game at home in Beaver Stadium. Ten years, man! We’re harkening back to the sucky sounds of [cue foreboding cello in minor key] The Dark Years. This suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks!
Big thanks go to Big Al, who not only forecast the Nittany Lions’ flatness, sort of, but also never swung to the Sanguinarian side when Penn State looked good against the bottom of the barrel of the FBS. He’s consistently called a spade a spade all along.
Thanks also to Joe, who provided the headline for this article with his post-game comment.
Toejam, who watched the game via BTN2GO on his smartphone declared, “It’s been a f*cking waste of bandwidth!” Good thing it didn’t cause him to exceed his limit.
If you were among the Sanguinarians, this turkey included, who had a warm fuzzy feeling about this team after the UMass cupcake crusher, think again, buster! The 2014 Nittany Lions are not yet ready for prime time, and one has to wonder what lies ahead for them.
Big Al had predicted that they would come out flat for 2-1/2 quarters and have to come from behind to win. Specifically, he said, “I’m expecting 2-1/2 quarters of last week’s 1st quarter.” However, he still had PSU winning 19-13. He added the comment, “A slightly better game than the 14-7 loss during the dark years. That game might have been the low point of [St.] Joe’s career.”
On the basis of his apt and prescient pessimism, I’m declaring Big Al this weeks Ace Predictor of the Week.
(Quit yer whining. Yeah, he predicted the wrong winner, but he had the right mindset.)
There were flaws in his prediction, to be sure. This 29-6 beat-down wasn’t slightly better than that 14-7 loss. It was a helluva lot worse. Penn State was never in the game, now were they? And they never did anything to act like they wanted it.
This is a team in disarray. When your star quarterback is not seeing open receivers and getting into sideline arguments with them, you know there’s trouble in Happy Valley.
Both lines sucked. It seemed as if Northwestern was able to move the ball at will against our vaunted defense, on which it appeared that Mike Hull was the only player flying to the ball at times. They had no fire. Northwestern was able to rush for 104 yards on 38 attempts.
On offense, the O-Line is a total mess, not providing blocking for the run and not providing protection for the passer. Christian Hackenberg was beaten up once again and was visibly limping by the third quarter (although I’m not completely certain that it was hurt pride more than a hurt body). He completed fewer than half his passes, with no touchdowns and one costly pick six interception, although the game was already lost at that point. His final QBR was 12.7. I’m faulting the O-Line for some of that, but Hackenberg’s timing and accuracy was off for most of the day. And so, I think, was his attitude.
He wasn’t seen rallying the troops, as a team captain should. I think that at some point James Franklin should have noticed that Hack — perhaps frustrated by his receivers being continually covered and not having enough time to find open ones — was in need of some motivational ass-kicking. Hack is a sophomore — yeah, he’s a kid — but he was chosen as a team captain and he damn well needs to act like one. No pouting is allowed.
So, what’s this I hear about a “sophomore slump”?
Am I being too hard on Hack? Perhaps, but I’m being hard on Franklin, too.
The word you’re going to hear and read for the next two weeks is “answers”. People are going to want a lot of them.
This Nittany Lions team is frankly not good enough to play in the top tier of the Big Ten. Yeah, I know. One bad beat-down and I’m whining about how bad they are. But five games into the season, we should be seeing an improvement in the offensive line and we’re not. They’re getting worse. Did you see them out there blocking each other? Did you see Mangiro getting pushed back every other play? These guys aren’t going to hold up through the Big Ten schedule.
Meanwhile, Northwestern found some particular softness in the middle of the PSU D-line. That was supposed to be the Lions’ great strength. Harrrrrumph!
Third down efficiency continues to suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Today it was 3-17.
Turnovers, too. Aside from Hack’s errant throw, he coughed up the ball after a hard sack. Adrian Amos had a lucky interception, and Penn State wound up driving its cumulative turnover margin southward by one. Boil out the five gift interceptions of Gary Nova and you’ve got a minus six, caused by the combination of a defense that can’t force turnovers and an offense that can’t protect the ball. Thanks to Mr. Nova, they’re not tied for 110th place along with Vanderbilt for that crappy distinction. (But Michigan is #125 with a -10 hahahahaha).
Northwestern’s defense looked pretty good, but the scary thing is that they were ranked 73rd in total defense coming into this game. Michigan is ranked #8. Ohio State and Michigan State are 13 and 14. Even Purdue is 61st.
Pat Fitzgerald gambled several times on offense. Why not? He had little to lose. His defense was in charge and it really looked like they could move the ball at will against Penn State. Sitting on a 14 point lead, why not go for the bundle? In the end, though, it was more Penn State’s crappy, desperate play that sealed the deal.
As the late Tampa Bay Bucs coach John McCay once responded to a question after a particularly putrid performance by the Bucs about whether he could find anything positive in the loss to Detroit:
“Yes. The parking lot will be a lot emptier next week against Green Bay and people will be able to get in and out easier.”
OK, so who can find anything positive to say? K. John?
Two weeks until the loss to Michigan and there are too many problems to correct to even make a good show of it.
I think this was my fault. Before the game, I created a specialty libation in order to salute our opponent. It is called the Purple Pussycat Passion, and it is made from Tito’s vodka, Triple Sec, Welch’s grape juice, cranberry juice, and Blue Curação, with a moonshine macerated maraschino cherry. It went over big with the assembled multitude in The Cave.
I’ll be back at some point with a preview of the Michigan game. So help me, I need some encouragement from you readers to redevelop a sense of optimism about the boys. At this point, all I can say is that most of us probably got caught up in post-cupcake euphoria, and we need to temper our expectations accordingly.