Meet the latest opposing team prediction that’s got the FOS message boards searing with Blue&White colored anger: An Oregon State writer on Scout.com is *gasp* predicting that the Beavers will waltz into Beaver Stadium, eat us out and then hop on a plane back to Corvallis with post-thumping cigarettes in their mouths, never to call us again.
Naturally, such a scathing article deserves a closer look to see if it’s as biased and ignorant as said message board posters claim:
Much of the fanfare surrounding Penn State is based on the premise they return so many players (9 offense, 8 defense) from a 9-4 bowl team.
Okay, nothing wrong here thus far. Moving on now…
But a closer look at their record shows they lost to a 7-6 Michigan State team, barely beat average Purdue and Indiana squads and needed late heroics to hold off a Texas A&M team in disarray after season long controversy.
Well, two can play at this game! Oregon State got shellacked by a 6-7 UCLA team (in Corvallis, nonetheless), barely beat a 7-6 Cal squad and a 4-9 Washington squad, not to mention they also needed 2 overtimes to beat a Dennis Dixon-less Oregon team that was in a tailspin.
Perhaps the best indicator of how things might go for Oregon St. when they visit us on Sept. 6 is the beatdown Cincinatti gave them the last time they set foot on the Eastern side of the United States. Keep in mind, this was when Oregon St. still had their stud tailback Yvenson Bernard and the 8 departed defensive starters that will need replacing this year.
Now, comes the all-out assault on our personnel:
And the ’08 Penn State offense has a number of rather large question marks surrounding it heading into the fall. First and foremost, the uncertainty at quarterback.
Neither Daryll Clark, (31 career passes) nor Pat Devlin (1 career pass) could win the starting job outright this spring. And neither could unseat former QB Anthony Morelli, a whipping boy for many Penn State fans the past two seasons, as the starter.
While he’s clearly wrong on this assessment, it’s hard to tear this writer a new one because many outsiders to the program are unaware of the gross nepotism and loyalty that our coaching staff possesses. JoePa stuck with Morelli all throughout the season for the purpose of not making it blatantly clear to the public that he doesn’t trust his inept, unqualified QB coach of a son, Jay. An outsider however, would naturally assume that such roadblocks don’t exist and that if Morelli was struggling so much that Clark and Devlin would have been given ample opportunity to unseat King Anthony.
And while there’s no sugar-coating the lack of career passes for Clark and Devlin, you have to figure that:
- Clark has proven his athleticism in key game situations (see: Alamo Bowl) and can at the very least scramble us out of trouble like Michael Robinson did a few years back if a passing play gets broken up.
- I have yet to read or hear about any knocks on either QB’s IQ levels or inability to read defenses
Ergo, it is certainly reasonable to play the “addition by subtraction” card with regards to the QB position.
But, wait! It only gets better…
Perhaps more telling is that Penn State is looking to implement some spread offense this season. More specifically, a hybrid shotgun spread with split backs.
The problem with all this is that teams who are successful the first year of an offensive overhaul are few, and those that are have the right personnel to make it work. The current makeup on the Penn State offense, for the most part, doesn’t fit the spread.
First of all, this won’t be the very first time that we employ a spread offense (see: 2005). Second, the first time we launched such an “overhaul” things ended up turning out alright as we finished 33rd in total offense (13th in rushing offense) so I guess that puts us amongst the so-called “few.” Basically, this is more like adjusting to our personnel as we’ll have a more athletic QB taking snaps this year and the last time we had such a specimen under center we ran a spread offense and it worked, so why the hell not go back to a spread?
As for that second paragraph of keyboard diarrhea: If having a scrambling QB along with a proven tailback (Evan Royster), speedy-enough receivers, and an ENTIRE O-LINE RETURNING equates to not having the personnel to run a spread offense, then I guess the writer has a point…
So, what does our Eager Beaver Buddy conclude about PSU’s offense?
PENN STATE LAST SEASON ran the ball 528 times while attempting 415 passing attempts. And in looking at play selection in the opening 15 minutes and adding it all up, Penn State ran it more than they passed it in the first quarter. The passing game ranked No. 75 out of 119 teams.
Bottom line, outside of Happy Valley, all the talk this offseason about the spread smacks more of desperation than it does innovation. If Oregon State brings pressure to slow the Nittany Lion running game, if they dare Penn State’s quarterback beat them, things augur well for the black and orange.
Again, it’s not desperation, it’s utilizing the talent you have on your roster and adjusting to it. Morelli was ill-equipped to run a spread offense with his immobility and mental capacity of the Scarecrow from the “Wizard Of Oz” that led to him throwing costly INTs in clutch situations.
And if Oregon State wants to dare a QB like Daryll Clark to beat them then I say “Go right ahead.” Not that it’ll get to that point though because my money is on our veteran O-line getting Moses on the Beavers’ brand-spankin’ new D-line and opening up Red Sea-sized holes for our ball carriers to get through.
And now, a rebuttal to my D-line theory:
OSU was No. 1 in the nation in run defense last year. But that was last year, and they lost a lot off that D — the entire starting front seven to be specific.
But keep in mind that Mike Riley and Mark Banker used a rotation of 10 — yes, 10 — players on the line last year. Returnees Slade Norris and Victor Butler looked like world beaters this spring, and tackle Pernnell Booth is expected at full strength for fall camp.
JC transfer defensive tackle Stephen Paea was one of the best and biggest surprises of the Beavs’ spring. And Kevin Frahm and Carl Sommer showed they could be ready to join this year’s rotation up front and do some of what the depth did last year.
Meanwhile, The Men in Black have been cranking out All Pac-10 linebackers the past decade and this spring showed the Beavs again have some real playmakers at ‘backer. Detractors will note, correctly, that they do not however have starting experience. But they sure didn’t look like it this spring.
Okay, the D-line of Oregon St. had depth last year and should still be rather talented this year despite having all-new starters, thanks in part to a heavy rotation Mike Riley utilized last season. However, the trip to Happy Valley will mark the first start in a road game against a meaningful opponent for 8 of the Beavers’ defensive starters. Usually, those types of games don’t bring out the best performance from such inexperienced players.
As for the touting of the linebackers, well…you’re talking to “Linebacker U” here. “All-Conference?” Try “All-American” for us!
Last but not least of course, is the critique of our receivers…
THE PENN STATE RECEIVERS are a good bunch, but the amount of superlatives being tossed their way this offseason might be a stretch. For starters, the WR talk was similarly buoyant last year, and it failed resoundingly to pan out.
They’re a fairly solid group, don’t get me wrong. But WR Derrick Williams, who will move back to the slot this year, has never fulfilled the promise of a 5-star prospect rated No. 3 in the nation. You might expect such a highly rated player to lead his team in receiving yards by his junior year but that honor went to Deon Butler in ’07 — and he had only 633 receiving hashes.
The Beaver secondary recently lost Bryan Payton but OSU, frankly, still matches up very well here.
It’s rather hard to rip this whole section apart as I certainly have to concede that the receivers have not lived up to the ginormous hype they’ve received the past couple of preseasons. Not to mention that according to Phil Steele’s magazine, the 3 returning starters on defense for Oregon St. are both their CB’s and one of their safeties.
With that being said however, I see us establishing a solid rushing attack with our O-line opening up holes for Evan Royster and Co. to set up the passing game which in turn, will find ways to make some magic happen against an already tired Beaver defense.
Certainly, everyone is entitled to their opinion/prediction on how a game will go and I am not bashing the writer for predicting that Oregon St. will somehow get the upset, I’d probably do the same thing if I were in his shoes. However, it is important to realize that the writer makes a huge mistake in underestimating the fact we’ve got the personnel to run an efficient spread offense and that the writer overlooks the fact that Oregon State has had recent troubles performing on the East Coast.
With that being said, I very much look forward to what should be an intriguing contest come September 6th…