Lions can’t take Purdue for granted
For the first time in his Penn State tenure, James Franklin gets a chance to show how well his team can handle prosperity.
Franklin has presided over victories before, 18 of them with the Nittany Lions, but nothing nearly as significant as Saturday night’s one-for-the-ages decking of No. 2 Ohio State.
In that regard, Purdue presents an interesting scenario.
West Lafayette has the least amount of atmosphere in the Big Ten, it’s a sleepy noon start, and the Boilermakers have endured a midseason coaching change.
The combination adds up to a perfect recipe for a letdown between the Buckeyes and another home night game next week (Iowa).
On the other hand, as assistant coach Terry Smith said, if the Lions stub their toe at Purdue, they will have undone everything they worked so hard to achieve to this point.
To that end, Penn State is fortunate to be playing the Boilermakers (who were trounced at Maryland 50-7), rather than a more dangerous road opponent, perhaps like Indiana, which awaits Nov. 12.
In either case, because Franklin & Co. haven’t been in this position at PSU, it’s fair to wonder how they’ll perform today.
One thing in their favor is this is not yet a program — even given the win over the Buckeyes — that can safely feel that it has arrived.
Already-established teams are more vulnerable to letdowns.This year’s team still has much to prove, despite its impressive building block last week, and should not fall victim to the dreaded trap game.
The fine line between winning and losing is sometimes amazing. Had John Reid held a late interception against the Buckeyes, Penn State, down 21-17, would have gained possession inside its own 10 with less than five minutes remaining. Instead, Reid dropped the ball, leading to Marcus Allen’s blocked field goal on the next play. Though the Nits have shown quick-strike ability, going 90 yards against the Buckeye defense would have been tough.
An example of how beating the heavyweights is received: Franklin entered Wednesday’s Quarterback Club luncheon to a standing ovation.
Franklin dismissed it as a non-issue since the Lions never practice the traditional center snap, instead staying in the shotgun all the time. And yet, from this view, it sure seemed to be an unnecessary risk to take three shotgun snaps in victory formation last week, starting with a minute to play. As it was, the exchanges between Brian Gaia and Trace McSorley were flawless, but imagine if Ohio State would have pounced on an errant snap at the Lions’ 35 or 40 with 45 seconds left.
Joe Moorhead’s first year as offensive coordinator has generally matched expectations, and Matt Limegrover’s performance as the offensive line coach has been impressive as well. The Lions allowed just one sack to the Buckeyes, and replacement tackle Paris Palmer, benched last year, was serviceable in Andrew Nelson’s absence.