For the moment, allow yourself a Woo-Sah. Yes, Woo-Sah. It’s that long, slow, mind-cleansing breathing technique that’s used to relax the nervous system in moments of stress. There you go, nice and easy. In on the Woo, out on the Sah. Breathe in (Woo)…and out (Sah). Once more, you can do it: Woo (in), Sah (out).
Feeling a bit better? Good. Now, before we get down to business, replace the batteries you ruined when you threw your remote control, fix the hole in the basement wall, apologize to your neighbor for the screaming (and cursing) and recant the “I’m never watching another Penn State game again” phrase that was most likely uttered during last Saturday’s 14-10 victory over Temple.
Some guy named Paterno once said that a football team, more often than not, is not as good as it thinks it is after a win and is not as bad as it thinks it is after a loss.
Some guy named Pressman wrote an Op-Ed piece in 1998 for a Penn State publication which screamed, in fact begged, for the post-Paterno transition period to begin. That was 13 years ago. The point is that nothing is going to change until Joe decides so; hence the act of arguing about it is in fact without point. Don’t waste your breath (unless it’s in the form of a Woo-Sah). It’s been discussed ad nauseam in many different places and from even more angles. And it will come up again, of course, as December rolls around – certainly another story (actually the same story) for another day.
From the view of one who has rarely agreed with the head coach over the last decade, I must say that, in this particular case, Paterno is right. Penn State’s offense was not as bad as most made it out to be against the Owls. During both Tuesday’s weekly press conference as well as his Thursday night radio show (which also doubles as the most useless 23 minutes in terrestrial radio history), Paterno claimed that the offense was better than both the statistics and the final score indicated. Upon thrice further review, there is no denying that, for Penn State fans, it was tough to watch and downright awful at times. But look closely and you’ll see a slew of miscues, untimely penalties and bad breaks that can be overcome with more game experience as well as, more importantly, a definitive commitment from the head coach to officially name Rob Bolden the starting quarterback.
And for him to keep it that way.
For posterity purposes, a review of the offensive results and more specifically those of Bolden in the first half is warranted. On the opening series, Bolden connected with Justin Brown on an 11-yard hitch for a first down, and then hooked up with Brown moments later for a 19-yard gain and another fresh set of downs. Two plays later, Bolden had no chance to do anything after he was drilled by defensive end Tamir Whitehead, who rushed in completely unblocked from the right edge.
Following Temple’s first touchdown, the next offensive possession saw Bolden hit Derek Moye for 16 yards via the skinny post, which moved State near the red zone before Evan Louis – in shocking fashion – missed a field goal attempt.
State’s third series of the game contained three consecutive running plays which in total failed to yield a first down. In case the previous sentence came across in tongue clicks and drum beats, that means that Bolden did not attempt a pass during said possession. No harm, no foul; it’s hard to complete a pass that’s never thrown.
Finally, Bolden’s fourth straight series under center before Matt Seneca – err, McGloin – (Freudian slip) replaced him began with a dropped pass by Shawney Kersey. He shook it off and followed with a completion to Moye for a first down. Moments later, on the third play of the four ensuing set of downs, the pocket collapsed and Bolden’s pass attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Did Bolden make mistakes? Of course he did. The interception he tossed on the first play after State recovered a fumble was terrible. Learning how to avoid giving defenses gifts by looking at only one receiver during his (lack of) progression reads and five-step drops is first and foremost on the sophomore’s list, among other chapters. The fumble near the goal line was not his best moment either, although that can be partially blamed on the center, who lifted his body too quickly during the snap. Stank stank on that one.
But on the most important play of the game, the kid came through. With five-plus minutes remaining in regulation on 4th-and-the-game to go, Bolden’s slant pass was perfectly placed into Moye’s hands, an execution which kept the final drive alive and ultimately led to the winning touchdown rush by Mike Zordich.
It’s tough to learn when not provided ample time and space, but that’s exactly the point of the non-conference schedule for a program which is not quite ready to return to perennial national title contender status (and won’t be until the aforementioned transition occurs) but still has more than enough talent to compete for a conference crown. Say it is so, Joe. Give the reigns to Bolden on a full-time basis and stop this nonsense already.
Speaking of perennial title contenders (until a certain group of teenagers performed the tattooed version of Iran-Contra), take a glance at Ohio State for a moment. The Buckeyes’ last national title was won in 2002. That team’s non-conference schedule included a road game against in-state foe Cincinnati. Much like Temple had and still has Penn State connections on its coaching staff and consistently recognizes the Lions’ tendencies, the same concept can be applied to that matchup. The Buckeyes needed an interception in the end zone with 32 seconds left to barely escape with a 23-19 win.
Just last season, undefeated national champion Auburn needed overtime –at home – to beat Clemson by a field goal. Clemson went on to finish 6-7 with a loss in the Sponsorofthemonth.com Bowl.
Sometimes good teams win close games against inferior opponents. It happens. When all is said and done, Temple’s 2011 fate will make this narrow victory be viewed in a slightly more positive light. Yes, it is hard to believe that keystrokes are actually being utilized anywhere to discuss Temple and football in the same sentence, but it’s a testament to the amazing resurrection accomplished by Al Golden.
Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan will reveal nothing. EMU is basically Indiana State separated by about 350 miles. The practice is certainly needed, though, for a group which still has a very good chance to enter November with a record of 8-1. This team will in no form or fashion compete for the national championship. That is both obvious and laughable. But with a defense like this, don’t broadcast the gloom-and-doom act just yet.
Save that one for after the season when Dr. Spanier braces for the most uncomfortable conversation of his life.