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Wrapping Up: Penn State Football and Lowered Expectations in 2020

Lessons From an 0-5 Start

Illinois v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

On October 20, 2020, I published an opinion piece: Penn State Fans Need to Reset Expectations for 2020.

If you took my advice, you were only moderately surprised by this “season”. If you didn’t, you may still be crying.

Go ahead, wipe the tears…we’ll wait.

Back then we only knew Micah Parsons opted out, Journey Brown was done, and we had to replace a slew of great players and coaches. Oh yeah, and we were installing a new offense…what could go wrong?

Now, dear friends, we know the answer to that question.

Damn near everything.

But I certainly didn’t see the wheels falling off quite as quickly as they did.

And, I lay a big chunk of that on our Head Coach. James knows that the loss to Indiana is on him. That game is a win if we manage the clock. Period, full stop.

Ohio State was always going to be a loss…but Maryland and Nebraska? Who the hell saw that coming?

That’s when the losses from last season really began to show up.

Our defensive line missed their coach. Our youth and inexperience in the new offense sandbagged us at the worst times. Combined with (continuing) poor play on the line and at quarterback. We dug ourselves into holes that we couldn’t climb out.

Maryland v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In the Maryland game we had three turnovers, including a scoop and score. We gave up 7 sacks for -57 yards. On the other side, we had zero takeaways and only 3 sacks. That’s why, in a game where we possessed the ball for longer, ran 30 more plays, had 60 more yards in total offense and only punted four times…we lost by 16 points.

Maryland v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

At Nebraska, we had over 200 yards more offense, ran 31 more plays, and only punted once…but we turned the ball over twice. The pick by Clifford ended up on our 15-yard line. We only gave up a field goal, which was a win. But then we gave up another sack, which led to Clifford losing the ball, which led to another scoop and score.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Ten points on two turnovers in a game we lost by a touchdown.

Both of those were winnable games. And I believe the presence of Parsons or Journey Brown would have made a huge difference. For want of a nail, the shoe was lost…

That’s three of the first four games that we lost due to some combination of mistakes – clocks, reads, throws, etc. And I have to admit, I forgot how much it sucks to be on the other end of that stick. You have to admit, PSU fans, we dealt those kinds of losses to other teams far more frequently over the past few years, than we received them.

But that loss to Iowa just sucked so bad. It was the final straw. By this point, we are 0-4, we are down to two true freshmen running backs, we have a quarterback controversy and we know that our all-everything tight end Pat Freiermuth is hurt. What we didn’t know, going into that game, is that the defense would lose the ability to tackle for an entire half.

And what a shit show that game became.

The turnover game amped up, with two fumbles and two picks – one a pick six! Our defense just couldn’t overcome that. Iowa was in the red zone five times and scored all five times.

Iowa v Penn State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We gave up four rushing touchdowns. FOUR! And we made Mekhi Sargent look like an All-American by playing two-hand touch. Rarely did out first defender make the tackle. A feat that left me both hoarse and furious (and required me to give out some extra dog treats due to calm their nerves).

That game was never close and fuck Iowa.

So yeah, we will remember this year as something else. A “brave four-win rally to salvage a season” or some such bullshit spin. But the fact is, we lost to Indiana out of pure coaching stupidity. We lost to Maryland and Nebraska due to turnovers, which I attribute to both rust and learning a new scheme. And we lost to Fuck Iowa because we lost the last four games, were feeling sorry for ourselves and forgot to fucking tackle.

Really, what should be a two-loss season spiraled into a disaster. It’s only one win short of a catastrophe – and for that we say: THANK YOU, MICHIGAN!

Penn State v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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