Better Know A Nemesis: PENN SHTAAAAATE

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(click the joepa for giant, nightmarey joepa)

We're joined today by two members of the content-heavy, "J Leman kills Asian people for fun and profit"-light PSU arm of SBN, Black Shoe Diaries. BSD's founder and namesake, Crotch Rotserpants*, couldn't be here today on account of severe rotten crotch, but his associates Kevin HD and Run Up The Score are answering questions and giving us all backrubs. Our answers to their questions are right hyeah. Oh, and thanks to 11W for the terrifying screen grab of JoePa.

You.  BHGP.  Sophomoric statement.  Go.

Kevin HD:  Your stadium is going to look like a big bowl of puke tomorrow.

Now, with that out of the way, Spread HD.  I haven't seen this many moving parts since Mouse Trap.  What's the secret?

Kevin HD:  Our feeble minds will never be able to truly understand the inner workings of Jay Paterno's, but we are getting closer.  We detailed some of the different looks they used at the beginning of the year with some success, but that formation has been relatively rare the last couple of weeks.  Evan Royster has emerged as one of the best backs in the Big Ten, and the quarterback has made very few mistakes.  The truth is, it's really a new approach to play calling rather than a dramatically different set of plays.  They pass on short yardage down and distance, run to multiple players and (most importantly) use Derrick Williams as a decoy with great results.
 
It's really a philosophy shift more than anything, and what really makes it effective/impressive is that they are doing very different things every week.  Oregon State was pretty wide open, and they heaved three bombs early in the Wisconsin game.  Against Purdue and Ohio State, you saw the traditional Paterno-ball.  What would scare me as a defensive coordinator isn't the crazy formations or less traditional plays, but the lack of a common tendency and, more importantly, the number of really good athletes that are all on the field at the same time.  Also, wide receiver coach Mike McQueary's red hair.

How good a pocket passer is Daryll Clark? We've heard he's great on the run, but can he win a game without using his feet?

Kevin HD:  I think he already has.  At the beginning of the season we all expected a more Robinsonish offense: lots of running plays, designed draws, option, etc.  In the first four games, Clark hardly ever ran the ball (number of carries in those games: 0, 5, 2, 5).  His carries have increased, but mostly because of an increase in third and short situations.  They rarely run him in longer down & distances.  He has just 55 rushing attempts -- compare that to Pat White's 102 and Colt McCoy's 93.

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I think a large part of this has to do with the circumstances.  Robinson was running an offense with three fresh-out-of-the-plastic receivers (two of whom were walk-ons).  Clark is playing with those same guys, four years later.  In addition, the offensive line is one of the best in the nation.  The pocket broke down quicker on Robinson in 2005, but Clark can get through his progressions.

As far as his abilities: he's finished below 60% completions just twice in nine games and his TD/Int ratio is 11/2.  I'm becoming a bit concerned with what seems like an increasing number of high passes; it's almost like he's too excited to get the ball where it needs to go.  The receivers have become very good at adjusting to bad passes, and so with this team, Clark can definitely get it done in the air. 
If he can't, backup QB Pat Devlin is a very skilled passer and showed in Columbus two weeks ago that he has the presence to manage the offense.

At the end of the Ohio State game two weeks ago, the coaches pulled Daryll Clark and put in Pat Devlin in the fourth quarter with PSU down by 3.  Devlin led two scoring drives while Clark (allegedly injured) threw a tantrum on the sideline.  Is there any hint of a quarterback controversy and, if not, should there be?

RUTS:  Clark was injured.  When the QB controversy was simmering in August, many Penn State observers opined that due to Clark's upright running style, he'd end up taking a few hits that would eventually lead to Devlin getting into the game.  At the time, I thought that to be equal parts truth and wishful thinking by Devlin supporters.

Clark has taken a few of those shots so far this season, and all football fans are familiar with the circumstances -- ball carrier gets crunched, his body goes limp, and the ball lightly falls to the ground.  That's exactly what happened against Ohio State (and to be honest, I thought Clark suffered a similar hit early in the game against Michigan).  Even after the Ohio State play in question, the Penn State offensive linemen were giving the "how many fingers?" vision test to Clark.  He remained in the game for a few more plays, even completing a few nice passes, but the PSU medical staff eventually realized what was up and took his helmet away.

There's no hint of quarterback controversy.  We're just happy to have such a cool, competent backup.

So, Joe Paterno is 83 years old, coaches from the press box, rides a golf cart to his post-game press conferences, and recently signed an endorsement deal with Flomax.  He's got, what, seven or eight good years left?  If not, I have three words for you: Coach. Jay. Paterno.  Discuss.

RUTS:  The great, unspoken storyline of the season is Joe Paterno's contract status.  That's his employment contract and not the one he signed with Satan, which doesn't expire until 2014.  If Penn State was 7-3 right now, every writer in the state would be probing for an angle on next year's head coach.  But how do you nudge out a guy who has an undefeated team on course for a national championship game?  You have to be (or own) a huge dick to write the "Who Will Coach Penn State in 2009" article right now.

Jay's reputation has been completely -- yes, completely -- rehabilitated by this year's offense.  He can thank society's emphasis on short-term memory, but in reality, he's always had a plausible excuse for his previous quarterbacks.  Zack Mills was a scrappy playmaker who slowly succumbed to arm injuries and a stunning lack of talent surrounding him.  Michael Robinson was barely a part-time quarterback until the 2005 season.  Anthony Morelli.  Yeah. 
 
Now, Jay has two quarterbacks that would start at 90% of other major conference schools.  Combine that with the previously mentioned plausible repudiations of TEH COACHING SUCK, and Jay suddenly looks pretty good.  Funny how winning does that.

Still, while Penn State fans are easing off the JayPa criticism, nobody is remotely willing to hand him the keys to the entire program.  Even if that is Joe Paterno's Secret Plan (I've often suspected it, myself), it ain't gonna happen during this offseason.  Now, if Joe hangs on for another year or two, perhaps an attempt to install a JayPa regime isn't far behind.  For now, the coup has been postponed, from all parties.  Subject to change.

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We're closet Penn State fans at BHGP; if a perennially rated traditional midwestern football power is going to run the table and get pummeled by an SEC opponent in January, we hope it's you guys.  Still, this is the third year of this "BIG TEN SUX LOL" horse shit, and we're tired of lovable losers.  The question: Are you bastards going to beat Florida, or do I have to call in Pope Delaney to excommunicate your ancient asses?

RUTS:  You know, there are plenty of PSU fans who would be thrilled at the prospect of leaving the Big Ten.  Maybe it's my eastern Pennsylvania roots showing, but Penn State is just not a midwestern school.  Another subject for another time.  Personally, I have plenty of love for the state of Iowa, stemming from my multiple recent drives between Pennsylvania and Denver.  The weird organic farm restaurant in Waukee.  The tornado we almost drove a MINI Cooper into a tornado near Leclair.  Good times.

Big Ten underperformance against the SEC isn't a Big Ten problem, it's an Ohio State problem.  Also, isn't it time to point out that the SEC is a conference with two really good teams and a bunch of disappointments?  LSU hasn't beaten anybody.  Georgia hasn't beaten anybody except LSU.  Auburn and Tennessee are disgraceful.

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Hey, if Florida ends up pounding Penn State by 21 points, so be it.  The winners get to say whatever they want.  Paterno may not be as thorough with the week-to-week stuff as he used to be, but as we say, "give Joe Paterno a month, and he'll beat anybody."  Except Florida in the 1998 Citrus Bowl, of course.

And you can put whatever faith you'd like in the transitive properties of college football, but USC lost to a team we beat by 31 points.  Not SEC related, I just want it known.  Also, you implied that Ohio State is lovable.  I'll expect a hasty retraction.

One more juvenile statement, preferably about Oops Pow's anatomy.

RUTS:  Oops Pow?  Surprise, he's hung like a Lego man and has the haircut to match.

Your stupid.--OPS

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*"Crotch Rotserpants" may not be BSD's real name. But it should be.

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