Subtitle: The Jahan Dotson Show
Not #22 Penn State (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) explosively blasted its way to toilet bowl eligibility, beating pseudo-rivalrous, not-yet-bowl-eligible Maryland (5-4, 2-4 B10), 31-14. While I didn’t watch James Franklin’s post-game press conference because I couldn’t find the video on YouTube (and besides, its audio quality typically offends my geriatric ears), I will broadly assume that he harped on “winning the explosive play battle”, a tritely tacit acknowledgment of this team’s reliance on big plays. He doubtless talked about who won the other “battles”, but they mattered not. Yea, verily, it was the Jahan Dotson Show, without a doubt.
After a soporific first half whose only PSU highlight was a thirty-eight-yard pitch-and-catch TD from Sean Clifford to (who else?) Jahan Dotson, I had damn near fallen asleep. With the score at 7-6, only thoughts of the impending time change trauma annoyed me into wakefulness, but I digress wistfully. I’m glad I stayed awake for the second half, as the Clifford-to-Dotson connection would provide two more touchdowns and a pick-six by Ji’Ayir Brown added even more explosive play joy to our afternoon. Explosiveness. That’s what we crave, especially if we’re James Franklin wanting to explosively impress the search committee at USC.
While still erratic and obviously constrained from running, Sean Clifford could toss the ball anywhere in the vicinity of Dotson, who had usually beaten the defense and would suck it up like a vacuum cleaner, so he had no worries. Clifford wound up 27-47 for 363 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. Dotson led all receivers with eleven explosive receptions for 242 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest, most violent explosion was an eighty-six yards Tsar Bomba.
Rushing offense, as usual, was anemic, with most plays imploding for little or no gain. Franklin had said he wanted to establish the run against Maryland, but it sucked. Keyvone Lee was the leading rusher with eight carries for fifty yards. Noah Cain, a mere shadow of his 2019 “explosiveness“, wound up with ten carries for thirty-five yards. Clifford subtracted twelve yards from the running game, as he was explosively sacked three times by the Maryland defense. The Penn State offensive line is just not explosive enough to support the run, and it hasn’t been for years.
Can you tell that I’m tired of hearing all the “explosive play” bullshit from Franklin? I would hope that his replacement will have better public speaking skills and will ditch the sportscaster lingo. However, as Flounders and Jones brought out, Franklin did indeed use the word “holistic” in his press conference, a word they made light of because they have no idea what the hell it means. Well, Jones said his wife said it had something to do with vitamins, but I digress…
The Turnover Battle
In the explosive turnover battle, poor old Taulia Tagliabooboo (Franklin’s pronunciation, not mine), better known as Tagovailoa, suffered not only the aforementioned pick six, but also coughed the ball up once after trying twice. Taulia finished 41-57 for 371 yards with one touchdown and the big interception. Maryland was never able to establish the run, relying on Taulia’s arm for most of the game. He spread the ball out among ten different receivers. The running game produced a scant forty-eight yards net, which included minus twenty-nine yards for Tagovailoa.
In any case, da #3 kid is fun to watch.
Penn State, by the way, had NO turnovers, not even an apple turnover at the Halloween party. Yay!
Third-Down Efficiency Battle Continues to Improve
The Nittany Lions converted over half of their third-down opportunities again this week, a point of pride in the wake of early season suckage in that area. The vaunted PSU defense held Maryland to only four conversions in fifteen tries.
Hot Flash! Maryland Wins First-Down Battle!
The Terps had 29 versus 23 for Penn State. All hail the winners of the first down battle!
Ahhh, but Penn State Won the Time of Possession Battle!
Yasssssssssssss, the Increasingly Irrelevant Time of Possession (copyright (c) 2018, Matt Herb, BWI) battle 31:33 to 28:27. OMG OMG!
Other Battles around the Big Ten…
Oh, yeah, did you hear that the bloom is off the rose for Moo U.? The previously undefeated, #3 Spartans suffered a similar fate as Iowa when they went to West Lafayette: they got their clocks cleaned by Purdue. At 40-29, it wasn’t even close. This ignominious defeat allowed tOSU to take the lead in the Big Ten East, as they are still undefeated in the Conference. However, I believe the Schmuckeyes can be beaten. They had some trouble overcoming Nebraska’s defense, pulling it out 26-17.
The Big Ten East will be interesting. If the Buckeyes remain undefeated, it will be all over, but Moo U and Michigan are knocking on that door at 5-1. Penn State could be the spoiler for one or the other — or both.
In the west, Wisconsin, Iowa (barely), Illinois, and Purdue all won, tightening up the West, where four teams share identical, 4-2 Conference records. Apart from the Boilermakers, they are all animals: Badgers, Golden Gophers, and Hawkeyes.
Playoff Battle Implications
None for the Nittany Lions. None for the Terps. Why did you ask? Are you some kind of Sanguinarian, or what? But I digress, explosively …
(I’ll be bad mid-week for some explosive thoughts on the Michigan game. Stay tuned…)