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Fire John Donovan: Penn State 20, Army 14

I don't want to talk about it, but I guess we have to.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

What the hell is there to say about a game like this? What the hell is left to say, that hasn't been said over and over again?

If you watched the game, you know exactly what happened. You don't need or want to relive it. You don't need or want anything but a space to vent, to spew righteous indignation at the recurring villains of this story. That's all I end up doing after a game like this, anyway.

If you were lucky enough to have been too busy on this rainy, ugly Saturday afternoon to sit in front of a TV--or even worse, outside in the damp cold--for three hours, then you are one of the lucky ones. Know that Penn State won, pretend that nothing else matters, and bury your head in the sand until Saquon Barkley comes back, because at least then this will be a team worth watching.

Just when it looked like these Nittany Lions were ready to turn a corner--a week after Christian Hackenberg's best regular season performance of the James Franklin era--Penn State devolved into the worst tendencies of John Donovan's tenure. The offensive line couldn't keep Hackenberg upright or open up holes for the backs; the non-Barkley rushers couldn't turn nothing into something; the receivers, when they weren't faithfully executing horrendous routes, couldn't get open. And through it all was the ever-present constant: awful, incomprehensible, disjointed play-calling that seemed opposed, on principle, to putting Penn State's best players in a position to succeed. It was so incoherent as to be utterly indistinguishable from a 9-year old playing Madden and just mashing the buttons.

In the first half, and even leaking into the second, Army could not get out of its own way. It committed backbreaking penalties to set up 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-and-long. It couldn't hold on to the ball--three Army fumbles, none forced, all led to turnovers. Once Army woke up, the sad truth became clear:

If it weren't for Army's inability, early, to get out of its own way, they would've walked away from Beaver Stadium with a blowout win, despite playing this game without their starting quarterback--easily their best offensive threat. Army lost to an FCS team. They lost to UConn and Wake Forest. They finished last season as the worst defensive team in the country, and the second worst road team. They made Penn State fight and claw for a win. And hey: remember when Penn State's special teams actually looked pretty good?

At halftime, Ali Krieger led Beaver Stadium in an "I Believe That We Will Win" chant. By the fourth quarter, that contention required a genuine leap of faith.

Are there positives to take from this game? If you can think of one, you're certainly more optimistic than me. Maybe, just maybe, it's better than another boring, comfortable win because it once again makes John Donovan public enemy number one in the eyes and minds of Penn State fans--hopefully, of the boosters who pay his grossly inflated salary. Even then, a loss probably would've done the trick even more convicningly. After a year and a half in his reign of terror, it's impossible that James Franklin, even with his famous loyalty, can fail to see what we all do, right?

Before Penn State's final scoring drive as the third quarter pulled to a close, one that pulled the Lions ahead from 13-7 to 20-7 (in a baffling decision that's squarely on Franklin, Penn State kicked the extra point rather than going for 2), Army had totalled more yards than Penn State. On one pass attempt, Army had 11 fewer passing yards.

It took John Donovan about 45 minutes to even try to let his celebrated quarterback throw the ball down the field. As the announcers talked about Christian Hackenberg's regression, and slipping draft stock, I wondered whether Hack might find some enterprising lawyer to invent a novel theory of professional malpractice to try and sue his offensive coordinator.

This is a dead team walking--and with all the injuries that just continue to pile up, that's barely even a metaphor. Angelo Mangiro left this game in the third quarter. Brandon Bell didn't play today. Neither did Marcus Allen. Andrew Nelson remains sidelined. So too do Barkley and Akeel Lynch. Nobody knows whether Adam Breneman is still alive. Perhaps when James Franklin's winning games, his recalcitrance to discuss injured players' statuses is less grating. For a fanbase still searching for answers, it's obnoxious at best.

Things had been trending upwards for Penn State, ever since the complete humiliation in Philadelphia. Despite a win, this feels almost as bad.

Welcome back, Same Old Penn State Football. Who's excited for Homecoming next week!