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58 Random Thoughts on Indiana

Random musings on the weekend that was against the Hoosiers

Indiana v Penn State Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

On Saturday afternoon, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Indiana Hoosiers engaged in a contest of American football in Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA. The Nittany Lions emerged victorious by the score of 45-14. I have some thoughts, which are randomly set forth below:

  1. LISTEN.
  2. I’m tired of telling you all this week after week and seeing the hemming and hawing in the comments. Get back on board the DaeSean Hamilton train now. Those of us that have been on board all along are more than happy to make room.
  3. It’s difficult to find a better representative of Penn State football than this kid. Exhibit A is above. “Know your ‘why?’” He certainly does.
  4. In 2014, when everyone panicked over the loss of Allen Robinson, DaeSean Hamilton stepped up. Let’s not get it twisted, he was our offense, constantly turning John Donovan’s patented quick receiver screens into solid gains because of his elusiveness. As a freshman, a freshman, he had the second most productive season for a wide receiver in program history, catching 89 rockets from Christian Hackenberg.
  5. The next two years, DaeSean gave way to Chris Godwin, who was a beast incarnate. Still productive, though.
  6. I think watching Hamilton drop that pass against Pitt last September gave some fans a reason to jump off the bandwagon. It was a tough drop, no question, but the kid has played so well for so long. You have to give guys like that the benefit of the doubt.
  7. There were plenty of fine performances on Saturday. A week after putting together a ridiculous 350+ all-purpose yard game, Saquon Barkley continued to add video cuts to his Heisman campaign. Jason Cabinda had his finest game of the year, a 14 tackle performance that included a sack and a fumble recovery. Trace McSorley threw for 300+ yards and scored three times, and Irvin Charles captained the special teams with fury.
  8. For me, this will always be DaeSean Hamilton’s game. Nine catches for 122 yards, with three touchdowns. The all-time receptions record.
  9. I remember watching Deon Butler break Bobby Engram’s mark in 2008 and thinking how impressive a feat it was.
  10. It doesn’t pay to be a one-hit wonder, to have a great season or two and then head out the door. To hold the all-time receptions record, longevity is key. That means you have to be productive essentially from the minute that you step on campus, and you have to stick around and be a leader toward the end of your career.
  11. Number 5 is a great example of each of those attributes. Great work, DaeSean. I’m excited to see the rest of your season and trust you will close your Penn State career out in style, hoisting another trophy over your head.
  12. In other news, I think we can all agree that the “slow starts” thing is basically a thing of the past.
  13. That’s not to say that Penn State will score at will in every single game as soon as it kicks off, but this was pretty good evidence that we don’t need to be overly worried about sleepy noon kicks.
  14. Ask me this time next week how I feel about that statement after the Northwestern game.
  15. Still, my word that was a heck of a start. Of course Barkley took it to the house on his first touch. Of course he did.
  16. You know when people talk about players who have it? I don’t mean moxie, I mean it - a certainly knack for making a big play when the moment demands it. Derek Jeter diving into the stands in the playoffs for a foul ball or hitting a walk off single in his final at-bat, or Michael Jordan burying a jumper over Bryon Russell to win the NBA title. That’s what Saquon Barkley has.
  17. This crowd was juiced - between last week’s huge win in the final seconds, a #4 national ranking, alternate uniforms, and a theme day, the crowd was just begging for something dramatic as soon as the game kicked off. As usual, the Human Highlight Reel delivers.
  18. Seriously, dude looked like he got shot out of a cannon.
  19. Those uniform changes made everyone look huge and fast.
  20. Of course, it’s possible that Saquon the Don is just huge and fast compared to everybody else.
  21. For the record, I’d keep the stripe down the side all day every day. The number font was not particularly noticeable. I was less of a fan of the helmet numbers than I thought I would be, since I really liked when the team did that in support of Michael Mauti in 2012. And the argyle end zone was fine, but I wouldn’t want it for every game
  22. Oh, and while I was very into the white shoes, we’d have a serious branding problem here if those were permanent. So let’s not, alright Coach Franklin?
  23. The amount of consternation over the offense after this game is perplexing. Real talk...
  24. First, by the end of the first quarter, the Nittany Lions were up by four touchdowns. In contrast, the Hoosiers had gained a grand total of 44 yards. With the defense playing dominant football and the Lions scoring from all sides, it’s not hard to see how everyone subconsciously began to take their foot off the gas.
  25. This is NOT a problem that needs fixing, nor a cause of concern. It’s natural. This is not a video game, and expecting Penn State to continue to dominate a quality team that is heading bowling at this clip is entirely irrational.
  26. Second, Penn State had an atrocious second quarter. Trace McSorley looked out of step with his receivers and Barkley had little room to run. Otherwise, the offense looked very good for the rest of the game, and would have continued to put points on the board but for trouble in the kicking game.
  27. Third, in a related issue, you are not going to score touchdowns on every single possession. Penn State needs to work on maximizing red zone scoring opportunities, but generally speaking, this is why you have a kicking game. Of course, going 1 for 3 in field goal tries from your previously reliable kicker is problematic.
  28. The point spread on this game was Penn State -19. If Penn State connects on the two missed attempts, the score at the end of the game is 51-14, a 37 point victory. Essentially, we would have doubled the spread.
  29. Also related, special teams and defensive touchdowns all count. Turnovers are not flukes. There is some measure of luck to recovering fumbles, as anyone well versed in advanced metrics will tell you. But the fact that Penn State generates turnovers is not a fluke or a surprise. It is not a fluke that Penn State’s best player plays on special teams and helps score touchdowns. It’s not a fluke that Penn State’s special teams captain, who forced a turnover on punt return coverage, is an elite athlete who is big, strong, and fast, but has a tough time breaking into the wide receiver depth chart.
  30. All of these issues contributed to the “struggling” offense. Yet even if you don’t count the special teams touchdowns (for no logical reason) and even if I concede that McSorley, who threw for 300 plus yards, “struggled,” Penn State wins this game by a score of 31-14, a 17 point win against a quality opponent.
  31. All this is to say, can everyone just chill out? You’re watching a really good team play pretty good football. Enjoy the actual game rather than constantly looking at the “meaning behind the game.”
  32. All the credit in the world to Indiana for putting together a game plan to stop Barkley. I’m not certain where all the overconfidence about Indiana came from last week. In fact, I saw people suggesting that Barkley would have another monster game on the ground. Based on last year’s results, that seemed unlikely.
  33. The only team in 2016 to have real success in holding Barkley down was Indiana, who somehow managed to field a team under former coach Kevin Wilson that was far better defensively than offensively. How odd.
  34. It worked again. Indiana’s entire defense, including All Conference/All America candidate Tegray Scales, pinned their ears back and got after Barkley all day. In fact, Barkley was **this close** to breaking a few big runs before being tripped up by Indiana. At one point, a defender grabbed Barkley by the foot and he kept moving forward for more yards before stumbling.
  35. It was a good game plan by former defensive coordinator/now head coach Tom Allen. Allen’s team is well coached and knows where to be and what to do. The problem, as usual, is that have 11 guys looking at Barkley means 10 other guys can make plays.
  36. Hell, even the 11th guy (Barkley) will continue to make plays.
  37. Case in point - that one-handed grab was just stupid amounts of amazing. The stop-start and pure acceleration was remarkable. The most surprising part of that play was that he didn’t score.
  38. The receivers finally got really involved in this offense, and McSorley finally went back to looking deep. It was effective. In addition to Hamilton, Juwan Johnson had a fine game and DeAndre Thompkins added 53 yards on two catches. Solid outings.
  39. I’ve given Jason Cabinda and the linebackers a lot of heat, but boy they came to play on Saturday. Cabinda looked like a running back hunter out there, neckroll and all.
  40. I always hesitate to give props to Hunterdon Central High School grads (We are...BR), but any compliments that go Cabinda’s way are well deserved.
  41. It’s always worth talking about the intangibles Cabinda brings to the table. Maybe he’s not Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, Sean Lee, or Navorro Bowman, but the fact that I can reel off those names only shows how spoiled we have been for the last 15 years. Cabinda is a very, very good linebacker and a great leader. I’d take him on my team and in my lineup any day of the week.
  42. Apparently Richard Lagow has a strong arm. Did you realize that? I’m not sure I’ve heard it enough.
  43. Sad to see Mike Gesicki hurt for a lot of reasons. I hope he’s ok for his own career and the team’s well being, but I’m also nervous that I won’t get to see highlights of him windmill dunking in high school every week if he’s not on the field.
  44. In other words, “Mike Gesicki was a McDonald’s All American” is the new “Evan Royster played lacrosse.”
  45. It is silly, but I can say with some certainty that the things that made Gesicki a great hoops and volleyball player and Royster a great lacrosse player are the same traits that make them so good on the gridiron.
  46. Your weekly reminder here that Marcus Allen is a heat seeking missile.
  47. I’m really impressed with the defense this year. I could have sworn that this team would be 1994-esque - amazing offense with a defense that was good enough to keep up, but not exactly Penn State-level. They’ve proven me wrong entirely.
  48. Nick Scott looked great running that fumble recovery into the end zone. About as good as he looked when he was a running back running the ball into the end zone.
  49. Amazing that Mark Allen can barely see the field on this team, Nick Scott is on defense and special teams, and Johnathan Thomas is buried so deep on the depth chart that he’s unlikely to ever take a snap, meaningful or otherwise. At one time, this was considered the three-deep of the future at running back.
  50. Irvin Charles looked like a lion attacking some poor small animal when he forced J-Shun Harris II to fumble on that punt return. I’m sure Charles would love to play more at receiver, but the guy is really earning his stripes on special teams and using his God-given physical gifts to his advantage.
  51. That he forced that fumble after the announcers lavished all sorts of praise on Harris made the play even more perfect.
  52. Special teams has been a real strength, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the field goal unit. Tyler Davis was a model of consistency last year. The trajectory of his kicks was always somewhat low, but now he seems to have problems converting on a consistent basis. I can’t tell if it’s a snap/hold issue or a confidence issue, but something needs to be fixed. We’re going to need him in a big spot at some point this year.
  53. The jump pass for a touchdown was perfect. It bolstered the Heisman candidacy (which absolutely matters), it put a new wrinkle on film for future coordinators to deal with, and, above all, it was the right call to back the defense off of Barkley. Outrageous.
  54. All in all, who can complain about a nearly 40 point win against a quality opponent?
  55. A lot of people, evidently.
  56. Still, it was a solid effort by a team that is still getting better.
  57. On to Northwestern.
  58. We are...