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43 Random Thoughts on Kent State

Random musings on the weekend that was in State College

NCAA Football: Kent State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday evening, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Kent State Golden Flashes engaged in a contest of American football at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions emerged victorious, 63-10. I have some thoughts, which are randomly set forth below:

  1. Exhale.
  2. The first week against Appalachian State made everyone clench.
  3. That game raised the anxiety for Pitt Week.
  4. Then the second half against Pitt and the entire game against the Golden Flashes happened, and we all started to breathe again.
  5. Frankly, after the first two weeks of the year, I was starting to miss our annual MACrifice. A 50-plus point win will cure a lot of concerns.
  6. In some ways, this was a game only Nick Saban could love. Sure, we won by 53 points, but also, there’s a lot to work on to get better.

7. Here’s your reminder that Nick Saban has won 44 of his last 47 games, including two of the last three national titles. And he still looks like a crazed human.

8. Hard to believe someone could throw two 40-plus yard touchdowns on a single drive, but then again, Trace McSorley is certainly a wizard.

9. It’s funny - I’ve said from the jump that, based on the personnel losses, this Penn State team wasn’t really the College Football Playoff contender that had been portrayed all off-season. No, no, this was a team that was destined to be filled with youthful indiscretion that would lose 3 games, but the experience would set the table for next year.

10. You’d think, then, that I’d be very understanding of the dropped passes, the holding calls, the bad pick plays, and the overzealous pass rush getting gashed for chunks of yardage on the ground. You’d think that I would be accepting of the missed opportunities and the offsides.

11. You’d be wrong. Maybe I’m as crazy as Nick Saban.

12. This is going to be a team that makes all of us crazy, I think. It’s also a team that’s a tremendous amount of fun. Prime example - everyone’s favorite Human Joystick, KJ Hamler.

13. Hamler, a redshirt freshman, officially had one catch for 22 yards. Of course, that leaves out the first drive touchdown that was unfortunately called back where he beat his man like a drum.

14. The spins and jukes get all the attention, but the thing that makes Hamler special is his breakaway speed. Take, for example, the touchdown in question. The ball is thrown slightly out of stride and he has to round out his route ever so slightly. For some players, that might give the defensive back time to recover and make a play. Instead, Hamler catches the ball and turns on the jets, pulling away from the defender and into the end zone.

15. The spins and jukes should get a lot of their own attention, though, because they are wonderful. I don’t need to spill more ink over the video game-esque punt return that’s already been meme’d to death, but suffice to say that he’s a threat all over the field.

16. Special teams has had some tough plays in the early going, but the return game is special. It’s hard to believe that Penn State has so many weapons in this phase - that has been few and far between for a long, long time.

17. I was hard on DeAndre Thompkins last week. My apologies, man. Clearly I had no idea what I was talking about. If you’re going to make an entrance, a diving 40 yard touchdown reception ought to do the trick.

18. That first drive was basically a microcosm of this game - exciting football, big plays, consistent running game, but dumb penalties that cost us points and yards.

19. Seriously, what’s the story with these pick plays? Do we usually run them? That’s twice in two weeks that we’ve had touchdowns called back because our guys are throwing blocks instead of just impeding the defender.

20. Yes, I know they’re illegal. Success with honor, etc. etc. etc.

21. To most Penn Staters, Brandon Polk was an after thought at receiver who would quickly get surpassed by the young guns. I’m glad to see that’s not the case and that he’s making a solid contribution.

22. I can’t say the same for Juwan Johnson. He looks the part in every way, but it’s hard to explain being held without a catch against Kent State. I know the pick play cost him a touchdown, but you’d think Double J should eat all day against a defense like this.

23. Woody’s a really common name in Ohio, is it?

24. How old is Sean Lewis again? I’m not sure we know...

25. All snark aside, it’s hard to believe that a guy younger than me is leading an FBS program. He did some nice work on Saturday in the face of tough odds. His squad was substantially out-talented and over-matched, but he put them in position to succeed and they held together better Pitt did before finally fading.

26. Penn State’s offense has been remarkable the last several years, so it doesn’t surprise me that the longest ever pass play in program history occurred on Saturday.

27. But at a program that boasts legends and All-Americans at virtually every position, it’s pretty surprising that the record is held by...Sean Clifford and Daniel George? Really?

28. Poor Bill Hess and Bob Higgins never saw those two coming, did they?

29. When do we start hearing calls for Clifford to take over from Tommy Stevens? Is the third string quarterback even more popular than the back up?

29. It’s almost criminal that Miles Sanders finished with less than 100 yards on the ground. He’s become everything we all expected him to be, and is certainly a more than adequate replacement for Saquon Barkley.

30. Glad to see Ricky Slade get back into the end zone this week after a rough outing versus Pitt. I’m hopeful he’ll see more time against Illinois this coming week. Meanwhile, Mark Allen continues to churn yards and prove himself to be a capable, positive yardage back.

31. Are we actually 4 deep at tailback?

32. I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy for a player to get his moment as I was for Johnathan Thomas. A few years ago, there was talk that this kid could start. That didn’t materialize, then he moved to linebacker, then back to tailback, and suddenly he found himself stuck behind a bunch of 5 star recruits.

33. That’s the way the story goes sometimes, but who didn’t like watching him break off a 69 yard run.

34. Nice.

35. Finishing with 3 carries for 84 yards is a pretty good day at the office. Congratulations, JT. The hard work pays off.

36. Uh, Dae’Lun Darien used to be a wide receiver? No wide receiver I know hits like that.

37. Obligatory Jonathan Sutherland shout out here. Did you know he was our second leading tackler?

38. Jayson Oweh earned himself some snaps this week and next. This new redshirt rule is super fun. Last year, we would’ve heard reports of him tearing up the scout team. This year, we get to see him tearing up actual teams.

39. Well, Kent State at least.

40. I mean, how much is there to say about this kind of game, really? The first quarter was fun because its football and the last quarter was fun because we got to see the future. Overall, a totally enjoyable afternoon of football.

41. On to Illinois. On a Friday? Ugh...

42. On the other hand, Saturday’s my son’s first birthday, so I’ll take it.

43. We are...