STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Ladies and gentlemen, I simply have to share with you the scene I’m witnessing here.
I’ve been in my share of loud stadiums (Florida, LSU), I’ve seen my share of pageantry (Notre Dame, Ohio State) and beautiful backdrops (Air Force). I can honestly say I’ve never experienced as much electricity in a stadium as I have these last few moments before kickoff of tonight’s Ohio State-Penn State game.
The “White Out”-ed student section was full nearly an hour before kickoff, the entire 107,000 in place by 7:45. With “The Pennsylvania State University” awning facing me and miles and miles of cars and RVs out the window behind me, with flashbulbs popping everywhere and some well-chosen tunes (from Living on A Prayer to Don’t Stop Believing -- did JoePa really approve this playlist?) pumping up the crowd, the anticipation just keeps building and building.
The scoreboard to my left currently scrawls: “Welcome to the Greatest Show in College Football,” as a Penn State highlight reel plays on the video board. And meanwhile, I’m enjoying a cup of ice cream straight from the famous Penn State Creamery here in the press box.
Now, the Nittany Lion mascot is standing at midfield leading alternating cheers from each section as the band begins to march on the field. I can’t even imagine what’s going to happen when actual players run on to the field.
And it's like that every time they play at home. Every time. It's the best student section, the loudest crowd, and a spectacle no other sporting event--not even the Super Bowl--comes close to matching.
Well, what did happen when the players took the field?
Ohio State was too big and too fast for the No. 24 Nittany Lions and cruised to an easy 37-17 win at Beaver Stadium.
Too big and too fast? Gee, I don't know about that. I mean, on paper, they should have matched up pretty well. So why did Ohio State look so darn big and fast?
Even more damning for PSU's coaching staff, though, was the 60 minutes of evidence that suggested the Buckeyes were also too smart.
Ohhhh...yes, that's right. Instead of just coming out and running the dullest, most conservative, most predictable offense and defense designed to beat your own practice team, Ohio State actually had a game plan designed to beat Penn State.
Ohio State confused the Lions' defense with formations, defused PSU's pass rush with a simple but solid protection schemes, and embarrassed Joe Paterno's secondary when the hosts attempted to blitz…
"They did not run anything we were used to or saw in tape," PSU cornerback Lydell Sargeant, who was roasted on a 60-yard Boeckman completion to wideout Ray Small that set up OSU's first TD.
"We adjusted to things in the second half but they ran plays that we could not pick up on."
PSU defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said the Buckeyes' offensive coaches used a lot of unbalanced formations and spread his defense with three-receiver sets featuring Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline.
"They do a lot of different things with the formations," Bradley said, adding, "Within a plan like that, there are a lot of little things that you have to be ready for."
What a fucking novel idea! To do different things! In different formations! What a stroke of genius to not line up in the same formations and run the same plays in the same situations, and sit back in the same coverages that you've been showing opponents for fifteen fucking years!
Gee, I hope not more than a few million people were watching that game! Otherwise, before you know it, every college football team will start tailoring their game plan to surprise and defeat specific opponents! Before you know it, every college football team will have "game plans".
And that will be so confusing and so surprising, college football legends like Joe Paterno might find themselves going 4-7 or--God forbid--3-8.
No matter how much talent he has.
That kind of thing might even lead to defenses not shouting out what play you're running before you run it!
Question: Some Iowa players and some of your players said that the Iowa defense often called out your plays when the offense lined up Saturday. Does that concern you?
Paterno: It does, if they are right. Yes, it should concern me. It concerns me if it is accurate. Let’s leave it at that.
Or, like this:
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Robinson's screen pass to a wide receiver in the left flat was wide of the target and Everett ran between two Penn State players to pick it off and return it 24 yards untouched for the score.
"We knew what to expect in that formation," Everett said. "It felt great to pick the ball off. No one was ahead of me."
Course, even if that did happen, Joe would still have his shrewd coaching instincts:
[O]pportunities were few over the final three quarters and Paterno may have squandered a great one when he opted to punt with his offense facing fourth-and-2 from the Buckeyes' 38 with a couple of minutes left before half…
Yes, he punted at the Ohio State thirty eight on a fourth and two. At home. In front of 110,000 screaming fans. They got 18 yards off the punt. They would have gotten ten times as much from just going for it, whether they got it or not.
“There is no team in America that does not want to stay out there and go for it," PSU quarterback Anthony Morelli said when asked about Paterno's decision.
"That is Coach Paterno's call. He gets paid for that. That is all on him, not us."
How did Coach Paterno feel about the game he "called"?
“I thought we did a pretty good job offensively, really," said Paterno. "The trouble was, we had to get more points than I figured we'd have to get to beat them. I didn't think [the Buckeyes] would get that many."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the coach of the third-best team in the Big Ten.
It's genius, isn't it? Before the game, Joe picks a number of points out of his diaper that the other team is going to score and then, if that teams scores more, Joe is fucked.
That's the trouble. Joe thought we would only need 17 points--and, of course, Joe planned that seven of them would come on a 93 yard kickoff return with like two minutes remaining--and when Ohio State caused trouble by scoring nearly three times as many points as Joe figured on, well, you can hardly blame the coaching for that!
I mean, all week long, Joe's offense beat the practice team 10-7. Fuck, sometimes 14-10! And that practice team was running plays they'd seen Ohio State run on film! Christ, who knew Ohio State might not do the gentlemanly thing--like Joe--and run the same plays every week?
Penn State has great players. They've got the world's best fans. They've got the biggest, most rabid alumni association in the country. And they've got a stadium to play in that's worth 10 points every home game. At least.
And it's all wasted on the vanity of an eighty year old man.
Joe, you had your time. You had your day in the sun. You won two national championships. You should have won--in 1973 and 1994--at least two more. You were Coach of the Year. Sportsman of the Year. You've been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. You've been coaching at Penn State for fifty seven years!
Give it up, already!
He doesn't even coach anymore! On Saturday night, Tressel is standing there on the sidelines with the headphones and a play card. What was Urban Meyer doing on Saturday? Wearing the headphones, yelling out plays, talking to his coaches.
What was Joe doing on Saturday night? Walking up and down the sidelines.
Like he does every week.
He's not coaching a goddamned thing.
Joe, if you want to walk up and down the sidelines and occassionally talk to a player or two during Penn State games, retire. I promise you, Penn State will let you do that for as long as you live.
I mean, again, the guy is not coaching the game. He hasn't coached the game in a long time. If he's not coaching and he's not recruiting, why on Earth does he insist on remaining Penn State's coach???
It's pure vanity.
Retire. Let some young, hungry guy with a lot of energy and a staff full of innovative coaches come in and build on your legacy. Let them honor what you helped create by putting a football team on the field that's as impressive as the fans it puts in the stadium.
But Joe won't do it. Because it's all about him now. It's his team. And walking the sidelines with someone else in charge just wouldn't be as pleasing to Joe. And winning big football games just wouldn't be as gratifying if Joe didn't get the credit.
Life, or Penn State football, just wouldn't have any meaning anymore if it all didn't revolve around Joe.
Penn State's a third rate program right now. Every now and then--2005--the talent is so exceptional it transcends the God-awful coaching. But for the most part it keeps Penn State in the range of average to awful.
And everyone knows this.
Even the sportswriters are now only half-hearted with their "Joe deserves to coach as long as he wants..."
Joe, fucking retire and save your legacy.