Penn State 16, Indiana 10: You Are NOT The Father

Penn St. 16, Indiana 10

4-1 Overall, 1-0 Big Ten, 1-0 Pig Division

Congratulations, Penn State!  You have not lost your first game to Indiana in school history, despite your best efforts.  So celebrate, for purposes of this metaphor, you are not the father.

Sadly, you are in a Maury paternity episode, and you cannot run the ball against the worst conference team on your schedule.  Dance around if you must, this is still losing.

This Is A Very Bad Football Team.  Let's start with that.  Penn State is a bad team with an above-average defense.  They have beaten two tomato cans (Indiana State, Eastern Michigan), been snuffed out by a true national power at home (Alabama), and needed last minute defensive stands to beat a higher-end MAC team that was just pounded at home by 23 points by Toledo (Temple) and one of the worst Big Ten teams in recent memory (Indiana) which lost to Ball State and North Texas.  Despite the mind-blowing fact that Penn State started as a two-point favorite against Iowa on Sunday (note: this will totally change by Monday morning), it's hard to picture this team having more than a coin flip's chance of beating anybody but Purdue, given its current trajectory. That's not to say OMG 5-7, but...that's kind of in play, isn't it?

But, We're 4-1.  Hey, how 'bout that.  As if anything other than 4-1 wouldn't be a five-alarm dumpster fire, given the schedule.

So, We Change The Fight Song To "Suicide Is Painless"?  It would be a good Blue Band song, but Guido D'Elia would probably find a souped-up, 1980's cop drama version of it to blare through the PA system.  Can the Blue Band perhaps secretly practice this?  For me?  I don't ask for much.

Defense?  Still Good.  Although, it's hard to escape the likelihood that they're going to be left on the field way too long against quality Big Ten opponents and will wear down in the fourth quarter.  They're very good, but not particularly deep (and with Stephon Morris' ankle injury, less so).  This became a bit of an issue late against Indiana, which converted 3/7 third downs and 3/3 fourth downs in the last fifteen minutes.

Let Me Count The Ways.  It is not impossible for this team to improve in the final seven games, but here are the inescapable truths after nearly half the season:

  1. The quarterback rotation is not working.  #TeamPickAnyone has a point (and it's become very difficult to ignore that Anyone should be Matt McGloin). Again, while both quarterbacks are either relatively or absolutely deficient, it's clear that treating these guys as interchangeable parts in a much larger Machine Of Terrible is failing the entire team. In fact, it has accomplished nothing other than forcing Penn State fans to wallow in their own crapulence. However, Jay Paterno is still cool with this.
  2. The offensive line is abysmal.  Frankly, the fact that they're not allowing sacks is kind of irrelevant. Penn State is 103rd out of 120 FBS teams in Pass Efficiency.  Why even try to sack these quarterbacks?  Of paramount importance is the inability to run the football, even against the dregs of the football world.  The offensive line is not only failing to get a push against practically all opponents, they too often appear confused as to their assignments. 
  3. No, really, they are terrible.  In the midst of a game-clinching fourth quarter drive, Silas Redd gained eight yards on first down.  Two more yards puts the game away for Penn State.  Joe Suhey gains one yard on second down.  Silas Redd loses a yard on third down.  Penn State punts from the Indiana 39 on 4th and 2 -- and I'm not even sure if this is sarcastic or not, but why would anyone have faith in Penn State to pick up two yards against Indiana's defense?  They seriously have no idea who to block, with alarming frequency.  Too many unblocked defenders, too many Penn State linemen loafing and wondering who to hit.

Those Should Only Count As Two Things.  Guilty.  But they're two amazingly important things, and totally crippling the offense.  Look at the video if you can stomach it -- Indiana wasn't exactly using nine-man fronts.  Chima Okoli and DeOn'tae Pannell were pulled for Mike Farrell and John Urschel, respectively.  It didn't much matter.  Curtis Dukes and Derek Day (!) got playing time at running back.  It didn't much matter.  I'll remind you that North Texas ran for 226 yards and a 4.7 average against Indiana one week earlier -- and it's not like North Texas has some sort of high-powered aerial attack to defend (they're 94th nationally in passing yards).  Penn State ran for 193 yards and a 3.9 average against the same awful Indiana defense.  Joe Paterno is fine with this, and if you point out that Indiana was pushed around by North Texas and Ball State, he wonders if you've ever seen a football game before.

These issues aren't news to anybody who has watched Penn State lately.  These are simply the results of the larger problems facing the program, especially on offense.  Use of personnel, playcalling, apparent lack of preparation and motivation, and a stunning lack of development of what is generally (perhaps charitably?) considered a talented roster. It's galling.  Also, things are taking a decidedly weird turn when I find myself agreeing with practically every word of Cory Giger's Sunday column.

Why is Penn State, a program built on old-school, conservative, smash-mouth offense, only able to put together an effective offensive line twice per decade?  Why are they trying to run a 1980's gameplan when the immense talent gap enjoyed during those years has been narrowed by scholarship limits and the slow erosion of the program's foundation?  Because it's easy?  How are the quarterbacks on this roster getting worse?  How is an utterly incompetent defensive team like Indiana able to hold Penn State to a 44% completion rate and 3.9 yards per carry?   Does Joe Paterno actually care?

Random Statistics, Presented Without Comment.  Here is Penn State's playcalling breakdown:

Screencapture28i_medium

The first down runs went for a total of 101 yards (4.39 avg.) and include a 29 yard run by Curtis Dukes.  The 12 first down passes include the touchdown bomb from McGloin to Moye (74 yards).  Look at the rest of them:

Screencapture29_medium

McGloin to Kersey (#8K) was the only other completed pass on first down. 

Oh, And About Those Remaining Winnable Games.  Purdue is now eyeing us up as a potential victim.  Didn't think that would be an issue in August.

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