Penn State is an entirely different college football world. The amount of fans -- and not just lukewarm ones -- is astounding.
Fans donned "Tattoo the Roo" and "Whip the Zip" pins on their shirts, but it was a cordial atmosphere. Penn State fans are crazy about their football, but crazy in the respectful, welcoming sense.
I drove up there at 4:30 a.m. with two friends from undergrad, and we met up with five of my friends from law school. One of my law school friends is a season ticket holder at PSU (because he went there for undergrad), and you'll never guess how much his crew pays to tailgate in one of the main lots. Brace yourself -- $3,500.
That is a great example of how BCS football is just a different game than the MAC. Can the MAC ever field a team that competes with the BCS? Of course; we see it every week (and we'll see it Sept. 19). But the financial differences are almost as between high school and college.
With that said, it was a fun time and a great respite from my nonstop campaigning.
Here are the grades...
Quarterback -- Chris Jacquemain played OK. He didn't lose the game, for sure. He didn't do much to help the team, either. His slant route to Deryn Bowser was a nice throw. Jacquemain is not a mobile quarterback, by any stretch, but it's hard to say whether he could have done more to avoid pressure. If this is to be a successful season, we need a star quarterback, not one who blends in. I urge you to find more than one or two MAC Champions who had average quarterbacks. You won't. Is that Jacquemain? I think he's shown his competence and also his ceiling. Is it Matt Rodgers? No one really knows. Grade: C-
Running back -- When you're getting swallowed the moment you take the handoff, it's hard to make an impact. It seemed that happened to Norman Shuford at least four times. No fumbles is a good thing, I suppose. Except for Joe Tuzze's late burst for 16 yards, Akron's running game was a gigantic waste of downs. Grade: D
Offensive line -- If you have watched Akron play an upper-level BCS team in the past 10 years, this scene is familiar. The opposing defense normally penetrates the line so quickly that it's hard to blame the running backs for finishing with 0 or 0.5 yards per carry. Also, the quarterback is on his back frequently. Such was the case Saturday. A lot of fans, me included, thought this game might be close because Akron wouldn't be dominated in the trenches quite so badly. That was untrue. Penn State's front seven is mighty, and the Zips could not match it -- not even close. Grade: D-
Receivers -- With Andre Jones playing defense, Bowser was the go-to receiver. He missed some catchable balls, but he still had a strong game. Jeremy LaFrance was a pleasant surprise with five catches for 53 yards. There is no question he has starting capability. Grade: C+
Defensive line -- If you told me that PSU would rush for only 136 yards, I would say we would have a close game. The problem was, Akron didn't pressure Daryll Clark. In a 3-4 system, that's not necessarily the line's fault. Hasan Hazime and Dan Marcoux combined for 2.5 tackles for loss. Grade: B-
Linebackers -- I was impressed on several occasions with Sean Fobbs. He made some nice hits, including one that popped off Clark's helmet. Brian Wagner and Aaron Williams tied for the team lead with nine tackles. Mike Thomas intercepted Clark, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass, and made six tackles. Pretty good. Now if we can only design plays that get these guys into the backfield... Grade: B+
Secondary -- The secondary never really got scorched. Some nifty misdirection plays took advantage of Akron's poor field integrity, but you almost have to overpursue against such a good team. Akron's secondary only looked bad when Clark had time to lounge back into the pocket, sip his Arnold Palmer and fire BBs to his receivers. Even pro cornerbacks cannot keep their coverage beyond four or five seconds. The Zips MUST blitz more going forward. Grade: C-
Special teams -- The key play of the game was Penn State's fake punt that went for big yardage. You would never expect that from a home team that is leading by 14, but it happened. Branko Rogovic kicked well. John Stec averaged 39 yards per punt -- not bad. Grade: C
Coaching -- Sometimes I wonder if the coaching staff is so deeply entrenched with strategy that they miss the obvious solutions. Akron had no chance against Clark, who sat back in a comfortable pocket while his receivers had five seconds to get open. Their only chance was to blitz. After the first possession, it should have been obvious that Penn State was going to march back and forth down that field unless Clark felt pressure. It didn't happen. The pressure picked up in the second half, and (whadduya know?) Akron held PSU scoreless. On offense, wasn't it apparent that the running game was not going to work? Wasn't it apparent that Jacquemain needed another blocker? Why not have Alex Allen block, rather than take a handoff for a three-yard loss? Why not use the added protection to throw a few deep balls to Bowser and LaFrance, who were competing against green cornerbacks? The personnel just wasn't there for the running game to work. And if you want to pass the ball, an empty backfield is going to get Jacquemain killed. This grade would be worse, but for J.D. Brookhart's halftime adjustments. I hope (and darn near pray) that the coaching staff considers whether to give Rodgers the reigns next week. What do you have to lose? If he stumbles, you know Jacquemain is the guy, and Akron will still trounce Morgan State. If he excels, you might have your star quarterback. Grade: C-
One more thing... The ABJ is running a special section about InfoCision Stadium in tomorrow's newspaper. They asked me to write a column for it, so you'll see that in there.
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