Mason-Dixon Battle Will Ignite PSU
To stop the bleeding. To halt a three-game skid. To move closer to bowl eligibility. To regain the feeling of a victory. To remind Maryland who rules the roost in the Mid-Atlantic region.
As for Saturday night, if you’re a Penn State fan, are you truly shocked? Are you really surprised that another PSU loss is shrouded in referee controversy? There’s much to be written about that one, but now is not the time. That day of reckoning will arrive.
Penn State head coach James Franklin knows what he’s doing. It takes time. That’s not something that Penn State fans want to hear, but it must be understood. This is a new system/scheme with new coaches competing in a new (to them) conference.
Jim Tressel was 7-5 in his first year at Ohio State. He won the national championship in his second season.
Nick Saban was 7-6 in his first year at Alabama. He won the national championship in his second season.
Bob Stoops was 7-5 in his first year at Oklahoma. He won the national championship in his second season.
The point is not that Franklin will win a national title next year – which is completely plausible by the way, and those that scoff at that idea don’t understand how college football works – but rather that the improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 is often drastic when a new coach takes over an elite program.
As was mentioned here in August, a solid finish to this season would be eight wins. That should happen. The Nittany Lions can and will defeat Maryland, Indiana, Temple and Illinois. And with a stout defense like the one Bob Shoop has built combined with the momentum of four consecutive victories, anything can happen when the Spartans come to State College on the second to last day of November. That one will still likely fall in the loss column (resulting in the 8-4 record), but it’ll be gravy for Franklin and Co., who will be playing with house money before preparing for the bowl game.
For this week, it doesn’t really matter which parts become interchanged along the embattled offensive line. Whether Donovan Smith has a concussion or not (he is doubtful despite what Franklin said publicly on Tuesday) and/or whether Miles Dieffenbach plays or not – it just needs to happen. No more banter, no more inexperience, no more self-pity. The group simply needs to step up and do the job.
As Chelcie Ross said to the Irish, “No excuses – do the work.”
Locker Room Fodder
A source close to the team confirmed to this space that after the Northwestern game on September 27, offensive coordinator John Donovan addressed the team and personally accepted complete and total blame for the loss. That action showed/shows personal accountability, which is definitely a positive, and it seems to have sparked at least something. Quite obviously the unit isn’t near where it needs to be, but in the first half against Michigan and during spurts of Saturday night’s game, there were flashes of progression in regards to actual execution on the field.
As for Donovan’s play-calling? Well…that’s another issue. The most positive statement with respect to the foregoing is that there are still six games remaining (including the bowl) for him to show improvement.
In another act of personal accountability, shortly after Donovan’s apology, Franklin issued his own apology to the team for his failure to prepare them to play. This coaching staff understands the big picture. Now it’s time for the group to circle the wagons.
While inside the locker room, another note of interest is that Penn State will extend its equipment and signage agreement with Nike before the calendar year ends. Phil Knight stood by/supported his old buddy Joe Paterno when many other sponsors/commercial partners went running for the hills in the weeks following the explosion of the scandal. The long-standing partnership will remain intact for at least another decade once the renewal paperwork is signed in either November or December.