Nittany Lions Take on Buffalo after Temple Debacle
Our Penn State Nittany Lions (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) take on the Buffalo Bulls (1-0, 0-0 MAC) at high noon Saturday in the 2015 home opener in Beaver Stadium. The Bulls are riding high after last week’s 51-14 home victory over the Albany Great Danes, but bulls are bigger than even the biggest dogs, you know. In that game, Buffalo gained 467 total yards, but don’t expect to see such a porous defense in this game, man.
This is another game that Penn State “can’t lose.” I now have to admit that I’m making that statement with tongue (on the Internet, that’s spelled tounge) planted firmly in cheek. PSU hasn’t lost to Buffalo since 1900, although the two teams have met only twice.
The Nittany Lions wanted to put the embarrassment of last week’s loss to Temple behind them, so they buried the game video on Saturday — literally — in the dirt, on the practice field, right where they walk out. It was Christian Hackenberg’s idea. Players took turns digging the hole, which didn’t have to be very large, as the game video was contained in a single DVD. A few of them stomped on the grave when the burial was complete. I guess it made them feel better or something.
I feel queasy going into the Buffalo game. This was supposed to be one of the easiest of the “cupcakes”. But all bets are off now that we know that the Penn State offense is still playing Pop Warner ball with offensive coaching that would even make Jay Paterno look like Bill Walsh in comparison.
What crappy games like the Temple games do is empowering to opponents. They let even the cuppiest of the cupcakes know that this is a beatable team if they can manage to put enough points on the scoreboard. The defense can’t do it all, and everybody knows it. So if the offensive woes persist, which I think they will, you can look forward to at least one more so-called cupcake upset. I mean, I like it when Artificially Sweetened makes cupcakes, but I want them to be victory cupcakes, not comfort food in a time of despair.
About Our Worthy Opponent
Poor Buffalo. Since joining the FBS in 1999, the Bulls are just 1-24 all time against opponents from Power Five conferences, the single win happening over good old Rutgers in 2002. Buffalo last beat Penn State long before any of these conferences existed. Hell, it was even before St. Joe was born. Buffalo beat Penn State 10-0 in 1900. Revenge was exacted by Penn State 107 years later in a 45-24 victory in 2007.
Senior quarterback Joe Licata owns the school record with 62 touchdown passes. He has thrown a touchdown pass in 13 straight games and 27 of the 29 games he has started in his career. Against Albany, Licata completed 20 of 26 passes for 246 yards. He’ll have a rookie center, which could be ripe for exploitation by an aggressive Penn State defense.
Buffalo’s rushing attack is led by senior Anthone Taylor, who rushed for 1,403 yards last year. Last week, he had 17 rushes for 104 yards against the Great Danes.
Licata likes to throw short passes to his tight ends, Mason Schreck and Matt Weiser. Last year, Weiser had a career year with 15 catches for 286 yards and four touchdowns. Schreck is green and has ears like trumpets.
In contrast to their experienced offense, the Bulls’ defense includes a lot of youngsters. Just five of last year’s starters are returning for this year’s campaign. The two-deep depth chart includes only five seniors, and over half of the players are either freshmen of sophomores. But wait, that’s not all! Last year, Buffalo’s defense was among the worst in the FBS. So, you think PSU could at least gain a few yards and convert a few third downs, right? Even the Five Traffic Cones could look good against a young and inexperienced MAC defense, right?
On special teams, senior punter Tyler Grassman is experienced and is Number Three on Buffalo’s all-time list for number of punts and punting yards.
So, what’s up with Penn State?
The depth chart for this game doesn’t change much from the Temple fiasco. Of course, middle linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White is gone for the year, so senior Gary Wooten, Jr. is listed as starting middle linebacker. Grant Haley didn’t see action at the corner against Temple, but is listed as a starter for Buffalo. Otherwise, everything looks the same, including the Five Traffic Cones with Mike Gesicki at first-string tight end.
Regarding the Cones, Penn State head coach James Franklin said at his pre-Buffalo presser that they would consider playing the best five Traffic Cones. Perhaps we’ll see some fresh orange paint at some time. Franklin said that communications among the Cones was working well in practice but broke down in the heat of combat in the Temple game. No shit, Sherlock!
According to Franklin, Paris Palmer, our Colossus of Rhodes JuCo transfer behemoth at left tackle, played like a guy starting in his first game, and then Franklin cryptically stated that they’ll have to make some decisions this week.
We all want to see offensive coordinator John Donovan on the unemployment line, in response to which Franklin said that everybody has responsibilities and everybody has to pull their weight. Huh? Nothing like stating the obvious. But what the hell is he going to do about it? He went on to say the first sack changed things on the sideline, whatever the hell that means. “Gotta be mentally tough.” I guess he’s saying his offense folded its tent after the first sack, which is pretty much what the rest of us observed. Later, he mitigated that by saying that their demeanor wasn’t one of quitting, but rather losing confidence. Yeah, they lost confidence and quit. LOL.
Franklin’s waffling and doublespeak gives me shpilkis in da ganektigezoink.
I’m getting all ferklempt!
This week’s distinguished alumnus is Wolf Blitzer, who earned his B.A. in history at Buffalo in 1970. Blitzer, now 67, has been a CNN reporter since 1990. He began his journalistic career in the Tel Aviv bureau of Reuters in the early 1970s. He made a name for himself covering the arrest and trial of Jonathan Pollard, an American who was charged with spying for Israel. Later, after moving to CNN, Blitzer was one of the first Western reporters to visit KGB headquarters. He became a household name during his coverage of the Gulf War in Kuwait. Since then, he has covered prominent events winning the Peabody award for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina and an Emmy for his coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing. The Wolfster has been awarded many honorary degrees, but by far the most coveted in my estimation must be the Doctor of Humane Letters degree he was awarded by Penn State in 2011.
The game-day forecast calls for cloudy with some showers and a high of 74°F. Shouldn’t be a major factor unless traffic cones are not designed to weather a shower or two.
Getting down to brass tacks
I’m cringing because after last week’s “oy vay” moment, who da hell can predict anything this team will do? OMGOMG if they can’t beat Buffalo, then what? Noooooooooooooooo. I don’t think they’ll lose, but it’s going to be ugly. How ugly? Well, let’s just say that Joey “The Toe” Julius better keep his big fat tootsies warmed up and ready. The Nittany Lions are mad and the Bulls are going to pay! (Right?) So, Las Vegas has established Penn State at a 21-point favorite over hapless Buffalo, with an over/under of 53, suggesting a final score of 37-16 in favor of Penn State. Well, you know, that’s remarkably similar to what I predicted last week over Temple. I’m looking at this to be a sloppy, annoying game, but a win is a win, as they say. Penn State 23, Buffalo 10. Take the under.
I’ll be back after the game with my sparklingly witty wrap-up.