#7 Penn State 28, #16 Michigan 21
So you wanted to see Noah Cain finally in his element dominating a grind-it-out game? You thought: Of all games, this is the one! They’ll finally get it straight! Oh yeah? It didn’t happen. The dumbass four-man running back rotation prevailed once again as Penn State shot their wad with some chunk plays and then hung on to defeat Michigan in one of those games that give you no great amount of confidence in the future. The PSU offense choked in the second half, the defense got tired, and if Michigan’s own ineptitude and coaching vagaries hadn’t derailed them, the Wolverines would have — and should have — won. Hell, if normally sure-handed Ronnie Bell had caught that fourth-down pass in the end zone, we’d all be crying in our Yuengling-moistened Frosted Flakes this morning.
Penn State improves to 7-0, 4-0, while Michigan’s loss puts them at 5-2, 3-2, probably nixing their chances for a Big Ten title.
Decayed Rushing Attack
If you were too revulsed to look at the committee running stats, I’ll just briefly touch on them here. Among the four, Cain had the most carries (5) and only 19 yards. Ricky Slade had three carries for 48 yards, most of them on one 44-yarder. Journey Brown ran four times for 19 yards, and Devyn Ford was low man on the four-man totem pole with a single rush for two yards.
Turkey omniscience and prescience once again came to the fore, as the Nittany Lions’ offense achieved their predicted fifteen full minutes of sleep in the third quarter. They got into the dreaded pattern that has plagued them since kingdom come: run garbage play on first down, gain short yardage on second, then get stuck on third and long, and then have nothing in the trick bag to get the first down. Then wake up the punter and get a crappy punt.
Although Blake Gillikin woke up before the end of the third quarter, Michigan won the battle for field position and scored a predictable touchdown. I sat there in Mike’s Garage guaranteeing that Michigan would score on their next possession, and they did. It was clear to this turkey that the momentum had completely shifted, the PSU defense was tired, the old, shitty third-down scenario was in effect, so the offense was inept, and there was too much time on the clock. After that Michigan touchdown, I thought we would be overtaken in the fourth. And, yeah, we almost were. Only happenstance saved us.
Fortunately, a flash of brilliance involving K. J. Hamler (who else?) coupled with some Harbaugh lunacy and a drop by a very reliable receiver thwarted that embarrassing outcome. Jim Harbaugh confirmed the lapse, saying the defense missed a signal and were in the wrong formation for Hamler’s catch. Ronnie Bell is competent and the ball was right there in his hands. Nevertheless, the potential for ending up on the short side of the scoreboard was real, so if these guys keep this pattern going, they’re going to get smoked by not only tOSU, but also at least one of Moo U. and Minnesota. In fact, the only remaining game I feel very confident about is Piscataway Junior High on November 30.
Slip Slidin’ Away
Sean Clifford’s slide looks like an incompetent Little Leaguer trying to slide into third base while thinking about the caterpillar he was playing with on the bench. It is ugly and has cost us at least two first downs this season. Franklin even mentioned that slide at his presser last Tuesday, saying they were working on it with Clifford. Apparently, whatever work they have done has been ineffectual, as the awful slide once again reared its ugly head two or three more times in the Michigan game, confirming that there has been no substantive progress in the Clifford Slide Amelioration Program (CSAP).
(preferably in old newspapers, like smelly fish)
Michigan was the better team. I know stats are for losers but you cannot ignore the Nittany Lions’ crappy third-down performance (AGAIN), the anemic rushing game, and the lopsided IITOP. The Wolverines dominated “Increasingly Irrelevant” Time of Possession 37:45 to 22:15 — way to keep your defense on the field for way too long, Ricky and James! Have we forgotten how to move the ball down the field in any other way besides big chunk plays? What about short passes and a competent running game? Are those plays even in the repertoire? Can we execute them? Now that we’ve long passed the four-game redshirt limit, it appears that we will be stuck with the running back rotation for the rest of the year. I guess it gives us fans something to talk about.
Well, the final analysis is going to be that a win is a win and this was a win, but I don’t think any of us are happy with how it played out unless someone took Michigan and the points. Correct me if I’m wrong here.
We’re Number Six
At least until next week, when the BCS Playoff Rankings come out, Penn State is #6 in the FBS as represented in the AP Poll. Michigan, with a 5-2 record, dropped to #19. Also at 5-2, Iowa is right with them at #20. After losing to Illinois, Wisconsin sunk to #13, while tOSU leapfrogged Clemson to take over #3. Very silently, 7-0 Minnesota occupies #17.
I’ll be back during the week with a look at the Moo U. game, and maybe a few choice words of disparagement toward the Land Grant Trophy the two squads will vie for. Live long and prosper!
Ridiculous play calling in second half, went too conservative too soon. Got lucky in the end. Do you think the win will give James and Ricky confidence that they are doing the right thing by going into their shell if we get up by two touchdowns?
The Nittany Turkey says
I sure as hell HOPE James and Ricky don’t adopt that Late-Paterno Sphincterism approach.
At halftime, after observing two disgusting three-and-outs at the end of the second quarter, I told my homeys (to no avail), “They CAN’T take their foot off the gas now. Gotta go for the throat!” What followed was that predictable third quarter snoozefest. It was so predictable that I forecast exactly what would happen — a couple of three-and-outs followed by a Michigan score. I doubt that I was the only one who saw that coming.
I don’t think I’m all that smart, but I remain a keen observer of human behavior. I think Franklin is a stubborn guy who will cling to both the four man committee approach at running back and playing conservatively to protect a lead. The fact that the media and a preponderance of fans would have it another way will only serve to increase his resolve.
Big Al says
Franklin and Rahne are obsessed with chunk plays. Time consuming 10 play drives are so last century. And, this offense is too perimeter oriented. The brain trust refuses to call plays that attack the center of the field – like using crossing routes or handing off and running between the tackles (Clifford’s designed qb draws don’t count – he couldn’t recognize a running lane if it bit him on the ass).
Much like defending against a service academy triple option offense, it takes B1G defenses a quarter to get used to the speed of State’s perimeter offense and make adjustments. Once the adjustment period ends, the chunk plays disappear unless somebody blows a coverage. State needs to be more patient, use the middle of the field, and grind it out, but the brain trust is too impatient and in love with chunk plays to do that.
The Nittany Turkey says
It’s bad enough that the Rahne/Franklin chunk play obsession is keeping the defense on the field for far too many plays, What’s worse is deciding to enable Sphincter Mode to protect a significant lead, like they seemed to do from toward the end of the second quarter onward. I was absolutely positive that Rahne & Franklin had conducted a séance and were actively channeling St. Joe during the game — playing “not to lose” instead of playing to win, as it were. That definitely suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks!
Instead of the long succession of three-and-outs, it sure would be nice to see Noah Cane closing out a game like Jerome Bettis used to do it. However, these brain trust guys must think ball control means nothing more than a well-adjusted jockstrap. Perhaps it was after Franklin apprised BWI’s Matt Herb of the finer points of game management that the writer came to the conclusion that Time of Possession was an “increasingly irrelevant” statistic and forever earned the privilege of being mocked by The Nittany Turkey for writing about it.
Onward and upward! Let us go to East Lansing and return with that gigantic piece of shit monstrosity. (I nevertheless fear what a sound defense combined with a healthy Lewerke could do to deflate Sanguinarian dreams).
First PSU offensive play in the first half was a 10+ yard run. I believe the same with the second. Then the offensive braintrust seemed to eschew running plays, even though there was some notable success there. This was similar to Iowa when drives stalled as a function of Franklin becoming pass happy.
From the mid-2nd quarter on was a visual on the old “trying the same thing over and expecting different results” saying.
Part of it is on Clifford; don’t know how many RPOs he badly misread the defense, and decided to do it himself (while I watched the RB run a route into space). Maybe he has delusions of grandeur.
One positive i can think of is the last play by Hamler. Outstanding playcall, and excellent execution.
If you do want to watch something uplifting, check out HBOs 24/7 on psu football.
*positive for franklin
The Nittany Turkey says
I was happy with Clifford finding Hamler on that last touchdown, even after I read in the UM homey press that the Wolverines’ defense didn’t get the message that they were to have been in a different formation. What I read could have been ex post facto rationalization, but one way or the other, they got burned quite impressively. I’ll take it.
Looking at the Penn State running game another way, we have too many running backs on the active roster, so let’s keep them fresh until the playoffs. Then, we’ll show ’em! (That made no sense whatsoever — just like Franklin’s rampant non-sequiturs).
K. John says
We are definitely luckier than good. Case in point, we have played three games against good defenses (Pitt, Iowa, Michigan), all of them came down the wire. The offense was unimpressive in each. More importantly, all three opponents did more to lose their respective games than we did to win them. Given that view point, I don’t see us as a top 15 team at this point. Let’s see how things go on the road at Michigan State who is coming off a bye week. This is the best defense we will see all year. From a skill-set perspective, Brian Lewerke has given us fits. He has a lot in common with Shae Patterson and our very own Sean Clifford, both of whom are mobile pro-style QBs. Perhaps I”ll give Franklin a break if he can get through this game but the next time he out coaches Mark Dantonio will be the first.