January 3, 2011

Outback Bowl '11: Florida 37, Penn State 24

(Photo: Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel)
The Gators slammed the door shut on what could have been a very nice season finale. It's time to move forward, on to signing day, spring practice, summer camp, and the 2011 season. But first, let's do a quick review of the game.

What to like. What to hate. What to not freak out about.

Right now...

Tip of the Hat

The Defense - I'll have some individual honors in a minute, but it should be pointed out how well the defense played against all that "Southern Speed" of Florida. It's not difficult to realize how bad the Florida offense was, with quarterback play nearly as bad as Penn State. But considering the constant short fields and poor situations the Penn State defense was forced to play against, holding the Gators to 279 yards and 23 offensive points is not a bad day at all.

Devon Still - We're still waiting to see if Still pulls the trigger and goes to the NFL. It may not be the best decision, but he is definitely coming off a great performance, with 3.5 tackles for loss, and being a constant in the Gators' backfield.

D'Anton Lynn - Lynn has already said he will return next season, but it looked like he was having an NFL-caliber performance on Saturday. The true junior cornerback looked more like a linebacker than a defensive back, tackling and hitting everything that came onto his side of the field. Lynn came up huge on two turnovers, including the Gators' first offensive pass (intercepted) and a fumble that was recovered in the end zone with Florida a yard from scoring a touchdown.

Derek Moye - Moye is another junior that could have looked at the NFL this year, but has said he will return. Moye finished the season with 885 yards on 53 catches and 8 touchdowns. Against Florida, he caught 5 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.

Evan Royster - Had it not been for some very inconsistent blocking, and a reluctance to keep pounding the ball when Florida's defense was having trouble stopping the run, Royster probably would have run for more than 98 yards. He did get more involved in the pass game, catching 4 for 51 yards. But his ability to do almost anything wasn't made the focus of the offense, when it clearly worked. Royster is the kind of back that needs good quarterback play to run behind. He didn't get it, but still had a very nice finale to his Penn State career.

Stefen Wisniewski - It's tough to notice what individual offensive linemen do during a game, unless it's an open-field block or something isolated like that. But Wiz had a very good game for Penn State, crushing a few Gators in his final game in the blue and white.

Wag of the Finger

Justin Brown - Didn't think I'd start with him, huh? Well, the true sophomore had two terrible drops on 3rd downs. Granted, they were somewhat difficult throws, but it was really disappointing because Brown is such a good wide receiver, and had proven to be even better in the clutch throughout the season.

Punt Protection - I almost flipped when I heard Mike Tirico credit "speed" as the reason Florida blocked Anthony Fera's punt and returned it for a touchdown. Speed had nothing to do with it. Penn State seemingly allowed all 85 scholarship Gators to come storming towards Fera completely unblocked. That's what caused the block. PennLive.com's Jared Shanker asked Joe Paterno about punt protection against Urban Meyer's team--which are always good at blocking kicks--but Joe dismissed it as no big deal.

Matt McGloin - There isn't much more to say about McGloin's performance. We have pretty much exhausted this topic of discussion. McGloin had a historically horrible day, and was the single biggest reason Penn State lost the game. Anyone who says otherwise is sticking their head in the sand.


At the very least, fans will have four months to dwell on this loss. Nearly everyone outside the recruiting forums checks out once the bowl game is over, returning momentarily for the Blue-White Game in April, then checking back out for the summer. Slowly, this game will fade into a "boy, remember how bad that was?" moment in Penn State history. Hopefully, it will be supplanted quickly by a nice, less-turbulent season this year.

There is a lot of talent on the team right now. Compared to the bare-cupboard year when I was in school--2002 to 2005--this team looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers (sorry, Eggles fans). The 2010 edition of Penn State football had tons of problems that were too deep for the average, fix-it-now fan to want to understand or think deeply about. That sounds cocky, yes. But it's also very true.

How many players--starters, no less--went down to injury before and during this season? Brandon Beachum, Andrew Szczerba, Curtis Drake, Lou Eliades, Nick Sukay, Eric Latimore, Jack Crawford, Michael Mauti, Andrew Dailey, Drew Astorino, and Rob Bolden to name most of them. Derrick Thomas and Sean Stanley were suspended for most (all, in Thomas' case) of the season. Most of those players were starters. How many other players were getting their first real shot at playing a starting role, such as all the linebackers and quarterbacks? I don't know of many programs that could sustain that kind of attrition in one year, and still play at a very high level.

Penn State did what it had to do this year to get to a bowl game, and avoid a complete rebuilding process as it faced in those "Dark Years." But now is the time to grow this team, develop the youth and talent, and use the depth of experience from 2010 to build what was long expected to be a killer 2011 squad.

This (probably) won't be the last we ever mention the 2010 football team, but let's officially turn the page. It's time to start focusing on the next season.

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  1. Very good read. It will be interesting to see how the Robert Bolden situation plays out and whether or not Penn State will continue to start their (walk on) quarterback who is average ... Matt McGloin

  2. Well, based on the latest news and quotes on PennLive from Bolden's father, it would seem almost inconceivable that Bolden will be anywhere near Beaver Stadium in the future. With the ostensible transfer of Kevin Newsome also looming, that leaves McGloin and Paul Jones to duke it out. I hope Jones is as good as advertised. More importantly, I hope he is given a fair shake. Based on what I have seen of McGloin when he faces above-average or better defenses, Penn State will fare little better next season than we did this year if he's the starter.

  3. I agree with the previous post. McGloin does very well against sub level teams, or when he has outstanding O-line blocking, but when it comes to pressure he tends to go blank. Seen this with Ohio State in the second half and in the other games he played poorly. I was hoping to see Bolden, but nope and now it looks like we lost that one too?