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32 Random Thoughts on the Blue/White Game

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Random musings on the weekend that was in State College

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Penn State Nittany Lions played the Penn State Nittany Lions in an American football "contest" in State College, Pennsylvania.  One side wore blue, the other wore white.  The side in Blue won a lopsided victory, 37-0.  I have thoughts.  They are randomized, and below.

  1. I love the Blue/White Game, but it's a misnomer.   It's actually the Blue/White Scrimmage, and there's not much competitive about it.  Still, no one should ever complain about free football in April.  It's better than what we get for most of January, all of February, and all of March - nada, zip, zilch, squadoosh.
  2. Speaking of nada, zip, zilch, and squadoosh, that's generally what the results of this game mean. The spring scrimmage at a place like Penn State isn't about results.  Rather, it's designed to be one long promotional piece for the football program.  It should be fun, it should have lots of fans, and it should get people excited for the upcoming season.
  3. That's what a spring game at Penn State is supposed to be.  On the other side of the coin...
  4. Note that this was apparently the University of Pittsburgh's best attended spring game in recent memory.  In comparison, Penn State had 65,000 people in attendance.  See you in September, Pitt.
  5. Evidently, there were about 15,000 people in the lots.  According to color commentator Matt Millen, "They came to play."  Understatement of the year.
  6. Once again, I'm contractually obligated to talk about the weather, which was awesome.  A spectacular day for football.
  7. I said earlier that the Blue/White Game is generally meaningless.  [Insert Annual Aric Heffelfinger Reference Here].  This game, for instance, featured no blitzing, the first team offense and defense on the same side (Blue) squaring off the second and third teamers (White), and was missing key starters on both sides of the football.  None of the following players saw a single snap on Saturday - Saquon Barkley, Brandon Bell, Nyeem Wartman-White, Brendan Mahon, Parker Cothren, Kamonte Carter, or Ryan Bucholz.  That doesn't even raise the specter of blue chip recruits Miles Sanders (running back), Michael Menet (OT), Blake Gillikin (P), Alex Barbir (K), or junior college additions Tyrell Chavis and Brenon Thrift (DT), all of whom are expected to see significant time in next season's lineup.
  8. That said, we did get to see the framework of a brand new offense and two brand new starting quarterback candidates.  You can't make complete statements about these guys, but you can begin to put the pieces together in your own mind.
  9. Early in the broadcast, Millen suggested that we might see Barkley for a few carries and a reception or two, but not much more than that.  As it turns out, that was on the liberal end of it, and we should all be thankful.  Saquon Barkley is the Nittany Lions' most potent offensive weapon.  If Joe Moorhead's offense translates well from FCS to the Power 5, he has the chance to be the most prolific running back in the long history of Penn State football.  He spent part of last season on the bench with an ankle injury, and there's no need for him to take repeated hits in this scrimmage.  Letting him rest up also gave us an opportunity to see Mark Allen and Andre Robinson in feature back roles, which was fun.
  10. Tommy Stevens taking the field first leading the twos was an interesting look.  We've seen a bit of McSorley during his time with the program, including his bowl game performance in relief of an injured Christian Hackenberg against Georgia.  The most we have seen of Stevens was a minimal performance as an early enrollee during last year's spring game, so this was a very different situation.
  11. Quality play by Stevens on the game's second play to evade defensive pressure, roll right, and fire a strike down the sideline.  The pass was incomplete, but Stevens showed that he has the feet to escape and the arm to make a throw on the run.
  12. You could basically hear Millen's heart sink in his chest on game's third play, where the offensive line collapsed and Stevens was sacked for a lost.  "That's...that's your starting offensive line.  That's not a good sign."  It actually wasn't the starting offensive line, but this was a perfect encapsulation of the response to the ragged (to be kind) performances turned in by the offensive line during the first two years of the James Franklin era.
  13. I've loved shovel passes forever, and the one to Mark Allen was no exception.  As the annoucners claimed, he's "quicker than a hiccup."  He had a few nice moments behind the first team offensive line, and has the ability to be a nice compliment to Saquon Barkley.
  14. What's the over/under on the number of times that Millen calls Barkley by the nickname "Say Say"?  How do we get him to stop?
  15. Thoroughly pleased that two passes on the first drive went to TE Mike Gesicki.  The kid needs to find and develop his confidence, and I'm hopeful his three catch day will be the start of something good for him.  As someone really smart noted in the tight end preview, he'll be needed.
  16. There's nothing worse than seeing a guy grab his knee on the grass during the spring game, and that's exactly what happened during the first series to junior college transfer Jason Vranic.  He walked off under his own power, which was positive.  Here's hoping that he's healthy.
  17. Couple nice passes to end the first Blue drive by McSorley.  In particular, those final two passes (to Gesicki and a touchdown to number one receiver Chris Godwin) were on target to receivers who create match-up problems for defenses.
  18. Man, Chris Godwin excels with defenders hanging on him.  Garrett Taylor had decent coverage on him and he still managed to make the touchdown look easy.
  19. Andre Robinson looks like a bowling ball, but had zero help from the second team o-line against the first team defense.  Tough sledding for him until he got behind the first time line in the fourth quarter.
  20. The downfield sideline throw by Stevens to Juwan Johnson was outstanding, but Johnson just couldn't hang on to it.  Unfortunate drop, but a nice showcase for Stevens arm strength.
  21. No matter who's running the offense, the name of the game is pace.  There was a real rhythm to both the Blue and White offenses, which we can directly attribute to Joe Moorhead's scheme installation.
  22. The pick McSorley threw in the first half was the right read with a man open, but he just overthrew it.  That's going to happen, but at least we can take solace in the fact that receivers were actually running free on Saturday.
  23. Brutal blown assignment by early enrollee Connor McGovern, who gave up a sack and safety to veteran defensive end Evan Schwan.  I don't totally understand why he's at tackle, considering everyone projected him at center.  That said, this will be some tape he'll replay a good amount so he can avoid getting beaten that badly again.
  24. Hard to tell whether the touchdown McSorley threw to Saeed Blacknall was a good adjustment by Blacknall to an errant throw, or a throw to an open spot by McSorley based on coverage.  I'll take the 6 either way.
  25. The McSorley pump fake that froze the defender on the final touchdown of the first half was a thing of beauty.  Also, who's the smart guy who totally missed commenting on Tom Pancoast in the tight end preview?  Pay attention, nameless BSD writer!
  26. General quarterback thoughts based on the first half of play - Stevens has a stronger arm, but he still looks to run at the first sign of trouble.  McSorley only missed one pass all first half (the pick to Amani Oruwariye), and generally looked comfortable under center.  I think concerns about his arm strength are overrated.  Both are athletes, and both are capable of running this offense successfully.  I'm surprisingly upbeat about the way the offense looked in the first half.
  27. Realistically, I didn't expect a defensive line that lost three All-America types to play as well as it did on Saturday.  I'm not sure if that reflects the potential on the DL or the continued struggles of the OL.  Someone convince me not to worry.
  28. Seeing him in the huddle, Paris Palmer just looks like an elite offensive tackle.  I wish we had the luxury of redshirting him last year so that he had a greater chance of reaching his full God-given potential.  Hopefully he can find a way to remain in the rotation.
  29. The second half was more of the same, but the game's two best plays came as the game was winding down.  McSorley threw an absolute dart to Deandre Thompkins for a touchdown, and Andre Robinson made a beautiful cut back inside and raced for a 28-yard touchdown.  The future is bright.
  30. The football was clean, the sky was clear, and the fans were loud.  This was a perfect Blue/White Game for Penn State football, and a good sales pitch for the recruits on hand and fans who have been despondent since the end of season losing streak.  After months of dreariness, there appears to be some excitement back in Happy Valley.
  31. The most important takeaway from this game had nothing to do with anything that happened on the field.  Instead, BTN sideline interviewers spoke with multiple former players, including All-Pro linebacker Navorro Bowman and All-World Penn Stater Michael Robinson.  Both players expressed real positive energy toward the future of Penn State football and an affinity for James Franklin. Presenting a unified front provides a strong response to the tough PR that has engulfed this program based on back-to-back 7 wins seasons.  With new faces in new places, let's see how much this team can grow over the next several months before kicking off the 2016 season.
  32. We are.