Fruit of the Doomed

With weather threatening rain and trouble organizing my tailgate party, we arrived at the game a little later than usual, but still in plenty of time. Unfortunately, my usually quiet neck of the Nittany woods was teeming with people.

Now for years, I have dealt with the issues of driving through the lot, weaving between tents and chairs and fans drinking beer. Why is it so hard to get out of the way? I’m sorry I didn’t come as early as you did—but I paid for my spot just like you. Would it really kill you to move your butt out of the middle of the driving lane and let me through?
So there I am in my car, trying to get to my spot with a mob of strange people in my way. And as I try to wave them out of the way, I notice that there is something else wrong with this picture . . . a lot of them are wearing ORANGE. OMG.
Finally, one of them comes over to my car and asks what the problem is. I tell him that I have to get to my spot, indicating the number on the windshield that matches the spot you can barely see for all the orange inhumanity standing on it.
He actually apologizes and states that he is also a Syracuse fan—though he wears no orange jumpsuit but does sport a Notre Dame hat—I don’t even want to try and figure that one out. He starts to direct traffic and the mob melts slowly and reluctantly out of the way and eventually, I am squeezed into my space, having had to bend several laws of physics and tents to do so. I’m so glad I didn’t have to run over any of them–I ran over a wolverine once and the stench stayed on my tires for weeks. But the mob, instead of staying away, flows back like an unwanted tide surrounding us. It’s like some kind of horror movie. The Orange from Outer Space come to eat our brains! I have to ask people to move so I can raise the hatch in the back and get out our tailgate gear.
OK—it didn’t kill me ask politely, but I felt I shouldn’t have to ask to get into my own van in my spot. Unfortunately, Ann Landers, Dear Abby, Miss Manners, nor Dick Foust were around to instruct us all on proper etiquette. Has none of these folks any idea of a thing called personal space? Five-foot perimeter, people!
And while I am digressing here, I want to mention an incident in the stadium. Several rows below me, there were some Syracuse fans. One curly haired guy with an orange headband (some kind of fashion statement I suppose that screams I am not right in the head) and a pom pom—on a stick!—spent the entire game waving his orange pom-pom despite the fact that his team had little to wave anything about (besides a white flag!) At some point he ended up yelling at the person behind him. The guy stood up. He could have been a freaking lineman! I was waiting for the big guy to kill little orange headband guy (think Richard Simmons but in poorer shape). But apparently, the pom pom had disappeared, and I surmise that big guy—who did not kill little headband dude—had something to do with it. The pom pom—on a stick!—was eventually returned and the incident passed without bloodshed.
But it got me to thinking. Here is the kind of situation you read about where a fan is mistreated and writes in to the editor complaining. But what you don’t read about is the annoying behavior—the pom pom—on a stick!—that precipitated the angry fan reaction. Seriously, how would you like to sit with an orange pom pom—on a stick!—waving in front of your face the whole game? I actually think that big guy lasted longer than I would have. We all have our breaking points. I found mine with Dick Foust and it cost me $2400 per year. And urine bags at a band? Seriously. How many fans have you seen carrying bags of urine around? By the time you find a bag and then piss in it, I’m sure the band would have marched on by then. But I am seriously digressing here.
The game was not a showcase of football virtuosity, although I found it interesting that ESPN’s bottom line kept repeating that “Penn State shut down Syracuse.” The game was never in question, the defense did indeed shut down the Orange, but the outcome was not nearly as dominant as it should have been had our offense not played irregularly for a second week in a row. We committed three turnovers, one of which led to a one play drive for Syracuse’s only points of the day.
A fumbled snap on the one yard line kept State from scoring, like the INT at the two last week. Scoring opportunities will come far less frequent in conference play, so this is a potential area of concern. Our red zone offense efficiency ranks 110th in the country.
The punting game is solid, with Boone averaging 50 yards per punt on the day and one downed at the two yard line. No field goals were attempted.
Fans on the messageboards are already nervous. Our running game has simply not materialized, as we rushed for only 78 yards—two weeks in a row with no running back over a hundred yards against seemingly inferior competition. One fan lamented that we are 110th in kickoff returns. What is hidden in that stat is that we only had two kickoffs to return on Saturday—the opening kick and then an on-sides kick that was covered for no yards. We’ve had only four returns in two games, because our opponents can’t score, and therefore aren’t kicking off.
I don’t think now is the time to panic. I recall the 2005 season when Robinson opened up the first few games averaging multiple turnovers. If I’m not mistaken, at one point he practiced with a silk covered football to improve his protection of the ball. But three turnovers to Iowa, THEM or the Buckeyes will spell trouble. There are certainly areas for improvement.
And while the lack of rushing game is concerning, and the offensive line is taking a lot of heat, I still don’t think we are using our HD package. Our offense is very vanilla still, and I really sense we are not showing our full potential. I have thought that other years, like in 2003-4, and then zip, we didn’t have anything saved for later but more of the same old, same old. But we know from last year that this offense is capable of more—we just haven’t seen it yet.
For instance, very few screen plays. No reverses that I can recall. We threw downfield a bit more against Syracuse, but still nothing fancy. Our goal line offense is downright offensive. Clark had minus yardage on the day (-1) but there were no called QB runs. No option. Very generic. I may be wrong, but I think the best is yet to come. But then again, it can’t get any worse than it is now.
And while the O-line is taking heat for the lack of a ground game, they are doing a pretty good job of protecting Clark and giving him time to throw. Granted, we haven’t faced the D-lines of Iowa or Ohio State yet, but the potential is there. And we still have another game to prep before Iowa.
I would have liked to have seen another 14 or 21 points put up on the board. I’d like to have seen Newsome get some time with the first string, instead of being thrown to the wolves late in the game when Syracuse was pinning their ears back trying to make something happen. All in all, though, the season is progressing well, albeit slowly.
And a special thanks to all the music “connoisseurs” who complained–there was no Sweet Caroline Saturday. Totally ruined another otherwise miserable day.
BY THE NUMBERS:

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TEAM STATISTICS SYR PSU
FIRST DOWNS………………. 13 23
Rushing………………… 4 7
Passing………………… 8 14
Penalty………………… 1 2
NET YARDS RUSHING…………. 65 78
Rushing Attempts………… 29 35
Average Per Rush………… 2.2 2.2
Rushing Touchdowns………. 0 1
Yards Gained Rushing…….. 85 104
Yards Lost Rushing………. 20 26
NET YARDS PASSING…………. 135 240
Completions-Attempts-Int…. 18-25-2 20-31-1
Average Per Attempt……… 5.4 7.7
Average Per Completion…… 7.5 12.0
Passing Touchdowns………. 1 3
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS……….. 200 318
Total offense plays……… 54 66
Average Gain Per Play……. 3.7 4.8
Fumbles: Number-Lost………. 0-0 2-2
Penalties: Number-Yards……. 3-13 2-15
PUNTS-YARDS………………. 6-232 3-150
Average Yards Per Punt…… 38.7 50.0
Net Yards Per Punt………. 33.8 45.3
Inside 20………………. 2 2
50+ Yards………………. 1 2
Touchbacks……………… 1 0
Fair catch……………… 0 1
KICKOFFS-YARDS……………. 1-68 5-338
Average Yards Per Kickoff… 68.0 67.6
Net Yards Per Kickoff……. 49.0 38.8
Touchbacks……………… 0 0
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD. 1-14-0 2-9-0
Average Per Return………. 14.0 4.5
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD 5-144-0 2-19-0
Average Per Return………. 28.8 9.5
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD.. 1-0-0 2-17-0
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD. 0-0-0 0-0-0
Miscellaneous Yards……….. 0 0
Possession Time…………… 29:17 30:43
1st Quarter…………….. 2:48 12:12
2nd Quarter…………….. 10:32 4:28
3rd Quarter…………….. 9:00 6:00
4th Quarter…………….. 6:57 8:03
Third-Down Conversions…….. 5 of 13 9 of 14
Fourth-Down Conversions……. 0 of 1 0 of 1
Red-Zone Scores-Chances……. 1-2 2-4
Sacks By: Number-Yards…….. 2-21 2-17
PAT Kicks………………… 1-1 4-4
Field Goals………………. 0-1 0-0

INTANGIBLES:

Penn State lost the coin toss a second week in a row—Syracuse deferred.

The drum major stuck both flips.
Syracuse had better representation in the stands than Akron, with a smattering of orange traffic cones and orange jumpsuits here and there.

Paterno notches win #385. Doug Marrone (what a Maroon!) is still winless in his first season with the Orange.
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

With only two weeks down, the landscape of the Big Ten has changed dramatically. The team from Ann Arbor doesn’t look as confused as last season, nor as tired as you would expect for all the hours they put in. But is Notre Dame any good? Neither team appeared to have any pass defense—that bodes well for PSU. Unfortunately, the homer refs were out in force, calling back a ND TD that did not give indisputable video evidence that the runner was out of bounds. I still fear the refs more than the team at this point.
And what is the deal with Michigan State? It doesn’t seem to matter who the coach is, the results are always the same. Central Michigan? Is there any program more schizophrenic? Don’t be surprised if they come back and crush the Irish next week.
Wisconsin needed OT to edge past Fresno State 34-31. Northwestern squeaked by Eastern Michigan 27-24. Indiana slipped by Western Michigan 23-19. Iowa at least showed some life in a 35-3 romp over Iowa State.
Unfortunately for the Big Ten, Purdue came up short against the ducks, 38-36, thanks to a missed PAT and then a missed two-pointer. And the primetime rematch from last season came down to the wire as a freshman QB led his team down the field against the vaunted Buckeye defense to pin a 18-15 loss on that team from Columbus. Mr. Pryor opened the scoring by throwing a pick that USC returned to the 2. That really helped things.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1. Michigan State–unbelievable
2. Idaho State—having to play Oklahoma after their loss. The Sooners pounded them 64-0!
3. Okie State—thanks for playing—and reminding us how not so great the Big XII is.
4. Jacksonville State—led F$U at the half but couldn’t hold on
5. Colorado—the Spacely Sprockets of Toledo beat another BCS conf. school 54-38

LOOKING AHEAD:

Temple comes to Beaver Stadium next week at noon.

The Owls did not play this week, and lost their opener 27-24 to Villanova. We are still our biggest enemy. Minimize mistakes and this game could get out of hand quickly. I suspect the vanilla, low-definition offense will be in play this week again.
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