The much-anticipated showdown between Penn State and Alabama failed to live up to the hype that came with being two of the greatest programs in college football history. As we look back, there were few bright spots for the Nittany Lions, and many head-scratching moments for fans. Here is what we learned:
1. The student section came ready to cheer. The students caught a lot of grief in the past for showing up late, even to big game, but they were out in full force by kickoff this week. A planned "whiteout" in Beaver Stadium was made even more impressive by a full south endzone, complete with white pom-poms and rabid young fans eager for a strong showing from their team.
2. The playcalling structure is woefully inadequate. With Joe Paterno in the press box along with co-offensive coordinators Galen Hall and Jay Paterno, the time it took to get an actual play to the sidelines seemed to take even longer. The offense was forced to burn all three timeouts early in the first quarter, to the extreme frustration of many fans. As we understand it, the playcalling system works something like this: the two co-offensive coordinators decide on the game plan, with Galen Hall calling rushing plays, and Jay Paterno calling passing plays; Joe Paterno passes Galen Halls notes throughout the game (seriously) and has control "over everything he hears" (again, seriously). Once the booth has finally made a decision on the playcall, they relay to the sideline in the form of coach Mike McQueary, who then relays it into the quarterback. All of this is supposed to take no more than 40 seconds, but as you can imagine, that isn't always the case.
3. One quarterback was better on Saturday, but that doesn't appear to matter. The Penn State quarterback overall stat line read: 12-for-39, 144 yards, 1 INT. However, the stat line for Matt McGloin read: 1-for-10, 0 yards, 0 INT. The lone interception belonged to Rob Bolden, but so did the ability to move the ball and sustain some early drives. He was the better passer on Saturday, to the delight of many fans that were calling for Bolden. However, with the release of the most recent depth chart, both quarterbacks are still listed as starters. With the team lacking an offensive identity, it is almost unfathomable that the staff continues to refuse to name a starter.
4. The wide receivers need to learn to catch the football. Two games into the season, and the wide receivers have shown the have the potential for great things ... if they could hold on to the football. Almost every receiver has seen a catchable ball go through his hands, some at very inopportune moments. Justin Brown and Derek Moye each dropped balls against Indiana State, and each, along with Devon Smith, missed some key passes on Saturday. With the maturation of the quarterback position an issue with this team, a reliable receiving corps is a necessity. The unit is filled with playmakers, but they have yet to live up to that hype this year.
5. The defense will carry this team while the offense struggles. Despite the final score, the defense actually played a relatively solid game on Saturday. The linebackers looked good, and defensive tackles Devon Still and Jordan Hill were disruptive on the front line. The secondary gave up a couple of key plays, but the four senior starters also looked solid in coverage. While the offense struggles once again to find some sort of rhythm, the defense will take this team as far as it needs to go. Once they begin to struggle, trouble isn't far away.
This was a frustrating game to watch, even more so inside the stadium, where the crowd was hyped and ready to go before the game. By the third quarter, the wind had been sucked out of the sails, and the fans grew restless. With two MAC opponents upcoming, the staff and team have a couple of weeks to tune-up before conference play starts. Hopefully they can right the ship and make a deep run at the first Big Ten Conference Championship Game.