Monday, October 23, 2006

Illinois Game Review

Last week I suggested that Penn State is at a turning point, it was the time for this team to decide its fate and where it wants to go. Not to be pretentious but I stated the following…

These are the times when practice gets tough to get through and attention to detail starts to dwindle. Now is the time that the leaders’ resolve is tested and the true character and makeup of the team is challenged. When set goals are no longer attainable it becomes more difficult to motivate players to push themselves to get better.

Well, now we have the answers; apparently this team has packed it in. Just like the Minnesota game, the team came out completely flat and uninterested, especially on offense. For the second straight week the offensive line looked like it couldn’t block a good high school defense. Unless there are some drastic changes in the next week, this team has hung it up and is ready to give up. The void in leadership left by Michael Robinson’s departure can not be filled as it appears that no one on the offense side even cares.

The line is a huge disappointment, period. It doesn’t matter which players are playing, they have neither the drive nor the effort needed to sustain anything that looks like offense. The rest of the offense isn’t absolved of blame, but it all starts and ends with the line. If they don’t get it done, it doesn’t matter if Peyton Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson are behind them, the offense will go nowhere. Even Levi Brown looks ordinary and he is one of the captains. Illinois is by no means a great defensive line and they had a field day getting in the backfield all day long.

Derrick Williams continues his enigmatic play on offense. How can he look so fluent and quick on punt returns but run into the only guy between him and pay dirt on a reverse? The rest of the receivers didn’t pick up the slack either… another game, another dropped pass by Jordon Norwood, except this time he was kind enough to pop it up in the air so it could conveniently be intercepted.

Quick who is Rashard Mendenhall? A) Seinfeld character. B) Eighteenth century classical composer. C) No name running back that just ran for 161 yards on the Penn State defense. If you said ‘C’ you get $50 of TNL Imagination money – send us an e-mail and we’ll virtually ship it to you in 2-5 business weeks. Illinois exposed one of the real weaknesses of Penn State’s defense: the corner’s inability to support the run. Illinois used the option like MTV uses reality shows – you want to puke if you see one more. It wasn’t like the Nittany Lions were lost, they played the front half of the option correctly – the ends always played the quarterback straight up and made him pitch the ball, unfortunately the defender responsible for the pitch man didn’t do his job. I’m not sure who that was in Penn State’s scheme but without a doubt the corners have to get into the mix and contain the running back, either the corners or the safeties because the linebackers were accounted for.

It’s not all bad for the defense though, Paul Posluszny made a season-high 13 tackles and forced a fumble that was returned for a score to earn Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors. Anthony Scirrotto intercepted two passes and should have had a third when he let one slip through his fingers. Josh Gaines actually showed signs of life this week, but he needs to learn when to FALL ON THE BALL!!!! All in all, the Lions were able to keep Illinois out of the endzone, but some of that was poor passing by Isiah “juice” Williams. I almost breathed a sigh of relief every time he dropped back to pass because I knew if he by chance got it to his receivers they would drop it anyway. His ability to make plays with his feet is what makes him a real weapon. God help the Big Ten if he ever learns how to throw the ball.

Heisman pose? Something tells me Heisman didn't fumble after a stiff arm

Special Teams
Hey here’s a surprise: Kevin Kelly missed another field goal! Sorry, I hope you were sitting down when you read that. Yeah, it was a 44 yard field goal, which isn’t a gimme and could be forgiven if he hadn’t just made a career-long 49 yarder a quarter earlier. Kelly can officially be placed in the “head case” category.

Other then the field goal unit, the special teams really were a big difference in the game. Scirrotto returned the late onsides kick for a touchdown and Williams averaged 15 yards a punt return. Amazingly, the guy that deserves a lot of the credit for this win is Jeremy Kapinos. How sad is it that the star of the game was the punter? Anyway, Kapinos averaged almost 46 yards a punt and pinned Illinois inside the 20 four times. His long punt of 57 yards wasn’t one that bounced on the ground, it flew 57 yards in the air and even more amazing it was high enough that he didn’t out-kick his coverage. He pinned Illinois inside the 10 twice and good things happened both times. On one occasion the D forced a fumble that was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by Davis, the other time it was a three and out which was turned into Penn State’s only offensive score on the ensuing drive. For his efforts Kapinos was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Right now the Purdue game looks shaky and the Wisconsin game is shaping up to be a debacle if Penn State plays like this. I just don’t see an improvement from week to week and in the case of the offensive line, it appears players are regressing. Pos seems to be the reluctant vocal leader on defense, but the offense has no such luxury. Players just seem to take the crappy play in stride without a care in the world.

Even spidey needs to call some friends to help with this disaster


Mike said...

C'mon, Galen. You're holding back, buddy. Tell us what you really think.

Galen said...

Yeah, I need to open up more. I'm not throwing in the towel yet, but I'm not nearly as optimistic after the last two games.