Parting Thoughts on the Cotton Bowl and the PSU Season
As you all know, Penn State went out like a Lion, beating their game, AAC champion opponent, Memphis, in an action packed Cotton Bowl Classic, 53-39. I’ll actually use tenses to recap the game.
What it came down to is for PSU to all but abandon the “explosive play” passing game in favor of the run against a deficient Memphis run defense. Once Journey Brown and Noah Cain got going, the party started, and even Ricky Slade and Devyn Ford joined in the fun. Brown had 202 yards on 16 carries, while Cain racked up 92 on 15, and both had two TDs. The Nittany Lions wound up with 396 yards on the ground, but only 133 through the air.
Meanwhile, the vaunted Penn State rushing defense shut down the toothless Tiger ground game, leaving them one avenue of attack. While the pass rush bothered Memphis, they still managed 479 yards passing against only 63 net yards running.
While the PSU defensive secondary was giving up yards playing the Ol’ Tickle Monster soft zone, the front seven were doing their job. Big shout-out to one-man wrecking crew All-America linebacker Micah Parsons, who recorded 14 total tackles, including seven solo, two sacks, three TFLs, and a QB hurry. Parsons was also instrumental in forcing turnovers, one of them a pick-six by Garrett Taylor.
What Gives with Hamler and Toney?
K.J. Hamler was to announce his decision regarding continuing his education at Penn State versus applying for admission to the NFL’s University of the Almighty Dollar “after the game”. So, after the game, he told the media that he didn’t say how long after the game. When they asked whether he had made up his mind, he said, “No. Y’all are gonna see it when y’all see it.” He can hone those elocution skills at NFL University, but he sure as hell has more than an inkling about where he’ll be same time next year.
Defensive end Shaka Toney was similarly elusive. “I don’t know yet, I don’t know yet,” he said. Bullshit! He knows and so does Hamler. They teasin’ we ass.
Speaking of Asses
We couldn’t help but notice the place kicker in the Iowa State vs. Notre Dame game at Camping World Stadium. Going through life with the surname Assalley must have made young Connor a tough man, indeed!
But I Digress…
My favorite catchphrase: “But I Digress…” But that’s what I do. Writing this stream of consciousness is my therapy, my recreation, my avenue of expression, my place to vent, and just a nice place to get together and argue with good friends without the benefit of alcohol. I write whatever I feel like writing, and I encourage comments of the same ilk. Yea, verily, it is you six wonderful readers who keep me going.
Back on track, what of the Penn State season? I think it is safe to say that at the beginning, most of us did not expect a two-loss performance and a pseudo New Year’s Six bowl. We all expected the tOSU loss, but no one said anything about Minnesota getting in our way. (The Golden Rodents have a way of doing that at the most inopportune times, creating turning points for PSU. They’re even responsible for launching (cue cello) THE DARK YEARS.). Some expected a Moo U. loss, and some expected that Iowa would be troublesome. Halfway through the season, we were all speculating on whether Penn State would score 100 points or more against Rutgers in the season finale, our Jim Delany pseudo-rivalry game. As it played out, the Nittany Lions saved their worst for last.
What we wound up seeing is a team that has some very strong talent in some areas and is weak in others. We saw a team that seemed to have trouble getting motivated to play at times. We saw some questionable coaching. This was a teaser of a year, where greatness was a carrot dangling just out of reach, without a catalyst to move the team to heights that exceeded their capabilities on paper. It was pretty much a typical year for expectations and let-downs.
We all hoped against hope that when Penn State was momentarily #4 on the CFP list, it would not be a fleeting thing. However, our gut instincts knew better. In no way did this year’s Penn State team merit that lofty rank.
Where We Goin’?
What does it take to get to that hackneyed sportswriter phrase of all hackneyed sportswriter phrases, “the next level”? Perhaps new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca holds a key. Maybe not. James Franklin seems to have cemented his role for several years to come and is bound to want to be a heavy influence. At my age, it is impractical to look past the Franklin Era for What Comes Next, so we have to hope that Franklin and the program will grow together.
If Brent Pry cannot construct a pass defense that doesn’t get beat by slants and crossing patterns, maybe Franklin should find someone who can. However, part of Franklin’s deal was more money for assistant coaches, so he probably won’t. Franklin is nothing if not loyal to his boys.
Anyhow, Penn State fans being what they are — never happy with anything short of a national championship — for some, the words of John Greenleaf Whittier ring true, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.'”
But I am happy with the Nittany Lions’ performance this year. They have an off-season to develop new talent and fix things. College football and its annual renewal always give us something to look forward to. (I’m waiting for the NCAA to propose 10-year contracts for players. LOL.)
Thanks and Happy New Year
I want to thank all six of you readers for taking the time to read my bullshit during the year. I rarely know what I’m talking about, so the only reason you would want to read my drivel is to see how crazy I really am. However, I hope I have provided some amusement and given you food for thought from time to time.
I don’t know when I’ll be be writing again, but if I get any bright ideas, I’m always inclined to want to blow off about them. In the meanwhile, I want to wish each of you a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2020!