Penn State Nittany Lions Head Into Uncharted, 0-3 Territory After 35-19 Loss to Maryland

The defense didn’t allow an offensive touchdown in the second half on Saturday. I bring this up first because I want to get any smidge of positivity out of the way. Because. Well. Penn State sucked on Saturday afternoon against Maryland.

In my fairly young career viewership of this Penn State program, I can think of no loss more miserable, more distasteful, and more disheartening than the one we all witnessed yesterday. Yes, yesterday was even worse than the 2015 Temple game.

Perhaps the reason for the disarray is twofold. It was obviously awful from preparation to execution, but what made matters worse is there seems to be no obvious remedy that is going to change anything soon. The problem at its core isn’t the level of talent, Penn State demolished Maryland 59-0 last year. The problem at its core isn’t coaching decisions, Penn State’s coaching staff won 11 games last year. The problem is a collection, an assortment of disastrous player attitudes, pregame preparations, in-game decisions, inability to “move on” from previous losses, and apparently distractions.

Let’s start with the player attitudes. When Penn State dropped to 0-2 their hopes of a CFP berth or even a B1G title appearance went out the window. There wasn’t anything tangible to play for–for a team that had national aspirations. We knew this could be a problem. But the good teams, no, the elite teams, coaches and players alike, find new things to be motivated by. The best teams don’t even need to be motivated because their discipline and the way they perfect their craft is what drives them. This coaching staff and players don’t display that right now. As a good friend would say, “they don’t have any dogs on this team”. It’s hard to disagree with him when gazing onto the field Saturday. The defense again came out without a chip on their solider and has now given up at least 30 points in the past four games spanning back to last year (which is a school record). The offensive line, which was supposed to be a stronghold for this team, is having their lunch money taken from them. So why is this happening? Can this group of blue chip-caliber players seriously find nothing to play for? I get it. It sucks you can’t win a Big Ten Championship. You lost to Ohio State, again. But play for the pride of the university. Play for the coaches you came to school for. Or, at the very least, play for the guys like Pat Freiermuth, who came back just to win something.

I now feel like a recording, but the pregame preparations continue to plague this program. Again, Penn State starts out slow in the first half. And now, instead of it just being an offensive problem, it appears to be a lethargic epidemic, spreading to the other side of the football. Infecting a Brent Pry group that we typically could count on. Sure they lost Micah Parsons, but is that really an excuse for the touted defensive line to be blown off the ball? Does Maryland catch you with a nice wrinkle to your man coverage on the first drive for a touchdown? Yes, fine, I will concede you one mistake. But how do you let them catch you in the same coverage on basically the same play again? To the same WR? Maryland doesn’t have the armada of five star athletes that Ohio State has, they had one 5 star WR on their team and preceded to gut you with him over and over again.

Everyone who said this weekend was going to be close cited the same trend as before; Penn State doesn’t play well after loses. After losing to Indiana they lost to Ohio State. Last year, after losing to Minnesota they lost to Ohio State. Previous years, after losing to Ohio State they lost to Michigan State. It’s always been a trend and it continues to be a trend. Why can’t the players move on? Why can’t the coaches move on? If a team is expected to go 1-0 each week, why does it seem like we are looking in the rearview mirror? Why can’t we move on and beat teams we are supposed to beat after losses?

Finally, this team is distracted according to wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who continues to be the only star shining bright on this otherwise black hole of a season. After the game, Dotson said this:

We are not as one right now. We’re not a unit right now. There are distractions that we shouldn’t be focused on right now. We’ve got to be focused on getting in the win column, nothing else. We’re not a good football team right now. We’ve gotta have everyone 100 percent bought in, and we’ve gotta work. Monday is a day off. We’ve gotta see every guy in the building. Literally from top to bottom, we’ve gotta see every guy in the building, just doing something to get better every single day. That’s where it’s gonna start. It’s gonna start tomorrow. We’ve gotta have everyone 100 percent bought in. We’re gonna see who really wants it. Who wants to be here, bought in. And if you don’t, there’s not time for that. We’re 0-3, it’s time to turn the season around, and we’ve got to do something different.

Pretty outspoken for one of the more quiet leaders on the team. They say the best teams are player-led, not coaches-led. Perhaps this is the beginning of that foundation, because if not, well…

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