Anthony Morelli basically did what he was asked to do. The stat line doesn't look bad with 12-for-21, 111 yards, and 1 INT. He made some nice throws like the 30 yard toss to Quarless. But then he had his typical one or two boneheaded plays per game we're accustomed to seeing. When he started scrambling out of the pocket on Penn State's second drive I started yelling "Don't fumble! Get out of bounds!" And of course he dove for an extra yard. And of course he fumbled. In my mind I can think of only four times all year where Morelli scrambled for yards after the play broke down. On three of those occasions his run ended with a fumble as he dove for an extra yard. The one play where he didn't fumble he was smart enough to get out of bounds. Listen kid, once you get past the sticks, do yourself and us a favor and slide or get out of bounds.
|Please...no more of this.|
And of course the other boneheaded play was the pick six to Jenkins. In his two career games against Ohio State, Anthony Morelli has thrown three touchdown passes. All of them to Buckeyes. That was the play that killed it for me, and for the first time since I can ever remember I got up and walked out of the stadium with Penn State losing and still 10 minutes to go on the clock.
But I don't want to sound like this whole loss falls on Morelli. Quarless fell on the fumble so there was no harm there. And by the time he threw the interception the game was already over. This loss falls more on the defense for not getting the ball in the hands of the offense enough. Morelli played as we've expected him to play. Ok, but not great. There were multiple times in the second and third quarter where the offense needed to make a big drive and score points to give the defense a rest. They just couldn't do it. On third down Morelli was 1-for-5 with a sack. His one completion only went four yards on 3rd and six.
After the pick six those who stayed in the stadium got to see Daryl Clark play. All I can give you is the stat line which went 4-for-5 for 13 yards. I would really like to know how Morelli viewed being replaced after the interception.
Let the debate begin: How much playing time should Clark get through the rest of the season? Either he or Devlin will be the quarterback next year. We have three games left against a cupcake and two middle-of-the-road opponents. The BCS is out of the picture at this point. Why not give the younger guys some snaps?
Though he only got 81 yards, Rodney Kinlaw I think had the best game of his career. He was hitting the hole with authority and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. The touchdown run was a good indication of how far he has come. In the past he would have tried to outrun everyone to the pylon, but on Saturday he cut it up field and lowered his shoulder and powered his way in.
Evan Royster was looking good when he came in during the second quarter. But he quickly got injured and had to come out of the game. He did manage to come back in, but soon Penn State found themselves down by multiple scores and they had to abandon the running game. He finished the day with 17 yards on four carries and did not play in the second half. Remember he did suffer a deep thigh bruise a few weeks ago. I have not heard anything on his status for this week, but I suspect in this case no news is probably good news. Hopefully we'll learn more in Joe's press conference today.
Nothing at all spectacular from this group. Ohio State played them tight off the line of scrimmage all day and they had to fight to get open. Quarless had the biggest play of the game and then went back to dropping passes again. Deon Butler had one catch for a five yards first down. Jordan Norwood racked up the most catches with six and 43 yards. Chris Bell couldn't outfight a defender for a catch in the endzone. Other than that he was once again MIA. Derrick Williams only caught two passes for seven yards, but he did have a nice run on an end around for 21 yards.
One positive from this game was how well the offensive line played. Penn State averaged 6.0 yards per carry against an Ohio State defense that came in ranked #2 in the country against the run. The Buckeyes gave up over twice their season average on the ground. They also did a good job of protecting Morelli only giving up two sacks in the game. I'm very encouraged by their play in the past several weeks, and that makes me feel a whole lot better looking ahead to 2008.
I thought they came out with a brilliant game plan. They threw the ball on all four of their first downs on the opening drive. The Buckeyes were off balance and they scored a touchdown. But then on the next drive Morelli fumbled, Quarless dropped a pass, and Morelli took a sack. The next drive stalled, and when Penn State got the ball back after the Connor interception with 3:39 to go in the half they found themselves down by ten points.
At that point it seemed like Paterno made the decision his defense wasn't going to stop the Buckeyes so he had to go conservative to eat clock and keep them off the field. I've said before that after a turnover I like to see the offense try a big play, but Penn State came out and ran Royster three out of the first four plays. That set up the biggest mistake Paterno would make all night.
On fourth and two at the Ohio State 38 yard line with two minutes left in the half, Joe opted to punt the ball. This was just dumb, dumb, dumb. Here is his reasoning when asked after the game.
A: My thought on that was, I didn't want to turn it over with two minutes or something to go like that because we weren't playing that good defense and I knew we were going to get the ball to start the second half. I thought about going for it but I knew they were going to kick off to us and I thought if we went in at 17-7 that we still had a good shot at it.
This is Joe Paterno at his worst. Afraid to take a chance. Afraid to turn over the ball. Afraid to make a mistake. Rather than play to win, he opts to play not to lose. As I sat in the stands I was thinking if we can get a score here and come out after the half and get another score we could be tied or in the lead. But not Joe. Let's play it safe. Let's give up. Boone punted the ball in the endzone giving them the ball at the 20 for a net of 18 yards. Brilliant. As I sat in my seat after all of that transpired and the teams were jogging back to the tunnels, I recalled how the entire stadium, including myself, was yelling...pleading for Joe to go for it on that fourth down. I couldn't help but wonder if the old coot just didn't like being told what to do and gave us all the finger in his own way. It seems to me if you go with the crowd in those situations it's probably not very likely you'll face any tough questions after the game if it goes wrong.
Finally, week in and week out I scratch my head over Derrick Williams. The coaches show no originality in using him. He caught two passes in the first three plays of the game for a total of seven yards. Both throws were little swing passes. He did manage to bust an end around for 21 yards. But I continue to be amazed that they don't use him more often. This guy is supposed to by a dynamic player. Why is he only touching the ball three times in the game, and why does it seem like they only have three or four plays designed for him? It just seems like the coaches have set him up to fail.
But overall the offensive game plan was ok. Like I said, it was the defense that lost this game. Where the coaches made the mistake was in deciding to go conservative after they fell down by a few scores. Rather than attack like they have been doing the past month since the Michigan game, they decided to play it safe and try to run the clock to keep the defense off the field. This just played into Ohio State's hands even more.