Nittany Lions: Special Teams Are Not Special in Happy Valley
Most of the 110,000 fans in Beaver Stadium got up quietly at the end of Saturday's 24-7 thumping and went home. They took the Nittany Lions chance at a BCS Bowl game with them on the trip.
The Lions had put themselves in more than a good position to go big time bowling this year even after their home loss to Iowa to kick off the Big Ten season. Knock over Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State and there would have been BCS bowls fighting over the Nittany Lions and their legion of well traveled fans.
There is only one problem with that picture as we all learned Saturday night. Teams ranked 113th in special teams don't win big games. Kick yardage is free yardage when you can find it and the Ohio State Buckeyes found miles of it on the perfect turf of Beaver Stadium.
Ohio State's three touchdown drives amounted to a grand total of 118 yards offense. 118 yards. Most of that came on a single touchdown pass from Terrelle Pryor to DeVier Posey. The rest ground out of a Penn State defense too often defending a short field and too often doing so after the Penn State offensive ground to a three and out halt.
Joe Paterno has for years resisted hiring or naming a special teams coach. Those duties are spread out over his present staff. In addition there is no full time kicking coach or adviser.
Sure, Matt Bahr drops by every once in a while but that's a story for another day. There is nobody taking a deep look at the special teams as a whole and even attempting to fix what's broken. So special teams get what time is left over after everything else is handled.
Special teams cost the Lions the game against Iowa. A blocked punt punted the Lions out of the top 10 of everyone's rankings. A pair of horrible punt coverages against Ohio State made sure that the Lions didn't crawl back into the rankings. It also assured them that their holiday destination won't be Pasadena, Tempe or Miami.
The Lions will likely bounce back from Saturday's nightmare and wind up someplace sunny and warm on New Year's Day. But it could have been different. How many times can you kick away a BCS Bowl game twice in the same season??
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