#13 Penn State 17, Pitt 10
No, they ain’t ready. While the specialty units have their act together, the offense and defense are nowhere near ready for the Big Ten schedule. With respect to the offense sputtering on third down, the offensive line generally sucking, the boneheaded coaching, and the defense not being able to get off the field, it’s déjà vu all over again.
They didn’t cover the spread. Not by a longshot. This game was up in the air until a dumbass coaching call by the other guy late in the fourth quarter, but even then, the Nittany Lions couldn’t conduct an extended drive to run out the clock. They just ain’t ready.
A Win Is a Win
Some will vacuously utter the platitudinous inanity, “a win is a win.” That’s tantamount to saying, “it is what it is.” Yeah, and what it is ain’t pretty. They ain’t ready.
Some will throw up a smokescreen. The ACC officiating crew blew several calls. Like da crocodile, they’re in de Nile.
“Increasingly Irrelevant” Time of Possession
Come on, man! Here we go again with the defense not being able to get off the field. Sure, they had a couple of great goal
Limegrover Has Had Enough Chances
We keep hearing that things will improve. The offensive line continues to suck. Sean Clifford was beaten up all day, and aside from Journey Brown getting spring for an 85-yard run, they got their asses kicked in run support —- 2.6 yards per carry was all our running back committee could muster. Same story for the past four years. Think of what Saquon could have done with a competent line in front of him. They ain’t been ready for four years and then some.
Receivers Still Dropping Balls
They ain’t ready.
Third-Down Performance Suuuuuuuucks
Four for thirteen. That’s 30.8%. When you can say that’s an improvement, you know they ain’t ready.
Clifford Has an Arm, Butbutbut
Wow! Sanguinarians were thinking we could stretch the field with Clifford’s arm strength. Think again. He’s actually got to put the ball where receivers can catch it. If he ain’t throwing balls behind guys streaking out of the backfield, he’s overthrowing deep receivers who have gotten behind the secondary. He ain’t ready.
And what about that stupid slide when he could have lowered his shoulder and made a first down to extend that crucial fourth quarter drive? WTF? The game is on the line. Go for it! He ain’t ready.
Boneheaded Coaching Cuts Both Ways
For most of the game we were lamenting that James Franklin couldn’t carry Pat Narduzzi’s jock strap, until the latter made the decision to go for a field goal on 4th and goal at the PSU 1 with just short of five minutes left in the game, trailing by seven points. WTF??? They missed the damn field goal, which would have added a meaningless three points. WTF???
Special Teams Are Ready
A 57-yard field goal, setting a Penn State record, along with consistently deep, great kickoffs, by Jordan Stout and decent punting by Blake Gillikin, made for a great day for special teams, who held Maurice Ffrench to eight yards on punt returns. Yep. They’re ready.
Lotta Work to Do
The bye week provides an opportunity to work on some things. They ain’t ready. Will they be ready for Maryland? All bets are off at this point.
Typically I agree with your assessments but I came away from this game thinking differently. I thought Pitt played extremely well especially Pickett, and Pitts game plan was just better than PSU’s except when Narduzzi lost his nerve and didn’t go for the TD at the 1 yard line. Granted the Offensive line was not consistent but I think the play calling had a lot to do with it, plus the RBs have to do a better job picking up the blitzer’s. I also thought Clifford took too long to make his reads and held the ball too long. IMO the D line played well, they were getting pressure but Picket just played outstanding, making his reads quickly and getting the ball out, and if he didn’t do that he was able to scramble effectively to buy himself time to throw the ball, not to mention that some of his throws were just plain on the money when his receivers were covered closely. All and all I thought it was an outstanding game and I think it will propel us positively into the upcoming BIG schedule…hope I’m right.
The Nittany Turkey says
I hope you’re right, too.
We agree about the play calling. Aside from what the brain trust sends in, the poor performance reading blitzes is not just on the running backs. Clifford has to read the defense better.
Pickett played a solid game, which I should have mentioned to be fair.
Big Al says
Like you, Deja Vue was my recurrant thought while watching this game. Nothing ever changes with Kitties – regardless of how many OMG Starz or how much speed the players have. On offense, they can’t run between the tackles effectively and they have no four minute offense that can run down the clock in the 4th quarter.. Their pass rush only is their only pass defense. Any quarterback that is both accurate and mobile (or has a quick release) can shred them. And, in their crazed and undisciplined attempts to get to the quarterback on 3rd and long, they get repeatedly burned by screen passes and draws.
I don’t agree that replacing Limegrover will solve their offense line woes. 5 NFL Pro Bowl caliber offensive linemen couldn’t make Franklin’s spread work. You can’t graft a West Coast pressing scheme onto a college spread offense It’s too slow and requires the quarterback and receivers to all make the same post snap reads. The odds of five people making the same read are pretty slim given the limited amount of practice time the NCAA allows.
Sure, State can and probably will improve upon their performance in the last two games. Clifford probably will make better reads on the option plays and throw the deep passes more accurately (assuming he can stay healthy). And Rahne/Franklin may finally scrap the their idiotic 4 running back rotation and just stick with Brown and Cain. But there’s no way in hell this team is going to compete for the B1G title. They’ll be very fortunate to match last year’s win total.
The Nittany Turkey says
Yeah, I’m one of those chronic malcontent fans who thinks changing the coach is the solution to all problems in his area of responsibility, whereas you wisely look beneath the surface. However, I like to bitch, and I’m too lazy to analyze the details, so the coach is a convenient scapegoat. It’s the old, “you can’t fire all the players, so fire the coach” oversimplification routine — i.e., that the players are the unwitting victims of the coaches’ diabolical schemes, so it ain’t their fault. You make a good point, as they have had some talented linemen through the years, yet the blocking consistently sucks. So, in the Franklin Era, the inside run game has been somewhat deficient (understatement of the century), even in years where a future NFL Hall of Famer (as opposed to a four-man committee) led the rushing attack.
So fire Franklin, already!
I’m less worried about Maryland since they were throttled by the Owls. They sure looked like a different team than the one that decimated Syracuse.
Big Al says
One other thought. I don’t think Nard’s decision to kick a field goal was all that stupid. He probably thought that Franklin’s play calling would be super conservative trying to protect the lead and that Pitt would get the ball back with enough time to score the winning touchdown. If Pitt scored a touchdown and tied the score, then State’s play calling would be more aggressive and the Kitties might make enough yardage to kick the winning field goal.
The Nittany Turkey says
In my attempts rationalize why Narduzzi made that call, I mulled over the possibility that he was gambling on the Nits performing just as they wound up doing after the failed FG. That made some sense, because if they had made the FG, they could get the ball back and drive for a TD. On the off chance (which turned out to be an “on” reality) that the FG was missed, they could still get the ball back and go for a tying TD to send it to OT or go for two for the quick win.
Only thing is, I don’t believe PSU’s play calling would have been more aggressive had they stopped Pitt at the 1. We’ll never know.
K. John says
I personally think we have way bigger issues than the offensive line and they are not correctable during the course of the season so a win is a win, even if we lucked into it. Starting with the offense, we have Ricky Rahne as the offensive coordinator/QB coach. This is a problem because in his 16 games as the permanent OC, he has not shown the ability to run anything more than a basic version of Joe Moorhead’s RPO bases spread offense nor has he shown the ability, or willingness to evolve the scheme to match the talent on hand. It very much seems like he is trying to shove a square peg (mobile pro-style passer) into a round hole (run first dual threat QB). The offense as it was currently built was designed for the Trace and Tommy, they are both gone. It is not a secret that Trace’s limited arm talent handicapped the offense while he was a starter. Trace partly made up for with guts and running but at the end of the day, our offense was too easy to defend which is why is fell apart after Saquan left.
Clifford on the other hand, while mobile and pretty fast, is not a natural runner, and it shows. He’ll make people pay on occasion but isn’t the legit threat Trace was which is the problem. To make this offense work, he needs to dramatically expand the passing game beyond the simplistic scheme Trace ran. Unfortunately, there is no evidence he has even tried or has the will. Furthermore, there was no talk out of camp at all regarding this issue. Most of the beat reports that cover PSU are knuckle dragging morons, but a couple know what they are doing and would have picked up on it. By all accounts, they had stellar access this year. This is not something that can be fixed over a bye week or even over the course of the year which means the offense is going look a lot more like John Donovan’s cluster f__k once the big boys show up. The Pitt game gives me zero confidence. On a side note, given how badly Ricky Rahne mismanaged the QB position during his previous stint as QB coach (were job I have ever seen), how the bloody ell does Franklin think he can handle it better this time?
Defensively, we have the same fundamental issue we have had the last three years. In my opinion, we are running a very rigid 4-3 defense with 3-4 talent. Not by design mind you but due to recruiting, and area where I do not think Franklin and the staff live up to their reputations. At this point, I don’t think they can fix any of the problems I see so I hope I am wrong because we are 3 and 0 and headed for a 4 and 5 finish if I’m right and Franklin will be on the hot seat before it is over and probably out of job at season’s end if not for the idiotic contract extension they gave him a couple of years ago.
The Nittany Turkey says
Deep trouble for the Lions if this offense is going to look like the John Donovan clusterf*ck. Even so, I was going to contest your assessment that Franklin would be on the hot seat before season end until I read the operative clause at the end regarding the six-year extension none of us thought was warranted. (It resulted in speculation here that JF was doing something very special and personal for Sandy B).
I’m not sure what to think of Maryland at this point. The Syracuse win proves nothing because Syracuse suuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. Then, they went and lost to Temple. So, even after the Maryland game, we might know little more about the Nittany Lions than we know now. After the Iowa loss, we’ll know more.
K. John says
To be honest, I think we’ll far quite that far on offense as to resemble John Donovan’s cluster f__k, mostly because we did have Joe Moorhead for two years and installed a well built offense so the foundation is good. Rahne is merely a care taker trying to run it much like Frank Stolich at Nebraska after tom Osbourne retired. The Husker offense varied from OK to pretty good depending on talent but fell apart when he couldn’t get the right talent at a couple of positions and that was the end for him. My worst case scenario for this year was Franklin and Rahne either not adjusting Moorhead’s offense for a pair of pro-style QBs (square peg round home) or failing miserably attempting to. So far, it looks like they chose not to try which is another data point that says Franklin is going to blow another potential playoff run. Personally, I think Franklin’s judgement regarding player and coaching decisions is very flawed and I think his recruiting is over-rated. Ultimately, I think the coach that replaces Franklin will be the one to get us to the playoffs but the big fat contract extension they foolishly gave him stands in the way.
nothing to add from the above undercoached assessment, other then vrbo’ing a house out in howard saved us money and headaches on a football weekend.
The Nittany Turkey says
That’s the spirit for a bye weekend! I didn’t take the weekend off — stayed here on the banks of the Wekiva with my friends, the bears.
I sure enjoyed Pitt beating UCF and Wisconsin kicking Michigan’s ass.
Narduzzi suddenly figured out how to coach fourth and goal with the game on the line. The “Pitt Special” was a sight to behold! The locals here were looking past Pitt with matter-of-fact utterances such as, “Once we beat Pitt, there should be no question about us belonging in the top 10.” Oh yeah? Every string of victories, even Bud Wilkinson’s must end sometime.
Harbaugh said the Wolverines have a lot of work to do — which is a gross understatement. Wisconsin knew what they were going to do and consistently defended it. Hell, the way UMich looked, even PSU could have beaten them — but great credit to the Badgers for making them look that way.
In other action, Temple losing takes even more of the edge off the forthcoming Maryland game, of which I still don’t know what to think. I have to read some more bullshit about the Terps and then add some fetid offal of my own.
Finally, the Schmuckeyes spotting Miami-O five and then steamrolling them was cruel and unusual punishment.
And what of Urbz liking the Tweet about mentioning him in connection with the USC job? On the one hand, I figured he wouldn’t be able to sit still in the broadcasters’ chair very long, while on the other, all Meyer has to do is fart and it generates a media frenzy.
K. John says
I am hoping (sort of because I don’t trust Sandy and company) the Franklin to USC rumors are true. I don’t think Franklin will ever coach a playoff team but I think his successor will.
On other notes, I’ll be at the Maryland game on Friday. Not too far of a drive from Alexandria. It is a Black Out so me and the Mrs. will be wearing gray. don’t want to stand out with that crowd in white.