Takeaways: Penn State Can’t Hang With The No. 1 Team, And That’s Fine
Well, this was unfortunate.
A mismatch of talent further marred by bad play-calling and questionable exemptions from benching starters late in the game raise a lot of questions for an already curious team. Here are some things that stood out on the football field on Saturday night, when Ohio State beat Penn State 38-10.
- John Donovan either doesn’t want to get better, or really is that bad. We’ve ripped apart Donovan’s play-calling. You have ripped him apart. And when he was given the chance to defend himself this past week in a rare media availability, he ducked questions and gave the old “I’m focused on this week and going 1-0” bullshit. There’s apparently no way to get the message across to James Franklin and John Donovan that either the offense needs to adjust and utilize the players it has, or he just needs to go. All too often last season, this season, and today, the team calls a screen pass or power run on third-and-11, which goes for anywhere fro, negative three to three yards. In the second half, the team faced a typical long play on third down, and Hackenberg lined up with an open backfield and was immediately sacked. When there’s no protection in the backfield and the offensive line can’t keep up with one of the best defensive lines in the game…that’s not what you call. There are egregiously bad calls every game, and the people who are supposed to fix this show no signs of doing so.
- Starters were in way too late. Franklin explained after the game that Ohio State left players like Joey Bosa in the game on defense, but still. With a handful of minutes left in the game and multiple scores separating the teams, getting your best players out of harm’s way is basic football. The coaching staff did the same thing in the Temple game, letting Hackenberg get sacked ten times, many of which came in the game’s dying moments (though after ten sacks, he was finally benched). In this one, Hackenberg and Saquon Barkley played the entire time, despite the game being completely out of reach and Hackenberg having seemingly cut his leg and hurt his back in the very same half.
- Ohio State brought its A-game when it needed to. Talking to some Ohio State fans before the game revealed that the fanbase didn’t have much confidence in its offense, particularly Cardale Jones. Jones ended up throwing 9-for-15 for 84 yards, and was benched for J.T. Barrett. Despite those hiccups, the team picked up 177 yards on the ground and scored 38 points. After some soft performances in recent weeks raised doubts about Ohio State’s credibility as a No. 1 team, players like Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott dismissed a lot of the hate.
- Penn State has some really special players. You’ve certainly heard by now that Carl Nassib leads the nation in sacks (adding 2.5 to his total tonight will likely keep him in first place after the weekend is over), and Saquon Barkley is simply excellent. Week in and week out, barring injury, fans should keep their eyes on Barkley on offense and the entire defensive line when it’s out. Regardless of the score, if you appreciate high-quality football, they can supply it.
- The Nittany Lions are good, but shouldn’t have been expected to win this. Penn State fans are very passionate and want to win every game. Forcing the eventual National Champions to double overtime last year set an unfair expectation that these two teams are at all equal. Penn State can compete with the San Diego States and probably Marylands of the world, but undefeated Temple and Ohio State are too much. Such is life, and such is college football. We’ll see which iteration of the Nittany Lions team shows up next weekend — if I had to guess, it’ll be the one that beats up on inferior teams. A few weeks later against Michigan and Michigan State, we might relive this game. Either way, no matter what happens, it’s the entertainment business, and damn it if this wasn’t entertaining.