Maryland 35, Penn State 19
It sucked. This is a discombobulated bunch of guys running around doing a poor emulation of a football team. Sanguinarians, please go away and come back in a few years when Penn State might try to put a reasonable semblance of a football team on the field. Others, read on, but WARNING: I have nothing good to say.
I hate to write this. My late mama used to tell me, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say it!” Of course, she was one whose top rating of anything was “not too bad”. That rating is far too good for this game. In a word, it suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked.
Before the game we wondered how Penn State could be a 27-point favorite. Well, gamblers must have their heads up their asses, too. My pre-game prediction of 55-13 reflected that same deranged euphoria. It is sure dark and smelly in here. However, kudos to those of you who saw the overlay and jumped on it. Maryland + 27 wouldn’t have worked last year, but back then, Penn State had a team that cared about winning. This year — well, this year, I can see Penn State getting points for the rest of the year.
Covid-19 is no longer an excuse. Maryland was up for this game. Penn State was not. Some reports point to a lack of “urgency” — hell, I’ll point to a complete lack of presence. Most of those apathetic pretenders didn’t want to be there. Poor attitudes result in failures. We saw plenty of both.
The Penn State running game sputtered against an arguably crappy Maryland defense, one that had allowed 281 rushing yards and 44 points in its previous game, with Minnesota. We watched Maryland repeatedly manhandle the vaunted Penn State offensive line, a unit that was purported to have its act together this year.
James Franklin concluded that establishing the run is key to a robust offense. This could be fundamentally true, but if all aspects of your game suck, it doesn’t matter much. Typically, you have to care to win.
Can’t Run, Can’t Pass
The passing game sucked, too. With an atrocious quarterback rating of 29.5, Sean Clifford is a parody of a Big Ten starting quarterback. The complete line is 27-57 for 340 yards, three touchdowns, and two ugly interceptions. Many of Clifford’s throws were off target, some sailing high over receivers’ heads, even little swing passes. The offensive line’s ineptitude didn’t help, as the pocket repeatedly collapsed. They gave up seven sacks to the supposedly crappy Maryland pass rush.
Defense was a mess, putting Penn State in a 21-0 hole before you could say “Nittany Lions suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!”. They gave up 405 yards and made Tua’s younger brother look like Johnny Unitas, with a 96.5 quarterback rating. Maryland efficiently converted nine of sixteen third downs against our porous, soft tackling bunch.
Penn State would have lost miserably even if it hadn’t been for three turnovers, all of which were on Clifford. Take heart, though. Absent the turnovers, they still would have lost.
Tell Me Something Good
What can I say that is positive? Well, Penn State won the second half, 12-7. Of course, by then with a 35-7 lead, Maryland was into clock-running, victory salting mode.
The picture I’ll remember from the TV coverage was Franklin standing on the sideline alone shaking his head. That summed it up — and that was during the first half.
So, given our first 0-3 start since 2004 (which was at the depths of (cue cello) The Dark Years), where do we go from here? The Sanguinarians will have their excuses, exonerating the players while calling for Franklin’s departure. In their mind, players can never do wrong because we have a talent advantage over… over… over… hmmm… over the Green Bay Packers! Yeah, that’s it! You hear the term “raw talent” bandied about, and that might be what it is — raw talent with heads up asses, guys who would rather be waking up with a hangover and banging their girlfriends (or boyfriends — who knows?) on Saturdays.
The apathy of this team is palpable, so I had to say something about it. Nevertheless, I regret that I’ve driven off some readers by stating what is on my mind. I’m certainly no football coaching or personal motivation expert, but I can glean an apathetic lack of effort in all aspects of this team. The 0-3 start is not a fluke. Losing to Nebraska next week would end all doubt.
Joe Paterno, of sainted memory, famously counseled his players, “You’re never as good as you think you are when you win, and you’re never as bad as you think you are when you lose.” Problem is, when you don’t give half a shit, you’re not thinking about anything but getting off the field and doing something else. Crappy play plus apathy equals YOU’RE WORSE THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE WHEN YOU LOSE!
I’ll be back during the week with some cynical jibes about the Nebraska game.
Big Al says
The line for this game was typographical mistake. It was supposed to be Penn State GETTING 26 points rather than Penn State GIVING 26 points.
Joking aside, I wasn’t at all surprised that Maryland’s offense scored 28 points. (My pregame expectation was that the Kitties would win in a shootout circa 35-31). But what shocked me was how much the offense sucked and how poorly Clifford played. This season is starting to look like the 2nd half of 2015 all over again when Hackenberg was playing shellshocked. The only difference between then and now is that the Kitties managed to win 4 of their first 5 games before Hackenberg cratered and Morehead arrived the following year to save Franklin’s ass. (BTW Morehead has resurfaced at Oregon and his offense tore Stanford up Saturday night)
Unlike 2015, I don’t think anybody is going to show up this year (or next year) to save Franklin. If the offense continues with its current routine of scoring 7 points or less in the 1st half, the Kitties are not going to win a single game this season – including the ninth game against Illinois. And the lack of points is no accident, all the opposition has to do is stop Dotson and Freiermuth. Nobody else on State’s offense can hurt them.
The Nittany Turkey says
Yeah! You nailed it!
We have a lot to look forward to — the ninth game with the Docile Illiniweks might be our only win of the year!
But your Hackenberg comment might well trigger a K John tirade about how Hack was ruined by Franklin & Co.
I don’t know what to say about Nebraska. Can’t say much about anything at the moment. Just got back from the eye doc and everything is a blur.
K. John says
Nah, by mid-2015, Hack’s shoulder was already torn to shreds, Rahne had ruined his mechanics and Franklin was trying to force him off the team any way he could (just like several other O’Brien recruits who were benched for lesser players) even though he cinched the deal for Joe Moorhead. What LSU did last year is what Moorhead wanted to do in 2016. Keep that in mind.
PSU Pop Pop says
Nittany Turkey… Right on!!!!
The Nittany Turkey says
Profoundly appropriate, PSU Pop Pop!
-I think the times the line did its job Clifford held onto the ball too long.
-I think Clifford takes a laser pointer out and shines it on the receiver hes going to throw to.
-Clifford is entering anthony morelli territory.
-If it is evident to a blind man that Clifford is having severe issues, why are we going for it on 4th and 3 in their red zone and throwing a pass to the back corner.
-do not want to start on the defense.
-I see plenty of talent on this team. I see poor to unforgiveable execution.
That said, I look to the NHLs playoff from a few months back. There were teams there that came out with their hair on fire every night. There were others who looked like they were taking on water from game 1.
PSU looks like the latter to me.
Side note: all my +27 gains were lost when I live bet PSU money line at even money. A net push yes, but a painful one.
The Nittany Turkey says
Agree on all counts, especially #3. (I know your bullets weren’t numbered. That was the one about Morelli Territory). Sadly, I have to say that I was thinking the same thing as I watched the bullshit on Saturday.
That having been said, crappy execution by one guy is tolerable, but by the majority of the team, it is not. “Urgency” to me is a trite sportswriters’ cliche — I think the appropriate context for it is when you raise your hand in class to do a #2. We just need Dr. Sebastianelli to have a staff of nurses on the sidelines to see if these guys have a pulse and to ensure that Franklin is not brain-dead.
I smacked my head so hard when Franklin/Ciarocca made that first drive fourth down call that my tinnitus amped up to about 120 dBA.
Good to know you didn’t get burned too badly.
David Rhodes says
I have been following your in depth analysis of the Penn State football soap opera for quite a few years. Really appreciate your observations for they have kept me off medications for quite some time. I used to live and die with the Lions, if they won on Saturday my following week was great, if they lost, no amount of liquid therapy could help until the next game. I’m much better now, either age and wisdom or just plain tired of complaining. I almost responded to your musings here during the cuddle-monster beat down, but this state-of-affairs has really agitated me. It may be the pandemic, the resent election brouhaha, the seemingly ineptitude of our coaching braintrust or a combination of all of the above. What struck me immediately before there were even points on the board was a palpable lack of urgency or vibe from the team. I’ve been been a season ticket holder since 2005 when I got my father’s season tickets and he had his tickets from the first year I went to dear old state in 77. Been to a hell of a lotta games and that lack of enthusiasm or what ever you want to call it is a very discernable feeling you can pick up on. They seemed to have that in spades on Saturday. In my humble opinion, which I’ll give you whether you want it or not,that is something Franklin is responsible for. After hearing Dotson’s postgame remarks, it sounds like there may be some disunity amongst the troops. I know its been a crazy year but EVERY team has had to deal with this and that excuse bucket just don’t hold water. I’ll continue to return to your humble website even if you do say so yourself because it’s a lot cheaper than professional therapy.
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks for coming out of the therapy closet to do your commiseration here. You will find this to be a welcome place to express views with a bunch of similar-minded, disgruntled PSU fans. I regard the post-1994 period as a carrot dangling in front of a donkey, a perpetually offered prize we can no longer quite grab. At what point do we stop pretending that Penn State is a perennial Top Ten team? Even the sports media wonks are bamboozled (viz., the #8 initial ranking this year).
Unless and until we do something about the team’s apathy, we’ll be finding a perennial place in The Bottom Ten.
I was remarking the other day how there are no emergent leaders on the team. It is like no one wants to be there, so who wants to lead a bunch of rats off a sinking ship? That’s pretty negative, but in spite of St. Joe’s preaching about “you’re never as bad as youi think you are when you lose”, I think we’re worse. What do “they” always say? The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is apathy. I think that can be applied to performance on the football field as well. The opposite of competence is not incompetence — it is apathy. Or something like that. I’m just blowing wind.
With the Tickle Monster tucked away in a cell, at least we don’t have THAT stigma hanging over us anymore!
I will repeat that there are no excuses for the horrible attitude and divisiveness on the team, but I would agree with you that the fish stinks from the head on down. It is on Franklin’s shoulders to figure out how to get this team motivated and cohesive. I do not think he is up to the task.
Tom Wilson says
By the grace and mercy of God, we didn’t get the game televised in our location. Franklin should be finished as head coach and I’d see if Bill O’Brien wants to take another crack at the job. I can’t remember a game in the last 10 years where we won as an underdog. On the other hand, we have been upset victim dozens of times. That by itself should tell you the coaching stinks.
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks, Tom. Another vote for Franklin’s ouster. I wish Sandy would call me for my opinion, but I think I would be just one faint echo of the groundswell of voices demanding justice. Besides, I think Sandy and James have a very special relationship.
You bring up a good point; however, certainly the Ohio State game in 2016 was an upset won by PSU, so your recollection is a little off. You must be blocking due to the anesthetizing effect of the crappy Maryland game, which you were quite fortunate not to have witnessed. It was the worst I can remember — even worse than the 6-4 Iowa game I used to think was the worst in Penn State history. (What can you say about an offense that scores zero points while getting four points from the defense. Hell, in that game, at least the defense played well!) Giving up 28 first half points to Maryland was obnoxious. I wonder if it can get any worse that that as we traverse the balance of the season. As Big Al stated, we’re likely to lose the rest of our games—maybe even the “Plus One” game with the dregs of the west at season end.
O’Brien isn’t taking my calls, either, but I think I saw a voice mail message from Mark Dantonio. I think Moo U. will let him go without too much elbow-twisting. Speaking of elbows, this team has me ready to do some elbow bending. Bottoms up!
Tom Wilson says
TNT, where are you from originally? I graduated from Altoona High in 1968, attended the Altoona Campus, and went to the main campus in 1969, graduating in 1972. I’m sorry to say I didn’t follow football much until I had graduated and was there for the glory years with Franco, Hufnagel, Lydell Mitchell, and Jack Ham. Last game I remember attending was the home game with Bowling Green in 1987 with my bride-to-be, who was a BGSU alumni. I remember BGSU scored first and then a building fell on them.
The Nittany Turkey says
I can say that I am ORIGINALLY from Altoona, too, as I was born at Altoona Hospital (now UPMC) in 1946. However, my parents moved to Pittsburgh the following year, so I never strongly identified with Altoona. Started high school in Pittsburgh and finished in South Florida. Then, I came back to PSU in 1964. I thought I was more of a Pennsylvanian than a Floridian. I still do, even though I’ve lived in Florida for the past 44 years.
One of my PSU football game stories involves the Pitt game in 1964. As you remember, it was our end of the year rivalry game, so it was always on a cold day in November. Well, the 1964 temperatures were colder than cold, it was snowing, and the wind was howling. I was a freshman, so I got to sit in the north end zone, where the wind hit me in the face full blast. I swear the term die-hard had to apply to the fans who came from Pittsburgh to watch their Panthers lose 28-0 in those brutal conditions! And they had to put me on top of a radiator in the dorm for an hour to thaw me out. (Fortunately, I was in East Halls, so I didn’t have too far to walk).
Big names back then were Glenn Ressler and Tommy Urbanik — and Jerry Sandusky. Pitt had Marty Schottenheimer.
My grandma lived to be 103, so I visited Altoona regularly until her passing in 1998. She lived in Columbia Park, on Third Avenue and Twenty-Ninth Street in the same house for close to 80 years. I’ve been up there a few times since, although we sold the house. Have to visit the cemetery and the Horseshoe Curve whenever I’m there!
The Nittany Turkey says
Turkey here! I want to share some comments I received from a reader who is too embarrassed by this team to post in public. I have eliminated anything that would identify the reader in question. These comments were too relevant not to share them with you! Enjoy!
“Couldn’t resist sending you an email after that splendid performance this afternoon by the Neutered Lions. They seem woefully uninspired and ill prepared and if you’ve watched Franklin on the sideline or during one of his press conferences, I kinda get a sense that they are simply reflecting their coach. He seems humorless, dry and sort of matter of fact, doesn’t banter with the press like he used to and most of the time he’s by himself on the sideline. I guess flat would be the best way to describe him just like his team. In another time, an observer might say he needs to “blow ballast” if you get my drift!
“I don’t know what the issue is, but I’ve read that Franklin misses his family (living apart because his daughter has one of the sickle cell traits and he doesn’t want to risk bringing this Covid 19 shit home), his current assistants are in way over their heads and the loss of Gattis and Spence were bigger impacts than he thought, he can’t do all the get together stuff (dinners, movies, paint ball, etc with the players (especially the new guys) that he’s used to doing and since he’s a people person, it is really having an impact on him. Clifford is not McSorley and the RPO is the wrong offense for him to run, Guys like Menet may have been 5 star recruits, are fifth year seniors, captains for two years and on the Rimmington watch list, but that doesn’t automatically make you a top shelf B1G lineman on the field are obviously just not producing at the expected level.
“Has he lost the team? If they lose to Nebraska-yes. Should he be fired? I’m not ready to jump on that bandwagon, but I do think he needs to get his head out of his ass soon.
“I think one of the things that has had the biggest impact is the amount of coaching changes he’s experienced in the last couple of years. Here’s a guy who had a relatively stable “family” that he brought with him to PS from Vandy and they knew how he clicked and vice versa and then the changes (both voluntary and performance mandated) began. In some instances he’s replaced the same position coach in consecutive seasons and made the wrong hire and that’s got to have an impact on the process continuity he values so highly. Kinda tough when you replace someone who’s been with you forever (Sean Spence) with a John Scott who seems like a nice guy but you hardly know.
“I also think one of the other issues is team leadership. I think I’ve read that the vast majority of the players who have been selected as captains during his tenure describe their leadership style as “leading by example”. Where the hell are the in your face, get your act together captains that I remember when I played in HS. Maybe not allowed in today’s PC society, but sorely missed.
“Or perhaps it’s as simple as they’re just not as good as everyone thinks they should be!”