Last Saturday night, the Nittany Lions played with a ton of heart. They fought hard, played good team defense and battled to the end. The starting center led the way offensively and the attitude of the entire squad was definitely enough to earn the victory.
But in the end, the final score for Guy Gadowsky’s club was a 5-2 loss to Vermont.
Thank you, thank you. There will be another show tonight and a matinee on both Saturday and Sunday.
As for those Nittany Lions on Saturday night? Well, it uh…see the thing is…you know the funny part about that … the issue there was…how about those Phillies?
Do you remember the discussion here last week about Urban Meyer needing style points? Urban, buddy, you didn’t have to take it that seriously. Holy smokes – that looked like the New England Patriots beating up Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences.
If you’re a Penn State fan, don’t get too down about a blowout loss like that. That game was marked as a loss for a long time and once it got out of control in the first quarter, there was simply no stopping that train. It was revenge for Billy Batts 1994.
It’s not worth the time nor effort to explore and/or nit-pick how tomorrow’s game will be won by Penn State. Illinois is a bad football team. The wagons will be circled, the head coach will get his troops back to business and a comfortable two-touchdown victory will improve this team to 5-3. Illinois is slightly better than Purdue, which could be the worst Big Ten team in 30 years. The Illini have a feeble rushing attack (93rd in the nation) and a senior quarterback who has not only regressed since a promising freshman season in 2010 but also possesses a last name so wacky that it should wrap around his jersey in a semi-circle akin to John Vanbiesbrouck’s 1989 Rangers sweater.
What is worth looking at is the fact that this needs to be a benchmark game for the rookie quarterback. Christian Hackenberg is now 15 percent of the way through his collegiate career and he needs to show improvement in certain areas. This kid is going to be a Heisman Trophy contender before his time in State College is done. That will happen. But now, entering the eighth installment of 12 in Segment 1, a major issue needs to be corrected (there are others, but one at a time) and Tim Beckman – oh Timmy Beckman, the Beckster – is the cure. A certain head coach (we won’t mention any names, but his initials are Bill O’Brien) is chomping at the bit to get to you. Now that next rung of sliding off Hackenberg’s kid gloves has got to be executed. The arm and psyche are completely fine after the drubbing he took in Columbus; no lingering issues exist.
The early interceptions need to stop. Against both Michigan and Ohio State as well as other teams, Hackenberg has been picked off not only in the first quarter but several times on Penn State’s first drive of the game. That can’t happen anymore. The escape point of “still only a freshman” doesn’t apply quite yet, but it’s not too far off in the distance either. It’s not a matter of calling the right plays; that is happening. O’Brien is clearly tailoring the early series to protect Hackenberg and put him in position to succeed. The responsibility falls on the kid to improve his field vision and, quite simply, make better throws.
There’s not much that can be said about the defense. John Butler knows how dreadful his unit played. Objectively, the blame for that performance should be shared. The execution was limited but the scheme was not up to par. There were Buckeyes wide open with not one defender within 20 yards. That can happen – once – to any defense in any game. Broken plays and busted coverage definitely occur. But when you see it three, four, five times? That’s coaching (or lack thereof).
It’s not as if Butler can’t hang at this level. He can. Keep in mind that this is his first time as the man in charge of the whole unit and he is hampered by a crippling lack of depth. That must be taken into account. But conversely, the “it’s the sanctions” argument can’t be the summation. It’s a mixed bag of issues.
Lastly, it is important for the history of this fan base to take a moment and consider the last time Illinois played in Beaver Stadium – October 29, 2011. That was the last game Joe Paterno coached and the record-breaking 409th victory of his amazing, historic, never-to-be-duplicated career. Those who understand think of you often and with incredible fondness, Joe. The hope is that you are resting in peace, as you should.
Oh wait, that’s right. That game never happened. Sorry for the mistake. Please un-read that last paragraph and call Mark Emmert’s office to notify of same.