Resignation, not mystic, not detached, but resignation open-eyed, conscious, and informed by love, is the only one of our feelings for which it is impossible to become a sham. - Joseph Conrad
For more than a year, and through 16 games, Bill O'Brien and the Penn State players fought so well that you mostly forgot the dire straights they faced, and the impediments under which they performed. On Saturday in Bloomington, 60 minutes of mistakes compounded against the Lions, and snapped many back into open-eyed consciousness: this is not a great team, and it shouldn't be, either. That's by design.
"This isn't a normal Penn State team. We have 61 kids on scholarship, 40 walk-ons. (We) can't go to a bowl, we can't play for a championship", admitted BOB. Then, as quickly as he let the admission slip, BOB tried to pull it back. "No excuses. We have a lot of resilient kids. They show up to practice every day and practice hard. We've got to coach better, and that starts with me."
But BOB's moment of humanness aside, he's right to feel exasperation. This was an eminently winnable game that slipped away. Penn State had seven first half possessions on offense, and took six of them into Indiana territory. Yet, they had just 7 points on the scoreboard to show for it. A failed 4th down attempt, a bad field goal snap, and a blocked field goal snuffed out three drives. Penalties and missed assignments ruined the others.
The defense forced the Hoosiers' explosive offense to punt 3 times in the first half, and stuffed a fourth down run attempt on another possession. Although they conceded yards in the first half, they stiffened in front of their own goal line, and managed to keep Indiana to just 13 first half points. The recipe seemed to be working, if only the offense could get untracked.
Indiana took the ball to start the 3rd quarter. They reached midfield before the defense again forced a punt. And then Penn State marched down the field on a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take their first lead of the game, 14-13. For a moment, it looked likely that Penn State's ownership of Indiana would continue.
But then the Hoosiers did something they've rarely done before: they punched back. IU quarterback Nate Sudfeld completed a couple of nice throws, picking up two first downs. Then he tucked the ball into RB Tevin Coleman's belly on a normally harmless draw. A Penn State defense that had made a mockery of IU's rushing attack to that point suddenly opened wide, letting Coleman run 44 yards untouched for a touchdown. A 2-point conversion from Indiana gave them the lead, 14-21.
Penn State went nowhere on it's next possession and punted. But the defense forced an Indiana turnover near midfield, as Glenn Carson tipped a pass over the middle which Adrian Amos intercepted. Back in business, Penn State moved inside the Hoosier red zone. Bill Belton carried the ball for 4 yards to the Indiana 7-yard line on 1st down. On 2nd down, Christian Hackenberg threw a fade to Allen Robinson. Robinson lept over a cornerback, snagging the ball. But his legs were taken out, and he landed hard, just out of bounds. On third down, with a chance to tie the game, Hackenberg was sacked for a loss. A Sam Ficken field goal made the score 17-21, but Penn State would not get any closer.
Indiana went on an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive - 8 of which were rushes - that increased their lead to 17-28 with just over 14 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Down 11 points with a 4th and 2 at his own 33-yard line, BOB rolled the dice, but Hackenberg's pass was deflected incomplete at the line of scrimmage. And that was the ballgame. Indiana tacked on a few more scores, aided by a Geno Lewis fumble on kickoff return which the Hoosiers recovered at the PSU 9, and later, a Hackenberg safety. But the damage had already been done, the open-eyed consciousness rendered.
Three Completely Unrelated, Probably Useless Thoughts
1) BOB chose to spread Indiana out on defense, and call most of his runs from the shotgun. I thought that was a curious choice. I expected more two tight-ends, or even more I-formation, from Penn State this week, particularly after we practiced so much of it two weeks ago against Kent State. For as much praise as this O-Line has received from BOB, I thought we'd just bully the pathetic Hoosier rush defense. Instead, it looked like we tried to trick them, by using the same thing they see every week in practice from their own offense.
2) Are you still angry and looking for people to scapegoat? Then make sure you give a little blame to the last staff while you're at it. Only one recruiting class from 2009 - 2011 cracked the top 25 nationally. And that one, the 2010 class ranked #12, was headlined by Silas Redd, Khairi Fortt, Dakota Royer, Khamrone Kolb, Rob Bolden, Paul Jones, and Tom Ricketts - all of whom were 4 or more starz by Rivals, and none of whom are on the roster. The Penn State sanctions handed out in 2012 were particularly egregious because Penn State had been sanctioning itself for years, and its one 'good' class largely flamed out. There are just 5 starters from the 2010 class (Baublitz, Dieffenbach, DaQuan Jones, Olaniyan, and Zwinak) - the same amount as from the #51 ranked 2012 class, which stuck with Penn State despite the scandal.
3) Criticize BOB and the gang? Sure, go ahead. But it's the same staff that contributed to Penn State's record 91% graduation rate last year, by the way. Saturday's loss came against an Indiana squad that added somewhere around 20+ junior college kids in the last two seasons - kids that are far less likely to graduate, and are basically free agents brought in solely to make the football team not suck. Yes, the game was frustrating and sloppy, early and often. That's how young, inexperienced teams usually play. But I'll take the loss and the graduation rate over the Indiana alternative. Keep doing it right, BOB. The wins are never the most important thing.
More from Black Shoe Diaries:
Follow @BSDtweet on Twitter
And join us on Facebook
All BSD community members should review our current Posting & Commenting Policies before creating any posts or commenting.