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47 Random Thoughts on Indiana

Random musings on the weekend that was against the Hoosiers

NCAA Football: Penn State at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon, the Indiana Hoosiers hosted the Penn State Nittany Lions for a contest of American football in a swirl of garbage in Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana. The Nittany Lions walked away with the victory, 33-28. I have some thoughts, which are set forth randomly below:

  1. Based on the last several weeks, some might think that the “swirl of garbage” I mention above relates to this team itself. Fortunately, I’m not that terrible of a person. Unfortunately, the swirl of garbage was real. For nearly the entire game, wrappers and other random pieces of paper flew across the camera, some even landing in the middle of the field of play.
  2. Really, the best view of this was late in the game, when the announcers and camera personnel finally made reference to the blindingly obvious by pointing to an out of bounds corner of the field, where one poor cameraman was caught in a literal trash twister.
  3. Real talk - there were about 17 people in Memorial Stadium, so how in the world could they have produced that much garbage?
  4. I know there’s not a lot you can do about these situations where the wind is whipping and everything from the floor of the stadium gets tossed in the air, but really, the optics were...not great.
  5. Playing conditions weren’t great either, which plenty of people would like to discount. Lots of bobbled punts, short punts, and general confusion out there as a result of the wind and sun. It made a game that was already destined to be somewhat ugly into a slopfest.
  6. The wind, tough as it was, can’t account for many of the errors that kept the less-talented Hoosiers in striking distance for the game’s entirety.
  7. For instance, Penn State scored in the first two minutes, then punted twice, turned the ball over on downs, and threw a pick before getting back into the end zone on a gimmick play against the nation’s 80th-ranked scoring defense.
  8. Throughout the season Penn State has been plagued with inconsistency. That first drive had everything you’d want - a big return from KJ Hamler, a chunk passing play to Miles Sanders, and Trace McSorley making good decisions in the option game. Where’d that disappear?
  9. Oh, I know. It disappeared in the hands of the receivers.
  10. We were told that the receivers were supposed to be the strength of this team. Instead, our experienced hands have become drive killers. Juwan Johnson dropped a third down pass. So did Brandon Polk, who also dropped a touchdown pass, turning a 7 point drive into 3.
  11. Even the young guys are getting in on the act. Trace threw a pass that Mac Hippenhammer wasn’t ready for, and it bounced off his hands and into an Indiana defender. Thankfully, the defense stood up on the following drive and forced a 3-and-out, keeping the Lions at a 7 point deficit. If Indiana can turn that turnover into points, Penn State is down by double digits early in the second quarter and the panic bells are official ringing.
  12. Like I mentioned last week, David Corley is the new whipping boy of the staff, which is what it is. He coaches at a high profile place where receivers have recently done well, and he should expect to be held accountable. But I don’t know how you hold him accountable for this specifically. These guys are open and Trace hits them in the hands. I’m confident that Corley and Ricky Rahne, another new punching bag, are not training guys to drop the ball.
  13. There’s nothing I’d like more than to see Juwan Johnson, DeAndre Thompkins, and Brandon Polk live up to their four-star composite billing. Penn State should be counting on them in the clutch.
  14. Instead, in order to get the offense moving, Trace McSorley has had to rush for 90 or more yards in 3 out of the last 4 weeks, and we’ve had to introduce a bunch of inexperienced receivers into the mix.
  15. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to see guys like Mac, Cam Sullivan-Brown, and Jahan Dotson getting involved at this point. But this team should have the luxury of waiting on all three of these guys to turn into contributors because JJ, DAT, Polk, and KJ should provide more than enough production.
  16. You can say the same thing about the front seven on defense. The talent is there on the line, but depth in the middle is shallow. But the biggest issue I can see is at linebacker.
  17. I’m happy for Jan Johnson to earn a scholarship, as he has tried to hold down the fort as best as possible. Cam Brown has flashed excellence in spots, but has been too inconsistent. But Saturday really exposed Koa Farmer’s limitations.
  18. After Penn State scored in the first two minutes of Saturday’s game, Indiana took the ball and responded quickly. A large part of that was due to a reverse by Whop Philyor, who ran directly past a pursuing Koa Farmer before turning the corner up field for 26 yards to the 5 yard line.
  19. Also, Whop Philyor? Because he eats too many Whoppers? I don’t even know what to do with that.
  20. In the third quarter, with Penn State up 20-14 (having settled for two field goals because of offensive inconsistency), Indiana stands at 3rd and 1 from the Penn State 29. Peyton Ramsey, eldest of another family with crazy names, takes the snap and options right. Koa has Ramsey dead in the backfield for a loss that likely puts the Hoosiers out of field goal range. Instead, Farmer gets stuck in concrete as Ramsey sprints past him for a 16 yard gain. Indiana would score 4 plays later.
  21. These kinds of issues by experienced (and highly recruited) talent are plaguing this squad. Bottom line - if the linebackers were consistent and the drop rate was reasonable, Penn State is 7-0, ranked in the top 5, brimming with confidence, and rolling toward a possible playoff berth.
  22. Instead, the Nittany Lions are 5-2, on their heels, and trying to right the ship with 3 top 25 teams up ahead.
  23. Honestly, though, I can’t be as negative as most people wanted to be. Indiana is a weird place to play, and has been for the Nittany Lions for quite some time. Although Penn State is 21-1 all-time versus the Hoosiers, Bloomington has been inhospitable. Consider 2016, where Penn State needed some late game heroics to win by 14. Or 2014 or 2011, where Penn State won low scoring affairs by single digits. Or <gasp> the infamous 1994 game that probably lost Penn State a share of the AP National Title.
  24. (I’ll take the New York Times title, though. Thanks.)
  25. Plus, there really was plenty to like about what happened on Saturday. For instance, I though Micah Parsons looked fast and decisive at linebacker, which showed a fair amount of growth.
  26. Shaka Toney came to play and has turned himself into a well-rounded defensive end that can still speed rush with the best of them. Maybe he didn’t win the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Award, but he would have been a worthy selection.
  27. The use of Tommy Stevens and the “Lion” formation was exactly what you’d like to see. Penn State didn’t swing the ball to Tommy on every play, he acted as a decoy and moved around in the backfield. That touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth was picture perfect.
  28. Actually, the thing to like most about that touchdown pass was the feather touch Stevens put on the ball. We’ve seen Tommy barrel through defenders (good luck next week, Iowa) and we’ve seen him whip a frozen rope 35 yards for a touchdown with a defender about to smash him in the face. But we haven’t seen, or needed to see, Tommy throw with some deftness. It’s nice to know he has that in his arsenal and gave me a lot of confidence heading into next year.
  29. All Penn State back up quarterbacks do is throw touchdowns, eh?
  30. I liked the fake punt call in the first quarter. Frankly, this team looks stressed. For months, they carried the weight of great expectations. Then, in the blink of an eye (more like 8 minutes of game time across two home games), those expectations crashed. More than anything, the young guys on this team need to not take on the view of an unfortunately large swath of Nittany Lion fans, who have declared this season a failure because the playoff is out of reach.
  31. That’s nonsense - these guys can still get to a New Year’s Six bowl or another quality game, but most importantly, they play for each other and especially for Trace McSorley, who entered Penn State as a guy “destined to play safety” and will leave as the most prolific quarterback in program history. Trace McSorley has carried this team on his back on plenty of occasions, and it’s time for his teammates to do the same for him.
  32. I liked that tunnel screen call to KJ on third down. Didn’t result in a first, but got Hamler free with a chance to make someone miss. Good call.
  33. I liked getting Miles involved in the passing game. Kid is tough and makes plays, so let’s find a way to make that happen.
  34. In order to do that, these guys need to have a little bit of fun. If that means that Coach Franklin wants to play aggressive on 4th and 5, then that works for me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I asked for the fake after Blake Gillikin’s fine, Oscar-worthy performance gave us 5 extra yards.
  35. Of course, to run the fake, you have know...block it.
  36. I don’t know what that was, but I’ll tell you, it was not blocking. That was horrifying. And Indiana made us pay on the following series.
  37. I don’t actually have anything particularly negative to say about the 3 passes late in the fourth quarter. Everyone wants every team to “play aggressive” and “play to win” until 20/20 hindsight tells us that playing conservatively and grinding clock was the way to go. I would’ve mixed it up there, seeing if Miles could have gotten a few yards on first down to burn an Indiana time out and make 2nd and 3rd down more manageable, but I’m not going to kill Rahne and Franklin for that.
  38. This game should have ended 40-21. Instead, Indiana had a chance to do something ridiculous at the end of the game to try and steal one. Sound familiar?
  39. That Penix kid has a live arm and was zinging it around the yard. Sad to see he’s out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, but he should make Indiana tough over the next few years if he develops.
  40. That Garrett Taylor targeting call made me crazy. That’s not the way the call should be made, particularly on review.
  41. Jonathan Sutherland filled in well. That said, Taylor has been perhaps our best defensive player for several weeks now, and losing him for the last part on Indiana and the first half of next week is a problem.
  42. Honestly, the worst thing about this game happening now is that Indiana got smashed by Iowa the week before. Prior to that, they had played competitively against Ohio State and Michigan State, and beat a 5-2 UVA squad that could theoretically win its division in the ACC. It makes sense that they played Penn State competitively. That, in and of itself, does not make Saturday an abject failure.
  43. Escape with a win, celebrate, and get back to work.
  44. Who else is looking forward to seeing 3 linebackers and a cloud of dust kicked up all Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium?
  45. Should be fun. Three straight weeks of throwback football. Let’s see how well we hold up.
  46. On to Iowa.
  47. We are...