Illinois 16, Penn State 14
No one can dispute the ugliness of today’s Penn State (6-5, 2-5 Big Ten) loss to Illinois (5-6, 2-5), two bottom feeders seeking some salvation for a forlorn season. It sucked. Illinois won 16-14.
Neither team showed much in the way of offense, and in the end, the vaunted Penn State defense gave out, allowing the Illini a minuscule opportunity, which they took. It was good enough for the win.
There were no winners in the vaunted Nittany Turkey Officially Esteemed Panel of Occasional Experts derby this week because no one picked Illinois, although two deserve honorable mention. Big Al said it would come down to turnovers, and whoever had the most would lose. Illinois didn’t lose the ball, while Penn State had one (two, if you count the kickoff turnover) and lost. Another honorable mention goes to erstwhile PSU football blogger Drozz, who set the over/under for Hackenberg pass attempts at 18. As it turned out, he had 15.
It was another game where, faced with one of the worst rushing defenses in all of college football, Penn State could have asserted its superiority with a running game, but didn’t. Mangiro was back at center, and Wendy was nowhere to be found. It wound up 172 yards on 47 attempts, for a 3.7 yard average, which wasn’t good enough.
Defensively, RD wanted to know why Illinois’ best receiver, Mike Dudek, was always being covered by a safety. WTF? I have no answer, other than our secondary still sucks, which is a non-sequitur, but a truism. The soft zone returned with a vengeance.
Both teams sucked as expected in third down conversions, with Penn State being the “better” with 6-15, as opposed to 2-16 for Illinois.
Actually, Penn State’s opening drive is where they looked the best, and even there, I wonder whether a closer review would have revealed that the touchdown catch was actually bobbled. Doesn’t matter though. In the end, they sucked and they lost.
The announced crowd of 35,172 looked more like 20,000, but that didn’t matter, either. Neither did it matter that the meager television audience that stuck around to watch this thing undoubtedly wasn’t of sufficient size to stem the flow of red ink attributable to this game on ESPN’s P&L statement. Whoever watched this debacle wound up getting to witness the momentous event of Beckman the Asshole’s third Big Ten win in three years of coaching.
If Illinois can somehow manage to pull off a win next week against Northwestern, which I doubt, they’ll be bowl eligible. Ain’t that special!
You know, really, we keep hoping that these Nittany Lions are better than this. Even the defense — our crowning glory — wore down, allowing that final, winning field goal. The offense sucked (what else is new?). When are we going to start admitting that this Penn State offense cannot score enough points to win consistently in the face of empirical evidence supporting that assertion? Even I had them scoring 23 points this week. Clearly, I’m in some form of denial, but they really are that bad. We keep thinking it will get better next week, and there’s only one more next week. Let’s hope they will not be a total embarrassment against Moo U.
How about Hack and Donovan standing next to each other on the sideline, looking different directions, not saying a word to each other?
And so, let me hear the excuses. And I really want to know who still thinks this team can beat Moo U. Get real!
K. John says
This game left me with a few thoughts.
1. I know it is beating a dead horse but John Donovan is incompetent. He continues to put the offense in a position to lose with his play calling, personnel selection etc., continued shuffling of the O-line.
2. The defense chose a bad time to play its worst game of the year. I saw a ton of bad tackling and why they decided to play zone as much as they did is beyond me. Players like Dudas make a living on zone. Bad coaching defensively.
3. Despite the bad coaching on offense, a slew of unconscionable mistakes on special teams essentially cost them a win.
4. Eleven games in, I am left wondering who Franklin compares to better, Les Miles, Ron Zook, or John Cooper. All three are primarily recruiters routinely stocking their teams with a ton of talent but ultimately failing when coaching comes into play. Right now, I am looking more towards Les Miles.
Ultimately, what could have been is the story of the year. Penn State has the best defense in the Big Ten and the best units at all three levels. The defense has been so good that you could make an argument that nine Lions should be all Big Ten first teamers including the entire front seven and that doesn’t include Marcus Allen who is currently playing lights out at free safety. Meaningless fantasy numbers aside, they have the Christian Hackenberg who is without a doubt the best QB in the Big Ten and perhaps the third best collection of skill position talent which should be enough for a 10 win season given their schedule. Officiating played huge rolls in three losses. Even then, the offensive coaching is more at fault in the losses to Maryland and Michigan. Ultimately though, Penn State beat itself in four of five losses. They dominated Ohio State on the field. It would be one thing is this team was just plain bad like it was during the dark years but it isn’t. I would hope that Franklin is already looking for a replacement for John Donovan. If not, that is sad because he is clearly in over his head and has not shown any signs what so ever of getting it.
Hamilton Lawrence says
I couldn’t have said it better. Donovan appears to not have a clue what to do…his plan always seems to be made up as he sat in the crapper minutes before the game started. And no one on the PSU coaching staff is aware they should make some ADJUSTMENTS on the fly during the game or at half time. Illinois obviously did adjust against PSU because after that nice initial touchdown drive the offense fell back into the form we have come to know and hate. Say what you will about JoePA, he and his staff always made good adjustments at halftime. Something’s gotta give here…let’s hope Donovan is drummed out as soon as Michigan State completes their disassembly of PSU in next Saturday’s game.
The Nittany Turkey says
I’m hoping that the Moo U. game is anything but close for that reason. I don’t think I have to summon any great super powers to get that result. This offense couldn’t put points on Rutgers or Northwestern, let alone Moo U. Meanwhile, the PSU defense can keep it close, which means something like 31-3. LOL
Big Al says
At least I got the score half right – Illinois did score 16 points. Even though half of the clowns on BSD were predicting a shutout, I knew Illinois would score on the defense. But I couldn’t imagine the total ineptitude of State’s offense. After all, Youngstown State scored 17 points on them and YSU is a mediocre FCS team. Minny only got 24 points but every other FBS team they played – including juggernauts like Texas State – scored at least 30 points.
The 2004 offense started to improve toward the end of the season, but this year’s bunch doesn’t and they played their worst game (so far) in their penultimate game. The excuses – sanctions, inexperience, new schemes, etc. – no longer make any sense. State’s offense has more talent than Illinois’ defense (they don’t start anybody who got an offer from us) and 10 prior games is enough time learn the new schemes and get experience. The truth is that the offensive coaching staff isn’t very good – they don’t know how to effectively use the talent they have or to call plays properly.
One final comment. Why is everyone so effing sure that State is going to a bowl game?? Assuming tOSU beats Michigan, the B1G will have 10 bowl eligible teams for 8 guaranteed spots. There is very little chance that the B1G will be able to place 2 teams in bowls where the originally contracted conference did not have enough bowl eligible teams. There is a glut of 6 and 6 teams from the “power” conferences this year. The SEC has 11 bowl eligible teams right now and could have 13 at the end of the season. The ACC has 10 eligible teams and could have 11 if Pitt beats Miami. And the non power conferences have enough bowl eligible teams to supply their contracted slots.
SOME 6-6 teams from the “power’ conferences are NOT going bowling this year. And that could very well include State, particularly if the final spot involves a choice between Northwestern and us. We would put more butts in the seats, but Northwestern is a better team. So its going to depend on whether the bowls use Money or Merit to break the tie,
K. John says
The “new scheme” line is nothing but BS. The current schemes, on both sides of the ball, are not entirely new, especially on offense where it is essentially the same scheme with a few tweeks. Yes the offensive line has issues and those issues can’t be fixed during one season. The big problems are play calling and the constant shuffling of the Oline. A clear lineup has emerged with Smith at left tackle, Deiffenbach at left gaurd, Laurent at center, Mangiro at right guard and Nelson at right tackle. Given that lineup performed significantly better than any they have put there, only an incompetent fool would go away from it unless he had to, and he didn’t have to.
I think they will go to a bowl. Remember the bowls don’t have as much of a say this year. The Big Ten gets to make the picks, and I think they will have enough slots. Obviously the season is not over yet and a lot can happen between next Friday and Saturday but right now, I would expect the following results.
Ohio State 11 – 1
Michigan State 10 – 2 or 9 – 3
Maryland 8 – 4 or 7 – 5
Penn State 7 -5 or 6 – 6
Rutgers 7 – 5 or 6 – 6
Wisconsin 10 – 2
Nebraska 9 – 3 or 8 – 4
Minnesota 8 – 4
Iowa 8 – 4 or 7 – 5
Northern or Illinois 6 – 6
That makes ten bowl eligible teams. The Big Ten has nine guaranteed spots every year, not eight. Assuming one the above, one team will not make a bowl.
1. Rose Bowl or alternative
2. Orange Bowl or Citrus Bowl
3. Outback Bowl
4. Holiday Bowl
5. Music City Bowl or Taxslayer Bowl
6. Pinstripe Bowl
7. San Fransciso Bowl
8. Detroit Bowl
9. Armed Forces Bowl or Dallas Bowl
However, the limits on non-playoff major game participation (Fiesta, Peach, Cotton) are now gone. The Big Ten’s new agreement treats Orange/Citrus as an or game. The Big Ten is almost certainly going to get two teams in major games. Potentially three should Michigan State prevail on Saturday and Wisconsin win the Big Ten game and I would pick them over Ohio State. I think it is safe to say that every bowl eligible Big Ten teams gets to a bowl and right now, they look very likley like they will play Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl.
That was bad, really bad! I don’t know what the issue is, but you would think after 11 games, there would be some measure of improvement, but it seems to get worse each week.
Watch the O-line; they don’t hold their blocks, they don’t move their feet and they seem to go in to panic mode when there is a stunt or blitz. I don’t care if the three blind mice were part of this line, a good coach would have made some progress with the basics by now. And I have no fucking reason why the 5 guys who “got our running game untracked” last week aren’t getting 100% of the snaps.
Why the hell put Belton in if he’s got a shoulder problem? I’ve said after the first 3 or 4 games, that Lynch is the better running back, give him 25-30 carries a game. Yeah he fumbled, everybody does, but when your only option is Cole Chiparelli, you have no other options.
Look Hackenburg has his problems and the reasons are numerous and all over the place. Yeah he threw a few balls low, but the pass he threw to Godwin was a beauty (NT he was already out of bounds when he juggled the ball). If you noticed, the ball he threw to Hamilton down the sideline should have been caught-Hamilton slowed down for a step or two and then couldn’t make up the ground. That was a sure 6 points. Lewis (and Hamilton) have completely vanished as far as their value as receivers, they can’t get open, they don’t make the tough catches and contrary to what was stated above, they are average at best. And as far as the 3rd down play that Hackenburg failed to convert, what the hell was Hamilton trying to do by getting in between Hackenburg and the defender? He had no momentum to attempt blocking the DB, he just stepped between his QB and the DB, which allowed the defender to just push him backwards (a la Lynch getting shoved into Hackenburg by Bosa). The result-4th and 1, let’s punt! WTF?????
Why did Hackenburg only throw 15 times (5 in the second half!) when our running game was sputtering along with no consistency? Because the receivers can’t get open and Carter has become Dick “Stone Hands” Stuart and can’t catch a ball unless it’s thrown underhand to him! Are they afraid Hackenburg will throw another pick? So what! Speed up the offense, let him make the calls at the line; that seemed to work last year. I still think he’s one of the best raw talents out there, so when nothing else is working, let him throw the damn ball 50 times. It’s better watching that then what we saw on Saturday. Newsflash for the coaching staff-if you haven’t got a reliable run game going after 11 games, you are not going to have one for the 12th!! Give it the fuck up already!
And I do believe he’s got a bunch of nagging injuries as you and Big Al pointed out last week. When it looked like he hurt his non-braced knee, why the hell didn’t Crook go in for at least a series (so you don’t have to burn McSorely’s RS), and at least let the trainers check him out. If you were only going to hand the ball off, I would assume that Crook is at least capable of doing just that.
The opening drive was a thing of beauty and I thought maybe just once this year, this one just might be an easy win. When they moved down inside the five on the next drive but then ran three times and had to settle for a FG attempt I thought okay we’ll be up by ten and we’re still going to be okay, than Gulla looked liked he had no idea what to do with a football that was laying in his hands horizontally and it went to shit after that (except for Lynch’s run).
So according to CJF, they expected O’Toole to play and prepared for him to be more of a runner than a passer. I assume that’s why they only rushed four 95% of the time and played zone, but when Dudek burned them the first couple of times sitting down in the open spots in their zone, why the hell didn’t they play more press coverage on him? Jam him at the line and take him out of his routes. And somewhere in the second half, everyone forgot about tackling technique. There were a bunch of opportunities for TFL that were missed. Their running backs and receivers were gaining extra yards late in the game because of sloppy tackling. There was no gap discipline. This was not the defense we’ve become accustomed to this year. Yeah I understand Bell didn’t play and they had to move Wartman to his spot and use Cabinda and Campell got hurt in the first quarter. But the defense allowed way too many yards and basically played a shit second half. And the offsides on the punt really in my opinion was what changed the momentum of the game.
Maybe they made the first score look to easy. Maybe controlling Lunt when he was in made them think this would be a walk in the park on a sunny day. Maybe the emptiness of the stadium was an issue. I don’t know, but this was one hell of a nasty game to watch.
So yes, we’re missing talented players and maybe the ones we have are not as talented as we think. Yeah, they’re all tired and nicked up at this point of the season, but this was Illinois, a team that before Saturday had only won two games in the B1G in the last three years. Without a doubt this was a coaching staff loss. The team was not ready, they did not adjust to O’Toole and the game plan/play calling was abhorrent. And I also think “becoming bowl eligible” and all the hosannas that were written about that plus playing bottom feeding IIllinois might have led these guys to think all they had to do was show up.
A coach earns his pay not when he has a room full of exceptional players, but when he actually has to coach to get results out of new starters, underclassman and maybe kids that just don’t have 3, 4, or 5 star rankings. This staff is not there.
Yeah this always was a 6-6 team, but with how lousy the B1G ended up this year they could have easily had another 2 or 3 wins.
They will go to a bowl. Contrary to what Big Al said, PS brings fans and fat wallets, they’ll get a slot.
And if anyone thinks this team has a shot next week, I need to know what you’ve been smokin’ of drinkin’!!!! It must be really good shit.
Thank God PS Wrestling has started. Sanderson has them at 3-0 with 5 or 6 new starters. Guess he knows how to coach ’em up!
K. John says
They have a legit shot next week. It’s at home. It’s senior day. They have the defense to keep them within one score and Hackenberg is still the best QB in the Big Ten by a mile regardless of numbers. That gives them a shot. Maybe not a good shot but a shot none the less. Michigan State is coming off of a disappointing season where they expected to be in the hunt for the playoffs. The Spartan defense has weaknesses and their offense is equally flawed. Of course, everything comes down to the play of the offense but this team is a far closer to an 11 and 0 squad than most are willing to admit for fear of being mocked but they are.
The Nittany Turkey says
I see them as being five more wins and five fewer losses away from 11-0. No more, no less. You may mock me if you wish.
The Moo U. game will be an emotional one for the Spartans. We left them with the Land Grant Trophy on their shelf, and they’ll fight (as) hard (as they have to, which won’t be very hard) in order to retain it. D’Antonio isn’t getting the big bucks for nothing.
The Spartans might have a flawed defense, but not nearly as flawed as Illinois or Rutgers. This Penn State team scored only 14 and 13 points on those two, respectively. Why should I think they’ll be able to score any more on Moo U’s “flawed defense”?
Their offense is equally flawed? Equal to what, precisely? Equally flawed as Oregon? Ohio State? All three are averaging over 500 yards per game, almost 200 more yards than Penn State has mustered.
Where the hell are the changes going to be that permit the Nittany Lions to suddenly be viable in a game against Moo U.? You are truly in denial about the way they’ve played this season. The defense can carry a team only so far before the lack of offensive production dooms it to failure. And that’s how I characterize this season. If Penn State had been able to put a decent offense on the field, it could have won more than six games. It didn’t. You can look back and say shit like “closer to 11-0 than you think,” but that means zilch. It’s what’s on the scoreboard that counts. Period. End of report. There will be no asterisk in the record book leading to a footnote that says “*should have been 12-0”.
I’m thinking that PSU can perhaps keep it close in the first half with Moo U., perhaps, if they show up for the game (after all, it’s a 3:30 kickoff), but then they will get blown out in the second half due to a weary defense plus poor halftime adjustments (if any). Senior Day’s outcome will kind of look like Homecoming Day’s, and the Land Grant Trophy will live in East Lansing once again.
This Penn State team can’t grind it out with Moo U. NFW.
K. John says
Penn State is not getting blown out by anyone. While it is highly unlikely, there are plenty of reasons to think they could turn the offense around and do something to spring the upset if you bothered to actually pay attention to the game. The defense can stand toe to toe with anyone for four quarters. That much has been proven. They held Ohio State to 7 legitimate points and that seven came on a short field. If they can do that, they can keep within a score of Michigan State.
And again, show me where I said they should be 12 – 0, or 11 – 0? I said they are good enough to beat everyone on their schedule, and they are. Their problem is the offensive coaching staff. Hopefully John Donovan has a pink slip in his near future because the man is clearly incompetent. But make no mistake, they have more than enough talent on offense to pull the upset if they can come out with a good game plan.
Pass the joint will you
The Nittany Turkey says
I wish I had a “like” button for cogent comments like the above.
The Nittany Turkey says
Reductio ad absurdum or denial, I cannot help you. I’m going to make the mistake of believing that they don’t have enough talent on offense to pull off the upset, game plan or not.
I’ll offer the following in simple support of my assertion: Make no mistake, D’Antonio makes more money than Franklin. That’s a fact.
Why that means Penn State cannot win is not up for discussion. I pulled it straight out of my ass.
The Nittany Turkey says
You had to bring up Dick Stuart! Well, sheeeeeit!
So, Franklin they planned on O’Toole but didn’t plan on him throwing so much. This smacks of the “we screwed up” line we’ve been hearing all season. That irrational exuberance after the Temple game was a sad, sad beacon of the current status of this program, where victories that would have been business as usual in the past are suddenly cause for great celebration. Yeah, because they don’t know when the next one will come, and they play like they expect to lose, at least on offense.
They flat-out can’t score enough points to beat Moo U., no matter how stingy the defense is. The fewest points Sparty scored in any game this year was 27, against Nebraska and Oregon. ANFW they can’t beat PSU.
K. John says
So what if they scored 27 on Nebraska. Nebraska has precisely one defensive player that would start in Happy Valley. Ohio State has two, maybe three. How they played those teams means nothing. What means something is that their fairly average offensive line has to line up against the Nation’s best front seven and that front seven is more athletic than any team they have played.
Not saying they are going to win, but don’t discount it. The signs of a great offense are there. They just need good coaching to get it together. Hackenberg is still the best QB in the Big Ten by a mile. Connor Cook is number however. If they use the right personnel groupings and call stop with the idiotic play calling, they have a punchers chance. There are far worse places to be than playing Michigan State with our defense, Hackenberg and Ficken.
Anyone has a puncher’s chance in any contest, but you’re basing your argument on a solid game plan and game time adjustments from this coaching staff! I have not seen that all year, so what makes you think that’s going to happen this Saturday?
Yeah we kept it close against Ohio State much to everyone’s surprise, but in the end Barrett scored two EASY TD’s in overtime. And as I said earlier, if they couldn’t make any significant improvements in 11 games, they certainly are not going to make any within the last week.
Yeah, MSU is not the team they were last year, but what do you think Narduzzi’s defense is going to do against our pathetic offense. I’d play Crook just to keep Hackenburg from getting killed!
MSU will fortunately keep the Land Grant Trophy for another year and maybe in their victory celebration, they’ll destroy it beyond repair!
K. John says
I never said I thought it would happen but it wouldn’t shock me in the least if it did because talent isn’t the problem, coaching is. We have seen enough signs throughout the season to know it is certainly possible. And they didn’t just keep it close with Ohio State, they beat them on the field 17 to 7.
It is probably wishful thinking but maybe, just maybe, Franklin will take the reigns of the offense, start calling the plays, letting Hack call an audible every once in a blue moon and they will get something done. They certainly have the players to take advantage of the holes in Michigan State’s defense whether they get pressure or not.
Again, I don’t think they will because Donovan is an idiot and if Franklin was going to do the right thing in regards to the offense he would have done it already but for people to say they don’t have a chance is idiotic.
Hamilton Lawrence says
Wasn’t Donovan with Franklin at Vanderbilt? And even before that? Franklin must have some faith in him and might feel some loyalty to the guy. And what would make you think Franklin would be a better OC? I think most PSU football fans are unimpressed with Franklin’s first season and have already written off this last game. I couldn’t watch the second half of Saturday’s game…too much to do around the house. I’m glad I only saw small parts of it….too painful to watch.
The Nittany Turkey says
Mr. Lawrence, you took the words right out of my fingers. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. OK, so let’s move in next door and find out that we’re really incompetent at growing grass.
Yeah, how can anyone think that Franklin would do a better job than Donovan? As his boss, he has the right (and duty to the team) to veto anything that goes against his grain. I’m talking big picture, not St. Joe style micromanagement. Ultimately, he has the right (and duty to the team) to replace Donovan if there exist too many differences between them. I don’t think there are.
I’m pretty sure that both of them have their heads up their asses. Self-bedazzled by their performance at Vandy, they decided to stay the course under far more trying circumstances at PSU. They had less to work with at PSU while having to satisfy a fan base with artificially high expectations. My personal feeling is that both of them are in this over their heads.
But, hell, I wanted to fire St. Joe after he went for the tie in the 1967 Gator Bowl, so what the hell do I know?
K. John says
I am not unimpressed with Franklin. He is what he is. He is known to hand complete control of the offense and defense to his coordinators. I wish Joe were like that late in his career. If he was, State would have run the table in 2005 and had a legit claim to a title (they were undefeated in reality and are deserving of a share) and would have run through the Big Ten undefeated in 2008 ending up playing Florida in the BCS title game, and they would have leveled Tim “the most over-rated player in college football history” and his team which was maybe the fifth best team in all the land.
Also, I don’t buy the SEC nonsense for a minute. It is harder to win in the Big Ten than it is in the SEC where you only have to win maybe two significant games. Even in bad years the Big Ten has more depth than the cheaters league of glorified southern junior colleges. Franklin defeated all the similarly talented teams in the SEC. He couldn’t topple the overloaded top of the league but nobody else can either because the rules won’t allow them.
The only time I ever wanted to fire Joe was after the 2007 Michigan when it was reported in State College that Joe had scrapped the offensive game plan (an early version of the Spread HD complete with Darryl Clark starting ahead of Morelli) the morning of the game sending the team out there with a generic game plan and without the benefit of practice.
Big Al says
There’s also “a chance” you will get hit by lightning tomorrow.
The real question is “what are the odds” State will beat Moo U. I’d say the odds are worse than betting on a specific number in roulette and winning.
The Nittany Turkey says
That would be 37-1 on an American roulette layout, or p = 0.027, which is admittedly greater than the probability of me ever banging Mila Kunis.