Penn State's players and coaches apparently don't understand the concept that when you point your finger blaming others, there are three more fingers pointing back at you.
The blame game was in full effect -- with daggers subtly being tossed around the media room -- following Saturday's 33-13 thumping by Illinois.
Evan Royster, who showed up to camp overweight and has badly underachieved all season, spent several minutes questioning his teammates' commitment and "want to."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Running back Evan Royster questioned the commitment of some of his teammates after Saturday's loss to Illinois.
"I wish I could get in there and play every position and play with the desire some people don't have," Royster said.
Oh, the irony. That, mind you, came from a running back who has looked disinterested since even before the season started.
Jay Paterno, whose playcalling has been horrendous, not only made a verbal jab at Royster, he spent a good bit of time saying things like, "We've got to find some people that are going to make some plays for us."
Really? How about the quarterbacks coach using some imagination and calling plays that actually were designed in the 21st century, instead of relying on a tired playbook from the 1970s that is easy to defend?
Stefen Wisniewski is one of the most candid members of the team and talked about how the players "have to practice every day with great intensity and a desire to get better."
Wisniewski should follow his own advice because, as a preseason All-American, he has been remarkably pedestrian at right guard and is part of one of the worst offensive lines in Penn State history.
There is blame to go around -- plenty of it -- and this isn't meant to just pick on Royster, JayPa and Wisniewski. No, scratch that. It is meant to pick on them.
Not one of those guys has come out and blamed himself for a lot of the problems. You know, like a true leader should do when the ship is sinking.
And this ship is definitely sinking -- to the point where a 6-6 season actually looks good right now.
Daryll Clark sat before the media, tears in his eyes, and put the 2008 loss at Iowa squarely on his shoulders. Say what you will about Clark's play in big games or that he's not good enough to even get a sniff in the NFL, but he exuded leadership and personal responsibility, as opposed to pawning off problems to everyone else.
Royster and Wisniewski are supposed to be two of the team's best players, yet neither senior was named captain. That, it turns out, was a telling sign this team would struggle with leadership.
It's obvious Royster hasn't played well. But it's absurd that a quarterbacks coach would call out a starting tailback in an equally obvious attempt to deflect attention away from his own shortcomings, and those of the quarterback.
"We've got to get a back who makes 'em miss and gets in the end zone," Jay Paterno said of the red zone problems.
JayPa may not have specified Royster in that remark -- virtually no one singled out names during their critical jabs Saturday -- but it seemed to be a clear shot across the bow at the tailback who's just 90 yards shy of the school's career rushing record.
OK, so Royster hasn't been effective. Still, the pathetic play in the red zone ultimately is the responsibility of Jay Paterno and offensive coordinator Galen Hall.
Yes, the offensive line is awful, and that directly hinders the red zone attack.
So it's up to JayPa and Hall to come up with something -- anything -- that can be effective in spite of the line's weaknesses. A fullback dive when everyone in the stadium at Iowa knows it's coming won't cut it, nor will trying to pound tailbacks directly into the heart of the overmatched line on obvious running downs.
The 80-yard touchdown pass Saturday was a beautiful play, with Rob Bolden faking a handoff, rolling to his right and firing deep to Derek Moye. It's apparently too much to ask to see a half-dozen creative plays like that per game, or -- beating a dead horse here -- to see backup quarterback Kevin Newsome running the wildcat in the red zone.
The Lions' offensive coaches have been so bad that even Ron Zook outcoached them Saturday. The same Ron Zook who has been blasted time and again by the national media for being a lousy gameday coach.
The Illini pulled off a beauty of a play on a halfback pass on third-and-goal at the 4 in the third quarter. The TD toss made what Penn State's inept offense has been trying to do in the red zone look like amateur hour.
Jay Paterno had an excuse for the lousy call on the swing pass to Devon Smith that went for a pick-6 in the second quarter.
"It was a good call on their defense," JayPa said. "When you evaluate plays as a coach, you've got to evaluate is it execution, is it a good call by us or a bad call by us or a good call by them. They had a great call on the play."
No they didn't. That is one of PSU's bread and butter plays, and it probably was obvious to the Illinois defense that it was coming once the Lions came out in that formation.
Joe Paterno called out the playcalling after the game, but JayPa refused to take any of the blame. Instead, he used generalized phrases like, "We as coaches got to look at ourselves, probably first thing, then we've got to look at who we're playing, in terms of are we playing the right guys."
One of the many things Jay Paterno can learn from his father is admitting when he's not doing a good job. We've heard countless times over the years Joe Paterno say he did a lousy job of coaching, which in some ways is him trying to take pressure off the players instead of piling on more by blaming them.
JayPa also opted Saturday not to criticize Bolden, who may be a true freshman but still has not progressed much through six games as the starting quarterback.
It's misguided and weak for Jay Paterno to criticize everyone else on the offense and not point the finger at either himself, Hall or Bolden.
The players see through those criticisms and lose respect for a coach who makes them, and Smith's comments about the problems being "kind of upstairs" after the Iowa game show that the offensive players understand where some of the issues originate.
Until the players and coaches decide to stop throwing each other under the bus, look themselves in the mirror, take responsibility for their own mistakes and do what's necessary to correct them, Penn State will continue to struggle.
Which means fans should buckle up for a long, frustrating season.
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.