I haven't written much about Penn State this year because I was/am so hurt by what the university and the football program have gone through as a result of Sandusky. I still think that PSU and the football program are being unfairly punished for the horrible acts of Sandusky, but that's not what I want to talk about now.
The point I want to make now is that the football team and Bill O'Brien are doing an outstanding job of performing under very difficult circumstances. When I watch the New England Patriots I sometimes think, "Belichick seems to know stuff about football that other coaches have yet to figure out."
The Patriots have won more than their share of games over the last five years with a team that has only a few outstanding players. I think that the biggest reason the Patriots have been so successful is because of coaching and playcalling. Belichick seems to have an uncanny talent for recognizing the skills (and the shortcomings) of the players that he has available, and designing the Patriots offense and defense according to what his players can do. He then customizes from week to week depending on that week's opponent.
I'm starting to think that O'Brien has that same knack. O'Brien learned from Belichick while he was a Patriots coach, and now he's applying those same ideas at PSU.
Does anyone think that PSU is winning because of superior talent? Matt McGloin is a walk-on. But now he's considered one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten.
O'Brien has taught McGloin how to read defenses and make smart throws. The PSU running backs are a bunch of average players with above-average guts. O'Brien puts them in a position to do well by calling plays that take advantage of the defense's weaknesses. The PSU defensive secondary was generally considered in the preseason to have more holes than Swiss cheese. But O'Brien has worked with Ted Roof to design defensive schemes that use the best players he has available.
For example, instead of going with an extra defensive back (nickel), PSU has been adding an extra linebacker and inserting Gerald Hodges in obvious passing situations. It's unconventional, but it has been effective and it customizes the defense to best use what PSU has available. I give a ton of credit to the coaching for that.
Lastly, I love seeing the team sing the alma mater at the end of each game. I think it shows love for the school and respect for the fans who are supporting the team through this difficult time. I wish the team continued success.
PSU deserves support
Last week was one of the most exciting and well-coached Penn State games I've ever attended.
The team ran 99 plays and committed only two offensive penalties (and no false starts or delay of game calls). The only defensive infraction was a phantom pass-interference call.
It's hard to believe that this team, with a more sophisticated offense, has had no trouble getting plays before the clock expires. They now take timeout to discuss strategy, not to avoid delay of game calls.
I'm disappointed that the sellout crowds of the past who sat through years of uninspired playcalling and coaching have not returned to watch and pay tribute to the kids who stuck around, and the coaches who are making them better players every week.
McGloin as the best quarterback in the Big Ten? Who would have thought?
Polito's enthusiasm contagious
I was very saddened to learn about the death of former Mirror sports writer Frank Polito.
Frank was truly one of the real good guys who made this earth a better place by his presence.
For years he covered my team's basketball games while I coached at Bishop Guilfoyle. Players and coaches were always happy to see him. He was always positive in his approach, treated everyone fairly and never wrote anything that would hurt any of those young players at that stage of their lives.
In victory, he was almost as excited as the coaches and players and was genuinely happy for them. Who could forget his contagious smile, his enthusiasm for his work, and most of all his kindness and compassion toward all he came in contact with?
God bless you, Frank.