Justin K. Aller
The Penn State blogosphere answers the most pressing questions about Saturday's tough loss to the Buckeyes, Big Ten referees, Danny Hope's hot seat, and this weekend's match up against the Purdue Boilermakers.
Welcome back to a very special edition of the Blue/White Roundtable. Since Sunday, much of the East Coast has been battered, beaten, and devastated by Hurricane Sandy. To all those Nittany Lions (and, indeed, all the non-Nittany Lions) affected by the storm, know that you're in our thoughts and prayers. If you're lucky enough to have power and an internet connection in the Tri-State Area, thanks for being with us, as the Nittany Lions try to shake off last weekend's loss by taking on the Boilermakers of Purdue University!
You know how this works by now - every week, yours truly will pose a variety of questions to Penn State bloggers from every corner of the Nittany Lion internet. We'll post the greatest hits here each week, but make sure to check out our blogging brethren for their full responses every week!
You all recognize this week's panelists - our own Cari Greene, Bill Engel, Carole Kirkpatrick, LB, Ali Soho, Tim Johnson, and Pete Young from PennLive's 50-Yard Lion Blog, Derek Aschman from The Nittany Lions Den, and all of the D-O-double-G's from JoePa's Doghouse!
What are your thoughts on the loss to Ohio State on Saturday night?
Cari: I think both teams needed to play their best to win last Saturday night, and only one did. The Buckeye defense played better than I expected, and the Penn State special teams were better than I expected. Unfortunately, the time spent on field for those two aspects weren't even-and the Buckeye offense vs. our defense portion of the game unfolded how I thought it might. We pretty much knew Braxton Miller would go all Braxton Miller on us sometime-I just thought our offense would have been able to keep up. I was wrong. I think that has a lot to do with play calling and coaching, and perhaps just a smidge with poor officiating-but it shouldn't have come down to refereeing. Quite simply, it shouldn't have.
The Underdogs: Winning 12 against 16 is never easy, so I'm not terribly deflated despite being incredibly disappointed in the B1G's decision to send referines dressed as nuts to State College for a Halloween surprise. The game seemed a bit like the microcosm of the entire offseason, which I'm wondering is affecting the psychology of the squad. Although resilient and optimistic, one break after another kept going against us, whether it was of our own doing or not, ultimately leading to deflation and acceptance. Based on our per quarter scoring, it seems as though the staff and team gameplan and prepare well (we get off to fast starts), then opponents make adjustments at halftime (outscoring us in 3rd), and then we re-adjust and win 4th Q. However, vs OSU we got off to a fast start in everything except scoring. Missed a few big opportunities, then the defensive holding on the punt, ultimately leading to OSU's tying score before half really seemed to deflate the team and shift momentum. Had we been up 14-0, 17-7, or 21-0, fully taking advantage of our 1st half opps, the score could've and probably should've been different. Moving the ball isn't so great if you can't score the ball. Then you're just Arsenal (a reference completely lost on Rowlff since it has nothing to do with pirates, teeny bopper movies, or death metal).
J Schnauzer: I'd be lying if said I wasn't disappointed, but this is more an indication that Ohio State is further along in its redevelopment than Penn State. It's not too surprising to see the Buckeyes find a way to win despite limitations. What's frustrating is that any other year I would say, "we'll get them next year," but unfortunately this may be the closest we'll get to a win over Ohio State in the next five years.
Carole: It was too bad that Penn State lost in the midst of such a fantastic game atmosphere. The 108,000 faithful were all in. The team played a great first half. They just seemed to lose momentum as the game wore on. Some of the keys required to win just didn't happen:snap the ball 90+ times, keep Braxton Miller and the offense off the field, play a clean game free of penalties,and get the running game going. More on the penalties later but they gave the Buckeyes better field position and fresh sets of downs too often keeping drives alive and wearing out the PSU defense.
Ali: To be honest, I actually feel like we learned a lot about this team and about this coaching staff. Poor officiating aside (and the conspiracy theories as well), this team showed that if it capitalized on a few more plays, that we could have pulled out the win against an elite opponent. I'm excited to see what PSU's future has in store after being able to see what kind of effort/gameplan they'd produce against Ohio State. Still upset about the loss, but feel positive about this team going forward.
Tim: From a win-loss standpoint, this one really stings. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 5 different plays (McGloin missing a wide-open Robinson on the opening drive, SOA dropping the sure pick-six, etc.) that would've completely changed the course of this game. It was there for the taking, and we just...didn't...take it. I mean talent won out in the end, but damn, if we could've just wrapped Braxton up behind the line on that 3rd down, or held on to that fake punt...
From an atmosphere standpoint, it was unreal. The first half was possibly the most intense crowd experience I've been a part of at PSU, and certainly the most intense since 2005 OSU. The fans wanted this one so, so badly. But the cathartic feeling I got when Mike Hull Dikembe Mutombo'ed Ohio State's punt into the end zone after 25 tenuous, back-and-forth football minutes almost (but not really) justifies the loss for me-that moment was simply awesome.
Penn State has had some trouble with referees before, and there are plenty who are willing to discuss it again this week. How poor was Saturday night's officiating? Did it cost us the game? Does it impact the Big Ten's reputation?
Derek: Look, the referees were bad. There's no doubt about that. Even the ESPN commentators - including former Buckeye Chris Spielman - continued to complain about Jordan Hill getting held on every play. But the referees did not drop passes, miss reads or get arm-tackled; Penn State did. So, although the refereeing was indeed poor, I really do not think it cost Penn State the game.
Rowlff Dogg: The referees were terrible. Mike Mauti wasn't held on Braxton Miller's touchdown scramble. He was sacked, pillaged, plundered, full-nelsoned, and disemboweled, all while watching his dog get killed.
But no, the poor officiating did not cost us the game. The refs did not prevent an easy McGloin-to-Robinson touchdown on the first drive. They did not cause SOA to drop a gift pick-six. They did not force a terrible pick-six from McGloin to start the second half.
As for the Big Two's reputation? Nah, the refs' bias does nothing to dim the luster of the Big Ohio-Michigan Conference...
Bill: The Big Ten already has a reputation for having the worst referees in College Football and this game did nothing to change that. Perhaps the Big Ten is concerned about their reputation and how it would look to have Penn State as their top team. If any unbiased observer watches the blatant offensive holding in both games, particularly on big plays, there is certainly a reason for speculation. The holding call on the OSU punt and the personal foul on Amos were just icing on the cake.
As to whether it impacted the game; it is common knowledge that in a match-up of two teams with the same relative talent, 4-5 big plays will typically determine the outcome. The referees essentially caused two turnovers with bogus calls and that certainly impacted the final score of the game. I am not saying PSU wins that game and I will give all the credit to OSU they deserve, but it is impossible for anyone to say the referees did not tilt the field at key moments in this game.
The Underdogs: It will not impact the reputation at all because we're so used to it, everyone within our conference is so used to us bitching about it, and everyone outside of the conference doesn't give a shit. Proceed as normal. They were bad, but the big ten has always been lenient about holding. There is a reason NFL types have said before they have had to completely re-coach Michigan linemen how to block. While I've never seen such blatant holding go uncalled (exception: Courtney Brown), I did not see much of the utterly indefensible calls we've seen in the past: Eddie George fumbling in '95 being ruled down - TD pass to Terry Glenn on the next play, the entire '05 Michigan game including the blatant plus1 spots for them and minus1 spots for us any Alabama fan would appreciate, Tony Johnson called out of bounds in '02, or the OSU tight end clearly dropping the ball in front of the ref being ruled a catch. Those? There were none of those. In this game, OSU just got away with more holding than we did and were more aggressive in taking advantage of officiating incompetence.
Cari: The refereeing was bad. It wasn't as bad as Wisconsin last year, but it was bad-it's been bad all season, but we've been able to overcome it (for the most part). This wasn't the first game in which TV announcers called a call against us bad. Undoubtedly, it won't be the last. The difference was, we (especially the offense) weren't playing well enough to overcome the bogus calls and win the game. And Ohio State took advantage. Do I think that, without the calls, we would have won? Probably not. We couldn't get anything started on offense regardless of the calls. I do think, though, that it would have been closer, and the score would have been lower.
Pete: The officiating was poor. Did it cost PSU the game? Who knows. But, to paraphrase John Madden, every play changes every play. So the Amos call, the Bars call (especially!) and the Mauti no-call all impacted the game negatively for PSU. The Bars call tangibly altered the score, momentum, fatigue and outcome. That said, PSU had its opportunities to turn things back around, but failed. Did Saturday's officiating impact the Big Ten's reputation? Hardly, because outside of OSU and PSU fans - which is admittedly a LOT of people - and a few other Big Ten fans diehards, it seems the rest of the country barely noticed the game. In previews and reviews, it was not treated as one of the day's top 4-5 games, perhaps in part due to the NCAA sanctions for both schools. I saw no national coverage afterward that emphasized bad call(s) or bad officiating. Also, I watched a lot of the Florida-Georgia game, and the officiating there was embarrassing, though not so much with the standard calls/no-calls, but with the officials' refusal to reign-in unruly behavior by the players and coaches.
Purdue comes into the game this week after a brutal loss to Minnesota, followed by a rough statement by their athletic department. Is Danny Hope on the hot seat?
Rowlff Dogg: Dare I say that Jerry "Kill-ed" Danny's "Hope" of returning next year...
Ed. note -
Purdue is a very tough school to win at consistently. I think Joe Tiller should get more retroactive credit than Danny Hope blame for the state of the Boilermakers right now.
LB: Purdue has a losing record in the Big Ten and overall since Hope's first season in 2009, and that trend doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon, considering the Boilermakers still are winless in the conference. Nobody likes to lose, and if a coach isn't getting you the results you want, he usually doesn't stick around long.
Tim: Sure. I don't care about Purdue. The last question reminded me how close we were to beating Ohio State. Not ready to move on yet.
Cari: I'd be surprised if Hope is in West Lafayette next year. This was supposed to be his best team in his tenure at Purdue, and they've shown flashes of greatness (like their games against Ohio State and Notre Dame-they were the Big Ten team that played the Irish the closest), but they haven't put it all together. They have the talent, but why haven't they seen the results? I'm not sure how much you can point to anything besides coaching.
Carole: Danny Hope stood at the B1G Ten podium this past summer and said that "If they (Penn State players) are available, we're interested" and explained how he didn't see anything wrong with poaching players from a fellow conference team in light of the NCAA infractions against Penn State following the JS scandal. Unlike the classier Bret Bielema and Urban Meyer who said they didn't think it was appropriate to court players from a fellow B1G Ten member. Hope is my second favorite B1G Ten coach right behind Illinois's Tim Beckman. So, I really don't have any empathy for the man. Yes, he is in the hot seat, especially this year with those two of big games that got away against Notre Dame and Ohio State. So that leaves the Boilermakers at the bottom of the division and Hope in a bucket of hot water. Boo-hoo!
Derek: I suppose the only way that Hope is no longer on the hot seat is if he was already told that this is his last season. Purdue has been "up-and-coming" for a few years now and this was supposed to be their year to break through. After falling flat on their faces, I don't see how Hope can have a job at the university after this season.
Cari: I think BOB is (rightfully, IMO) mad at himself for the relative non-competitiveness of the Ohio State game, and comes out on fire this week. Purdue's offense is good, but our defense is way better. Our offense is good (better than their performance against the Buckeyes), and their defense is...okay. Penn State will come out to make a statement. 38-17, Nittany Lions.
Derek: Penn State has played well on the road this season, so I predict that continues. The defense forces two turnovers while the offense manages the game. Purdue does not have the personnel to stop Carter and Robinson and McGloin connects with each of them for a touchdown. Purdue scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter for cosmetic purposes. Penn State: 31 Purdue: 17.
The Underdogs: The aforementioned happens, but how hyped can Purdue really get. Something about their field just puts me to sleep. EVEN THEIR FIELD IS BORING. Seriously, are half the B1G fields double sized with extra length grass or does the product on the field just make it seem that way? Neither would surprise me despite the NCAA's no fun regulations against alterations to field size and shape. Purdue wins only if the field is round this weekend. Rape Apologizing Culture Mongers 33, Dozy Engineers with a Big Drum to Keep Everyone Awake 9.
Rowlff Dogg: Penn State 44, Purdue 13. There will be no let down for this team.
J Schnauzer: Penn State rights the ship. PSU 45, Purdue 17
Tim: I think our team has a stronger mental composition than I do in the wake of losses, so we won't be challenged. I'd really enjoy if O'Brien lets all hell break loose and we win 89-3. In fact, the thought of that makes me so happy, that'll be my prediction. How do you land on 89 anyway...13 TD's and 2 missed XP's? Yeah, sounds fair.
LB: Purdue came within three points of Notre Dame and took Ohio State to overtime, but they won't have enough to win Saturday. Penn State 35, Purdue 17
Pete: Penn State 27, Purdue 23
Ali: PSU is coming off of a letdown and Purdue always figures out a way to show up for big games. To them, this is a big game, so I expect a very physical football game. In the end though, I think Penn State proves to be too much. PSU 31, Purdue 13
Carole: Penn State rebounds from a tough home loss to the #9 team in the country to beat the Boilermakers in Ross-Ade. The Lions will have to contain the Boilers' return game and shut down the passing game of a two quarterback system. Look for the running game to roll downhill against Purdue and Matt McGloin to have another lights out game of 300 yards passing. Penn State 32, Purdue 14.
Bill: Last week will be tough to bounce back from. Going from an insane home white-out to a semi-hostile environment will be a huge shift for this team. If Penn State gets some luck and some good calls, they can certainly pull it out. But my head is telling me Purdue 27 - Penn State 24. Hopefully the strong leaders on this team prove me wrong.
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