Penn State 17, Northwestern 7
Penn State looked more like a pretender than a contender on sloppy Saturday in St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver Field. Nominally Number Eleven, the Nittany Lions played like a middle-of-the-pack Yankee Conference team, making their horrible, 1-3 opponents look like a real football team. To say they have work to do, as James Franklin intoned in his postgame conference, is like saying that Liz Taylor had a few husbands.
Wait, I need another cup of coffee. I’ll be right back.
First, because I’m practicing avoidance, not wanting to write about that piece of shit we saw yesterday, I’ll say that I couldn’t care less whether Aaron Judge hits sixty-two home runs. I’m happy for the current generation if he does because every generation needs its heroes, but I personally gave up on Major League Baseball around the time of the 1992 strike. My generation had its home run heroes — I’ll cling to my memories of the 1961 baseball season when Roger Maris hit sixty-one and Mickey Mantle hit fifty-four. Asterisk notwithstanding, it was an amazing year.
That having been said, what pisses me off (as it did Sean McDonough, himself an ESPN employee) is the blatant pandering of the cut-overs to the Yankees playing an insignificant game with the Orioles just so ESPN could say that they showed us all a dubious moment of history. I guess we should be thankful for the respite from hearing about the crap going on in Beaver Stadium. But I digress…
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Yes, the remnants of Hurricane Ian inundated State College at precisely the time our game was scheduled. You couldn’t have gotten better timing if you were Princess Nee-Tah-Nee doing a rain dance on the summit of the mountain that was named for her. Any rainmaking on the field turned out to be Lion piss, and a weak stream at that. However, after the game, Franklin refused to use the rain as an excuse for his team’s piss-poor performance.
I’m talking about the offense because the defense was present and committed. On the other side of the ball, however, turnovers, penalties, and errant passes were the rule, rather than the exception. Not that the defense gets off the hook completely — they gave up at least two first downs on needless penalties. Regardless of the rain, Penn State should have been salting this one away by the end of the second quarter, but Northwestern was never out of it.
Internal Issues in da Backfield?
Kaytron Allen missed the first half due to an undisclosed attitude adjustment. Devyn Ford left the team due to wanting to concentrate on the academic side, a good thing because he wasn’t getting much playing time and deciding to be a real student again is much better than dicking with the abominable transfer portal. Kudos to Mr. Ford!
On-field performance (or lack of same) led to star running back Nick Singleton being benched twice during the game due to his poor ball retention skills. I’ll say it again: this isn’t Governor Mifflin High School. No matter what else one can say about Northwestern, Pat Fitzgerald coaches his defensive players well. Protect the ball — or else!
Meanwhile, there is a sad undercurrent at Beaver Stadium with a growing number of boos over Sean Clifford’s performance. The natives are restless, and we’re getting sick and tired of all the unforced errors, rain or no rain. Heap Big Freshman Drew Allar out of Medina, Ohio, is the “next big thing”, but he has received little playing time to date — none in this game. So, Franklin will surely go with Clifford for the Michigan game, which will be the start of the 2022 Big Slide.
Disgraceful! Penn State had been up toward the top of the FBS in positive turnover ratio, but no more. Even turnover-prone Northwestern’s performance was eclipsed by the incompetent Nittany Lions, who committed five turnovers against the Wildcats’ three. Four fucking fumbles lost and an interception. Disgusting!
There again, Northwestern performed much better than their superior hosts, with only two penalties for ten yards. PSU had 7-55, including that horrible first-down-producing, fourth-down offsides to which I previously alluded.
But Then, Even the Defense let up…
Northwestern had been well contained, but in the second half the Wildcats were able to move the ball much better. The stats don’t look as bad as they should have. At one point early on, Penn State had twelve first downs to NU’s four. That gap narrowed as the slopfest proceeded, ending up with twenty-one for PSU and twelve for Northwestern.
Running Game Present
Yes, 220 yards on the ground, split up among Singleton (87), Allen (86), and Lee (40). Alas, many of those runs were on dead-end streets, terminating in fumbles. Geez!
Passing Game Not
Sean Clifford had only ten completions for twenty attempts for 140 yards with one TD and one INT, for a magnificent quarterback rating of 37.9. Several of his misses were to wide-open receivers. He had plenty of protection. Can’t use the rain as an excuse. They were out there and he had the time.
And Scraping the Bottom on Third Down
Four for fifteen on third down — with the “meat” of the schedule just ahead. I’m retching here.
Big shout-out to Barney Amor, whose punting was superb, with four inside the twenty yard-line, which allowed James Franklin to lay claim to the singular “battle” Penn State won: the Field Position Battle.
Work to Do
To say that this Penn State offense has work to do is the Understatement of the Century. The Nittany Lions could move into the Top Ten this week, given that #7 Kentucky lost to Ole Miss; however, they obviously did not resemble contenders yesterday. Lots of hype will surround the forthcoming Battle of #4 and #10 (possibly). Will PSU rise to the occasion?
Next week is a bye. Then, as we noted above, the Lions go to Michigan. The following two weeks will be Minnesota and Ohio State. If they cannot even deal with fundamentals, they’ll be 5-3 in a month.
I’ll be back sometime before the big game with the #4 Maize and Blue.