Can Penn State Fix Last Week's Mistakes and Beat Purdue?


I don’t know about you, but I felt like I needed some serenity last Saturday night, immediately after this loss. Perspective has come though. If not from the devastating hurricane and its aftermath, then from a few days of distance from a frustrating and emotional loss. Here are the three final thoughts I have on last weekend.

--An old football coach once said, “Praise is like poison. It’s only lethal if you swallow it.” I think our plucky quarterback was given a heavy dose of praise before the Ohio State game, and Matt McGloin may have swallowed some of it. 

Like it or not, the offense begins and ends with the QB position under our new regime. McGloin looked like he was trying too hard to be relaxed. His timing was off. His decision-making seemed confused.

His stat line looked impressive post-game--and it has almost every week this season--but he missed far too many big throws and even got bit by his old “pick 6” bug.

You might even say Bill O’Brien nibbled at some poison as well. His “coach of the year’’ buzz was never higher than it was pre-Ohio State. But I can’t remember scratching my head at so many play calls since the Ohio game. Does this diminish my admiration for O’Brien? No, but it does help me remember that he’s a first-time head coach who’s still working with one hand tied behind his back.

--Urban Meyer is one lucky man. I think he would have taken the Ohio State coaching job if Joe Bauserman was his only QB and not Braxton Miller. But the fact is, he stepped into a head coaching position with Braxton Miller.

Braxton Miller is a freakishly good player. The TD juke-and-leap that put OSU up by two scores in the 3rd quarter will haunt me for a long, long time.

Miller also seems to have supernatural injury-recovery skills. I watched his knee buckle earlier this season (very similar to the Paul Posluzny injury from the Orange Bowl in 2006), only to come back the following week at 100%. Then, he walks out of the hospital room onto the Beaver Stadium turf and scampers all over the field against a top-25 defense.

I wonder how many Buckeye fans would disagree with me when I assert that Miller alone is the difference between a 5-4 Ohio State and a 9-0 Ohio State this season. I selfishly hoped that he wouldn’t be 100% against Penn State; he was.

--Losing teams usually mention officiating. When a team loses by more than one score, that complaining is often seen as somewhat ridiculous.

Without rehashing each and every penalty and scenario, I’ll simply assert that Penn State--the least penalized team in the Big Ten through the first eight games--picked the worst times to make major blunders in the eyes of the officials. Similarly, Ohio State--widely regarded as the most talented but also least disciplined teams (and most heavily penalized this season)--picked the best game to evade the watchful eyes of the men in stripes.

It was as peculiarly lopsided to Penn State fans as it was to the ESPN announcers (one of whom even might be called a Buckeye fan, as he familiarly spoke of “Braxton” all evening).

In the end, I’ll blandly claim that Penn State isn’t talented enough--on the field or on the sidelines--to overcome adversity like that against a team as talented as Ohio State. I’m not claiming--as I’ve seen other PSU writers do--that Ohio State is out of Penn State’s league. They almost lost to Indiana, for goodness sake.

Give me Braxton Miller in Nittany Lion blue, and I’ll take Penn State’s players and coaching staff every day of the week. Miller is a god at this level, and we have to play against him at least one more year.

But on Saturday, Penn State played like mere mortals on a day when more divine play was needed.

Ryan J. Murphy pens "Midweek Serenity" just when you need it each week. Check out his third book, Ring The Bell: The Twenty-two Greatest Penn State Football Victories of Our Lives in paperback and ebook.

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