March 9, 2016
Well, the sun did rise on Sunday. Monday, too.
Though I was sure it would, sometimes seeing is believing.
There’s no better way to explain what happened in Columbus on Saturday other than that one hurt.
“They are who we thought they were, and we let ‘em off the hook,” in the immortal words of the late, great Dennis Green.
So, given that, here are my three takeaways from Penn State’s crushing loss.
1. James Franklin and Joe Moorhead are great coaches, but both are fallible
Part of the dread of Saturday’s loss has to come from the feeling of deja vu that most Penn State fans suffered. Just like in the Rose Bowl, Penn State had a late lead and the ball with a chance to let one of the premier offenses in the country salt away the game, and the coaching staff balked. Rather than letting Trace McSorley go out and win the game, they played not to lose it and it bit them in the behind. Franklin and Moorhead have been integral in putting Penn State way ahead of schedule in its rebuild, but Saturday’s ending surely needs to be questioned.
2. Penn State still lacks the depth to be an elite team
There are many reasons the Nittany Lions lost on Saturday, but injuries played a sizable role. Defensive end Ryan Buchholz left early in the game with what looked to be a serious knee injury. Buchholz has been one of Penn State’s best pass rushers and run stoppers and it was unable to replace that production, particularly after Shareef Miller was hobbled later in the contest. Later, Ryan Bates got rolled up on and was forced to leave the game. While Penn State’s offensive line was far from great prior, it was at least passable. After the injury, the Nittany Lions were forced to move Will Fries to left tackle and put Chasz Wright in at right tackle and everything began to fell apart. If Penn State wants to compete with the big boys, it will need to continue to build depth up front in recruiting.
3. Saquon Barkley should still be the Heisman front runner
Barkley was limited greatly on the ground after an early 36-yard touchdown run, but his impact in the kick return game cannot be understated. His 97-yard return for a touchdown to open the game set the tone and gave the Nittany Lions a ton of momentum. Additionally, Ohio State had to change its whole kickoff game plan, allowing Koa Farmer to get a massive kickoff return of his own and putting Penn State in fantastic field position at the end of the game with a chance to retake the lead. Barkley is still the country’s most dangerous player with the ball in his hands, and that was evident.