UNIVERSITY PARK - It's a good thing Beaver Stadium has such a great sound system and Nittany Lion fans can enjoy all the classics, including everybody's favorite, "Sweet Caroline."
Because once the game starts - at least against the kind of opposition Penn State used to provide and the kind it once held its own against - there sure isn't much entertainment.
Before 107,846 Saturday, with the well orchestrated whiteout as the perfect backdrop to turn back the clock to the good old days, No. 3 Alabama presented the latest opportunity for the Nittany Lions to re-establish themselves as a national program.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still dumps Alabama’s Trent Richardson for a 5-yard loss.
Instead, the Lions reverted to their form as a whipping boy against the nation's elite.
They were rolled by the Tide, 27-11, and in the process dropped to 1-13 in games against Top 5 teams since 1994 - the last year Penn State, and its legendary coach, were great.
The common denominators in these hyped matchups are Joe Paterno and a terminal lack of offense as the Lions were once again held to single digits - which has happened seven times in their last 14 against the Top 5.
In fact, their best offensive possession Saturday, when the game was still a game, came when they may have set an NCAA record by calling all three of their timeouts on their first possession in order to avoid play-clock penalties.
"No excuse for that," Paterno said. "That's a legitimate criticism."
It was a combination of funny and pathetic.
On one play, the Lions tried to get too cute and, "We got ourselves in a situation where we were trying to take advantage of multiple defenses they use," and it wasn't necessary, Paterno said.
On another, they thought they may get an injury timeout for Chima Okoli, who was limping off. On the third - surprise, surprise - the play was late getting in and the Lions had somehow burned three timeouts with 9:23 still left in the first quarter.
"Inexcusable," offensive coordinator Galen Hall said.
And yet, the Lions still came out of all the three timeouts with effective plays, including two that went for first downs and took a 3-0 lead.
"We survived that," Paterno said.
But they also mustered almost nothing offensively the rest of the way, or until Alabama had built a 27-3 lead. The Lions dropped at least four very catchable balls and fumbled away two other possessions after healthy gains into Crimson Tide territory.
"Very frustrating," wide receiver Derek Moye, who dropped two, said. "As a receiving corps, we have to make more plays. Granted, they were tough plays, but we've got to make those."
The herky-jerky offense can't be totally blamed on the two-quarterback system, although Rob Bolden outplayed Matt McGloin and probably moved closer to becoming the full-time starter.
The collective 12-for-39 passing game wasn't enough to keep Alabama from crowding the line of scrimmage. Silas Reed managed 30 of his 65 yards on the Lions' first series and 35 in 14 carries thereafter.
"We're disappointed we didn't show what we can really do," offensive lineman DeOn'tae Pannell, who moved from guard to tackle after Okoli went down, said. "We didn't make enough plays to help our defense out."
Devon Smith missed a 30-yarder, thrown nicely by Bolden on the game's first play, and later fumbled away the Lions' last hope at the 'Bama 34, down 20-3 with 8:30 remaining. Andrew Szczerba's fumble after a first-down catch at midfield, with the Lions only down 10-3, was crushing.
"If you're not putting six [points] on the board, you're doing your defense an injustice," Pannell said.
To a man, the offense felt they let the defensive unit down - and, indeed, this kind of offensive ineptitude in the clutch forces the defense to practically play a perfect game.
It held up reasonably well, but it also failed to produce a turnover and twice missed chances to end Alabama drives with interceptions in the end zone.
"Part of our problem defensively is we're not getting turnovers," Paterno said.
The Lions' camp feels it's better than its 7-6 showing of 2010, but it only has a 1-1 record to show for it.
"We're further ahead, but when it comes to game time, you've got to put up or shut up," Pannell said. "Today, we didn't put up."
Actually, they put up about the same fight that they usually do when they stand toe-to-toe with a national heavyweight.
And there's only so many great songs that can take the sting out of that.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.