When does a one score game feel like a 30 point loss?
Don’t overthink it. (Hint: foot wear for an equine that rhymes with morse-stew).
Yep. That’s right. Another Penn State Football disappointment in the Horseshoe, but Saturday’s 20-12 loss felt different than the recent ones.
It felt like a bad dream. No, wait, more like a nightmare.
You know one those nocturnal subconscious episodes where you’re running your hardest but really are just running in circles getting nowhere in a hurry. Then all of the sudden while seemingly running in quicksand you get de-cleated every 15 seconds by an illegal peel-back block that isn’t called and you can’t seem to wake up as hard as you try.
It was a game that felt like if there were eight more quarters the result would have been THAT much more embarrassing.
Yeah, it was that bad of a game and even worse of a watch.
But, as the old football adage goes – you either win or you learn, so let’s look at three things we learned from yesterday’s debacle in Columbus.
What’s the Difference?
Penn State Football doesn’t have a difference maker, Ohio State does.
Saturday saw two great defenses in a heavy weight slug fest, but one team had Marvin Harrison Jr. and the other did not.
The Nittany Lions entered the game with the top ranked pass defense in the nation, yielding just 121 yards per game through the air. Harrison shattered that number by himself with an eye-popping 11 catches for 162 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
It appeared that every time the Buckeyes needed a big play they would just dial up the Philly native’s number and he would deliver with a big play. That is the definition of a difference maker.
The Nittany Lions‘ offense was flat-out awful on Saturday.
Quarterback Drew Allar didn’t turn the ball over, but looked skittish and somewhat rattled by the moment.
Allar finished 18-of-42 for 191 and a touchdown. Of course 73 of those yards came on the final drive in pseudo garbage/prevent time.
Prior to the last drive, Allar was a miserable 10-of-30 for 118 yards and zero TDs. But, that wasn’t the real story.
The real story was moving the chains on 3rd down, or not. Penn State’s offense didn’t convert a 3rd down until the final seconds of the game and finished 1-16 on 3rd down conversions. No top 25 team has gone 0-12 or worse in the last five years.
Penn State entered the game ranked 20th in the nation in 3rd down conversions at a 48% clip but that number dipped to a pathetic 6% yesterday in the Shoe. Wide receiver Keandre Lambert-Smith led the Nits’ receiving corps with five grabs for 52 yards but he clearly needs some help at his position.
Penn State added wide receivers Dante Cephas and Malik McClain via the transfer portal this past offseason, but neither has been much of a factor through seven games this year.
Theo Johnson was the Lions’ second leading receiver yesterday finishing with two receptions for 39 yards. Johnson by the way is a Tight End.
Straight to the Top
There is certainly plenty of blame to go around in yesterday’s disappointing loss.
It’s not any easy thing to quantify but since he is the overseer of all things Nittany, then how can we not lay a lot of yesterday’s horrendous performance at the feet of head coach James Franklin?
In a game where there was only one game-changer on the field, and he happened to play for the other guys then I believe it’s quintessential to temper that with the capitalization of opportunities should any arise.
And boy did they.
There were countless ones yesterday for the Lions.
A holding penalty on cornerback Kalen King wiped away a defensive touchdown from Curtis Jacobs.
PSU recovered a punt late in the first half when his team got the ball at its own 17-yard line with 42 seconds and three timeouts. The Buckeyes also passed up a chip shot field goal, opting instead to go for the knock-out punch on fourth down at the Penn State 2-yard line late in the third quarter. Penn State got the stop, once again stole the momentum and still couldn’t move the ball.
There was exactly zero flow on offense and I think we’ve seen a lot of the same before at times in the previous six games, but the spectacular Penn State defense and short fields have masked the problem that the Buckeyes helped magnify on Saturday.