Army to Invade Beaver Stadium
Well, well, well, folks. Here we are fully one-third of our way into the 2015 Nittany Lions season and what do we know?
Not much. While the boys have won the past three games and should easily win this one, the running game is now imperiled by the loss of Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley, which means that there will have to be a re-emphasis on the passing game. That’s a welcome thing for a lot of you, especially since in last Saturday’s second-half effort Christian Hackenberg proved that he still had it in him to be a productive passer, even when cowering behind the sieve-like Five Traffic Cones.
Now it’s time for the topic paragraph, which is way past due. At high noon Saturday the mighty Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) will host the Army – West Point Black Knights (1-3) before an outsize crowd, partially due to the fact that we like to celebrate the Armed Forces, who fight our wars that politicians start, and partially due to the fact that Penn State has not played Army since 1979.
The Black Knights are coming off a crazy-ass 58-36 “pitchers’ duel” with the Brick Dick boys of Eastern Michigan, while the Lions are basking in the glow of a 37-21 slopfest win over San Diego State.
This is the final tune-up, cupcake, cream puff game of the season. After this, it is on to the Big Ten Conference “meat”. From cupcakes to meat. Seems ass-backwards, doesn’t it? But let me not get mired in bullshit. I’m digressing, as usual.
In the all-time series against Army, the Nittany Lions hold a slim 13-10-2 advantage. The first game in the series was played in West Point in 1899, and I’ll have you know that our very own pink and black Nittany Lions won that one 6-0. That didn’t last. Through the Earl Blaik years at West Point, the muleys rode roughshod over the Nittany Lions, as they were doing with everyone else, replete with several undefeated years in which they produced three national titles as well as Heisman trophy winners like Doc Blanchard, Glenn Davis, and Pete Dawkins. However, commensurate with the advent of big-time, big-money college football, Penn State established dominance over Army, enjoying a 10-0 record since 1968. Army’s last win over Penn State occurred in 1966, but as I mentioned before, the two teams haven’t met since 1979
About Our Opponent
They’re there to protect us, man, so why don’t they have a defense? Good question. Glad you asked. Hell, I don’t know. Let’s move on.
This year, the Black Knights are honoring U.S. Army combat units, wearing helmet stickers for different divisions each week. For this week’s game, they’ll be honoring the 101st Airborne Division. I don’t think the paratroopers will be helping much with their defense. Wishful thinking, I suppose.
So look, already, Army might not have much of a defense, but their rush-skewed offense might just give our vaunted defense a little trouble. You don’t see many triple-option oriented offenses anymore in the FBS, but behold, this is one of ’em.
Last week’s game with Eastern Michigan was the first win of the year for Army, and a road win at that. It was a wild and woolly game in which 1127 yards of total offense were produced by the two mortal combatants.
“Not much defense on either side, eh?” you say. Why no, but surely the fine folks of Ypsilanti were entertained by the field gobbling offenses, of which Army produced the Lion’s share (no pun intended) with 654. All but about 100 yards of that was gained on the ground, which confirms Army’s reputation as an option-oriented running team. A total of 53 first downs in the game tells more of the offensive oriented story, further underscored by the fact that Eastern Michigan punted only three times, whereas Army punted nunce! That’s a big zero. Zilch. Nada.
To call the Black Knights a “possession offense” is probably an understatement. They more than doubled up on the Brick Dicks, with an almost unheard of 41:21 time-of-possession to EMU’s 18:39. Oy vey!
But the cornerstone of that offense, Ahmad Bradshaw, the Black Knights’ leading rusher, might not play against Penn State. The sophomore quarterback left the game due to a leg injury in the second quarter.
“Forsooth! What does this mean for Penn State?” you ask. Vell, I’ll tellya. PSU just found its passing offense last week, now ranking an earth-shaking 109th in the FBS, but Army never had one. They rank 125th. However, on the other hand, you have five fingas: Army ranks ninth overall in rushing offense. They’ve got an option, and they know how to use it. In the Brick Dick game, they threw but nine passes, completing five of them.
Penn State has the 14th ranked rushing defense in the FBS, of which we are always proud, but it has shown itself to be vulnerable to big, outside plays. That means that people on defense are going to have to maintain discipline (i.e., “stay at home”, in Sportscasterese). With talented linebackers who excel at reacting quickly, there is always a danger that they overcommit. PSU must stay at home — not literally, although noon starts are indeed problematical in that regard to the extent that ya think that half the damn team stayed home, at least for the first half. But that’s neithah heah nor deah.
Meanwhile, if Lynch and Barkley are still out injured, the Nittany Lions running game is in deep shit, so this would be a great time for Christian Hackenberg to show off his newly rediscovered passing capabilities against the 94th ranked pass efficiency defense of Army. Eastern Michigan’s Brogan Roback completed 27 of 39 against them for a total of 280 yards and two touchdowns, though he was intercepted once as well.
As for the injuries, all head coach James Franklin said he could tell us was that he didn’t think they were season-ending. His depth chart remains unchanged for the Army game, which means it is meaningless. Like I always tell ya, when ya hiyah clowns, ya get a circus.
Penn State’s Keys to the Game
- Show up. Yeah, it’s a noon start, which means no one will be wanting to play until the second half at least. No one on the Penn State side, anyway. The Army guys are tacticians, and they know this. They will have a battle plan prepared.
- Don’t get sloppy. Penn State has been watching the ball pretty well this year and is maintaining a positive turnover ratio for a change. Keep it up, damnit!
- Watch the outside. Last week, the vaunted Penn State defense showed some vulnerability to off-tackle runs. Facing an option offense, that ain’t good.
- Use the vertical passing game. We just found out that Penn State had one last week. Now, it must become the centerpiece of the Nittany Lions’ offense due to injuries to running backs. Receivers need to get open and Hack needs to use his legendary arm to hit them.
- Convert third downs. It would be a complete embarrassment if the Lions don’t convert more than 50% of third-down situations. Hell, don’t even go deah!
Alumnus of the Week
I could have easily picked Coach K of Duke basketball fame, but nahhhh, you know your Turkey. Who the hell wants to hear about basketball, anyhow? Instead, I go for the dramatic. First, though, a caution. To those who come here for the porn star of the week, sorry, that’s not really what this feature is all about. So there’ll be no Asian porn stars once again. However, I did find a blonde for you.
George Armstrong Custer, West Point Man from Start to Finish
George Armstrong Custer graduated last in his class from the United States Military Academy in 1861, just as the Civil War was cranking up. After establishing a reputation of daring and brilliance in battle, Custer served as an aide to Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, Class of 1846, during the Peninsular Campaign and was commissioned a brigadier general at the age of 23. After conducting several successful operations in 1864, he was placed at the head of the 3rd Division, Calvary Corps, and was brevetted major general of volunteers.
During the Civil War, Custer was frequently termed “The Boy General” in the press, reflecting his promotion to brigadier general at the age of 23; during his years on the Great Plains in the American Indian Wars, his troopers often referred to him with grudging admiration as “Iron Butt” and “Hard Ass” for his physical stamina in the saddle and his strict discipline, as well as with the more derisive “Ringlets” for his vanity about his appearance in general and his long, curling blond hair in particular.
In 1876, he and his regiment of 655 men were defeated at the Battle of Little Bighorn. It was there where Custer died at the ripe old age of 36. Inasmuch as you all are already familiar with Custer’s Last Stand, I won’t belabor the point.
Back Home to West Point
Following the recovery of Custer’s body and that of his brother Tom, the remains were buried on the battlefield side by side in a shallow grave, after being covered by pieces of tent canvas and blankets. One year later, Custer’s remains and those of many of his officers were recovered and sent back east for reinterment in more formal burials. Custer was buried again with full military honors at West Point Cemetery on October 10, 1877.
Man, it’s been raining in State College. Like really raining, and it’s also expected to rain on Saturday, with some gusty winds. It ain’t Native American Summer in Pennsylvania, so don’t even go deah! (On the uddah hand, there are five fingas, but I digress.) The expected high temperature is 56°F.
Sooooo, I expect another slopfest. The slippery ball and slippery field will be anathema to both offenses. Army will have a rough time getting traction on the field, while Hack will have a rough time getting traction on the ball. The vertical passing game in particular is an iffy proposition under inclementary weatheristic circumstances.
So, damned if I know who has an advantage due to the weather. The football gods will determine who wins and who loses.
Official Turkey Poop Prediction
It’s that time again. Unfettered by porn star research and uncolored by external input, your turkey is now ready to issue his game prediction. There is no Las Vegas line on this game, but if there was, Penn State would probably be favored by about three touchdowns. While the gamblers aren’t touching this one, the Nittany Turkey will go forth boldly and make a prediction. Hack gets his attack back, man, and you don’t even want to go deah! Penn State 42, Army 14. Army can score on big running plays. Hell, if the Aztecs scored three TDs, Army can score two. There ain’t no over/under, but dat’s neither heah nor deah. Now, go spank your mule.
I’ll be back after the game for a turkey wrap and a beer.
Artificially Sweetened says
1127 yards of total offense sounds to me like a record breaker, but after extensive Googling, I couldn’t figure out what is the record. Furthermore, I think you have been hitting the Negroni. I do not see our guys scoring 42 points without Barkley and Lynch. (Sounds like a law practice). I’ll say 27-14.
The Nittany Turkey says
Since you mentioned it, I tried looking for the record and couldn’t find it, either. But on the other hand…
Got you for 27-14, and I understand your reasoning there — the offense is continually shooting itself in the foot even when it is at full strength, let alone when one dimension of the attack is crippled. Nevertheless, it’s Army, their defense sucks, and Hack did throw two TD passes last week against an defense that put up a bit of a fight, so that’s the reason behind my reasoning.
K. John says
Cincinnati and Memphis were well above that number last week combining for 1,322 yards of offense. Cincinnati had 752 in a losing effort. Interestingly, Cincinnati played Temple in week two in a game that was essentially over to start the fourth quarter. At that point, Cincinnati had compiled less than 250 yards of offense with a fumble and two interceptions.
I want to wait until I see what the weather looks like for Saturday before making a prediction.
K. John says
Alright, with tropical storm X bearing down on Happy Valley, a playing surface that is showing signs of going downhill due to the frequent rain coupled with large bipedals adding their own type of wear and tear, I don’t expect good conditions. Normally, bad conditions favor the offense, however, that is not the case when you run the wishbone or one of its runty offsprings to include the triple option. Penn State’s D-line will have an even more significant advantage and worse, those precise cuts the Cadets rely on to pick up yardage will be more difficult to make. I suspect Franklin will not run up the score but should get out to a fast start offensively and defensively. Franklin doesn’t seem to care much of fantasy numbers so Army scores late once or twice.
Penn State 47
The Nittany Turkey says
I think I might have caught your optimism bug and become a pseudo-sanguinarian this week. Looking at predictions here and there, I see most hanging in the high 20s and low 30s. What? They think a little wind and rain is going to worry Hack, who is now being compared to Troy Aikman? (By Trent Dilfer, who said Hack was in “a bad situation” at Penn State.)
Got you for 47-17.
Big Al says
Until the offense proves it can score more than 28 points, I’m not going to believe it will. However, the lousy weather could result in lots of turnovers jack up the scoring for both teams. Plus, there is uncertainty over Penn State’s injuries and which players will actually start. So, Vegas is right – this is a game that NOBODY should bet on.
If the smurf starts at running back. State will struggle and the game will be in doubt until the 4th quarter when State’s superior depth and size finally wears Army down – sort of like it did in the Buffalo game. If Saquon plays and is 90% healthy the game will be over by half time. I’m thinking that the smurf starts,, State ekes out a 10 point win after a late 4th quarter touchdown, and the Kool Ade drinkers have a melt down.
The Nittany Turkey says
Ye of little faith, just watch these guys as they score four touchdowns in the third quarter after they wake up and the outmatched Army D (even against the Five Traffic Cones) starts tiring. Army will have hung in there with a 10-7 first half in favor of the Lions. You know the pattern quite well, methinks. They’ll add a couple scores in the fourth in garbage time and give up another TD to Army then, too. I think they can do better than 28.
Vegas finally established a line: PSU – 27 and o/u of 47. I’m guessing you’d take Army and the points.
Big Al says
If State scores ANY touchdowns in the 3rd quarter it will be a surprise. They’ve scored a grand total of 3 3rd quarter points so far this year. And only 1 of their 14 3rd quarter possessions gained more than 19 yards. Except for the Temple game, Donovan’s half time adjustments (assuming he made some) haven’t worked. For Temple, State’s 3rd Quarter offensive output (52 yards) more than doubled the 2nd Quarter output (22 yards).
The Nittany Turkey says
Obviously, you’re right. Other than the three points they scored against Buffalo, Penn State has scored bupkis in the third quarter thus far this year.
Two things keep going through my mind when I think they’ll do something in the third quarter. First, last year they were a third-quarter team with pretty much the same offensive line-up and coaching staff. So my mind is stuck in last year where scoring was 46, 60, 72, 66, for the first, second, third, and fourth regulation quarters, respectively. Second, I write off the first period in a noon start and move the effort meter forward to the second quarter before players and brains are in sync. In many cases, opponents draw first blood before PSU knows what hit ’em.
So, I’m still looking for a big third quarter, Donovan or not.
How’s that for back-ass rationale?
Well as we prepare for the fifth game of the season already, (where the hell does the time go), I am no closer to understanding what this team will do from week to week. Yes it’s Army and it’s cool they’re wearing the Screaming Eagle patch on their lids as my son is a pilot in an aviation brigade in the 101st at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, but patches and family loyalty aside, Penn State just has too much depth for the long gray line to overcome (at least on paper), even if it rains cats and dogs during the game.
There should be some opportunities for some vertical passing success, perhaps in the 25-30 yard range and the three freshmen (Allen, Scott and whoever the third guy is they just brought over from the scout team) should find some success running the ball. even on a sloppy track. I don’t think CJF risks throwing Barkley out there on a slippery field to risk aggravating his ankle, so we’re stuck with the three rookies. Maybe Dominic Salomone will get some carries from the FB position. Did you know we had a FB??
The defense should be okay with Lucas and Marcus Allen practicing this week and IF the line stays disciplined especially at the edge, we should be able to bottle up Army on the ground, although I do expect a couple oh-oh moments when someone turns the corner for a big gain. And if they only threw nine times on a sunny day, I don’t think they’ll be airing it out during Hurricane Joaquin.
So I just want a game that I can watch without feeling I want to throw something at the TV-maybe this is the one and the last opportunity I’ll have this season. And no serious injuries!!!!!
I’ll call it PS 31-Army 14.
The Nittany Turkey says
Got you for 31-14.
Bad day for sports in da Burgh yesterday! The Steelers lost in OT at Heinz Field to the hated Ravens because they had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for place kickers after two went down in the pre-season, plus they have a coach with more balls than brains. Meanwhile, two doors down at PNC, the Pirates were getting their asses kicked as the Cards sent a post-season message to all who were watching. So, perhaps this Penn State bunch will provide a breath of fresh, albeit humid, air for the beleaguered sports citizenry of WPA while this turkey delivers some air of his own, of the hot variety.
Now, then, I agree with you that Franklin would be a complete idiot to play Barkley in this game, sloppy field or not. If he was Tomlin, he wouldn’t hesitate, but I digress. Given that PSU does have a fullback and that Army runs the triple-option, perhaps fullback dives will provide all the excitement we’ve long anticipated in this game.
Srrsly, though, we counted two sure wins at the outset of the season and this was, of course, one of them. Nevertheless, I’m sure that JF/Hack/VD will find ways to make it interesting and, perhaps, a nail-biter at times. (VD stands for Vaunted Defense, a sarcastic moniker I cling to because 1) they’ve been our only source of pride in this team at times, and 2) they do have chinks in what many seem to regard as impenetrable armor.) Given the VD’s demonstrable vulnerability to the outside run, Army might well get lucky enough to maintain the appearance of being in the game from time to time. The Penn State offense will sputter here and there, but that’s neither here nor there. The Nittany Lions typically make these cupcake games more “interesting” than they should be.
So, why am I sticking to my guns on the 42-14 prediction? A hunch, maybe. Just a hunch. Everything points to a slopfest: noon start, crappy field, couple of starters out, etc., but perhaps adversity will put the “T” in Team this time. They ain’t no “I” in Team, but they’se three “U”s in shut the fuck up! I’m thinking you won’t want to destroy the TV during this one.
But I could be wrong.
The Nittany Turkey says
Vegas finally couldn’t resist putting this game on the board. The line is now PSU – 27 with a puny over/under of 47. That suggests a final score of PSU 37, Army 10. I’m sticking with my prediction of 42-14, just because.
The updated weather has the rain tapering off in the afternoon with a high of 49°. Winds should be pretty much typical autumn breezes. Hurricane Joaquín should not be a factor, especially since it is predicted to take a more easterly course, On Saturday, the storm will be over open water about 500 miles east of the Florida-Georgia border. The weather system that has been inundating State College is moving east, which will drive the track of Joaquín further east than originally predicted. In any case, it will have no impact on Saturday.
Paterno Field at Sheetz-Beaver Stadium has been sloppy due to the prolific weather system hanging over Happy Valley, but this turkey has consummate faith in the grounds maintenance crew to make the grounds playable. Accordingly, I will not have to whip out any 2010 Capital One Bowl comparisons.