The Lions trip to Tuscaloosa was bad. I'm still harping on it. Really, there's a long list of adjectives you could use to describe it: disappointing, futile, pathetic. Alright, enough. I mean it could've been worse. At least it wasn't another loss to Iowa.
Speaking of those Horrible Hawkeyes, they're on the horizon. And whether Penn State was looking past Kent State this week and that's the explanation for another pathetic offensive performance, I'll never know.
Regardless, Joe Paterno's crew has one more week before they travel to face Kirk Ferentz and his playbook made of Happy Valley kryptonite and the Nittany Lions must dominate Temple, lest the crazed fan base go head first into Red Alert.
The team has plenty of issues they need to square up if they have any hope of even competing with those ferocious Iowan birds-of-prey. We could start with Rob Bolden, we could start with special teams, hell, we could start with the coaches, but instead we'll start with...
Where do I even begin?
Oh, I know, by walking away from the keyboard and screaming. Hang on...
Okay and we're back.
So the rushing game that essentially carried the Nittany Lions through 2009 has vanished. Like without a trace, and not that crappy television show. Evan Royster was a potential Heisman candidate coming into this season and this is what he's done to back it up:
3 GP, 31 ATT, 110 YDS, 3.55 YPA, 1 TD, 36.67 YDS/G
No doubt he's blowing away the committee with those. And I know, I know, Week Two was against Alabama's elite defense. Okay. So how did he do against Youngstown State's FCS defense?
11 ATT, 40 YDS, 3.64 YPA, 0 TD
Either that means Youngstown State's defense is just about as good as the Tide's, or something is seriously wrong in Roysterville.
How about against Kent State?
11 ATT, 38 YDS, 3.45 YPA, 1 TD
At least he put one in the end zone, but his YPA is decreasing each game, and he fumbled. I'm almost starting to hope he's injured. Otherwise, this is inexcusable.
Stephfon Green hasn't been much better. Granted his yards per attempt has increased .24 as opposed to Royster's precipitous 2.15 drop, but when your "thunder" falters, "lightning" needs to make an impact.
The only bright spot has been freshman Silas Redd, who's averaged 5.0 yards every time he touches the ball. Unfortunately, that's only happened 14 times.
Truthfully, the anchor of the offense hasn't been dreadful. Robert Bolden, through a mixture of protection and his own shiftiness, hasn't been sacked yet. Not even by Alabama. That's pretty good.
What's bad is he has been pressured enough to throw five interceptions. I understand he's young and things are flying around at a million miles an hour. I understand he won't have 10 seconds to throw on every play. But the line is going to have to stop, or at least slow, some prolific Big Ten pass rushers, including Iowa's Adrian Clayborn.
What's worse is they haven't been able to develop the run game. As good as Evan Royster has been in the past, the line must be at least partially to blame for his 3.55 yards per carry.
If there's no running lanes, there's no running game. If there's no running game...well, things won't be so happy in Happy Valley.
There might be a freshman at Penn State reading this saying, "Graham who?"
That's because the man who led the Lions in touchdown receptions last year has two catches through three games. Yes, you read that right, two.
In 2009, Gee-Z averaged 3.5 receptions and 46.2 yards per game. This year it's 0.7 and four. Yikes.
It's tough to criticize receivers dealing with a freshman QB, but Graham needs to do a better job of getting open, using his huge frame to get above defenders, and as you can see from the picture above, catching what's thrown to him.
Initially I wasn't going to list this, but it had to be done. Three TDs and five picks in three games is not acceptable. And the reason I put "The Quarterbacks" and not Robert Bolden is because I don't see him starting much longer.
He's obviously supremely talented and there's been flashes of brilliance, but the rest of the team simply isn't good enough to support his learning curve right now.
I'm not saying Kevin Newsome is going to come in and lead the Lions to becoming an undefeatable juggernaut throughout the rest of the season, but maybe if opposing teams respect the passing game just a bit, things will open up for Royster and Green.
Bolden has three more years to tighten up his own ship and become an elite player, but something needs to happen soon. Those two concepts don't mix well. It might be time to go back to Newsome.
It's tough for me to ever criticize this guy, and he's righting his own wrongs as of the Kent State game, but through the first two it was tough.
In 2009, one of Penn State's most successful recent seasons, the playcalling went about 54 percent rushing and 46 percent passing through 13 games.
That was with the most prolific passer in Nittany Lion history, Daryll Clark. Dude has all kinds of school records and he still only got 46 percent of the plays.
Through the Alabama game, with a quarterback who had never played collegiate football before, the playcalling was split 50/50. 60 rushes, 60 passes.
I know there's been a lack of production from Penn State's two top running backs, but seriously, you can't win trusting Bolden to throw the ball 30 times per game.
Granted in the Kent State game Bolden still threw it 27 times, at least there was a significant edge towards the running game. The Lions rushed it 40 times for 162 yards. Those numbers don't blow you out of the water, but at least the percentages are a little better.
This is a simple idea, though it's also an extension of the last slide.
It's difficult to convert on third-down with an inexperienced quarterback, but currently the Nittany Lions are succeeding only 53.66 percent of the time.
Similarly, Penn State is converting on 66.6 percent of their fourth-down tries (2-of-3), that's a decent number I guess, but why has the coaching staff felt the need to risk possession on fourth down three times in three games?
Just punt and trust the defense.
Finally, and most importantly, the Lions are converting only 70 percent of their red zone tries with five TDs and two field goals in 10 trips. The most unnerving piece of this ugly puzzle is the success of Colin Wagner.
Wagner, the place kicker, is 5-of-6 and has looked very sturdy. Why then have there been three incidences where the Lions have come away from the red zone with zero points. Let Wagner put three on the board instead of, again, risking possession on fourth down with a fairly ineffective and inexperienced quarterback.
In three games, the Nittany Lions have a turnover margin of minus-five.
They've intercepted the ball twice and recovered just one fumble.
They've lost two fumbles and thrown six interceptions. Five from Bolden and one from wide receiver Justin Brown.
For a defense that prides themselves on being fierce and opportunistic, this can't fly. Good teams win the turnover margin. Simple as that.
If Iowa brings Adrian Clayborn at 300 MPH around the edges and forces Bolden to make quick throws, expect at least one ball to fly errantly into a gold and black jersey.
Not really, though.
Through three games, the Nittany Lions are ninth in the country in points allowed. One of those games, obviously, was against the defending national champions.
Here's the serious issue: Penn State is 84th in points scored. I don't even want to think of some of the names that puts them behind (Wyoming? Ball State?).
Additionally, Iowa's rushing tandem of Hampton and Robinson is running people over left and right (beatdown at Arizona not-so-much).
With that two-headed-monster behind the fairly dependable Ricky Stanzi, the Nittany Lions' defense is going to have to step up to a near unimaginable level to have a chance against the Hawkeyes.
And the last thing Penn State fans need is another year thinking about those black-and-gold Steelers wannabes jumping around celebrating after the game.
Let's hope that against Temple Robert Bolden magically becomes Daryll Clark the Second. Then maybe the team can go into Iowa City and walk out with their heads held high.