Picture this: Joe Paterno scowling at his team in the locker room Saturday night and telling his players they were lousy, which is how Stefen Wisniewski recounted it.
Paterno was only half right. Actually, maybe only 33 percent right.
Some parts of Penn State's effort at No. 1 Alabama were indeed lousy. The rest of it is as simple as this: The Nittany Lions lost to a much better team.
Mirror file photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State’s Evan Royster (22) has struggled to make an impact so far this season, rushing for just 72 yards.
Given the context and incorporating expectations -- which should have been tempered anyway -- there's no reason to look back and rip PSU's overall performance.
Those who do so should blame themselves for letting their hearts foolishly override their heads enough to believe the Lions could win the game.
That was never going to happen.
By the numbers
* Penn State dropped from 14th to 20th in the USA Today coaches poll and from 18th to 22nd in the AP poll.
* The Lions are favored by 23 points over Kent State this week. For all their issues, they should have two easy games (also Temple on Sept. 25) to figure things out before league play begins.
* PSU is 2-8 in its last 10 games against top-10 teams.
In the history of the grand old game of college football, no team with a true freshman quarterback has ever beaten the nation's No. 1 team on the road.
This isn't about moral victories. This is about realistically evaluating a highly successful program that's in a rebuilding year against a team that just may win a second consecutive national title.
Not exactly a fair fight.
So let's look back on the events of Saturday evening and, again, realistically evaluate what areas were encouraging, discouraging and downright -- as JoePa told the team -- lousy.
SUBHD: Encouraging signs
* Freshman quarterback Rob Bolden again showed confidence and poise in the pocket and in no way appeared to be in awe of the hostile environment. With more experience, he is going to be very good.
* Freshman running back Silas Redd attacks the hole and runs hard. Could he possibly be the best back on the team?
* Derek Moye is an excellent receiver who should go on to success in the NFL. His effort stripping the ball on the crazy fumble play was outstanding.
* The offensive line did better than expected.
* Collin Wagner kicked a 36-yard field goal and is 4-for-4 this season.
* Penn State actually won time of possession, which is shocking (30:33 to 29:27).
SUBHD: Discouraging signs
* Some of Bolden's passes were terrible -- way high or way low -- and his two interceptions easily could have been four. He also has yet to show any kind of touch, and with a blitzing linebacker in his face, he twice panicked and threw foolish passes that were picked off.
* Why won't the coaches let Bolden run? He needs to be taking off around the corner six or eight times a game. And if not, then Kevin Newsome needs to be coming in running the wildcat.
* Red zone problems (three turnovers). That's an issue almost every year.
* Anthony Fera is averaging 38 yards on five punts in two games -- in great weather. That won't cut it when things get colder in league play.
* The defensive philosophy of giving receivers so much cushion is maddening. It may work in the Big Ten with slower receivers who can be tackled easily, but it's downright silly to play that style against speedy guys. Alabama took advantage of it.
* Graham Zug has zero catches so far, after pulling in 46 last year. He dropped a catchable ball over the middle Saturday that would have sustained a drive.
SUBHD: The lousy stuff
* Tackling. Awful. Through two games, the supposedly outstanding defensive line ranks as the team's biggest disappointment, barely ahead of ...
* Has anyone seen Evan Royster? He has 72 yards rushing in two games, and while a lot of it is the fault of a suspect offensive line, Royster will start shouldering more of the blame for each week this continues.
* Penn State's vanilla, take-no-chances, keep-everything-simple offense is tired. Paterno plays not to lose instead of to win, and that hurts when trying to recruit elite skill people who would rather go someplace where they can showcase their talents.
JoePa's philosophy may have worked when PSU had better facilities than everyone in the East, more exposure and owned the region in recruiting. But since so many schools have caught up in those areas, the Lions now need more from their coaches in every aspect -- recruiting, game planning, creativity, adjustments.
The talent levels between PSU and Alabama weren't remotely close. But even if that had been the case, the Lions are often at a disadvantage because, as JoePa frequently points out, they get outcoached.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.