It is all the rage among Nittany Lion fans and fanettes to decry the much-maligned John Donovan and fret over the Christian Hackenberg situation. PennLive.com/The Patriot-News obliged this turkey with a couple of straw-men I want to pass along to you in case you haven’t seen them. Let’s beat a couple of half-dead horses.
You can’t fire the players, so what’s left but to fire the coach?
The much-hated David Jones (my buddy) must be reading my crap. He channels The Nittany Turkey in his November 4 article about the Hackenberg situation and in the conversation he had with James Franklin about it. So, please overcome your partisan condescension and puerile derision and give it a read. I won’t think of you as a Buckeye homey if you do; agree or disagree, it won’t hurt you. The comment thread following the article is full of opinions — just what you like.
Meanwhile, Greg Pickel gets himself in quite a pickle by opining that Penn State doesn’t have a John Donovan problem in his article published this morning. He thinks Donovan or anyone else couldn’t do any better with the personnel he has. As you can imagine, the opinionated responses are replete with the cloying form of Internet vitriol we all know, love, and employ from time to time.
On a note somewhat related to Pickel’s bloviation, Bill Belton‘s running style is completely worthless in an offense replete with a five-cone offensive line. He evokes memories of Austin Scott, who famously liked to dance before hitting the hole. ???? ?????? Defensive coordinators have shut him down knowing that he will wait for holes his blockers can’t create, a simple thing to do given the matador blocking.
I observed the NFL version of this in the Steelers-Ravens game. Moo U.’s own LeVeon Bell has been a huge offensive weapon for the Steelers this year, even though he does the dance behind the offensive line when he runs. Broadcasters have described him as “patiently waiting for his blocking to create holes.” The Ravens wouldn’t give him that much time; “patience” in that situation means blocks breaking down and tackles for losses. Bell wound up with a net 20 yards on 10 carries against the Ravens, whereas against Indianapolis the previous week, he had 24 for 92 yards. His season average is 4.7 yards.
All season thus far I’ve been watching Bell excel with the Steelers while wondering how he can look like Austin Scott or Bill Belton behind the line and yet be a successful running back. I guess I boiled it down to the offensive line having either a good or bad day (duh!). Some schmuck in one of the comment threads I mentioned above brought up the Steelers’ relative success this year versus last year, proclaiming the obvious difference to be the miraculously wonderful and most excellent coaching of new offensive line coach Mike Munchak (PSU ’82 and member of the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame). My ass! More PSU homey wishful thinking! The obvious difference to me has been a healthy pair of Gators, C Maurkice Pouncey (UF ’10) and OT Marcus Gilbert (UF ’11), but I digress. Indeed, the Steelers’ offensive line has not been great this year, and it sure as hell wasn’t great against the Ravens, as was evident with three straight sacks of Big Ben in the first period. When the line breaks down, the highly talented Roethlisberger can improvise, adapt, and overcome, whereas Bell’s running production is depressed. Fortunately for the Steelers, offensive coordinator Todd Haley has an answer there, too, finding a way to make lemonade from lemons. Bell is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and those quick routes can offset some of the battles lost in the pits. The ability to adapt is what makes the difference.
There is an analog here, and you all know what it is, albeit an exaggerated one. Bill Belton is no LeVeon Bell and Christian Hackenberg is no Ben Roethlisberger. Not yet, anyway. The Steelers’ offensive line is not bad, while Penn State’s is truly awful. Even Mike Munchak couldn’t have fixed it with this ragtag collection of youngsters. But by the same token, John Donovan is far from being a Todd Haley. He has not made lemonade, unless you consider what he streams into the urinal at halftime. He does indeed have some significant talent on this team, but he’s failed to adapt well to the mediocre stasis of the team as a whole by exploiting that talent while developing the deficient players and moving the whole thing forward. I guess that’s an oversimplification of the crux of the Donovan situation in this turkey’s mind.
Surely, there is blame to be spread around and excuses to be made. However, who is teaching Hack how to be a Roethlisberger? He needs to develop a couple of abilities in view of the present situation and furthermore, to make him viable in the NFL: sack evasion and getting rid of the ball. We know he can throw the ball a mile and sometimes throw accurately, although this year’s case of the yips has seemingly compromised the latter and his receivers’ inability to achieve separation plus the crappily deficient O-line have nullified the former. ????? ???? ?????? Back to the stupid comparison, how many times have you seen Big Ben emerge from an impossibly collapsed pocket and make a desperation throw that connects for big yardage or a first down?
Maybe I’m placing some unreal expectations on Hack by comparing him to an established All-Pro quarterback behind a semi-competent NFL offensive line, but I do think he’s being cheated by some crappy coaching that places too much of a burden on him at this early stage in his development. My thoughts in that connection include the notion that he should have been allowed to grow up before he was named captain. And this knock on coaching applies to both the current and immediate past regime. ????? ???? ?????? Both burdened the Hackster’s young shoulders with a rather untenable leadership role.
He is clearly frustrated with the situation, and his immature pouting has resulted in a diminution of team morale. Petulance and griping are not leadership qualities. He’ll grow out of this, to be sure, but he needs to be properly coached while that maturity is developing. I would love to see last year’s Happy Hack again. But times change and people change. BoB is gone. Hack has to make his peace with the present coaching staff or leave the program. In the words of the great mythical USMC platoon leader Gunny Highway, improvise, adapt, overcome.
You can’t fire the players, so what’s left but to fire the coach? That’s what the Fire John Donovan furor is all about. Fans have all the answer. Is this one realistic? Methinks not — it’s just an elevated form of grousing.
So, what’s happening, dudes?
Michael Geldner says
Penn State has a passing yards per game advantage over IU, in spite of a weak offensive line, but IU has a decent running game and is rated the 3rd best defense by CBS Sports compared to Penn State at the 100th defense spot. I think I agree with some posted projections that this could be a 25-24 win for IU.
PSU REALLY needs to get that running game and passing protection dialed in!
The Nittany Turkey says
I had to read your comment three times and I still couldn’t believe what I read.
You’re jumping the gun a bit, as I haven’t yet posted my preview/prediction. But in a nutshell, Indiana’s passing game has been nonexistent due to QB injuries. Nate Sudfeld, who burned us so badly last year, is done. However, the Hoosiers have one of the top five runners in the country and he faces one of the top five rushing defenses in the country. Something’s gotta give, and as I’ve said before, when it comes to best vs. best, my feeling is that defense usually wins out.
I don’t know how CBS sports sees Penn State as 100th best defense. Sounds ass-backward to me. Please point me to that so I can see whether you need new glasses. By anyone’s measure, the Penn State defense, particularly the rushing defense, is in the top five. Looking at raw stats, PSU is third nationally in total defense, first nationally in rushing defense, and fifteenth in passing defense. Seems like you got it backass. Where in the hell did you get 100th?
I couldn’t disagree more with the posted projections to which you refer. Tevin Coleman and his offensive line as the sole offense will not be able to overcome a stifling Penn State defense. Whether PSU is able to put points on the board will depend on whether Hack and his receivers can pick apart the 99th ranked pass defense of Indiana, which nevertheless contains one very dangerous cornerback in Tim Bennett. Indiana is all run; PSU is all pass — iff the passing game is clicking. I think PSU will win on the basis of a stifling run defense, and might just be able to put enough points on the board to overcome the Hoosiers this time around.
Prediction to follow in my game post.
The Nittany Turkey says
Cold cuts aside, you need to help me on this one. It’s driving me nuts. Aside from the crazy stat rankings, I really need to know where you saw anyone picking IU with a 25-24 score. You certain you’re not looking at last year’s predictions? (Well, wait, I can’t even remember anyone picking IU last year. They had never beaten Penn State and no one wanted to stick their neck out to set themselves apart from the crowd.)
akismet testing per last night’s discussion.
The Nittany Turkey says
I see no problems with either.