Yes, a Joe Paterno-coached team never lost to Indiana.
And no, Penn State didn’t play or coach its best Saturday in a loss to the Hoosiers.
But come on, Internet. Settle down.
Check message boards, Twitter and Penn State football’s official Facebook page, and there’s been a lot of talk about the “new normal” — that a 20-point loss at Indiana, the first in school history, is the present and future of this program.
Take this post on a Scout.com message board, for example.
“I think we may have been premature in anointing O’Brien as the savior of PSU football. I know the sanctions have taken their toll on depth, Hack and a lot of the skill guys and secondary players are young, but still this is an embarrassment. If nothing else, we wont have to worry about losing our head coach to the NFL anytime soon. Once we get full scholarships again, maybe our new AD can see what other HC options are out there.”
To some, the “new normal” is a high-flying aerial offense with zero emphasis on defense or the ground, and to them, O’Brien isn’t the right fit anymore.
The “new normal” is getting blown out by teams Penn State has historically dominated.
But really, the new normal is that the Penn State’s football team isn’t perfect. It’s young and inexperienced. Talented but raw.
Bill O’Brien and his players want to be perfect, and they hate losing. But with 61 scholarships, a second-year coach and a first-year defensive coordinator, not everything will go smoothly. There will be several more days like Saturday in the next few years, but there will be much, much better ones, as well.
And that’s OK. We should have high expectations for this team, but need to understand that perfection is simply unachievable right now.
Most of what has been said by fans since Saturday’s loss is a gross overreaction, because that’s what fans do. When O’Brien was relatively unknown and hired to lead a program surrounded by uncertainty, these same people melted down because they wanted a big name. When Penn State dropped its first two games in 2012, they said the same things they’re saying now — losing is the “new normal” for Penn State football.
Then everything changed when the Nittany Lions finished the year winning eight of 10. Penn State football was back.
Last year’s success definitely raised expectations. Because the team got better as the season went on, that success was supposed to carry over to 2013 with no speed bumps.
Now, it’s criticism, criticism and more criticism of O’Brien’s playcalling and defensive coordinator John Butler’s preparation.
I’m guessing most of these people have coached as many downs of football as I have, which is zero. That’s fewer than O’Brien. So don’t act like a coach, because while we’re doing our jobs, O’Brien is putting twice as much time into preparing for that week’s football game.
It’s not just limited to irrational fans, though. Fans are irrational all the time, not just right now, so it’s not fair to isolate this incident.
Several former players took to Twitter to criticize Penn State’s performance against Indiana.
Certainly in his right, Michael Robinson tweeted this after the game:
Wow times have changed! I can’t remember ever losing to U. of Indiana. PSU has played well in spots but lack that killer instinct.
Robinson was on a 2004 team that needed a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter to upend Indiana at Memorial Stadium.
Times haven’t changed. Penn State has talent and coaches to utilize it. Neither party executed what it had to on Saturday, and that will happen, because this team isn’t perfect.
That’s the new normal, and it’s not a problem. That’s just how it is right now.
Steven Petrella can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @steve_petrella.