Nittany Kitty Thoughts
That game was hideously ugly, an aesthetically unappealing throwback to the fun-but-cardiac-inducing 2002 season, where offense was ridiculously hard to come by for both sides and the punt became the most important play for each team. I guess it's somewhat comforting to have it reinforced that this defense will be up to the challenge when it is faced with a tight, tense, low-scoring affair, but this contest was just annoyingly ugly. But I guess it could be worse: we could be Spartan fans. *Shudder* Anywho, here's what I thought then and what I think now about the fourth game of the 2006 season...
When OSU had the ball
My greatest fear about this game, as I expressed to Todd on Friday, ended up coming true: it rained pretty much all day, and that combined with the horrific condition of the turf to almost completely negate OSU's main advantage in this game: speed. As anyone who watched PSU's drubbing at the hands of Notre Dame can attest, this team is not fast, and when Notre Freaking Dame makes your team look slow, you know you've got some thick ankles out there. The mud and sludge made cutting difficult and helped to completely neutralize Teddy Inge and Gonzalez, and was, in my opinion a large factor in the relative ineffectiveness of OSU's offense. Granted, this may be rampant homerism on my part, so if you happen to be a Michigan fan and are thirsting for some rampant homerism viewed through maize-colored-glasses, MGoBlog has provided it.
All that being said, Troy was a bit off all game, and it was obvious. On the first or second possession of the game, he had Teddy with perfect inside position on a post route, and threw the ball so far off the mark that it was intercepted by a guy who was plainly beaten. The majority of the game continued in a similar vain for the apparent Heisman frontrunner. Someone (I think it was Todd) mentioned on several occasions that some guys just have trouble with some teams, and Penn State appears to be Troy's kryptonite. He now has three career starts against them, with these underwhelming stats: 31-for-55, 313 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 3 lost fumbles. Thank God he never has to face them again.
Most of the slack was made up for by Antonio Pittman, who remains the most underrated back in the Big Ten. 5.5 yards per carry against Penn State's defense is a solid day, even if this year's edition isn't as good as last year's. He still bounces it outside a little bit more often than I would like, but you can't argue with his production.
Poor Paul Poslusznzsnznsny. Sure-fire top 20 draft pick if he leaves after his junior year. Suffers horrific knee injury in bowl game, forcing him to return to school and commit to rehab. And now he's out there running around, and I don't know if he's tentative about that knee or he's just lost some quickness, but he looks like a shell of what he was last year, at least in the two PSU games I've watched. To describe him as a "non-factor" thus far this season would be charitable. (Not so for Dan Connor, who is an absolute menace.)
When PSU had the ball
John Q. Fan, if the CFB blogosphere is any indication, is getting really sick of hearing about James Laurinaitis, and I can understand why. He's still iffy in run support, although he's getting markedly better. His claim to fame thus far has been an astonishing number of turnovers created, most of them being interceptions, several of which were, admittedly, just flat-out tipped right to him. But he IS improving, and I hope he plays well enough to make everyone who isn't a Buckeye fan sick and tired of him by the end of the season.
There's nothing else that needs to be said about the defensive line. Pitcock and the boys get pressure on opposing QBs even when they get no help from blitzes, and that's the key to any defense.
The secondary has been a pleasant surprise as well. As someone I read recently pointed out, Jenkins is probably the most physical corner we've had since Nate Clements, but Antonio Smith has impressed me just as much in run support. Brandon Mitchell never seems to be out of position, constantly making plays when he has to. And the passing yardage stats speak for themselves: 87 allowed vs. PSU, 216 vs. Cincinnati, 154 vs. Texas, and and 169 vs. Northern Illinois. That's 167 ypg. I'll take it.
Where did PSU get all those rushing yards? I remember when we were watching the game, and Hunt had that 40 yard run sometime in the fourth, and they flashed his stats on the screen, showing that he had like 120 yards at that point, and we were all like "What? When did that happen?" And I look at the final stats and see that they rushed for over 150 yards and I'm like "Wha?" Am I crazy, or did it just not seem like they were that effective on the ground? As it stands, judging by stats alone, we still appear to be eminently beatable on the ground.
Still, though: 4 games played. 32 points allowed.
Kind of a big game coming up this week, too.