Friday, October 19, 2007

Malicious Internet Interrogation with Black Shoe Diaries.

Mike of Black Shoe Diaries and I have been going back and forth this week via e-mail in anticipation of tomorrow's game. You can find Part 1 of our exchange here. Part two is below, with my comments in crimson and BSD's in blue:
I'll come up with another real football question before we finish this, but I have to ask: did you come up with the name "Black Shoe Diaries"? I think it's the best name I've seen for a college sports blog. It's memorable on its own, and has a semi-obscure reference that only Penn State fans or hardcore college football fans would get, plus the semi-obscure reference to the old Cinemax show (not at all obscure to the college football blog demographic, of course). Well done.
Well thank you. I actually did come up with the name for the blog on my own. I wanted something different. The (insert team color or mascot) Nation thing is way overdone. You're correct that it's a play on the old Cinemax show "Red Shoe Diaries". I think the word "Diaries" fits perfectly for a blog because our blogs are really a record of history. They contain our memories, our thoughts, and our emotions as they pertain to our teams. Since black shoes are a signature trademark of the football team and our legendary head coach, Black Shoe Diaries seemed to make perfect sense. Some people think it's corny. People that never saw the Cinemax show don't get it. So reaction to the name has been mixed. But it's hard to forget the name so I guess that's what counts.

Now can we get back to football? I need to know about the Hoosier defense. I see the Hoosiers are leading the nation in sacks. I'll say that again. The Hoosiers are leading the nation in sacks. The Hoosiers. Leading the nation in a defensive category. Last year they only had a total of 14 sacks. This year they are already up to 32 sacks. What is the reason for the turnaround?


I don't think it's possible to fully explain how in one year, a team can go from being one of the worst in the country in a statistical category to the best. IU's two sack leaders, Greg Middleton (second in I-A with 9.5 sacks) and Jammie Kirlew (4.5) are sophomores. Number three is Ryan Marando, a redshirt junior DE who began his career as a linebacker. To some degree, it can be explained as talented young guys improving their play. If there's a scheme-based reason, it's beyond my competence to figure that out. Those explanations can explain improvement, but worst-to-first improvement? Hard to figure, but I'm not complaining.

The Penn State defense has been formidable this year, even in losses. Other than some garbage time-skewed stats from the Buffalo game, the defense hasn't had a bad game. Does the PSU defense have a weakness? In other words, if you had to figure out a way to score against Penn State, what would you do?


Other than Illinois, nobody has had success against this defense. Michigan managed to win when our offense gifted them a touchdown. Other than that they had one good Mike Hart drive for a score. Illinois had success running the option against us which scares me to death with Indiana and Kellen Lewis. But Illinois has Rashard Mendenhall to give them a second threat in the backfield to worry about. From what I've seen of Indiana they lack a similar threat so the defense should be able to key on Lewis in the running game and just react when Thigpen and Payton get the ball.

If I were an offensive coordinator my first task would be slowing down the linebackers. You'll see the Penn State linebackers are extremely active before the snap. They'll show blitz and back off or they'll shift around from left to right. Penn State does this to confuse the quarterback, offensive line, and running backs so they don't know where the pressure is going to come from. The Lions love to blitz Connor and Lee so the Hoosiers have to slow that down. Notre Dame was effective in doing this with a lot of screen passes early on. The Penn State corners are not great at tackling, so if you can get the ball outside the potential is there to break a tackle and get a large gain. Illinois slowed down the linebackers through a lot of play action and misdirection counters. The secondary can be exploited if the Hoosiers can keep the pressure off of Lewis.

It seemed like the Hoosiers were cruising along averaging well over 400 yards of offense until the Michigan State game. What did the Spartans do to stunt the Indiana offense to just 193 yards of offense?

MSU looked absolutely possessed in that game. They did a good job of putting pressure on Lewis to a degree that no one else has this year and also stymied any other rushing attack. The 193 yards, however, probably overstates the offense's futility. IU's defense was horrid, and MSU had the ball for 41:05. IU ran only 36 offensive plays, so the 193 yards (even skewed by Kellen Lewis's 59 yard run on IU's first play) isn't as futile as it sounds. IU fumbled a kickoff, had a couple of nice kickoff returns, and returned a fumble for a touchdown. IU did punt five times on 13 possessions, so it wasn't a good game, but is wasn't Akron v. Ohio State bad, either.

So, Anthony Morelli. I don't care about Penn State, but he even makes me nervous. As we've discuss, Penn State, with OSU at home and a bunch of games in which PSU will be the favorite, is in a reasonable position to run the table. Can you guys get through the season without Mirelli doing what he did against Illinois? I don't know anything about the rest of your QB depth chart. Has there been any controversy this year?

If by controversy you mean likenesses of Anthony Morelli burning in effigy all over campus, then yeah...we have controversy. I wish I knew how many picks Morelli planned on throwing the rest of the year. Obviously you never draw up a play with the intention of the quarterback throwing an interception so they're impossible to predict.

Morelli's problem is he trusts his arm too much. He holds the ball too long and tries to force it through the coverage. He's gotten smarter about taking dumb sacks and throwing balls up for grabs. But he still has a boneheaded moment or two. Usually these mental lapses come in the second half for whatever reason. Unfortunately, Penn State doesn't really have a viable second option. Daryll Clark is the backup. He's what they call an "athletic" quarterback, so he has a completely different style of play. But so far he hasn't shown any consistency in the passing game. Pat Devlin is probably the future of the program, but he's a freshman and not really ready to play. So for now it appears we're stuck dancing with the girl we brought to the prom.

1 comment:

Tim said...

A comment on one of your responses on BSD. When you were asked how Indiana could win if PSU managed to contain Lewis and Hardy, I totally agree with your point that the receivers are much more than Hardy, with Fisher and Means in there.

But you should have pointed out that MSU beat IU be explicitly selling out to contain and get to Lewis. It totally destroyed IU's offense, and I expect the same strategy from Penn State. What didn't happen against MSU and what needs to happen tomorrow is different play calling. Until last week, the coaches had done a great job adjusting the offensive game plan to fit the defense we were playing. Kellen ran wild against Akron and passed a lot against Iowa, but the adjustments weren't made against MSU.

They were blitzing like mad to get to Lewis and limit his decision making time, we should have been running quick throws into the flats to Fisher, Thigpen, Payton, and Sears. The play gets off before their blitz can get to Lewis, and once those guys catch the ball they only have to make the secondary miss to get downfield since the linebackers charged upfield at the snap. We all know Fisher and Thigpen can make people miss and Sears can apparantly hurdle defenders, too. I hope we see more of this strategy against Penn State tomorrow, especially because I expect them to bring the heat all afternoon.