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Cook: It will be a long line of losses for PSU

Sunday, September 14, 2003

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Hereís some news for you. As popular as it is to knock Zack Mills these days, it really doesnít matter who plays quarterback for Penn State. Even if Kerry Collins comes back tomorrow, it wouldnít guarantee a winning season.

Not does it matter who plays tailback. Sure, it would be fun to see Joe Paterno live dangerously for a change and give the ball 25 times to freshman phenom Austin Scott and see what happens. Penn Stateís ridiculous tailback-by-committee approach -- Ricky Upton for a few plays, Michael Robinson for a few plays and Scott for not nearly enough -- has got to go. But letís be honest. Larry Johnson couldnít rush for 1,000 yards on this team let alone 2,000.

The offensive line is that bad.

While weíre at it, the defensive line also is pretty putrid.

When is the last time you saw Penn State pushed around and so physically dominated the way it was last night in an 18-10 loss to Nebraska?

Thatís right, the same thing did happen the week before against Boston College.

Do you sense a trend here?

Get used to it.

We probably should have seen this coming. Paterno certainly warned us, openly fretting about how Penn State would match up with bigger, stronger teams. How could his offensive line not be weak? It opened the season with five new starters. How could the defensive line not be a concern? It had to replace Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Haynes, who were No. 1 NFL picks, and Anthony Adams, a No. 2.

But this bad?

Penn State managed 44 rushing yards last night. There was no place to run. Scott clearly has more talent than any of the backs and has the best chance of making people miss, but he carried just six times for 19 yards.

Nebraska, meanwhile, ran for 337 yards. Itís not as if it fooled Penn State. It didnít try to pass the ball much. It canít pass the ball. But Penn State still couldnít stop it. Tailback Josh Davis ran for 179 yards on 32 carries. Quarterback Jammal Lord ran for 100 yards on 20 carries.

Donít be fooled by the final score. This was a thorough beating. Seven times, Nebraska had the ball inside the Penn State 25, yet managed just one touchdown and four field goals.

The Huskers should have won by four touchdowns, six if Lord had even the slightest ability to throw the ball.

Thatís not Penn State football.

And to think, they used to be able to grow big, tough linemen on trees at Penn State.

Itís hard to believe Paterno allowed that part of the program to slip that badly.

Thatís why itís so unfair to put all of this on Mills. Yes, he has regressed. Early last season, he looked as if he would be the greatest quarterback in Penn State history. Now, he looks like Mike McQueary. His ball doesnít seem have the same zip. Certainly, he isnít throwing with the same accuracy.

But Millsí receivers havenít helped. Tony Johnson -- the one returning veteran -- has been a huge disappointment. He had another critical drop late in the third quarter last night, denying Penn State a first down near midfield. The other guys have been even worse, so bad that Paterno moved Gerald Smith from safety back to receiver last week.

But the biggest problem is that line.

Both lines.

The Big Ten Conference schedule looms for Penn State.

Itís going to be a long season in not-so-Happy Valley.


Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1525.

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