Well here we are. Another week. Another loss. Another blog attempt to exorcise the demons.
2020 was a rough year for Penn State football, starting 0-5. 2021 says, “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Hold my beer!”
I actually thought we had a good chance to win this game. We actually did. But more on that later.
We are probably a play or three away from being 4-6, but likewise a handful of plays away from being undefeated. The loss to Ohio State was the largest margin: 9 points. The other losses were 3, 2 and 4 points. CLOSE but no cigar or playoff spot.
Football games always come down to match-ups. Who has the best match-ups generally wins. Throw in some random luck–fumbles, weather conditions, etc. But it really comes down to how you match up with the other team–offensive line versus defensive line. Receivers versus corner backs. Special teams play. And one that cannot be over-looked: coaching.
I thought James Franklin had the edge in this one. If there was any coach in the Big Ten that might be worse on game day, it might just be Jim Harbaugh.
James Franklin: “Challenge accepted. Hold my Beer!”
With a brilliant display of coaching ineptitude, he called for a fake field goal from the TWO YARD LINE. The play not only didn’t fool the Wolverines, who had just been bitten by a fake punt that led to a PSU field goal and 3 point lead, but it was so poorly executed that we lost yardage all the way back to the thirty yard line!
There has to be a thought process to this doesn’t there? I mean, we’re not pulling plays out of a helmet are we? (It seems that way sometimes!) I used to think Jay Paterno and Galen Hall played rock-paper-scissors to decide who called the play. So what pray tell was this thought process????
I have fourth and goal from the two yard line. What are my options? Go for it, putting the ball into our best players hands and knowing that barring some freak accident of nature, there won’t be a 99 yard pick six or scoop and score the other way. If you don’t make it, the wolverines are still backed up against their goal line. Hold them and get good field position for another score.
Option 2: Kick a field goal. Not necessarily a given since Stout has an annoying habit of missing extra points and easy field goals. But probably a lower risk play than a fake and you can put points on the board against a tough opponent. Odds makers had PSU a one point underdog. Three points is better than none right?
But Franklin went with option 3 and we can only assume the choice was his to make. He pulled the trigger on a fake field goal that blew up as we all watched in horrified agony.
WHAT WAS HE THINKING?
Did he think the fake punt went so well, that we could pull it off again? We’d have been better off calling for the Spanish Inquisition! No one would have suspected that! Instead, the Wolverines were well prepared to not be embarrassed a second straight time in one quarter. And in all fairness–the fake punt was actually pretty well defended but the pass and catch were flawlessly executed. The fake field goal: not so much. Fool us once, shame on you. Try to fool us twice–shame on you again! They farted in our general direction! Our coach is a hamster and our offense smelt of elderberries!
Statistically speaking, we were pretty close to the team ranked ninth in the nation last week.
Perhaps the key stat here is the third down conversions. The wolverines were 40% while PSU was only 33%. Everything else is close enough for government work to be considered equal. Hey we managed 109 yards. SHOULD BE BETTER. But that is what it is, and it isn’t good.
But despite that. In spite of that. Spite me down Darth Harbaugh and I will become more powerful than you can imagine! WE STILL HAD A LEAD IN THE FOURTH QUARTER! WE HAD A CHANCE TO BEAT THEM!
We were so close! But the fisherman on the State Farm commercial pulled the victory away at the last second. Oooh. You almost had it!
Would the outcome have been different had we not tried the fake field goal? Had Stout not missed what many would consider a makeable 43 yard field goal? Maybe we score a touchdown after the Michigan fumble instead of settling for 3 points. Woulda, coulda shoulda.
Do we want James Franklin to go? Do we want him to stay? To go or not to go, THAT IS the question.
Sitting on the top ranked recruiting class for next year, do we want to risk that and throw the dice with a coach to be named later?
Will bringing in the best recruiting class actually translate to more wins on the field, or just more disappointments? Elevated expectations and poorer results?
The answer is three. It takes three licks to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop.
And with that, I am done with this game.
But that leaves us to look at Rutgers. The level of excitement here is below zero. Unfortunately, the team will probably feel this way as well. This is a coaching challenge. Can JF motivate this team to play hard and hopefully beat Rutgers? We are 17.5 point favorites after all. The bloody knights are 5-5 coming off a 38-3 drubbing of the Hoosiers. They are looking to become bowl eligible with only a game against Maryland after this match-up to secure a spot. A loss this week will essentially end the season for Penn State–look for two more losses–Michigan State and whatever dregs of the college football world we are matched up with in the Detroit Toilet Bowl Extravaganza on December 10th. At least the team will be home for the holidays!
Maybe Franklin will fake a press conference this week.