Ohio U (1-0, 0-0 MAC) vs. Penn State (1-0, 1-0 B10)
When Penn State hosts the Ohio U Bobcats at noon on Saturday, a perennial presence will be missing from the visitors’ sideline. Long-time head coach Frank Solich retired last year after a distinguished coaching career at Ohio U and formerly, Nebraska.
Those who are my age (and his) might remember him as a fullback and captain of the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the 1965 season. Eventually, he was named as Tom Osborne’s successor as head coach of the ‘Huskers, where he coached the beefy, corn-fed Redmen (that’s their jersey color, not their skin, so we can still say it) to six consecutive bowl games. When he left Nebraska in 2003, having been fired by new AD Steve Pederson, he had more wins in his first six seasons than did his predecessors, Hall of Famers Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne.
Solich, after taking 2004 off, joined the Bobcats in 2005. To say that he rebuilt the program would be an understatement. His successes at Ohio U are reflected by the Bobcats’ appearance in eleven post-season bowl games. Until 2021, the season after which he retired, his coaching record was 115-82 at Ohio, and 173-101 career. While he is no longer the field general, he maintains his relationship with the program as special assistant to the Athletic Director.
Solich’s sudden retirement put longtime offensive coordinator Tim Albin on the spot, thrown headlong into the head coaching job. Last year, the Bobcats struggled, going 3-9, which was their first losing season since 2008. Albin brings back lots of starters from that dog of a season. He better put up or he’ll be on the coaching hot seat. His four-year contract, signed last summer, provides no compensation if he is fired after December 31. A losing season would guarantee the heave-ho. And it doesn’t look good, because pundits are putting Miami and Kent ahead of Ohio in the MAC East. (What the hell do THEY know, anyway?).
A Wild Opener
Last week, the Bobcats held off a late rally by their owlish C-USA opponent, FAU, to prevail 41-38. Quarterback Kurtis Rourke was 27-34 for 345 yards, with four touchdowns and no INTs. The Ohio U. rushing attack gained 131 yards, with the standout performer being Sieh Bangura, with a 114-yard day. All this despite four sacks, seven quarterback hurries, and seven tackles-for-loss by the Owl defense.
On defense, Ohio was only able to record two sacks. That number should improve this week against the highly suspect Penn State offensive (truly) line.
PSU’s Home Opener
You can expect a crowd (at least three, by definition) to savor this game to be played Saturday at noon on Beaver Field at St. Joe Memorial Stadium (for those of you who are new to The Nittany Turkey, this is my sarcastic lament over the absence of a physical presence for Joe Paterno’s legacy). On just how large the crowd will be, I will not speculate. Given that Penn State’s first two home games are with MAC opponents (the other one is the mighty Central Michigan Chippewas1) with a trip to Auburn sandwiched in-between, I’m thinking that the stands will more closely resemble last week’s Ross-Ade turnout than the announced attendance of 175,000 will suggest. We have a new AD. Gotta make him look good.
Well, James G. Franklin was full of his usual platitudes, including “tough opponent” and “we have our work cut out for us”. He gave his team’s performance in the Purdue game an “F” for “explosive plays”. Yeah, right. There were none unless you count the Boilermakers’ 74-yard pick six interception return.
Dropped passes on both sides of the ball are another area for improvement, says Franklin. Yea, verily, Joey Porter had a slam-bang opportunity for a pick-six, which turned into a stat-padding breakup instead. Further, he said the offensive line needs work, giving up a sack and three tackles-for-loss against Purdue.
Franklin said the defensive front seven (two sacks and three TFLs) needs work but called out Joey Porter, Jr., who had received national recognition, and lauded the secondary. He was also quick to mention that 12th-year senior starting quarterback Sean Clifford had been named co-Big Ten player of the week.
What I Think
Well, like the rest of you, I’m enthusiastically anticipating observing how Penn State’s defensive backs compete against quality passing attacks, given the refreshing new defensive play calling by Manny Diaz. Let us blow taps for the Sandusky/Bradley/Pry soft zone and hope that it remains dead and buried. Yeah, yeah, I know, zone has its place — just not on EVERY DAMN PLAY! Ohio U has a balanced offense, but Rourke threw 34 times in the FAU game, so the secondary will get a workout on Saturday.
I’m also looking forward to some improvements by the ground game’s law firm of Allen, Lee, and Singleton, although the much-maligned offensive line gave them little help in the opener. And
Back in 2012, the last time these two teams squared off, the Bobcats won 24-14, to spoil Bill O’Brien’s coaching debut. The series stands at 5-1 in favor of the Nittany Lions.
So, yeah, I expect a win, but the interesting part for me will be looking for improvement between last week and this. I might even venture a prediction, just for the hell of it.
Da Weddaman be looking for a foggy early fall morning in State College Town, with a 15% chance of the wet stuff. By halftime, the temp should reach 79, which makes it a pretty nice, partly cloudy late summer day.
Da Bottom Line
This is the inaugural Official Turkey Poop Prognostication and Painful Prediction of the fledgling 2022 season. For those of you who don’t yet know it, I’m completely full of shit. So, don’t be looking here for any advice on how to risk your gambling capital. The Nittany Turkey takes no responsibility for your failures, but if given the chance, will take full credit for your successes. And some of you might get pissed off at me for being brutally honest about the fact that your best successes with Penn State typically involve taking the points and betting against them.
This is a “nooner”, albeit fortunately, at home, and it matches PSU up with an opponent from a lesser stratum of semi-pro college football, so “that dullard look”2 of an unmotivated team is always a danger. It will be up to Franklin and staff to motivate the troops to get out there and take care of business.
And so, my flock, this foul old fowl flies forlornly forth, venturing into the vagaries and vicissitudes of the world of semi-pro college football. (After that crappy alliteration, I’ll literally spare you my rant over the tragic, albeit ubiquitous, abuse of the adverb literally). Looking west to Vegas and its pecuniary crystal ball, we have the Lions favored by 24.5, with an over/under of 54. A little algebra (which, as a kid, I pronounced al-BER-ja, when I first encountered the word in print) will tellya that break-even done be at Penn State 39, Ohio U. 15. I am thinking that it is reasonable, but Penn State will keep this one uncomfortably close for a while and won’t cover, so make it PSU 35, Ohio U 17, but take the under.
1Will the Chippewas be the Chippewas much longer? Last I heard, they still were. We’re in an era of de-Indianization, or should I call it “contranativeamericanindigenousperceiveddissingization”? What do you think will be a good mascot for the former Chippewas? The Commanders is already taken. How about the Chippies? In England, that’s a nickname for a carpenter, but here, it means a loose woman. And so, I ramble on about nothing.
2“That dullard look” copyright © 2017, Urban Meyer.
The almighty Nittany Turkey writes this awful offal twice per game week or whenever the hell he feels like it. Being old and retired has its rewards, you know.