And so it begins.
Penn State football - 2006. I kept having to remind myself that it was September 2nd, and not November - the weather was probably as bad as it could be for an opening game (unless you play at Alaksa State) -
Donned in full rain gear - rubber bib overalls - it's just about as attractive as one can get - we made our way into Beaver Stadium early (yes, early - we did tailgate - but more about that later on the tailgate blog) - we got to see the players warming up, and hear the band (from the south end seats - no marching on the wet turf!), and sing the songs ("when we stood at boyhood's gate...") - and FINALLY it was game time.
PSU started out on defense, the first campaign (if you will) was fine - it always takes a few plays (at least it does for PSU defenses) to get acclimated and in sync - PSU's offense got the ball back - 2 good running plays and then, Morelli lets loose this rocket, aimed at the south endzone, where Deon Butler is patiently waiting to make his first reception and touchdown of the 2006 season - puddled rain off of ponchos and jackets splatters everywhere in the stands. It was a great start.
All in all the team looked pretty good. It was a miserable day - the rain never let up - and there was some sloppiness.
Posluszny was pretty quiet - he had maybe 3-4 tackles - but Akron ran every play away from him. Other members of the defense stepped up big time. Danny Connor had a breakout performance - 13 tackles (enough to win B10 Defensive Player of the Week honors), Sean Lee was swarming - they got to Getsy, the Zips touted QB a few times.
But the defense wasn't all good. Getsy is a talented and experienced guy; he was able to audible and change up plays to get yardage when it appeared the D had him wrapped up. Their running back, Kennedy, was all over the field - I'm really not sure that any other Zips made the trip. Defensive coverage on 4th down was nonexistent - I don't know if they were confused or unfocused - but that was not good. And then there was the secondary - young, yes, but they got in a few good hits and (the new) #7 Anthony Scirrotto had a good outing - he delivered some hard hits and had an interception. Justin King did not look sharp - I don't know if we have unrealistic expectations for him - but he reminded more of a former wearer of his new jersey number than that kid who played so valiantly last season - no arm tackles, no running toward the play, on one Akron reception he was 5 yards away from and had his back to the receiver. This will not do.
Morelli had a great opener - considering the weather, his 206 yards and 3 touchdown passes and clean pants at the end of the game are even more impressive - He surprised me; I admit it. Norwood renewed his tenure as the go to guy, getting yardage, first downs and (his first) touchdowns when needed. This kid is fast (they all are; it's great) and he ran some routes down and across the middle that were fantastic. All of the receivers looked sharp - TG (Terrell Golden) had a nice catch, but he paid for it - limping off the field - and Freshman Chris Bell had his first career reception.
But, there's always a but... Morelli looked sharp, yes. But that doesn't mean he wasn't pressured - and there was no run blocking - poor Tony Hunt was caught in the backfield time and time again - he had a few good runs, and a great touchdown run - but the rest of his day was dismal. The offense had a little trouble with the new clock rules - hopefully that will even out - By the end of the game Morelli looked a little scripted - he has talented receivers who saved a few would be interceptions -
Special teams need to get better - immediately - the coverage on kicks was not good. There were few botched plays, such as Jason Ganters stumble on a fake field goal attempt (and a fumbled snap) - but I'm going to give the field and weather a little credit on that - AJ Wallace made his debut in a big way with some outstanding kickoff returns; sadly, one of them resulted in a fumble - but hey, he's baby. The kicking was pretty good - Kelly was solid from a variety of distances, and, again, in crap weather. Kapinos was fine - I expect him to be a key player this season -
Akron was a good opener, and the weather was a good test. This week's game is huge. No speculation here - just some hopes that the front 2 lines (what ever configuration they may appear in) keep up the intensity and that the D backs bring it - some hopes that the O-line continues to jell and opens up some running lanes.
2 the Lion!