Unfortunately, waking up this morning didn’t provide the reprieve that Penn State players, coaches and fans were looking for.
That punch-in-the-gut 17-16 loss to Virginia Saturday afternoon wasn’t some kind of cruel nightmare. It actually did happen and no amount of sleep could erase it.
Clearly, the missed kicks were the focus yesterday and will be for a long time to come. They should be. If just one of the four missed field goals is good, the Nittany Lions win – that included a 20-yarder.
It’s a game they controlled and dominated and should’ve won. And it’s a game they would’ve won if just one more field goal were made.
That being said, I’d also like to direct your attention to another third-and-long play that sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise strong defensive performance.
In the opening game against Ohio, a third-and-long dying quail that should’ve been intercepted turned into a touchdown and completely changed the game.
Saturday against Virginia, a third-and-16 play on the Cavaliers’ game-winning drive was perfectly defensed. Quarterback Michael Rocco was forced out of the pocket, all of his options covered. He then heaved up a desperation pass that somehow was caught by Jake McGee between two PSU defenders. Instead of the game being over, Virginia was in business in Penn State territory and went on to score and take its only lead of the game.
It’s just flat out inexcusable.
If you don’t think so, look at the replay and watch the livid Penn State coach react immediately after it happened.
National media members can continue to point to guys that transferred. But if the guys that stayed would just make a few plays, this team would be 2-0 and everyone would be talking about what a great job Bill O’Brien is doing and how much heart this team is showing.
Make a kick, knock down a pass, make an accurate throw, catch a pass that hits the hands.
Allen Robinson has had two productive games to start the season. He also had a touchdown pass go right through his hands right before halftime against Virginia. With true freshman Steven Bench – filling in for a banged up Matt McGloin at the end of the first half – actually making a play from the quarterback position, scrambling and making a good pass to Robinson in the corner of the end zone. Robinson just missed it.
Michael Mauti played an outstanding game on defense. He was all over the field. He also dropped an interception that he could’ve walked into the end zone.
The point here isn’t to be critical of individual players. The point is that this team is talented enough to be 2-0.
I heard guys like Lee Corso say this team will be lucky to win three games. Well, right now, it’s unlucky to not already have two of those wins.
The two teams they lost to combined for 18 wins last season and were both supposed to be better this season. Penn State had an 11-point lead on Ohio and by every measurable standard – except the final score – beat Virginia all over the field.
One would expect this team to right the ship against Navy. It then will have another tough game against Temple. Both games are winnable and both games are necessary if this team is going to eventually prove to everyone that it has good players and is a decent team.
When guys start making plays, this team will start winning games. It’s that simple.
Until then, players, coaches and fans alike will be trying to wake up from this nightmare.
Marty Valania covers football for nittanylionsden.com. Follow him @EastRecruiting on Twitter.