Well, the good news is we usually struggle in our Big Ten openers, so this shouldn't be a surprise, except that the bad news is, the team we only beat by a touchdown was Indiana. And these aren't last year's oh-so-close to being good Hoosiers, the early 00s teams with QB Antwaan Randle-El the 07 Hoosiers, the 93, 94, or any decent Hoosiers teams. This was an Indiana team that struggled to beat South Carolina State 38-21, a team that lost to Ball State (a traditionally bad MAC team) 27-20, lost to a not so good but not horrible Virginia team 34-31, and lost 24-21 after trailing 24-0 until backups showed mercy to North Texas, the worst Sun Belt team. This is on par with our 9-17 loss to a 4-5-2 Wisconsin team in 1995 as a tie for second worst Big Ten opener. Our worst obviously was the 45-6 loss to a future 8-4 Ohio State where Adam Taliaferro went down with a spinal injury that would keep him from ever playing footballl again. So this means we could maybe be like the 95 team. Gotta be the kool-aid talking. As a side note, I'm really considering an overall grade boost of the Alabama game, since we looked better than those "tough" SEC teams so far.
Overall - F: Okay, we won our Big Ten opener. Of course we were going to win our Big Ten opener, it was against Indiana! They're not Wisconsin or Michigan or Illinois or anyone like that, they're Indiana. We had some nice stats, but ultimately, all I care about is the final score. Call me John Madden Jr if you like, but I'm more impressed with a 45-0 shutout where we only had a 100 yard overall advantage and a 27-20 first down advantage than a 23-17 escape over a team with less than 200 yards of offense while we had over 500 and led 34-8 in first downs. Frankly, we only won because we made mistakes that you can only get away with against Indiana. The team just looked like a jigsaw puzzle assembled by a 3 year old with pieces forced to fit into all the wrong places. Too much is being expected out of this team and I don't mean that in a "we're about 100th out of 120 and we're expected to be good" kind of way, I mean that in a "what kind of team can be expected to win when we run multiple systems all at once with a QB pony express and tailback roulette and depend entirely on the defense to save the day on a silver platter for the offense" kind of way. The red zone woes were the worst for me. Two touchdowns got wiped out by stupidity. And that Indiana TD only happened because of a prevent D. Should have been a game that at very bare bottom worst was a 23-10 game!
Offense - 0: I may have been a little too harsh in retrospect by giving that in the Alabama game since we scored 11 and looked better than those SEC teams. But here it was earned. Sure, we racked up glitzy stats like 129 rushing yards for Silas Redd but what does that matter if you can't score? If anything, the "we could have scored more" should be a mark AGAINST the offense, not in favor of. I'm getting so tired of hearing excuses that if only they hadn't made this mistake and that mistake. Well, guess what? We're five games into the season and this team is still making the exact same mistakes that they were making in week two against Alabama. The only reason we weren't making them against Indiana State is because they have a defense that allows our FCS level offense to rack up heaps of yards and points. Penn State scored 16 against Indiana because Bolden threw a red zone and we had a holding call right before that which wiped out a TD. Redd later fumbled at the 2. We gave Indiana only their second sack this year thanks to the O-Line being once again subpar. That's not just subpar, that's shameful. It's so bad that my dad even says our QBs aren't that good and he's really generous with praises of QBs. He even said Kurt Hess of Youngstown State was a good QB!
Defense - B: Once again, it's the defense that saves the day. This time literally. Two seconds on the clock and Dusty Kiel's got one last chance at giving his winless-against-FBS Hoosiers a shot at beating Penn State for the very first time. Last year's defense would have folded and been crippled by such a situation. Penn State kept making errors and the defense bailed them out. The defense kept setting up scoring opportunities for Penn State only for the offense to blunder them. This defense has way too much expected of it. Indiana's other games saw them score 20 points (Ball State), 31 points (Virginia), 38 points (South Carolina State), and 21 points (North Texas), and we held Indiana to 10. Holding teams to their lowest or one of their lowest of the year should be a recurring theme. So why only the B grade? It's simple. The defense allowed a late touchdown thanks to that stupid prevent defense. But I blame the pucker defense on coaching and not on the defense itself. Take away that stupid touchdown and Indiana's fighting to create the illusion of a close game late, not win and also it'd have boosted the grade a whole letter grade. And plus, only one sack. The defense played well, especially considering how bad our offense was, but could have done better.
Special Teams - D+: Once again our special teams were not so speical. The only games they showed up this year were Indiana State and Eastern Michigan, the two weakest teams on our schedule (at least in theory), so that shows how poor our special teams unit is. The best thing they did for us was score over half our points. Really it was Anthony Fera that brought the grade up (I'm not faulting him for missing that long FG due to the wind). Take him out and it's an F. We had great field position at one point (sadly, we'd have probably squandered it anyway) but a stupid muffed punt flips field position for Indiana and the game remains a stalemate as a result. Where was our punt return game? Our kick return game? Our punting game was decent and once again it was Anthony Fera who had those nice punts, including the coffin corner that was just wasted after the three and out thanks to the stupid muffed punt. Our coverage? Subpar ocne again. Indiana had some decent returns and we were lucky to get out past the 20. Our punt coverage was okay at times but it was only better than our return game because it was a choice between a muffed punt and getting dropped back for a loss.
Gameball goes to - No one: I always find someone to give it to, and if I don't feel like anyone in particular earned it, I give it to a group, or even if I don't want to do that, I give it out to inanimate objects and the weather as a joke like in 2008 against Purdue on my blog I gave the gameball to the slippery Ross-Ade Stadium turf and in 2009 when I gave it to the downpouring rain in our loss to Iowa. But this time around, nobody earned it. Nobody. In all honesty, the gameball should be deflated and thrown in the garbage, because that's exactly what we had to sit through four quarters of.
It was over when: Dusty Kiel's hail mary pass with two seconds left on the clock fell incomplete as time expired, and would have ended the game with a Penn State win even if it had been caught at the 5 yard line. The defense gave up a touchdown late thanks to the prevent defense and could have just as easily given up another running the same prevent defense late in the game. Although I was pretty certain we would hold on with our defense. It felt kind of like Iowa's 24-21 win over Arkansas State in 2009. The Red Wolves technically had a chance to win with seconds left but the defense was so good you never really thought they'd lose.
Next Opponent - Iowa: Welceome to the last chance motel, Penn State. This will be your last chance to prove that this can be a good season. I don't want to hear any more excuses (i.e, "If only Redd wouldn't've fumbled/If only Bolden hadn't thrown that pick/If only Moye would have made that catch/If only we'd have done this, done that that we almost did/we would have done better). Almost only counts in horsehoes, and unfortunately for us, this game is NOT being played in Ohio Stadium. Originally I had us picked to win, but I've changed my prediction, since I'm seeing a very unfavorable pattern in the first five games. I ordered fresh oven baked crow to enjoy on Saturday evening as my postgame meal, it had better arrive at my door right after the game, because if it doesn't, then we'll know Penn State's goose has been cooked instead.