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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Monday, Sept. 26. Let’s get started.
A last look at the Michigan mauling
There was an apology after Michigan demolished Penn State 49-10 on Saturday. An apology, but precious few answers.
As in their loss to Pitt, the Nittany Lions were manhandled on the line of scrimmage, giving up 328 rushing yards. And after a while, Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight said, the Wolverines didn’t even bother with deception.
Per Mark Wogenrich of The Morning Call, Speight said his team ran the same play “like eight times in a row” during an 80-yard drive in the second half, which resulted in the touchdown that gave Michigan a 35-3 lead.
And, Speight added:
“I can imagine that would suck to go through that every single play, having someone just run you over.”
It was far from ideal, and Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley was the one who felt compelled to apologize:
“I’m sorry to all our fans, how we came out and played. It wasn’t the Penn State that we want to be. It’s not the Penn State that we need to be and the Penn State that we are. That wasn’t us out there today.”
Although, really, it is.
The Lions’ threadbare linebacker corps was further weakened Saturday. One-time walk-on Brandon Smith made his first career start at middle linebacker in place of Nyeem Wartman-White, who was lost for the season with the knee injury suffered against Temple.
Wartman-White had moved from the weak side to the middle three weeks earlier to replace Jason Cabinda, who hasn’t played since the season opener because of an undisclosed injury. (He has been seen with a cast on his left hand.)
Then Smith was ejected in the first half of Saturday’s game following a suspect targeting call, which former referee Dick Honig, now the Big Ten Network’s rules analyst, said should have been overturned on replay:
Confused by the @PennStateFball targeting call?
BTN rules analyst Dick Honig gives his take on the flag, ejection. https://t.co/00nMjCZj7o
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 25, 2016
Smith’s replacement was redshirt freshman Jan Johnson, who subsequently suffered a season-ending injury. Sophomore Jake Cooper, who made his third career start on the weak side, took over in the middle, and freshman Cam Brown came on for Cooper. The other outside spot was manned by another soph, Manny Bowen, who has all of three career starts himself.
It is unclear whether Cabinda or another injured starting linebacker, Brandon Bell, will be available for Saturday’s game against Minnesota, a 3:30 p.m. (ET) start in Beaver Stadium that will be televised by BTN. Nor is it clear what options the Lions might have.
Koa Farmer has already been moved from safety to linebacker. And as coach James Franklin said after Saturday’s game:
“We’re just going to have to keep moving guys. Right now, we’re going to have a hard time practicing with the number of guys that we have. So we may have to continue moving guys in different positions.”
What is clear is that the next two weeks will go a long way toward telling the tale of PSU’s season. After Minnesota, the Lions host Maryland. Both games might have appeared winnable when the schedule was finalized. Now, it’s impossible to say.
Joey Julius’ legend grows
Kickoff specialist Joey Julius, all 259 pounds of him (or so), blew up Kent State’s Raekwon James in the opener, and struck again when he leveled Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis on Saturday:
That led to an amusing tweet by Lewis:
I got hit by a nose tackle that can kick.
— Jourdan Lewis (@JourdanJD) September 25, 2016
Statecollege.com’s Mike Poorman wrote about Julius and freshman punter Blake Gillikin, virtually the only bright spots for PSU on Saturday:
Joey & Blake sounds like a show on Nick at Nite and no wonder: They are part Drake & Josh, part Laurel & Hardy, part Ray Guy & Sebastian Janikowski.
At the rate the Lions are going, Julius is going to be enlisted to play linebacker before too long.
Arrington weighs in
Former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington has always been a bright, engaging guy, and on Sunday he concluded on Twitter that Smith’s ejection “had little to do with the game (and) everything to do with the way the NCAA dealt with the (Jerry Sandusky) scandal.”
And, Arrington added, “They are (embarrassed) by what they did and clearly have a target on the team.”
That’s flawed logic. If the NCAA was in fact embarrassed by the penalty handed down in 2012 — almost all of which has subsequently expired – would that organization not lean the other way, and be more lenient on the Lions?
Bad calls occur. The one on Smith would fall into that category, though targeting (and player safety) have clearly been points of emphasis this season. To draw a straight line from Sandusky to that flag is a tough sell, to say the least.
Here is Arrington’s full tweet:
Just my take on it
I could be wrong about the call
But I'm certainly not wrong about the NCAA having a target on the program. pic.twitter.com/ck2ChF4NWi
— LaVar Leap Arrington (@LaVarArrington) September 25, 2016