Maybe Pat Fitzgerald was right to be insulted by Teddy Greenstein’s question asking if this team was good enough to win a B1G game. Clearly they did just that, and did so in dominant fashion. Having never seen NU dominate a conference game like that in recent memory (I believe the last I saw was NU vs Illinois in 2000, where oddly enough we also missed a PAT), my initial reaction was, “Holy crap! We’re really good!” After cooling off and reflecting on the game, I think that statement is half right. Some parts of our team are great, and others are not. Penn state still has some major issues, and despite starting out the year 4-0, their opponents (excluding us) are a combined 7-10. Let’s take a look at some lessons learned from Penn State.
Our defense is legit.
I’ve been saying this since the beginning of the season. Our defense is the best it has been since Fitz was wearing number 51, and it finally showed this Saturday. Sure, PSU’s O-Line (and offense in general) have major issues, the way our defense held them without a touchdown for 60 minutes was unreal. So many players were able to step up and make plays and keep PSU out of the endzone. Our run defense was incredible, keeping Penn State to only 50 yards on the ground on 25 carries. Given that our next opponent (Wisconsin) has major issues at QB, this certainly gives reason to be confident on Saturday.
Our offense is not.
Sure, our team totaled 361 yards and scored 3 touchdowns against a solid PSU defense, but lets take a look at our drives from the game.
Of our 4 scoring drives and 1 “scoring drive” (we reached the 1 yard line before running a failed fake FG play) 4 of those started within the Penn State 31 yard line. Yes, the ‘Cats did a great job of winning the field position battle, but the fact that we could only reach the endzone on 1 drive that didn’t start in Nittany Lion territory (which started at our 40 yard line, mind you) is scary. After a fast start in the first quarter, NU had 7 straight drives (ignoring the drive at the end of the first half) where we didn’t score any points. Four of those drives were 3-and-outs, and on the only one where we finally got the ball moving, Trevor threw an INT. Long story short, we still have major question marks on offense.
The play calling was very uninspired and again left more to be desired from Mick McCall. Also many drives stalled out because of miscues from Trevor, which leads me to my next point…
Trevor is not great.
I was a huge Trevor proponent at the beginning of the year. I thought he was going to really excel and finally take control of the offense. Anything but has happened.
There are miscues everywhere, he is over/underthrowing open receivers, and often struggles with his progression. He has an arm, but is often to inconsistent to make good use of it. He also is pretty immobile, which doesn’t favor NU’s style of offense. I don’t know if we have a better option below him, but I don’t think our boy Trevor is the answer. I’m not saying he’s bad, I just don’t think he’s good enough to enable our great receivers to march the ball down the field. Snax looked pretty good against NIU, didn’t he?
Our coaches are, for lack of a better word, idiots.
Anthony Walker. Until Saturday, no one knew who the hell this kid was. Now, I’m wondering if Collin Ellis is still listed as an inside linebacker on the depth chart (Update: Not only is Collin still listed as a MLB, he is starting). There is no way that this kid didn’t stand out in practice. Collin has been struggling to adjust to his new position, and frankly, does not look to be on the same planet as Walker. Yet, for some reason, we only got to see Walker play because Ellis was hurt. Does this mean that if Collin never missed a game this year, we would have never gotten Cakes Walker (short for Pancakes, which is derived from Walker Brothers in Wilmette, IL) on the field? The scary thing is, I think the answer is yes.
Fitz is too loyal (which is why perhaps we still have certain coaches on the staff?) and believes too much in seniority. Fitz’s logic is that Collin Ellis is a Senior and a Captain, and therefore he should start. This is just crazy, and makes you wonder how many other players are hiding in the wings that haven’t gotten to touch the field because there is someone older than them on the roster. Is there a QB that could explode onto the scene? Is this the reason Odenigbo is only playing on 3rd downs? We know that our recruiting has brought in better and better talent, so why not let that talent help us win?
Our kicking game is a hot mess.
1/2 FG, 2/4 PAT. Enough said. Can we figure this out please?
Xavier Washington is a great dancer.
Long story short, I think we’re better than we thought we were, but we still have issues of our own. Looking forward to seeing what improvements the coaches make going into next week. Go ‘Cats!