Penn State 31, Maryland 30
Avast, me hearties! Penn State unleashed the Hackenberg long ball in a desperate attempt to claw their way past their new rivals, the Merryland Terrapins. In the end, Penn State prevailed, beating the Terps 31-30.
While the final score indicates that this should have been a highly contested, exciting see-saw game, at times it looked like neither team wanted to win. It came down to who held the ball last, and I mean “held”. On many occasions during this fumble-fest, it seemed like both teams were trying to hang onto a greased pig. Penn State lost three fumbles; Maryland lost two. Throw in the Nittany Lions’ three interceptions of Maryland quarterback Yinzer junior Perry Hills, and you have the quintessence of a slopfest.
Looking at it positively, when the Terps loaded up the box to stop Saquon Barkley (65 yds on 20 carries with one touchdown), they went to man coverage in the secondary, which gave our boy Christian Hackenberg some freedom to launch Wally Richardsonesque mortar rounds in the general direction of Chris Godwin (4 receptions for 135 yds and a touchdown) and DaeSean Hamilton (5-96, 1 TD). These are great receivers who can make spectacular catches out of jump balls. Although ineffectual with the short passing game and still below 50% in completion percentage, Hack had a career day with 13 completions of 29 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
One cannot look at the Nittany Lions’ defensive effort as a positive by any stretch. No no no! Not what we expect from this vaunted defense! Maybe we expect too much. The defensive brain trust was well aware of Perry Hills’ running capabilities from watching his performance in the Ohio State game. Yet, they gave up 124 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries by Hills. Hills also threw 19 passes for 28 yards and another touchdown, but was intercepted three times. The sad fact is that this vaunted Penn State defense allowed 466 yards to a balanced offensive effort by Maryland, and yeah, that means the so-called great run defense couldn’t cut it.
Of course, the defense got little help from the offense, when it came to keeping them fresh. Turnovers notwithstanding, the Terps were able to hold onto the ball for 35:41 to the Lions’ 23:27. That suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks, as does the continued abysmal third down conversion rate. Penn State converted three of thirteen. If the short passing game continues to suck, there will be no improvement in this situation. The defense will be back on the field quickly, and they’ll be gassed. Try to chase a slippery running quarterback with a gassed bunch of big guys and the results are entirely predictable.
Whither Goeth Penn State?
This is not a winning strategy for future games. Maryland is one of the crappiest teams in the Big Ten, and PSU played them even-up in most ways. The Terps lost the turnover battle, so they lost the game. Our secret weapon, Saquon Barkley was bottled up, so the long pass became our weapon of choice. A great receiver like Chris Godwin gives us that flexibility, but only against defenses like Maryland (#104 in passing efficiency defense) or Indiana (#106), especially when they resort to man coverage. Looking at the remaining schedule, we have Illinois (#25), Northwestern (#4), Michigan (#1), and Moo U. (#81). OK, so in John Donovan’s great offensive mind, we revert to the run, right? Not so fast, Lee Corso! Maryland’s rushing defense is ranked #82. Remaining opponents are #50, #41, #2, and #19. Penn State must get the short passing game working or we’ll be looking at another 6-6 record.
And another thing — Gesicki. Why the hell keep throwing in his direction if he can’t catch? Week after week at our gathering, we ask the same question and scratch our heads at the continued failed experiments. What’s up with Kyle Carter? He seemed healthy enough to make one catch for 17 yards. Gesicki dropped all his passes, damnit. This cost some third down conversions and I’m getting sick and tired of watching not only Hackenberg sailing easy sideline passes over receivers’ heads, but also receivers dropping easy ones. Buncha shit!
The Maryland-Penn State Rivalry
About this rivalry thing. Get off your Penn State high horse and admit it. Randy Edsall called it a rivalry, but we laughed at him last year. PSU barely beat them this year. They compete for recruits in the same part of the country, and they are both playing similarly crappily, so why shouldn’t this be considered a rivalry, already? If you think a rivalry with Maryland is beneath our dignity and you say they’re not good enough to even carry our jock straps, then you haven’t been watching the sad on-field product that Penn State has produced under James Franklin. For the waning years of St. Joe, we saw a decline to mediocrity in many areas, so this is nothing new. It is hard for fans to grasp, but this is not a team that will compete for a Big Ten crown anytime soon. I don’t care what excuses you throw at me to mitigate the obvious. The proof is in the pudding.
Going Forward, Down the Road, At the End of the Day…
Yeah, a win is a win and Penn State is now bowl eligible. They’ll no doubt get an offer from the Ty-D-Bowl ToiletBowl.com Bowl (that’s three “bowls” in one!). However, does this feel satisfying to you? Somehow, deep inside, even the most sanguine of the Sanguinarians must feel unsettled about the state of this team. I sure as hell do.
So, on we go. Right tackle Andrew Nelson was hurt again, so the Traffic Cones will be even worse than they were in this game, in which they gave up four sacks and didn’t make holes for our great freshman running hero, Saquon. Special teams still bite the big one. Illinois next week is not a sure win, but speak up. I’m listening.
I’ll be back with a preview and prediction of the upcoming game with the mighty Illiniweks (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions opened as six-point favorites to beat the Native Americans from Illinois back home at Beaver Stadium.
Hackenberg is lucky his receivers made him look good. His mortar rounds as you say were in the general vicinity of the receivers and only their athletic efforts resulted in a catch. Gesicki? Convert him to a lineman. He has no business trying to touch the ball. And it seems his lack of pass catching skills has rubbed off on Akeel Lynch.
How this team is 6-2is a wonder. Except for the receiving corps I think everyone was slip slidin’ away in this mess….including the coaching staff. What do they work on in practice during the week? Do they prepare for the upcoming opponent? It seems that the entire organization just shows up Saturday before game time and decides to play. ….not necessarily well, but play. How spoiled we were back in the day!
Ever try throwing a ball 20, 30 or 40 yards toward someone with another person coming at you full speed and wanting to smash in your skull a few feet away, let lone trying to see what the hell is going on downfield? Yeah Hackenberg’s receivers made him look good, but what QB’s receivers don’t. No, I think he had a great game with the long ball, which is really his strength. Receiver’s are supposed to win those catches and they did. Hackenberg got the ball to where his receivers could make a play and they did. Can you imagine where this team would be without him, even with his issues? I watched McSorley come in for one play and he looked like an 8th grader all of a sudden thrown into a varsity game. Talk about a deer in the headlights!
I’ll give Geisicki the benefit of the doubt, youth, inexperience, trying to hard who knows what, but the what you’re seeing is the problem we still have-who do you replace him with?
Yeah, I think through some benevolent football god’s action, the alignment of some time-space continuum, or sheer luck we’re 6-2 and I’ll take that anytime. I’d also fire Donovan at the end of the season for not being able to bust up an 8-9 man in the box defense through his play selections, but Maryland refused to budge from their cover 0 even after Hackenberg was successfully launching mortar rounds downfield and with our patchwork line, you were just not going to run anything between the tackles. I’d also fire Rahne because as a QB coach he hasn’t been able to fix Hackenberg’s issues with his short throw deliveries even though he’s had every bit of two years to get it fixed. I don’t think they just show up and play, I don’t think they can make adjustments in game to the game plan when that goes south.
And I don’t know what “days” you’re referring to, but my urge to put my fist through the TV at times, is every bit the same feeling I had with BoB and St. Joe and some of their game planning/in game adjustments.
The Nittany Turkey says
Joe, you know that time heals all wounds, and when the chips are down anything seems better than the present. We obviously had serious offensive issues under St. Joe from “the dark years” forward. Back in 2002, the only thing that saved our ass was Larry Johnson’s 2000+ yards, much the same as we’re counting on either the Barkley run or the Hack long ball to save our ass now. (At least now we’re two-dimensional.)
Hack still is pro material because of his arm. Artificially Sweetened thinks he’s handsome enough to make the NFL, too, even though she thinks the same of Drew Brees. (She draws the line at Andrew Luck, though, but I digress.)
And yes, we’re once again faced with the “PSU ruins good quarterbacks” syndrome, something that dates back well into the Paterno days in the 1980s. (Exemptions were always given for Fusina and Blackledge (because it was “a different era”) and for Kerry Collins (“he brought in so much raw talent that they could do little to destroy it and they left him to his own devices”). I don’t think they ruined Morelli — he was just too much of an egotistical asshole. Anyhow, once Hack hits the NFL, they’ll clean up his mechanics and footwork or he’ll last as long as Ryan Leaf. Nevertheless, it would be great if he sticks around for another year, which I think would be advisable for his sake — if and only if he can get excellent coaching during the last year.
And hey, I could throw a ball 60 yards while being blindsided by a 6’7″ 380 lb defensive tackle — in my dreams.
I too would like Hackenberg back for one season but only under the same circumstances you mention, but alas I don’t think that’s going to happen. After watching Hack for three years, McSorely looks tiny out there!
Hey NT-even the ugliest win is better than the most beautiful loss (or something to that effect.) Yeah it was bald dog ugly at times, but at least Donovan or JCF recognized that they were going to have to break out the artillery if they hoped to pull this out. And fortunately at least we had a QB and receivers who were up to the challenge.
When I noticed on our first series that Maryland was placing nine guys within 5-7 yds of the line of scrimmage, I figured there was no way they were going to let Barkley or any other running back be a factor in the game. And with our sometimes previous unwillingness to go deep, I figured this was going to be a long day. Cover 0/Cover 1 takes gonads to play even with first rate CB’s, and I guess Locksley was saying I’d rather play the percentages that you can’t beat me with only the long ball. Guess he was wrong.
Say what you want about Hackenberg, there is no one else that could have got those howitzer shots down the field to a point where the receivers had a 50-50 chance to make the catch and make catches they did. I assume you saw McSorely just flat out freeze up on his one play-that was probably the scariest moment in the game for me!
I think the defense went from one extreme (tentative against OSU) to overly aggressive against the turtles and they paid for it. I also think missing Nyeem Wartman-White has an impact as well. Cabinda is doing OK as is Bell, but apparently he’s been playing on a bum ankle. Reeder looks okay, but he’s a true freshman I believe, and after that, the depth falls off pretty quick. Our corners did not look that good, especially Lucas on their TD pass (he was way out of position) and I thought there were a lot of poor tackling efforts. But as crappy as they looked at times, they did stop them on their last four series. We’ve got some talent at the starting positions, but when you get in to the two-deep and beyond that’s where you see the lingering effect of the sanctions-there just is not a lot of quality or experience to use as replacements.
Even though it’s tempting, I find it kind of ridiculous that a bunch of grown men (myself included, though I’m not as old as some of you buzzards) are criticizing 19-20 year old kids for dropping some passes or sailing them over the heads of the intended receivers. Jump on the coaches like I do; aren’t they supposed to be teaching these kids how to improve their catching and throwing. And Carter has had his share of stone-handed moments too.
Yeah Maryland is a shitty team, but don’t overestimate what getting rid of Edsal and replacing him with Locksley and his let’s have some fun attitude meant to this team. Also looks like they put their bye week to good use by really coming up with a really sound game plan. I’m also not big on offense and defense rankings and what that impact is on the outcome of a game. It’s a statistical value that can be overcome by good game planning (maybe not in our case), execution and some luck. And yes I do believe if you can give our receivers a 50-50 chance to catch a deep pass, defensive rankings go right out the window.
I still laugh at Randy Edsal, and really don’t give a shit whether some people call it a rivalry and some don’t. I don’t consider this a rivalry for the same reason that I don’t consider OSU a rivalry; the results are too one sided. In my mind, the only rivalry PS has is Pitt. The I hate your fucking guts and everything you stand for attitude that made that series what it was. PS needs to get off their high horse and work with the B1G to get this baby scheduled the Friday after Thanksgiving every year forever!
Every year since the NCAA imposed the sanctions, PS has achieved bowl eligibility. I don’t remember if the restriction hadn’t been lifted last year if under the original sanctions we still could have gone to a bowl this year, but we can and we will. If you watched and listened to the team after the game, that does mean something to these kids. Yeah it’s not the Rose or one of the of the other big dogs, but it’s still a bowl, and as I’ve said at least a dozen times with the youth on this team, those 15 extra practices are really the reward.
So I think we can still finish with 8 wins and if there is a benevolent football god out there maybe 9, but an ugly 8 win, bowl trip season isn’t all that bad considering what we were thinking a few years ago. Oh and Temple is still undefeated and Franklin was mentioned on the long list to replace Golden at the U.
The Nittany Turkey says
We geezers bitch about the play of 19-20 year olds because it’s something fun to do when we’re not playing shuffleboard or pinochle. Get over it.
I think that Justin Fuente will wind up at Miami. Just a hunch. Golden is probably going to wind up coaching at a lower level until he shows he can elevate a program instead of submerging it.
You know, fans will bitch and demand perfection. I know I do. You can take the high moral ground by giving the kids leeway because they’re young if you wish. That’s your schtick, but different strokes for different folks, to coin a 1970s aphorism. A major function of spectator sports is to foment arguments, so I’m always happy to hear from (and condemn) both sides. That’s the fun of it.
If people would rather pontificate than listen to others, that’s sport! When we get old, we don’t play on the field. When we get old, we don’t fight with our fists. When we get old, we do it all with our geezerly brains in various stages of dementia, driving our pens, our keyboards, and our big damn mouths. How is speculating on shit with impunity not fun?
Whoop-de-doo, the Toilet.com bowl turns these kids on? These same kids’ generation got participation awards through their school careers for achieving mediocrity. In fact, they’re probably two generations away from any semblance of meritocracy in their pre-college developmental days. Today’s kids of the “YOLO” persuasion, which is most of them, embrace the ingrained “never miss a party” philosophy, so of course they want a bowl game, although I’m not sure how much partying there will be at the Holiday Inn in Kohler, WI.
Back in the old days, when this geezer was a lad, players could vote to turn down a bowl bid and I can recall Penn State players having done so in a couple years. They wanted to be home for Christmas rather than screwing around with football, including your oft-stated 15 extra practices. These days, with the family unit shot to hell and kids wanting to get away from family instead of embracing its virtues, the party is the easy winner, even if it means them loafing through a few football practices. Besides, they probably don’t have the choice in this big money game, because Sandy Barbour will take the paycheck, even if it comes from a toilet manufacturer.
I actually like the prospect of watching Barkley and Hack doing their one-trick pony thing. It’s kind of like watching LeVeon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger, albeit at a much lower level. You know that the threat of breaking a big run is always there and that the long ball to talented receivers is ready and waiting for an opportunity. Obviously, the Steelers’ offensive line, even without Pouncey, is a little better (sorry about the sarcasm) and Ben knows how to evade rushers a little better (same parenthetical), but on a good day for the Nittany Lions the entertainment value is similar. On a bad day, Hack is zinging uncatchable darts on screens and winging the ball four feet over the heads of receivers eight yards downfield, frustrating the shit out of viewers. The damn offensive coaching staff needs to concentrate on fixing the third-down situation.
And another thing. I’m still tired of hearing Franklin say “we’re 1-0 this week and that’s all that matters.”
Haha, finally a response from the NT I’ve grown to admire. Your previous postings were getting a tad bit too sugary!
The Nittany Turkey says
Always happy to receive expressions of appreciations from my broadly talented and knowledgeable audience!
The Nittany Turkey says
Furthermore (don’t stop me, I’m on a roll), McSorely (sic) looked like shit out there because being inserted in the middle of a game was unanticipated, and he hasn’t had enough game reps to be comfortable out there, besides. One snap wasn’t enough to settle him down, and a couple of snaps during garbage time in a few games are not enough to allow him to develop any confidence in real game situations. After all, he’s a young kid.
I put this squarely on Franklin’s shoulders. He should be insisting on getting more reps for McSorley. What happens if Hack goes down for a game or two? Any idiot, even old idiots, knows we’re playing with fire there. Shit happens, to coin another 1970s aphorism. Having McSorley in there obviously also keeps the tired Hack from being purposelessly hurt late in games that are already decided. Alas, the time for working McSorley was during the “cupcake” period when games were out of reach. I don’t expect anything to be out of reach in the fourth quarter for the rest of the year, except maybe in the Moo U. game.
Big Al says
That game was butt ugly, but it was still more fun to watch than any other game State played this year. Maryland may not be our rival (after all, we’re ‘UNRIVALED” according to the arrogant hacks in State’s SID), but we’re certainly their rival. Right now, the rivalry is like Michigan – Moo U before Moo U hired Dantonio. If the Derps get lucky and hire the right head coach, this will be an entertaining game for years to come.
Personally, I think this might have been Hack’s best performance of the year – regardless of what the statistics say. He hung in against a tough pass rush and made the throws he needed to make. He hasn’t learned how to make the touch passes (attempting and completing some screens to the running back would have helped a lot against Maryland’s defensive scheme) and he won’t last in the pros unless/until he does. But he saved State’s ass in this game.
Regarding the Cane vacancy, I think Pat Fitzgerald would be the perfect coach for them. He has the right blend of discipline and swagger that they need. Fuente’s too staid and won’t fit into the Miami lifestyle – no way he’s going to be out chasing Cuban tail on Calle Ocho or South Beach. Plus, it would get Fitz out of Franklin’s hair. (I can’t wait to see what Fitz comes up with during the bye week just to fuck with Franklin)
The Nittany Turkey says
But Al, I fell asleep in the third quarter.
With respect to Miami, I don’t think Miami can pay Fitzgerald enough to get him away from Northwestern. They’ve got maybe $3 million for a coach at the U, and Pat’s already making $2.5 or so at NWU. That’s why I’m thinking it will be one of the AAC guys, for whom it would be a step up in class. Donna Shalala ain’t the president at Miami anymore, so I don’t know that Clintonian partying capability is one of the requirements for a head football coach anymore. The new president, Julio Frenk, has a distinguished record in global public health and was once Minister of Health for Mexico. Thus it would be a severe embarrassment with lifelong ramifications if his football coach caught the clap in South Beach and scored some coke on Calle Ocho. I’m thinking that the hard-working Fuente will be perfect. Besides, he played for Howard Schnellenberger, so he has a UM connection of sorts. Otherwise, just a hunch.