The Nittany Lion 2010 Season is officially on the brink of disaster after Saturday’s punishing defeat at the hands of Illinois in front of the almost 108,000 who had other ideas on what was otherwise a beautiful Saturday Homecoming afternoon in Happy Valley. Saturday’s 33-13 pounding by the Illini left Nittany Lion Nation in shock and asking many questions about the remainder of the 2010 Season.
Although the Lions have several key injuries and other serious problems even where healthy, no one could have predicted that the Fighting Illini, who had not won in Happy Valley since PSU joined the Big 10, would completely dominate both the Offensive and Defensive Lines of Penn State for an entire game. Key injuries to Jack Crawford (foot) Gerald Hodges (knee) and Michael Mauti (ankle) already and game injuries Saturday to Eric Latimore (wrist), Pete Massaro (quadricep), Nicky Sukay (chest) and Andrew Daily (stinger) no doubt have complicated things for an already thin and relatively young Defense. However, that doesn’t make up for continued uninspired, dismal play of Devon Still, Jordan Hill and Kevion Latham along the front D Line, mediocre play from LB’s Chris Colasanti and Nate Stupar and poor play from DB’s Stephon Morris, D’Anton Lynne and Malcom Willis who appeared afraid to hit on more than one play Saturday. Back-ups James Terry and Freshman Daquan Jones demonstrated why they are back-ups as each were slow to the ball and caught standing around or turned around on a number of plays, particularly in the 2nd Half – we couldn’t remember a time in recent PSU history where we witnessed such poor line play from both starters AND back-ups; their play was downright appalling and one more consistent with that of an average Big East or perhaps even MAC team rather than a perennial so-called power such as Penn State. Is this the best Larry Johnson can recruit? Better yet, if this is the talent he has, is he not capable of coaching up the talent at all?
The Lion Defense yielded 282 Rushing Yards making Jr. RB Mikel LeShoure and Redshirt So. QB Nate Scheelhaase appear unstoppable most of the day. Poor tackling and poor pursuit to the ball seemed to be the order of the day for the struggling Lion Defense.
The same inept play continues along the O Line as well which is totally inexcusable for both Bill Kenney, Offensive Line Coach and the starters along the O front. Kenney should be on the hotseat after what we have observed last year and so far this year, yet it is likely he is not as Joe Paterno remains loyal to a fault to his coaching staff. His O Line’s performance makes it difficult to evaluate Fr. QB Robert Bolden’s play week in and week out when he continues to be pressured, hit and mamed repeatedly by 300 pound D Lineman beating Penn State O Linemen who consistently wave the red handkerchief like matadors at a bull fight. The Lions managed only seven first downs against the Illini, the second fewest in Paterno’s 45 years along with only 65 rushing yards and a total of 235 yards of total offense, a season low. The performance was so poor on Saturday that the Lions managed only FG’s of 28 and 22 yards after recovering fumbled punts on the Illini 23- and 9-yard lines.
With a bye week ahead, the Lions have much soul searching to do. Senior leadership has and continues to elude this team the entire season. It is obvious that neither Evan Royster (who appears to regret returning for his Senior year) nor Stefan Wisniewski (perhaps overrated as a Preseason All American Guard) have demonstrated any leadership capability as evidenced by the fact that neither were selected as team captain for the 2010 campaign and neither appear outspoken to date amidst a disastrous season in the making. Finally, it’s time to take a very hard look at Joe Paterno and his tenured staff, a group beginning with Johnson, Kenney, the lifeless enigma Galen Hall and continuing with son Jay Paterno who appears to bear no responsibility for the team’s huge failures to date, believing rather the O Line and Running game are the culprits while assuming he gets a pass since he has been dealt the hand of young, inexperienced although poised and talented, Fr. QB in Bolden. Tim Curley bears responsibilty too as the Athletic Director (in title only), allowing an atmosphere of mediocrity to permeate the program while allowing Joe Paterno to continue to control every aspect of the football program thereby allowing the game, business and pageantry of college football to pass this University (and Nittany nation) by, at least for the 2010 season.