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Penn State Soul Searching

It's not easy to lose when you have a 100 year tradition of winning. There is a lot of soul searching going in the blogs and message boards of Nittany Nation these days. Some people are angry at the players. Others are angry at the coaches. Some people have given up all together.

I think it's important we all take a step back and get a little perspective on the situation. First and foremost let's keep in mind that Penn State has had a damn hard schedule thus far. All three losses came against teams currently ranked in the Top 10. These teams have a combined record of 19-1, the one loss being Notre Dame's loss to Michigan. While losing to these three teams sucks, it's not the end of the world. As the chant goes, we are Penn State. We are not Temple.

Take a moment and look at the talent we lost from last year.

Starter Last Year Starter This Year
Michael Robinson Anthony Morelli (Jr)
Charles Rush Robert Price (Sr)
E.Z. Smith A.Q. Shipley (So)
Tyler Reed Rich Ohrnberger (So)
Andrew Richardson John Shaw (Jr)
Alan Zemitis Justin King (So)
Anwar Phillips Tony Davis (So)
Chris Harrell Donnie Johnson (Sr)
Calvin Lowry Anthony Scirrotto(So)
Tamba Hali Jim Shaw (Sr)
Scott Paxson Ed Johnson(Sr)
Mathew Rice Tim Shaw (Sr)

Is it any surprise to anyone that this team can't beat a Top 10 team right now? Michael Robinson, who finished fifth in the Heisman voting, has been replaced with a guy who didn't get 50 snaps his first two years in the program. We have replaced our offensive line with two sophomores and two journeymen players. Two NFL caliber corners are replaced with sophomores. Ed Johnson is an upgrade over Scott Paxson in my opinion, but Jim Shaw for Tamba Hali? Please. And the whole Tim Shaw at defensive end thing is a disaster if you ask me. He's being manhandled by bigger and stronger offensive tackles. Anyone can clearly see there was a talent drop-off from last year. All things being said, I'm not surprised we can't beat the Michigans and Notre Dames of the world, but at least we're not losing to the Akrons and Northwesterns of the world.

In the past several weeks I've heard people say we should be reloading instead of rebuilding. I have news for you. Maybe two or three teams in the country can do that. USC dominates everything west of the Rocky Mountains and can do that. Matt Brown in Texas puts something in the drinking water that makes kids grow up to be great football players and play for the Longhorns. And Ohio State reloads most years too. What do these teams have in common? They have all won MNCs recently. Winning it all breeds recruiting and helps you reload. Everyone else rebuilds. Including us.

In recent weeks people have suggested we fire the coaches or throw out the playbook. That's dumb. If you want to be consistently good, you need consistency in the coaching staff. Bringing in a new coach after every mediocre season will do nothing for you. Look at Notre Dame in the 90's. Look at Nebraska in recent years. Changing coaches is often not the answer. As far as the playbook, predictable? Yes. We run the same plays we've always run. But so have Ohio State and Michigan and everyone else. Nobody throws out the playbook from one year to the next unless you bring in a new offensive coordinator and philosophy. Sometimes it's a matter of the players not executing the plays they are given rather than a flaw with the play itself. Nobody complained about the conservative play calling in 2002 because we had a great offensive line that helped Larry Johnson rush for 2000 yards. We're running the same plays we ran back then.

Folks, my advice to you is to stay the course. It would be nice to go undefeated every year and compete for a National Championship, but it's not realistic. If you can make a good run every three or four years that's pretty good. Maybe it's not good enough for you when you look at teams like USC, but ask a team like Temple or Rutgers if they would like to compete for an MNC every four years. Older fans understand this. Younger fans that just got their first taste of a successful season in 2005 may not. You're not going to win it every year. I know it hurts like the day your mom sat you down and told you there's no Santa Claus. Deal with it. You're a grownup now.

Step back with me and take a look at the big picture for a minute. We had a pretty good recruiting class two years ago and a phenomenal class last year. This year's class is shaping up pretty well too. This team is building for a run at the title in 2008 and possibly even in 2007. We're playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores who are getting great experience against the best teams in the country. When these kids get to be juniors and seniors this team is going to be amazing. For now, just enjoy watching them get better each week and cheer them on.

Finally, I leave you with the greatest pep talk ever written. The immortal words of Thomas Paine in his essay, "The Crisis".

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.