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THE KILLER INSTINCT_something to do with Penn State Football

October 6, 2009

So the Nittany Lions beat the Illinois Fighting Illini this past weekend 35-17, improving their record to 4-1.  The first half of the ballgame was worrisome, I really thought this was a trap game for the Nittany Lions, and, in that first half, they played to my expectations.  Coming off the loss to Iowa (remember my prediction?  Pretty darn close) and stumbling out of the top ten, the Nittany Lions, with their egos severely bruised and their leadership in question, were primed for an upset which, in my mind, would of started a season long slide ending in disaster (like Wisconsin last year.)  Sometimes teams can crumble that easily.

Holes so big you could drive a Mack truck through.

But then the 3rd quarter came around and the PSU running game ripped a total of 338 yards on the Illini.  Despite how terrible Illinois seems to be, I saw some really promising things:  the offensive line clicked, finally, and we looked, finally, like what we’re ranked (15th.)  It was also nice to see some of the swagger back that has been missing since last year.  We were having fun.  So, as I was telling a coworker in the parking lot today, maybe the loss to Iowa was a good thing.  Maybe we’re simply not a national championship caliber team this year and, with a top-5 ranking hanging over our heads, it was just too much pressure.  We were bound to choke.  Now with those expectations wiped away, and our ranking much more realistic, the team seems more relaxed, more confident.  Watching our performance in that second half made me think this team might just be a two loss team… maybe not what the Nittany Nation was hoping for this season… but a two loss team is what we were last year and that wasn’t too bad.

Another 10-2 season would be fine by me.

As for that Killer Instinct in this post’s title:  My buddy Joe makes a great comparison in his blog between Daryl Clark and Michael Robinson, Penn State’s star QB from the 2005 season. He raises a very valid argument regarding Clark’s Killer Instinct.  Now, my first knee-jerk reaction, based on this year’s Iowa loss, is to exclaim that Clark simply doesn’t have the offensive line that Robinson had in ’05.  But then, as my mind wanders back to last season, I realize Clark has yet to pull off a legit come-from-behind victory.  Sure, there were times last year when we were behind but, when it came down to desperate this-is-the-stuff-of-legend scoring drives (particularly against Iowa), Clark choked.  He choked just like he did this year.  Robinson, on the other hand, way back in 2005, pulled off plenty of them: there’s the miracle drive to win at Northwestern (watch Derrick Williams score the game winning touchdown and you might see me running along with him on the sidelines.  seriously.  the dude in the yellow shirt.), there’s another against Michigan (it wasn’t his fault we lost that game), and he even pulled us through for the Orange Bowl victory against FSU.  But, you might point out, Penn State won at Ohio State last season:  That was huge.  But Clark was out with a concussion, Pat Devlin was under center, and it was our defense that clinched the victory (by denying the choke master himself Terrelle Pryor of his own I-will-tell-my-grandkids-about-this miracle-drive of his own.)

Remember that guy?

Remember that guy?

So, as is often the case, only time will tell how, years from now,  we look back at Clark’s career.  When the pressure is on, a national audience is watching,  and Clark is driving down the field to heroically win the game… what will he do?  Will he complete the pass, winning the game for the Nittany Lions, thus adding another win to Paterno’s record, perhaps securing a second consecutive BCS bowl bid… or will he fumble the snap, throw an interception, and crush the hopes of a 110,000 fans in attendance?  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2009 3:29 am

    I’ll follow up on my post and yours here since I’ve had some time to think.
    An observation from the Syracuse game. The struggles in the red zone in that game can go on the line, but that situation is exactly where a great quarterback says “we’re getting in the endzone,” and gets it done. Joe Paterno likes to shield his quarterbacks from scruitiny (see Anthony Morrelli, Zack Mill, etc), and he blamed the fumbled snap on the center.
    The wild card here is that until the Iowa game Clark really wasn’t getting a chance to run, at least on any designed quartback runs. There weren’t very many designed QB runs in that game either. We finally saw what he can do against Illinois (though Illinois looks to have on of the worst defenses in the Big Ten). Clark has said many times he’d always rather make the play throwing rather than running, and his desire to be taken seriously as a passer might be holding him back.
    There is a reason the term “dual threat” is tossed around for mobile quarterbacks. When teams have to worry about Clark taking off for 50 yards (see Illinois highlights) receivers can get more separation while corners, safteys, and linebackers are worried about the quarterback. Plus, obviously, Clark has the ability to pick up long 3rd downs with his legs should he tuck it and go.
    Now, I understand that keeping Clark healthy is priority one for Penn State, but at what cost? If he doesn’t run in order to stay healthy and then the team drops a close game for the sake of that strategy the point is kind of moot.
    I guess a Big Ten title is still nice, and a chance to get to the Rose Bowl for a rematch with a much weaker USC team would be even better.

  2. January 19, 2011 7:40 pm

    european football is better. snobish smartass smug.

  3. January 19, 2011 8:03 pm

    i don’t doubt you. college football is less entertainment and more of a disease. often passed from the parents.

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