Monday, September 12, 2011

POSTSCRIPT: Sept. 10 - Alabama 27, PSU 11 (posted 9.11.11)

Sadly, the pregame analysis was on target, and it all went against PSU once the bullets started flying. Alabama's 27-11 win yesterday at Beaver Stadium was decided/determined by turnovers (3 to 0 advantage for the Tide) and special teams: 'Bama "executed" a fake punt - what a horrific spot, no way he got first down, massive emotional turning point, and inconceivable the replay booth didn't correct the spot - and 'Bama also got a 44-yard punt return late in the third quarter to flip field position and thwart any hopes of a PSU comeback due to atrocious punt coverage.
            Other rumblings:
  • FLAWLESS: 'Bama will not play so well again this season. No one will - who could? The Tide didn't commit a penalty until the middle of the third quarter, threw no interceptions, had no fumbles, no muffs, no bobbles, no drops (well, maybe one drop very early on), no missed assignments, no miscommunications, very, very few missed tackles, etc. They played as well as they can play, or at least as cleanly as they can play. And they kind-of did the same vs. PSU last season. Apparently the Lions bring out the best in them.
  • NFL CALIBER: That's a National Championship defense 'Bama's putting on the field in 2011. Very, very, very good.
  • LUCKY?: 'Bama was very fortunate to not have any interceptions. PSU blocked/tipped four passes up in the air near the line of scrimmage or in the backfield, and had a few others slip through DB/LBs fingertips. That's life, those are the breaks, you've got to make a couple of those plays, and PSU didn't. Of course, obviously, 'Bama could have had a few more interceptions too as the Tide barely missed on three or four diving attempts.
  • TURNING POINT: After the horrific spot on the fake punt late in the first quarter came the two biggest 'Bama offensive plays that shifted the paradigm and set the tone for the rest of the game: The 29-yard strike down the middle from A.J. McCarron to Marquis Maze, which slipped right through PSU safety Nick Sukay's fingertips. If Sukay makes that play - if he makes the pick - the game takes a different course: The very inexperienced McCarron loses some confidence/is a little shaken (he threw two picks in his debut last week) and probably at some point commits another turnover; the PSU defense gets a huge lift and gets off the field; the crowd jumps right back in it (the emotional swing from the bad spot on the fake punt moments earlier was immense); PSU stays ahead on the scoreboard; the pressure mounts on the 'Bama offense, etc. Then, on the 'Bama touchdown pass moments later, two PSU LBs appeared positioned to make the play, and one who seemed likely to deflect or intercept it actually appeared to flinch because the other LB was diving toward him. It was the type of needle hole that only that Aaron Rodgers' of the world should attempt to slip a football through. McCarron got away with it. Sigh.
  • NO CONTEST: PSU co-starting QB Matt McGloin is way overmatched against quality defenses and it was an absolute waste putting him in the game against Alabama. He was 1-for-10 for 0 yards. That says it all. The coaches need to forget about playing McGloin for now: Rob Bolden needs all of the practice time with the first team and all of the meaningful live game reps he can get to improve his game management/game speed reactions. Bolden should be playing full-time. He's earned it, he's played better, he has more potential and everyone can see it. If after five or six more games Bolden hasn't progressed and the offense is struggling, then perhaps McGloin can get another crack. But without question Bolden needs to be the true, lone No. 1 QB right now. Also, the team is going to fracture, if it hasn't already, over this QB controversy. Finish the controversy, announce Bolden is No. 1, tell McGloin to be a big boy and deal with it, and move forward.
  • NIT-PICKING: Even though the PSU D played well and is a good defense and had many bright spots against Alabama, a few things were disappointing: 1. Not getting turnovers, 2. DC Tom Bradley calling a couple of lame blitzes in the first half for no reason when the D was doing just fine, and 3. the corners playing too soft on a few occasions and giving up first-down passes, especially on third-and-short. These are all common, re-occurring issues for the PSU defense in recent years. But overall the defense played well and it looks promising for the rest of season, barring a rash of key injuries like last season. (knock-on-wood!).
  • NOT SPECIAL: The special teams fears/shortcomings were sort-of realized: The punt coverage on the key 44-yard third quarter return was just awful, and PSU missed several chances to down punts inside the 20 or 10, which always is infuriating.
  • INEXCUSABLE: The three timeouts PSU called on its opening possession are an embarrassment and the offensive coaches need to be held accountable/responsible for such unpreparedness. It was a joke, high school-ish - high school JV, that is.
  • SPEED, NOT SKILL: Devon Smith might be the fastest player in PSU history but that doesn't mean he can play football very well, because he can't. Can't catch downfield well, for sure. Can't read blocks well, can't read plays well, can't hold onto the ball well. He should be used very sparingly and in certain situations, that's it. Curtis Drake, returning from injury and apparently finally healthy, or just about anyone else (Shawney Kersey definitely needs a bigger role) would be a better option as the No. 3 receiver.
  • EXHIBITIONS, ANYONE?: PSU all too often is like an NFL team working out the kinks in the preseason, except there is no preseason in college football. This team should play better than that, it has enough experience and talent.

So, in sum, PSU fans will have to settle for 11-1 in the regular season and playing in the inaugural Big Ten title game  :-)

Next up: Temple preview later this week.

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