tOSU 27, PSU 26
It was déjà vu all over again Saturday night at raucous, whited-out St. Joe Memorial-Penndot Stadium at Beaver Field. Like last year, and countless times before, the #9 Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1) squandered a second-half lead to the better coached #4 Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0), ultimately losing by a single point, 27-26.
Not an Elite Team?
What is everybody (except those still on a drunken tear on High Street) talking about this morning? Two things. James Franklin asserting in his post-game media statement that Penn State is not an elite team, because it couldn’t beat an elite team is one thing, and the other thing is that Franklin and staff helped ensure that outcome by making the crappiest of all calls when the game was on the line.
Elite Teams Do Not Flinch
There were other questionable calls but none worse than the 4th & 5 call of a zone read RPO at the OSU 43 with 1:22 left in the game trailing 27-26. WTF? You all asked that question as did this turkey. I tried like hell to convince myself that Franklin is smarter than I about football (I never coached), and that he knows something I don’t. Even having let the anger/resentment/disappointment/denial and ultimate acceptance of the moment subside, I still have no fucking idea why the offensive brain trust could have called that fucking play!
Two timeouts worth of “thinking” went into the decision. The word “overthinking” comes to mind. ” Hey, the whole stadium knows we’re putting the ball in McSorley’s hands, so let’s trick their asses!” So, tOSU had been selling out stopping the run all night, succeeding in holding Miles Sanders to 43 yards on 16 carries. So, you think that’s going to change on 4th and 5, Franklin? You think they’re going to be playing the Sandusky pree-vert defense, or what? The run game was simply not working. Miles was tired. (I guess because of his fumble-itis, we saw none of Ricky Slade. WTF? Mark Allen out for the season, and no backup RB in a big game?)
The O-Line was being swarmed all night, our only hope of redemption being McSorley’s taking command of the game, establishing new highs for a Penn State quarterback. The ball should have been in his hands to sink or swim with the game on the line. GIVE THE BALL TO YOUR BEST PLAYER — which is McSorley, by far. Fuck me, that was not to be. No, instead, just give it to Sanders on a slow-developing hand-off. WTF? With five yards to go in the most critical situation with the game on the line, hand the ball to Sanders, who had been averaging fewer than THREE FUCKING YARDS per carry?
I’m getting all worked up again. I’m wondering how many URLs have been registered this morning like firejamesfranklin.com or rahnemustgo.net. Can anyone outside of Columbus shed any light on why that call was justified? Please do tell. I’m open-minded, if a bit emotional at the moment.
Good Stuff, Though
Trace McSorley’s outstandingly stand-out performance thrilled me, as did the presence of good defense for the first time this year. (The latter was somewhat daunted by the tired defense allowing an 8-play, 96 yard touchdown drive to give tOSU the lead when Blake Gillikin, who had been having an off night, had pinned the Buckeyes deep in their end of the pen). McSorley was 16-32 for 286 yards passing and ran 25 times for 175 more yards. That’s 461 total yards. Amazing, albeit against a suspect Buckeyes’ defense that had sold out against the run.
WE HAD THIS GAME IN THE BAG. Again.
I know you all mostly despise ESPN, so I embed the following. Unfortunately for those who will merely brush it off because it came from ESPN, Paul Finebaum is right. Franklin needs to state that he blew it, not throw out fine red herrings about elite programs versus good versus great programs or any other adjectives and bullshit, already. Just explain the reasoning behind the call, take responsibility and QUIT THE BULLSHIT! Poppycock! (If for some reason it doesn’t display below (like ESPN fucked up the embed code), go see it at THIS LINK).
And with that, I’ll cast off on this self-flagellation voyage on a ship of fools and wish you a nice bye week. Please give me your comments, share your frustrations, provide behavioral insights, etc., etc., etc.
K. John says
I am going to try to get through this post without getting into a rage. I know a lot of Penn State grads who get mad because I am not all in on Franklin and get really mad when I suggest he might be another John Cooper. Those of us old enough to remember the 90s know his Ohio State teams were regularly 10 points better than anyone in the country from a talent standpoint but always found somebody to lose to or I question his recruiting strategy which prioritizes athletes over football players (Mike Mauti, Brandon Short, Jason Cabinda, Navorro Bowman, Dan Connor, the list goes on) leaving huge holes in the roster. Last night highlights why I haven’t fully bought into Franklin, and it isn’t just him running up the score against Illinois, Pitt and Kent State, though I do hold that against him nor do I apologize for it. Personally, I think people are going to be even more upset after we lose to Sparty. Everything Ohio State did to contain the offense, Sparty can do better, and they won’t give up easy yards and first downs because they can spy Trace McSorley on nearly every play. Same for Iowa and Michigan. We’ll see about Wisconsin. We have other concerns there, like having them win the time of possession battle two to one and our offense never seeing the field.
The Nittany Turkey says
K. John, you didn’t succeed in not getting into a rage.
The Cooper comparison is a bit harsh. All John Cooper ever did is not beat Michigan, relegating OSU to second- or third- fiddle in the B1G. He had a tough act to follow (Earl Bruce) who himself had a tough act to follow (Woody Hayes). However, unlike Franklin, the program was intact when Cooper took it over — no scandals I can recall. (Tattoogate came later). His record was mediocre by the demanding standards of the OSU fan. But he didn’t have the mess Franklin walked into.
I’m not excusing Franklin for his role in the OSU losses of the past two years. The defense couldn’t close out the game with OSU buried deep in their own territory, and when the game was on the line, Franklin and his brain trust couldn’t come up with a play any more imaginative than a zone read that had been failing all night.
Franklin has some challenges this year and beyond. Talking about “great” teams and “elite” teams is way premature. First, the holes have to be filled. I think this is where you and I agree if I read you correctly. We haven’t seen depth throughout the roster for many years now, which creates a very fragile situation even if the first-stringers were exceptional. An injury or two, a graduation, a suspension — things that one can count on happening — break this team. If we emphasize the pissing contest for five-star and four-star recruits with the big numbers and NFL aspirations instead of taking care of the business of playing football, we get holes in lots of positions.
Question: Would Joe Moorhead have made that fourth-down call?
What really pissed me off is that Franklin was toe-to-toe with Urbz and he fllinched. Urbz won the stare-down, as he did last year. That series of two time-outs befuddled me — but I’m pretty sure I saw a yellow puddle around Franklin’s football shoes.
Well, what I think is we all need to calm down and reflect on this game and this team. Yeah, I was pissed after the results of the play call that ended the game. Yep I was WTF’n all over the place last night. Got so worked up it took me a while before I could get myself calmed down enough to get to sleep.
The sun did come up today and after watching some of the highlights and listening to the players, there are some truths to Franklin’s post game “rant”.
I will be the first to admit that through whatever hoodoo-voodoo CJF preaches/practices, he has brought this team out of the dark ages of the old brain trust. To use his terms and in my opinion, at the time of the Sandusky thing we were occasionally a good team, but in most seasons under St. Joe we were pretty fucking average. BOB didn’t stick around long enough, but he at least got us moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction.
Enter Franklin; con-man, snake oil salesman, successful (?) SEC coach, or whatever term you want to use to describe him, he got us thinking that maybe there really was a sleeping football giant in the middle of Pennsylvania and we could bring talent to the program, put cheeks in the seats with a solid team to refill the coffers and start to leave the dark days in the rear view mirror. So yeah through some balls to the wall recruiting, selling the family atmosphere of his program philosophy, and the quality of the university and alum base, we started to get consistently good and based on the past couple of seasons started to move the needle to the great line. But remember the goal he preached from day one-to be in contention for a national title. Not once every 6 or 7 years like the previous administration (if we were lucky), but every stinking year. Who does that-Alabama, Clemson, OSU, Georgia. The elites. That’s where he wants to get our program and that’s not easy.
So he’s got the recruiting train moving. Did you see the list of talent at the game for the classes of ’19 through ’21? You need to get that flow of high end talent year in year out. Yeah you can occasionally develop a 2-star recruit into a high round draft choice, but that’s not going to get you to that level if that’s what you’re spending all your time on. Look at Pitt and 90% of the B1G who use that approach and . . . .
You also need the coaches and for that you need the big $$$$. You need to be able to go to one of these programs and get the top guys to leave and come to your program. Seiders is one of those guys, but the TE coach and the guy from Army are not. Right now most of the guys we have are using PS as a stepping stone to a better school. We need guys who want to come here and have their next stop be a HC gig not a lateral move to a better program.
Some of the highlights (lowlights) I re-watched Sunday were:
-Dropped passes albeit not easy catches, but catchable just the same. We have talented receivers, but they are frustratingly inconsistent.
-Lineman missing assignments (sometimes they looked solid and sometime not, just watch the replay of that 4th and 5 play). They’re good, but not great yet.
-Special teams. It took our punter three quarters of the game to find his leg and his ability and I found myself looking away on every FG attempt. Only Checa our kickoff guy was consistently keeping OSU from getting a return and that was into both end zones.
-Dumb, stupid, lack of focus penalties. There have been way too many in all five games this year.
-I can’t remember tackling being this bad-EVER. We couldn’t bust up the screens, and couldn’t stop any of their wideouts when we had the chances. We just made those last two OSU drives look way too easy because we couldn’t tackle or bust up the blocking on any of those screen plays and they turned what should have been 4-5 yard gains into huge chunks of yardage.
Considering the above, it was only through the sheer grace of OSU playing like shit, Hawkins being lost and McSorely playing like a man possessed that allowed us to run out front like we did for 3 1/2 quarters.
At the beginning of the season, how many people really felt we could beat OSU this year? Last year? Even if we did both years, how many people really thought we were playoff contender worthy at the start of each season? How many people thought we could go undefeated or even have one loss? Yeah, it sucks that we were so close to knocking off OSU the last two seasons and didn’t. But the reality is we’re not there yet and to get to that elite level Franklin believes we can get to is going to take some time.
Based on what I read today, the play made sense from what they expected OSU to do, but unfortunately OSU came up with an unbelievable stunt on that play from Bosa’s replacement and their outside guys blew up our tackles and all three guys had every thing shut down. Even if McSorley had the ball he would have gotten crushed. Putting the ball in his hands doesn’t work if he can’t do anything with it.
I think Franklin is right, they have to get everyone to recommit to get to that top level and do the things, big and little that the big boys do that are there. If you noticed, we are consistently in the national conversation these days something that was missing for quite awhile.
We’re close and I don’t think it’s going to take all that long to get us there!
The Nittany Turkey says
Hell, no, I won’t calm down. I reserve the right to be pissed off until my ire is stoked further by a loss to Moo U.
First of all, what you read by the Sunday morning quarterbacks of BSD, etc., to the effect that if the ball had been given to McSorley for that final play, the results would have been the same, is just a second-guessing handwave. None of us know what would have happened. (Hell, while that last time-out was happening, I was yelling at Franklin to let McSorley MAKE THE DAMN PLAY CALL AT THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE — that “look at me” crap in that situation just makes the top of my head blow off, and I really don’t give a shit if that’s the way college football is played these days — IT SUCKS! I know McSorely is not Ben Roethlisberger or Tom Brady, but let him call the fucking play, make a quick snap to catch the defense with its pants down, read the defense on the fly… aaaarrrrrrghhhh! I’m naive and full of shit, but that’s the way I wanted it, and they didn’t deliver, so I must be right — as right as those dicks who write ex post facto analyses on Sunday morning) Sanders had been unable to get anything going all night, the O-Line had been pushed around, and the only thing that kept PSU in the game was McSorley. The boy had 461 yards total offense. He had been making plays all night. I don’t give a shit what “might have happened” — he’s the guy I want handling the ball when that game that he put so much into is on the line. It is HIS game at that point. It is absolutely crazy to not want to put the ball and the game in his hands. I will go to the grave feeling that Franklin melted down into a puddle of pussy piss right there and lost the stare-down with “elite” Urban Meyer.
Fucking “elite”, “great”, and “good” are just adjectives. However, the desire to categorize a venture with a single word is indicative of the society we live in today. WAIT… I’m thinking about the famous K. John inspired discussion of elite programs a few years ago right here in this here turkey coop. Seems as if Franklin must have read up on our musings on the subject before he prepared his “emotional post-game speech”.
I got the feeling in reading your commentary that you were starting out defending Franklin, but then started thinking about some of the crapitude of this year’s team. Juwan Johnson is an enigma — he must be thinking of last night’s pussy when he drops some of those easy ones — capable of making circus catches, but inconsistent as hell. The penalties are just plain annoying, but the missed tackles are distressing. When the defense cannot play fundamental football, there’s something wrong with the coaching, IMHO.
Yep, it will take time to get to that “elite” level. In the meanwhile, it would be good to see some improvement on the field instead of the same old missed tackles, penalties, and lack of focus.
Have a nice bye week and hope to hell some of these things are fixed before Moo U.
K. John says
The stunt was irrelevant on the 4th and 5 play. Sanders was tackled for a loss versus no gain. Even if they had picked up the stunt (more on that later), the play was going nowhere because Ohio State had the gap Sanders was trying to hit filled and they had outside contain. I don’t buy the argument that the look was right because it wasn’t. It is clear they thought they could get away with a last minute shift and catch OSU out of position. To me, that tells me they are not as confident in the offense as they think they are. When you look at the play and how it was developing, the call probably didn’t matter because we were not going to convert. Even if the stunt was picked, two defenders were free and standing in the gap the play was designed for. An RPO from that formation would likely have been snuffed out as well.
The Nittany Turkey says
In my iratitude (one of my crappy neologasms), I forgot to mention that the Nittany Turkey Prognosticator of the Week Pseudo-Award goes to Big Al, whose crystal ball yielded the following prediction:
“After flipping a coin, I decided to take the optimistic option. The Kitties play their best game so far, blow a 10 point 4th quarter lead, and lose 35-31.”
Unfortunately, that is how the game went.
Congratulations, Al, on your uncanny fortune-telling!
Big Al says
I’m trying to figure out how State’s defense can be so dominant during the 1st three quarters of the game and then completely suck during the final ten minutes. They looked like the defense at the local high school – which routinely allows 50+ points per game – during the Suckeye’s last two drives. This is 5th time (USC, Iowa, OSU twice, App State) State’s D has collapsed in the 4th quarter during the last 19 games. Trace bailed their sorry asses out in two of those games, but he can’t continue to do that when his receivers drop balls and JF/Rahne make boneheaded play calls.
I don’t what causing these collapses. But it’s starting to look like they’re choking – like the tennis player who hasn’t doubled faulted until he gets to 5-4 in the 3rd set and then double faults 4 straight times. To be sure of winning, State will have to have a 17 point lead by the mid point of the 4th quarter every time they play a team with a competent quarterback and two decent receiver. That description probably only applies to Moo U and Iowa. So, assuming Trace has one more last minute drive in him, a 10-2 finish is still on the table. Followed a Peach Bowl invitation and another 4th quarter meltdown against UCF.
The Nittany Turkey says
Last year (or was it the year before?) the excuse was “we’re a second-half team.” Now, we’re a second-half choker.
This meltdown provoked distress similar to 1995 when I was still an NBA fan. My team, the Orlando Magic, had waltzed into the NBA finals. They had talent up the ass, with Shaq, Penny, Horace, 3-D Dennis Scott, and Nick Anderson, but they couldn’t close the deal. In Game One, on their home court, steady Nick Anderson, who had had an excellent first-round series against Michael Jordan, missed four free throws in the closing seconds, any one of which if made would have won the game. Instead, they lost, and went on to be swept by Houston. Nick Anderson was never the same after that, and neither were the Magic.
Good teams (let alone “elite” teams) can live through a heartbreaking loss, but in the Magic’s (and Anderson’s) case, it got into their head. What had been a storybook season crumbled right there on the free-throw line. The Magic fell apart after that and were essentially banished to NBA obscurity. Talent alone cannot redeem a team whose psyche is broken.
Will this PSU team survive the gigantic heartbreak of a fourth-quarter choke by the defense and the coaches? Maybe an “elite” team can avert letting this kind of crap get into their heads and move on. It is a great test of character, IMHO. If Franklin can succeed in convincing the team to put it behind them and concentrate on the next Super Bowl, more power to him.
Was the Nittany Lion defense too thin and tired to make enough of a stand to prevent a 96-yard touchdown drive? I dunno. But enough of that kind of crap makes it hard to believe they’re not choking in clutch situations.
And the boneheaded play calls at the end of the first half and on the last fourth-and-five bespeak a loss of nerve, a loss of confidence in one’s prime playmaker, and a whole lot of insecure second-guessing.
K. John says
Penn State’s defense is not all bad and not all good. We have issues for sure, more than a few of which can be directly contributed to Franklin’s recruiting philosophy. If you look back the previous four weeks, the defense did fairly well defending plays similar to the types Ohio State ran in the first half. Where they struggled mightily were typically involved power running concepts, screens or other plays that force linebackers to make choices and open field tackles, or isolate corners. Ohio State played a very conservative first half using the fraction of their offense Penn State is will equipped to defense but generally low risk. I think it is crystal clear Urban Meyer was not comfortable unleashing the passing game until he saw how Haskins responded to the White Out. Ohio State started making adjustments in the second quarter. Once they figured out what would work, they came roaring back.
Just some notes:
-OSU was a completely different team once they crossed midfield.
-we got torched on every screen
-chip kelly clock management. nothing wrong with snapping the ball with 5 seconds left on the play clock.
-with the game on the line you put the ball in the hands of your hottest player. what i saw was too much pete carroll philosophy of “they’ll never see this coming”.
-what the hell was the tommy stevens package in the first quarter. complete waste.
-4 years of no OL. Get a competent OL coach, because this isn’t a talent issue. Thats two years in a row losing to OSU in part because of a soft OL.
-this game culminated in franklin reverting to his old bad habits. poor clock management and play calling.