First Opening Shutout in Over 10 Years
The #6 Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) roared back from their soporific summer, pulverizing the penurious Akron Zips (0-1, 0-0 MAC) at home in St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver by a convincing score of 52-0. Convincing of precisely what, I don’t know, but hell, it ended the football drought, and that was something, already! Moreover, this win started the season with a bang, being the first opening day shutout since the Lions administered a similar shellacking to FIU (59-0) in 2007.
Roo Doesn’t Inspire Fear
The Akron Zips are probably not even a contender for the MAC title this year, which, by the way, seems to be a gimme for a Western Michigan team that gave #4 USC Lubricated, Reservoir-tip Trojans all the Latex Eleven could handle for three tumescent quarters on Saturday night. (Admittedly, I got carried away with the Trojan metaphor there. But I digress…) Well, srrsly, was the massacre not expected? What did it tell us?
Offense Was Pretty Solid, But…
Butbutbut… you know where I’m going here. At the outset, DaeSean “Hands” Hamilton was looking like Mike Gesicki in his early days at State. Hamilton dropped his first three passes. COME ON, MAN! While Hamilton eventually snagged three for 74 yards with a long of 29, WTF was going on there? Thinking of your GF, there D-Ham? Yeah, it was wet and the ball was slippery and heavy, but you’re a highly paid professional student-athlete, ‘Sean. Get yo’ haid in the game!
So, why do I start out with the negatives? Because, hell, there weren’t too many. One of them surely was the crappy attendance at the game. Sure, it rained, but COME ON, MAN! It was the damn opening game! Students arrived back on campus on August 19 and classes began on August 21. Is there something better to do in State College at noon on Saturday? Anyhow, da onliest other negative that comes to mind was on special teams, but I’ll get to that later.
So, lemme do some singing, already. When the dust settled and the shadows got as long as they can get at 3:00 in the afternoon after a noon start, Tommy Stevens had been at the helm for a while, as expected. Tommy finished a respectable 3-6 for 42 yards in the air and had an equally respectable 7-yard run. I like to give backups a shout-out (archaic and hackneyed as that sports cliché do be).
Kudos to the offensive line, formerly known as the Five Traffic Cones, for keeping it real (another passé cliché). The offense doesn’t look so good without their significant contribution, a breath of fresh air, as it were. (OK, here again, I’m taking a piss on sports-writer grammatical atrocities — use of the present tense to convey the past conditional — and hey, it can also be used in place of future tense, as in “I think Penn State wins next week against Pitt…” Gag me with a spoon. But I di-fuckin-gress!).
The McSorley-Barkley Show
They can hurt you in so many ways…
Tracy McSorley completed 18 of 25 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns with one interception (an end-zoner that would prevent an even more ludicrous final score). McSorley also had 12 carries for 48 yards and a TD. With the help of the revitalized, experienced offensive line, T-Mac is truly a dual-threat QB.
(Another sportswriter cliché comes to mind here: “They can hurt you in so many ways…”)
Another way “they” can hurt you is with the magnificent running of Saquon Barkley, whose 14 carries for 172 yards and two touchdowns made an opening day declarative sentence. (That’s a “statement” for those who need translation.) Humble as Saquon is, he credited the offensive line. Sasquatch also made three receptions coming out of the backfield for 54 yards. One thing is for sure, Barkley didn’t hamper his Heisman hopes with this performance. Nope, not one whit.
He can hurt you in so many ways…
I’m going to throw a Nittany Turkey kudo at Mike Gesicki this week. It will assuage my lingering guilt over calling him a bust a couple of years ago. Used to be that G-Zick couldn’t catch a kudo if it you tossed it at him from five feet and it had a handle on it! Zicky caught six passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Now, how cool is that? We have a tight end!
They can hurt you in so many ways…
Going into the game I had some serious questions about the front seven. I’m now cautiously optimistic. They recorded three sacks and 14 TFLs, but I’ll once again reel you in with this imperative statement: “It was Akron, man!”
The secondary looked great, but against what? We still harbor some concerns about the Reid injury. Next week will tell us more.
However, in the aggregate I’m pleased. Before the game, I said I wanted to see fewer than 75 yards allowed on the ground and 125 yards passing. The Mighty Akron Zips managed only 73 yards rushing (many of which were against the PSU second team) and 86 yards passing. The Penn State defense, therefore, met my bogie.
The huge defensive effort involved a shitload of players — 35 in all — with 21 of them responsible for at least two tackles. Lotta rotation going on there in the front seven, coupled with late game euphoric scrubstitutions.
Special Teams’ll Kill Ya
Well, not actually. But they can killya if you don’t watch out. (You can tell tahm, cantcha muthafucka? — never mind me — invoking old Richard Pryor routine — need … more … coffee… ). Tyler Davis was 1-2 on field goals with a 47-yarder to his credit, and a perfect 7-7 on PAT tries. And DeAndre Thompkins thrilled us with a 61-yard punt return to da house after a boneheaded running into the kicker call.
The other boneheaded special teams pooparoo was Alex Barbir’s kickoff out-of-bounds. COME ON, MAN! Dis funnamental shit, man! You got a field that is 160 feet wide and you can’t keep it between the sidelines? You was supposta be da man who allowed T. Davis to concentrate on splitting da uprights. Now go out there and kick the damn ball into da field of play!
One interesting observation on special teams was Saquon Barkley taking the second-half kickoff. My interest is not so much the 20 yards he gained, but the fact that he was out there returning kicks. This tells me that our Penn State Sports Brain Trust, Marketing Division is doing some serious marketing of S-Bark as a Heisman candidate. The return gave him an awe-inspiring, 246-yard day with two touchdowns. Take that, Sam Darnold (who suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked)!
Nope. I still don’t have any. Put everything that happened on Saturday in perspective: They played the damn Akron Zips! Ima wait for the Pitt game to start cogimatating in earnest about the contendicity of this Penn State Nittany Lions Team.
I’ll be back later in the week with a preview and prediction for the aforementioned Pitt game.