I Can’t Gopher That

Nooo.  No can do.

It was a win, and that was about all that could be said about this scrimmage with the Golden Gophers of Minnesota.

And that is what this game felt like–a scrimmage.  We saw lots of players getting playing time–all three quarterbacks for Penn State played.  Penn State never trailed in the game and you never got the sense that we would lose, but the final product was not really what it seemed.

Minnesota outgained Penn State 433 to 351 yards and won time of possession by almost 7 minutes.  They had more first downs (26-17) and Penn State went 2-10 on third down.  They were coached by an interim coach whose career record as a head coach was 20-48.  And in his head coaching debut at Minnesota, Horton heard a boo.  Or two.

Perhaps the turning point of the game came when D’Anton Lynn made an interception in the Gopher endzone when the pesky little varmints were only down by 7.  He returned said interception 58 yards.  Third string QB Matt McGloin then came in and threw a 42-yard bomb to Derek Moye that put the Lions up 21-7 at the half.  That was a 10-14 point turn around right there.

Unfortunately, there was still another half of football to go, and the Nittany Lions were outscored 12-14 in the second half that included a 2 point safety.  Any momentum Penn State gained from that two play series was quashed on the opening drive when the little goofball gophers pushed us (literally–I kid you not) down the field and scored to make it a seven point game once again.  75 yards on 11 plays controlling the clock for over 6 minutes.  Where were our halftime defensive adjustments?  We adjusted the wrong things.

But somehow, we managed not to muck things up and came away with our first Big Ten conference win of the season.  I’ll pause whilst you throw confetti, toot your horns and celebrate unabashedly.

Why am I not more happy about this win?  Have you looked at our schedule?  Have you seen any of the other teams left on our schedule play?  Have you seen us play?  Well, then you do the math.  You may only be able to celebrate one more time this season, and I’m not even certain of that.

Worse yet, Bolden may have suffered a concussion, so his status for this week is questionable.  As good as he looked as a passer in this game, he was absolutely awful running the ball.  What’s worse, is that I thought our offense would be much better if he were allowed to run more.  I was wrong.  He draws defenders like flies to a dead carcass and the results smell the same.  It’s like he sees a hole and then runs away from it like it’s going to suck him into some other dimension.

That is not to say there weren’t positives in this game.  The only thing worse than this win would have been if we had lost.  At least we didn’t screw that up.

I do think the kids came out with a lot more intensity than they did against Illinois–or any other team to date.  It didn’t necessarily translate into better play on the lines of scrimmage, but it is a start.

Our third string back-up QB seems just as capable of scoring points as our starter.  Is this good or bad?  It depends on your perspective.  You could argue that this epiphany is more a testament to how bad our starting offense is, as it is proof that our back-ups are just as good.

Despite some doom and gloomers, I do think there is talent on this team.  We see flashes of it every once and a while, like sunshine popping through a gray sky every now and then.  But there are more storm clouds approaching, and the weather is getting colder.  We could really use some more sunshine.  The future may be bright, but the present is still pretty cloudy.

But we are now ninth in a conference of eleven teams.  Is there anything else good we can say about our team at this point?

Oh yeah!  Thank God we don’t have to play Wisconsin!

INTANGIBLES:

Joe Paterno notches win #398.  TCF Bank Stadium is the 65th stadium Paterno has coached in during his career.  Who keeps track of things like that?

Attendance was listed as 48,479, but Carolyn Todd was there and said an estimate of 35,000 seemed high for actual bodies in the stands.

Penn State is now 8-4 against the Gophers.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Wisconsin rolled over a highly ranked team for the second week in a row, this time knocking off Iowa 31-30 on a fake punt in the fourth quarter and game-winning TD with 1:06 to go in the game.

Michigan State survived a scare by Northwestern, coming from behind on the road to win 35-27.

The Buckeyes rebounded from their loss to the Badgers with a woodshed beating of Purdue, 49-0.

Illinois defeated Indiana 43-13.

So the Spartans stand alone on the Big Ten hill and four teams have only one loss–OSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Purdue.  Indiana and Minnesota have yet to win a conference game.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Oklahoma–#1 (BCS) falls for the third straight week as the Sooners are upset by Missouri.
2.  Notre Dame–Navy is really taking this rivalry thing seriously.
3.  Texas–upset by Iowa State for their first win over the Longhorns
4.  LSU–burned by Auburn 24-17
5.  West Virginia–squeezed by the Orange 19-14

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Wolverines of THEM  (as in, THE “M”) come to Beaver Stadium for a prime time showdown.  Two things have basically defined their season–1) poor defense and 2) Denard Robinson.  There is no doubt that if Penn State is going to win this game, they will need to neutralize Robinson.

But the Penn State offense will have to show up as well.  It is the immovable object meeting the immovable force.  A poor defense against a poor offense.  Who will win the match-up?  In the pre-season, I liked our chances at home against THEM.  But having actually seen our performance on the field, I don’t know if we can pull this one out or not.  I don’t think we can win a shoot-out–we don’t have the offensive consistency or confidence to do that.  But we cannot expect our defense–certainly not the way they have been playing—to keep THEM off the scoreboard.

The Wolverines cracked the USA Today Poll at #25.  They are 5-2 overall with an identical conference record to us.  Here is their season to date:

W  Connecticut 30-10
W  Notre Dame 28-24
W  U Mass 42-37
W  Bowling Green 65-21
W  Indiana 42-35
L  Michigan State 34-17
L  Iowa 38-28

Their marquee win over the Irish is fading as fast as our marquee victory over Temple.  The Irish are now 4-4 with an OT loss to the Spartans.

Can Penn State come to play next Saturday?  Can we translate some emotion into some execution?  Will Bolden be back, or will we be platooning Newsome and McGloin.  I am actually kind of neutral in this respect–i.e. I don’t know which would be better for us.  I do know that Clark didn’t do well after a concussion versus the Buckeyes in 2008, so I kind of hope we don’t rush things with Bolden this week.  On the other hand, Bolden looked pretty good before his injury. . . I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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Filed under Big Ten, football, Minnesota, Penn State, recap

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