Monday, October 17, 2011

Some Things I Just Don't Understand

Three sporting events dominated my weekend: Penn State hosting Purdue, the Flyers hosting the Kings and the Eagles taking on the Redskins. In all three instances, things I just don't understand kept happening.

I don't understand Penn State still insisting on playing two quarterbacks now seven games into the season. I don't understand why some people felt the need to boo Mike Richards every time he touched the puck. And I don't understand anything about the Eagles at all.

Let's start with Penn State's hideous 23-18 victory over Purdue, which had plenty more things I just don't understand beyond the quarterback situation — though that's exactly where we must start.

I'm as guilty as anyone in flip-flopping on the Rob Bolden vs. Matt McGloin debate. After the Alabama game, I was convinced Bolden was the guy. But as the season has gone on, it's become abundantly clear in my eyes that McGloin is the better option. Chris Spielman and Urban Meyer both endorsed McGloin as impartial outside observers, and everyone who watches this team outside of the locker room sees the same thing: the offense moves the ball better and has more confidence with McGloin under center.

After outshining Bolden for weeks and essentially finishing off the game against Iowa in the second half, damn near everyone thought the quarterback carousel would finally be over. McGloin is the starter, Bolden the backup and that's that. So of course on Saturday, Rob Bolden trots out for the opening series and handles the duties in the first quarter as usual, and the carousel continues. Unreal.

Bolden led Penn State down the field on its first scoring possession with two big plays through the air, both to Brandon Moseby-Felder, but after that, he looked lost yet again. Those were his only two completions of the game, and the offense really couldn't do anything with him in the game after that.

McGloin on the other hand led Penn State on the remainder of its scoring drives, and the coaches clearly showed more confidence in him by dialing up much more pass plays for the junior. Don't get me wrong, McGloin is far from perfect at this point. His numbers weren't very good (8-17 for 145) and he threw an absolutely horrible, stupid interception, but it's clear this offense moves better with him out there. I don't understand why a team that is still in the mix in the Big 10 continues to rotate quarterbacks. I just don't.

One explanation that was given during the game is that Joe Paterno said one of his biggest coaching regrets is the way he handled the Pat Devlin-Darryl Clark situation, in which he ultimately picked Clark as the starter, which led Devlin to transfer to Delaware. Obviously it would have been nice to keep Devlin around, especially to be the unquestioned starter as a fifth-year senior last season. But the simple fact that Paterno regrets how he handled the decision to go with Darryl Clark proves to me that Joe really can't be involved in the big decisions anymore. How could a coach regret picking a guy who won a Big 10 title and had two 11-win seasons? He made the right choice picking Clark, and he needs to make a choice for this team. Yet he won't and it's hurting the offense far more than it's helping.

I also don't understand, even though it worked, why on earth Penn State went for it on 4th-and-1 with less than 2 minutes left and up 5 at the Purdue 10 instead of kicking the chip shot field goal to go up 8. I know Penn State picked up the first and won the game, and I know that Penn State's defense is good, but if they would have been stopped, Purdue could have won the game with a touchdown. And as hard as it is to score on this Penn State defense, Purdue would have had more than a minute and a half left, and the Boilermakers had hit on some big plays already. All it would have taken was a stop and one big play for Purdue to upset Penn State. Had they kicked the field goal to go up 8, there was virtually no possible way the Nittany Lions could lose in regulation. Baffling decision to me, even though it worked.

I also don't understand how tossing a ball up in the air after a big play because you're excited constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct, but that's what happened Chaz Powell, a la Jake Locker.

What I do understand is that Silas Redd is turning into everything expected of him. The sophomore running back had his third straight 100-yard game, proving to be a workhorse and Penn State's best offensive player with 131 yards on 28 carries. After a slow start to the season, the offensive line is finally giving Redd some holes to run through, and he's making the most of them. That guy is good.

I also understand that Justin Brown has star potential. With Derek Moye out, Brown stepped up to lead Penn State with 4 catches for 86 yards, including an absolutely sensational catch before McGloin threw his inexplicable interception.

He is definitely my favorite player on this team.

I also have to give huge praise to Anthony Fera. After doing his time for some off-the-field trouble, the do-it-all kicker/punter is showing why he was so highly regarded coming out of high school. Fera once again hit all three field goals, continuing to be perfect this season, boomed a few kickoffs and averaged 44.5 yards per punt, including an absolutely awesome 69-yarder that was downed at the Purdue 1 on a nice play by Nick Sukay.

And as always, Devon Still and Jordan Hill were beasts, though the defense wasn't on its A game this week. And that game was incredibly painful to watch. A not very good Purdue team hung with Penn State for 60 minutes. That's not good. I have to think this is the worst 6-1 team I've ever seen. For real.

I honestly couldn't wait for the game to be over just so I no longer had to watch it. Viewing Penn State is extremely unpleasant right now, even with that 6-1 record.

Thankfully I had something other than drinking to look forward to because for a nightcap I attended Mike Richards' homecoming to Philadelphia.

It was, of course, a homecoming for several former Flyers, as the Kings employ Justin Williams, Simon Gagne, Terry Murray, John Stevens and Ron Hextall in addition to the former captain. And as it turns out, the former Flyers had a huge hand in the outcome, with Justin Williams scoring two goals, Gagne notching an assist and Richards setting up the overtime game-winner in vintage Mike Richards fashion.

The game itself was a good, tough contest. Even though the Flyers suffered their first loss of the season, they still picked up a point, played a pretty good game and lost a tough one to a good team. Danny Briere and Matt Carle both tallied on the power play, and the Flyers had plenty of chances, outshooting the Kings 34-26. But they just couldn't quite finish it off.

The game itself was sort of secondary to be honest. This was more about Richards' return and the reaction he would get. When he was named as a starter prior to the game, he got a pretty nice ovation. After the first stoppage in play, the Flyers then put up on the jumbotron a note welcoming Richards back along with an announcement from the PA system. That's when he received a rousing, thrilling standing ovation from the crowd, us Flyers fans showing our appreciation for all the hard work Richards put in during his time in Philadelphia.

That was a moment to be proud of, though that feeling didn't last all that long for me. Why? Because after that initial show of appreciation, a good number of fans decided to boo Richards the remainder of the game every time he touched the puck the way they do when Sidney Crosby comes to play in Philadelphia, and frankly, I just don't get it.

Listen, I'm not going to say people were wrong for booing Richards or shouldn't have done it — after all, I wrote this. If you want to boo, by all means boo. I just don't understand it. I really don't. What is there to boo about Richards? The fact that he liked to drink and maybe wasn't the most vocal leader? All right, I guess. But I don't really get that when you look at the indisputable facts: Mike Richards played really, really hard every game he took the ice here in Philadelphia, he played in all situations, he was one of the game's best two-way forwards, he was the best penalty killer on the team, he threw crushing body checks, he was a really good player, and he wanted to stay here. He loved Philadelphia. He never said a bad word about the organization or the fans. He signed what he thought was a lifetime contract because he wanted to be here. I'm not sure what reason there is to boo a guy like that.

Sure, he wasn't perfect, but he was really good, worked really hard and loved being a Flyer. Doesn't make sense to me to boo him for that. He didn't ask to be traded. And I didn't see anyone booing Gagne or Williams, two other guys who were traded away.

I could understand booing him if he scored or something like that, because after all, he is no longer a Flyer. But to treat him with the same type of contempt as Crosby, a heated rival, I just don't get it.

Such is life. And regardless, it didn't seem to affect Richards' play. He was his normal self, doing a masterful job on the PK for L.A., manning the point on the power play, doing great work at both ends of the ice, and in my humble opinion playing as well, if not better, than anyone on the ice. He also had a Mike Richards special, leveling Jakub Voracek.

And he of course set up the game-winner with the primary assist on a perfect slap pass.

It was a little bit of poetic justice. And no matter what goes on moving forward, I will always be a Mike Richards fan. Of course, I'm a Flyers fan first and foremost, so booing that assist I completely understand. It's giving him the Crosby treatment that baffles me.

Then there is the Eagles. Winning that game yesterday was a very Eagles thing to do, bringing everyone back in just when you thought they were dead. And they did it all as some bizarro team.

We grew accustomed this season to the defense playing terrible football, especially the safeties, with the corners underachieving and the run defense as a sieve. Only the pass rush lived up to the hype. So naturally on Sunday, the defense played really well, surrendering just 13 points and forcing four turnovers. The safeties actually stood out, with Kurt Coleman playing the game of his life, picking off Rex Grossman three times, and Nate Allen continuing to look better and healthier, also intercepting Grossman. The corners took away the receivers, as only tight end Fred Davis could find any room to roam, and Nnamdi Asomugha even took out Chris Cooley with a vicious hit, finally deciding to do something during this 2011 season.

Furthermore, the run defense was impeccable, holding Washington to just 42 yards on the ground. Only the pass rush looked lackluster with Trent Cole absent. Like I said, it was a bizarro performance.

The same could be said offensively to an extent as well. Brent Celek, who had been MIA ever since Mike Vick became the regular quarterback, finally broke out with a four-catch game and a score, including an acrobatic grab thanks to his own doing.

And in some odd twist of fate or Andy just playing a cruel trick on us, LeSean McCoy actually carried the ball 28 times as the Eagles won 20-13. He also added 2 catches for 13 yards. Go figure that when you give your best player the ball 30 times you actually win. Seriously, LeSean should be touching the ball 25-35 times every week. The guy is the best player on the team.

This week, he did, and the Eagles won. At some point this year, he'll only get 9 or 11 carries, like he did the last two weeks, and the Eagles will lose, and you just won't understand.

That's the way of the world, I guess. Some things you just won't understand.


  1. You and I need to have a candid discussion about the Eagles....

  2. that unsportsmanlike penalty was a joke, what a stupid rule