September 12, 2010

Review: Alabama 24, Penn State 3

(Photo: Selders
Penn State fell to Alabama. Unlike many of the traditional media types, I'm not acting like it was Penn State that was ranked No. 1 and beat by an inferior team. In case you haven't noticed, or have tried to stay away from reading the sports columns this Sunday, you would think this loss was as bad as the Cincinnati loss in 1983, or the Toledo loss in 2000. Hell, Alabama lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007. How do you think that felt?

It's been doom and gloom for the last 24 hours. But, you won't find much of that here. Penn State lost a game it was supposed to lose, to a team that could win a second consecutive national championship.

I struggled through watching the game again today, yet came away from it realizing just how strong Penn State was against the best team in college football.

Players of the Game

Rob Bolden -- Both the interceptions came when Bolden was being hit by a blitzing defender. Yes, he probably should have just taken the sack, and lived for the field goal. But if that's what we're upset with the true freshman for, then I'm perfectly happy with his performance. Bolden showed great touch, good decision making, and an ability to get the ball off quickly to his receivers. Bolden went 13-of-29, for 144 yards and the two picks. Now look at this stat line: 12-28, 125, 0 TD, 1 INT You know who put together that passing performance? It was sixth-year senior, first-team All-Big Ten quarterback Daryll Clark (ht:NWO) last year against then-No. 13 Ohio State, in Beaver Stadium. So think about that before you start chanting for Kevin Newsome or Matt McGloin.

Derek Moye -- The redshirt junior caught only three passes, but totaled 63 yards. Two of his catches were beautiful grabs in coverage--one 31-yarder down the sideline in double coverage; the other on fourth down on a slant. Moye was able to get decent separation from the Alabama defensive backs, while actually catching every pass that wouldn't have been difficult for even Jerry Rice to come down with.

D'Anton Lynn -- Alabama All-America receiver Julio Jones caught four passes for 49 yards, without a touchdown. Probably the lone bright spot in the Penn State defensive back seven against the Tide was Lynn. He didn't have any picks, or even pass breakups. But Lynn didn't miss an open-field tackle when it mattered, while shutting down Alabama's most lethal receiver. The rest of his teammates didn't provide much, if any, help back there. So Lynn's performance can be appreciated even more.

Goats of the Game

Evan Royster -- I know Royster doesn't give a shit about the Heisman, or any awards or recognition for that matter. But now it's just getting ridiculous. Yes, the offensive line didn't help him much. And the early screen pass was off-target. But Royster still looked clumsy and slow. The few extra pounds Royster added that made such waves this summer were supposed to help him run tougher in traffic and maybe break a few more tackles. Well? He's been tweeting and saying for weeks now that his weight is fine and that people need to stop talking about it. I'm not giving up on Royster; nor should anyone out there. But it's time for Royster to prove he's up to the task this season, his final season.

Graham Zug -- Zug has so far this season made more tackles (one), and drops (one very big one) than receptions (zero). You've got to feel for him. I hate putting Zug in this section, but there was no single play Saturday night more painful than his dropped pass in the middle of the Alabama secondary, with nothing but 30 yards of open field in front of him. There are far too many other bad plays by Penn State to say this one cost them the game. But it sure did a good job of illustrating what kind of night it was for the Nittany Lions.

Nick Sukay -- Bad plays are worse than no plays, so Sukay gets the nod here over Drew Astorino. Sukay was picked on all night by Greg McElroy, most noticeably on the 14-yard touchdown to Preston Dial, in the open space Sukay was supposed to have been covering. Throw in one God-awful missed tackle on Trent Richardson's 33-yard gallop, and that's a night to forget.

Units that Impressed

Offensive Play-Callers -- By this I mean Jay Paterno and Galen Hall. Say what you want about managing only three points, but the offense was actually able to move the ball very well against the Alabama defense. Both Jay and Galen called aggressive plays from the start of the game, with reverses, ends around, and deep passes coming early and often. The only problem was that Penn State couldn't execute a few of these plays in critical situations. I read a column from a major Pennsylvania newspaper today, claiming Penn State reverted to the conservative "playing not to lose" game plan. I'm not sure if that well-respected writer watched the same game we did. I honestly don't remember a game of this magnitude, against an opponent at powerful as Alabama, where Penn State came out swinging with such fury.

All that being said, it's frustrating that I couldn't find an actual unit on the field that impressed me.

Units that Disappointed

Linebackers -- I can't remember a game where Penn State's linebackers played so poorly. It wasn't just the pass coverage, but the most basic tenets of defensive football: tackling. Penn State might not always have Lavar Arrington back there, but we could always count on sure tackling. I'm more embarrassed (and I'm sure they are even more so) by the horrendous tackling, than the final score. Alabama consistently went right after the middle of the defense, on both running and passing calls, usually gaining heaping chunks of yardage.

Defensive Line -- Where was the pressure? Where was the clogging up running lanes? Where was the defensive line that's single-handedly saved Penn State's ass on more than one occasion over the last few years? Ollie Ogbu and Devon Still had an okay performance, but nothing worthy of a pat on the back, while the starting defensive ends were nowhere to be found. This unit has been the gem of the Penn State defense for six straight years, but had arguably one of its worst performances ever last night in Tuscaloosa.

I was going to add in the safeties to this section, but I can't say they "disappointed" because I didn't have high expectations for them going in. Harsh, I know. But true.

Misc. Observations

-Gerald Hodges' injury looked like the season-ending type, though no official word has come out. I'm only making that assumption because he was immediately given a boot and crutches. Hodges was supposed to start in place of Bani Gbadyu. I can say that with authority now, because Michael Mauti started in place of Nate Stupar, which showed that Ron Vanderlinden was going for an entirely fresh lineup of outside linebackers.

-Penn State had much better success rolling Rob Bolden out of the pocket. He looked great while in the pocket, but seemed even more comfortable outside on the move. If Penn State can develop any sort of threatening run game, the play-action roll outs will be deadly.

-Silas Redd is quickly becoming a cult hero among Penn State fans. He dazzled us with his nifty juking against Youngstown last week, and showed fantastic burst against Alabama. He finished as Penn State's second-leading rusher (26 yards) but had the best yards-per-carry average among all running backs (5.2).

-Penn State had more sacks (two) than Alabama (zero), which is one stat I wouldn't have expected in a million years.

-Anthony Fera proved that his Youngstown State performance on kickoffs was no mirage. His only kickoff against Alabama went 70 yards into the end zone.

-Penn State's offense only went three-and-out only once, on the very first drive.


Now I know why Joe Paterno spent the whole summer harping on how little leadership there is on this team. If I remember correctly, he pointed out that there isn't the kind of guy who can get in the huddle and kick a few asses. Penn State needed that against Alabama. Even if the ass-kicking part didn't show up in the huddle, it would have been nice if any kind of upper-class leadership showed up on the field. Penn State will be better as a result of this game; I am sure of that. The question now asks how long will it take before the improvement becomes tangible on the field. Keep those heads up, there is still a lot of football left to be played this season.

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  1. The only thing I disagree with in your entire article is that you didn't call out said newspaper and writer by name, I read the same article and had the same thoughts, not that i was surprised as its par for the course from said sources in their efforts to run down a certain Penn State Coach as much as possible.

  2. Leaving out the writer by name is to illustrate that it wasn't just his column, but rather the entire PSU press corps that consistently harps on the Doom and Gloom every time there's a loss. It's like PSU should go 12-0 every season.

  3. Dear mike,
    I hope Alabama is as dominating as everybody says so but whipping 2 opponents (one weak and one dissapointing) doesn't make a national champion. If Alabams wins the BCS national chmpionship then our game can be viewed in that light but let's not get ahead of ourselves either.

  4. Great article....yes they did what was expected and stand to gain a lot.Bolden played with more poise than Morelli ever did during his entire time at PSU.I am exited going foward and seeing them use this experience to move them closer to a stellar season.

  5. A quick note on the linebackers & D-line: don't think of them as being bad as much as the fact that your team struggled to match our best asset.