39 Random Thoughts on Penn State’s Route to Auburn

On Saturday afternoon, before a crowd clad in orange (except for the substantial and loud contingent of fans clad in white), the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Auburn Tigers engaged in a contest of American football. The Lions drubbed the Tigers, 41-12. I have several thoughts, which are set forth “randomly” below.

  1. 41-12 is a bizarre looking score. One of those scores that people might genuinely remember years from now – 48-14, 6-4, 59-0, 17-10, to name a few. I’ll happily add 41-12 to that list.
  2. That cartoon lion and tiger CBS put together at the beginning of this broadcast were amazing. Do they do this for every 3:30 game that I never catch the opening of?
  3. With the SEC exiting CBS and the B1G on its way through the double doors, this game serves as a nice transition for the network.
  4. I’m sure those execs didn’t mind seeing that score either.
  5. With all due respect to Chris Fowler and Gus Johnson and any other play-by-play announcer out there, but Brad Nessler and Brent Musburger were the voices of college football for me, and having Nessler and Gary Danielson on the call worked made this feel special.
  6. So, about that early hit where Owen Pappoe led with his forearms and decked Sean Clifford under the chin
  7. “Welcome to the SEC!” Uh, sure. Illegally. That makes sense.
  8. Look, I don’t think whether that hit was any more illegal than any other – at least not under any traditional understanding of football. But I watched Abdul Carter get ejected from a game for diving toward a loose football two weeks ago, so forgive me if watching a linebacker not even attempt to make a form tackle on a runner.
  9. The defense has played well throughout the first three weeks and I can’t compliment the Diaz transition enough. Handsome Manny certainly seems more aggressive than Brent Pry and it’s working.
  10. Pry was no wallflower and for a non-technical observer like me I can’t pinpoint the exact differences between the two coordinators or the reasons why Diaz does what he does. Is it because the front four can’t always generate the pressure they need without complicated schemes and coverages?
  11. The Auburn offensive line is solid but couldn’t get it going at all, and you have to credit the front seven for making that happen.
  12. After a questionable first week and an offseason filled with depth concerns, this linebacking corps is starting to come around. Curtis Jacobs played the best game of his life on Saturday and if he’s putting it all together, that’s a really good sign for this defense.
  13. Abdul Carter though, is the guy. The fact that he hits like a truck with his current frame is remarkable. Upside potential is through the roof, and he’s already become an impact player in 3 games.
  14. Kobe King played a solid game too. At one point early, he over pursued terribly but managed to make a shoestring tackle to avert a significant gain. He’s not as natural as the other two (or his brother is, for that matter), but he is going to be a good player here as he continues to gain experience.
  15. TJ Finley is having a rough statistical year, but I can’t help but feel like most of that stems from coaching. Either put him in an offense that can help him succeed or hand the ball to Robbie Ashford or Zach Calzada. The only one that made plays for Auburn all day was FInley, and he did it mostly when the actual offensive set broke down and it turned into sandlot ball.
  16. This was exactly the kind of game Penn State needed from the offensive line. Really solid against a good bunch of athletes up front on Auburn’s defense.
  17. Juice Scruggs has been stable and dependable, and his name alone is reason enough for me to cheer for him. But if he makes that block on the double pass, Clifford basically walks into the end zone, right?
  18. As usual, when Penn State runs the ball, good things happen. As has been true for years, it’s not reasonable to rely on Clifford to win games by himself. Complimentary offensive football creates successful drives by keeping the defense off balance and allowing Clifford to focus on efficiency.
  19. These running backs are special. There have been a host of issues throughout the last two years, particularly on the offensive line, but the lack of a natural runner and an explosive back really left everything in disarray. These two freshmen turned stalemates at the line of scrimmage into 10 yard gains.
  20. Kaytron Allen runs like Keyvone Lee should run.
  21. Nicholas Singleton runs like a superstar.
  22. Lee looks like a guy who can contribute on some level.
  23. This depth isn’t altogether different than 2015, where Akeel Lynch was solid, Mark Allen was a guy who could contribute, and Saquon Barkley was…well…the next great college football player.
  24. Nessler and Danielson talked about how Penn State hasn’t had a back like Singleton since Barkley suited up. Plenty of people spoke up for Miles Sanders in that discussion. Sanders was a really good player, but he never popped for me the way that Singleton does now.
  25. This discussion conversation manages to entirely erase Journey Brown, which is criminal.
  26. Singleton runs a bit like Brown – fast and tough, breaking arm tackles and getting extra yardage where it didn’t exist.
  27. Is Singleton faster?
  28. Even though Brown was a track star?
  29. The difference between this year and the last two is that these two freshmen look like natural running backs. They find the right holes and get the yards that are there.
  30. If Lee did that last year, the offense would have had more success sustaining drives and keeping Clifford clean.
  31. Singleton and Allen get the yards that are there, plus 3. Or, in the case of Singleton, 50.
  32. Have to mention Devyn Ford here. James Franklin called him one of his favorites in the post-game press availability, which is great. Ford seems like a good guy who has found a way to contribute effectively, even without a starting role (or even in the top 3 on the depth chart).
  33. After all, everyone has to prepare like a starter, just like Chad Powers.
  34. That kid hanging over the wall that CBS kept cutting to? I think he’s going to do that a fair amount this year.
  35. Honestly, losing by 30 to a Big Ten team at home with the current Auburn climate should warrant a coaching change. The fact that Bryan Harsin is still the head coach there today is a minor miracle.
  36. Who had garbage time minutes starting early in the 4th quarter?
  37. This was a beautiful afternoon of football. Savor it – how often do you get the chance to beat an SEC team like this in September?
  38. On to Central Michigan.
  39. We are…

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