Welcome to a home and home. Since Penn State doesn’t roll back to Ryan Field until 2014 we figured we would have a home and home with one of my favorite non-NU blogs, Penn State’s Black Shoe Diaries. BSD as its known by the locals, and LTP divied up a Q&A with a portion of it residing right here while the other half of the dialogue travels to the land of the White Out. You’ll need to tap your foot, nod your head to the beat and think Zombie Nation as you venture over there to see how I represented the pulse of ‘Cat nation. Check out the LTP and BSD Q&A exchange by clicking HERE.
In order, the first half of the dialogue is at BSD, so go there first. The second half is here on LTP, which should invoke more than a few second half collapse jokes in the comments section. Enjoy:
BSD: Speaking of multi-quarterbacking, Northwestern had four different guys throw passes last week, which is either two too many or signs of an impending transition to the A-10 offense. Is the change of pace sticking around for the PSU game or are you going to take one more shot with an All Persa Plan? Because if you score 21 points there’s a good chance you win this game.
LTP: Great question. In the preseason we all were speculating that Dan Persa’s recovery from what is allegedly one of the absolute worst injuries for a football player to comeback from (ruptured Achilles) meant the loss of the quick, shifty escapism that like Clark Kent, turned speeding bullets and train wreck sacks in to 15 yard gains from 2010. With Colter taking the reigns it was pretty clear he has a gear in the speed category that no NU QB has ever possessed, yet he is a running, option QB. Our fear was it would be Persa in = pass, Colter in = run and defenses might as well have been given the playbook. The Iowa game was our first real version of the platooning QB scenario, but it worked. For the most part. There are some factions of the fan base that are screaming “keep Persa in every down – he is THE ALLTIME MOST ACCURATE PASSER IN THE HISTORY OF THE BIG TEN!!!” and there is a lot of merit to that.
However, it was hard to argue the results as Colter put up 76 yards on 12 carries and was brilliant sans one HUGE play where he pitched the ball on 3rd and 5 to the NU bench (down 21-14 in the 4th) and took us effectively out of FG range. The bigger beef I had was that one call. Iowa could not stop Persa-to-Ebert on 3rd down as we got it EVERY SINGLE TIME. Yet, there we were 3rd and 5 and Persa was out. If you’re complaining about 1 call of 92 plays that’s an incredible day for an OC.
Persa is a BETTER passer than he was in 2010, but he isn’t so much a dual threat anymore. And, with the lack of a power running game in short yardage situations, Colter and the option are our most effective tool. So you will see both, but its more of the Army (yikes) type approach – we’re going to run it, you know it, we know it, but can you stop it. Colter had two play actions which were both great – one was a TD pass to Dunsmore and the other was a brilliant PBU by Iowa that would’ve been a TD. Our 3rd string QB Trevor Siemian is quickly gaining cult hero status as every on-field appearance seems to instantly translate to TD drives and a few were in clutch time situations (kinda). The 2012 gameplan at QB seems pretty clear. However, fans not wanting Persa out there for 95% of the snaps need their heads examined. As for Ebert passing, I think we might have been seduced by Russell Wilson’s TD catch earlier in the day. Iowa made a great play in a one on three scenario on the screen pass that came back. He guessed right for if the defender missed it was six.
LTP: OK, back to you. We’re still lamenting 2001 and how Zack F#@$ing Mills ruined our mojo and derailed the NU program for a few years with that loss. I’m doing an entire post on that day. When we step back and explore the horror that is our 2011 pass defense, fans start getting wistful for the Gary Barnett and Fitz on the field era (which really compounds the pain as our best defensive player in school history is having this porous “D” on his watch). Not surprisingly the “ENOUGH” harrumph calls from the NU fans are out and calling for Coach Hankwitz and other members of the staff to turn over their headsets. Of course, Ron Vanderlinden’s name is always one of the first to pop up as ‘Cat fans marvel at how the former NU defensive coach standout went from icon status at NU to head coach to LB coach at PSU and hasn’t moved in more than a decade. Is this a predetermined thing that Vanderlinden is a lifer at PSU. Help put the fan fantasies about future NU DCs to bed. What’s the post-Paterno gameplan for Penn State’s coaching staff on defense?
KP: Zack Mills was resilient like that. He had no shoulders by the time he left Penn State, but that didn’t stop him from being one of the most unsuspecting players of the last 20 years. He would be who we thought he was, but then sometimes not. That’s rare for PSU quarterbacks.
But to the topic at hand, know this: The first rule about the Post Paterno Era is that there are no rules. We almost lost the most successful coach on our staff to our fake rival, who was then turned down for the UConn job. JoePa, who desperately needs the few remaining workhorses on his staff to stay there, was actively lobbying for him to be selected for both positions.
Can Vanderlinden become the DC back home in Evanston? I don’t hear much about that here out east, but I don’t see why not. The short answer to your question about Penn State’s gameplan is that there isn’t one, because as of right now all the parties aren’t playing for the same team. Literally anything can happen. There’s almost certainly going to be a national search, and that means no one has job security, so honestly, keep the dream alive.
Alright, so this game. I’m looking at the metrics and, despite the four point spread, I’m not entirely sure what additional concerns Penn State should have this year compared to Northwesterns past. Give me three predictions and a score.
LTP: I can’t really point to any additional concerns than in the past other than the fact that 1)Dan Persa despite being more one dimensional is truly a remarkable passer who rarely makes mistakes 2) our WR corps is deeper and better than ever and 3)our rush “D” has tightened up considerably but it is more than offset by the underwhelming play of our pass defense. A fourth bonus point is that if last week was do or die for our season (and we lost) then we will see what sense of urgency looks like Saturday night. With a loss, we’ll all but assured of no bowl game (running the table in five straight including @Nebraska and vs Sparty after five losses would be so epic not even I can wear those purple colored glasses) and the run of consecutive bowl appearances would be a painful final chapter for a senior class that was set-up to have quite a legacy. The added hint of knowing Persa wants to beat PSU at least once (he’s 0-1.5 vs them) as a payback to Penn State is a neat, but overdone, side story.
I predict this one playing right in to the expectations. NU moves the ball at will and stalls in the Red Zone while McGloin finds his groove thanks to the confidence he gained last year against the purple. Add in the fact PSU’s RBs always have career days against us and you keep the winnin’ ugly theme again as JoePa sets yet ANOTHER milestone win against us (I was praying for you to have two losses to have another NU team in the background of a milestone win!).
Penn State 21 NU 16
Right back at you. Sew this thing up with three reasons you’ll lose sleep over NU on Friday and offer up your final score.
KP: I’m buying the revenge story, even if I agree it’s overplayed. My three predictions go something like this:
1. Persa actually beats his season comp % in the first half, in part because he completes his first 10 passes.
2. Penn State passes well into the red zone and is stuffed on obvious run plays, forcing field goals.
3. Penn State’s shuts down the run by the second half forces Persa mistakes.
The sad story that everyone realizes is reality is that the defense has to do their thing every week if this team wants to win. I’ll say Penn State 23, Northwestern 20.