Following back to back losses to Michigan and Illinois earlier this season, the PSU football team dipped into a state of frustration. There was an element of infighting among the players, according to several of our observers. This escalated to the point where Joe Paterno said that anyone — player or coach — caught "pointing fingers" at another member of the team would be immediately removed from the squad.
Then the old mantra "winning cures everything" kicked in after victories over Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana, and the team "came back together," according to one observer. The Lions were in especially high spirits last week, as they prepared to tangle with No. 1 Ohio State.
But following a humbling 37-17 home loss to the Buckeyes, the negativity has — predictably — resurfaced.
"This team doesn't handle losing well," one observer said. "You should have seen the locker room at halftime. It was dead — no energy, no motivation, no fight. It was like [the team] had already put a check in the 'L' column."
As another observer told us, "The team just lacks leadership. You have pockets of it here and there, but … I don't know, I am at a loss."
After another big-game defeat, quarterback Anthony Morelli was especially emotional Saturday. Multiple observers report that he tossed his helmet in the locker room and complained about several aspects of the game, including the fact that the coaches went to backup Daryll Clark after Morelli threw a late pick six.
"He just lacks control of his emotions," one observer said. "When you whip your helmet every time something goes wrong and start blaming everyone around you, people start to just roll their eyes and steer clear."
As another observer said, "[Morelli] is just not the leader you need him to be. That is just the person he is — not everyone can manage the huddle like Mike [Robinson]. He never shoulders the blame. If you listen to [him talk to the press] after a loss it's always on someone else; it's his coaches or the play or his teammates — never him. People are just tired of it."
As another observer said, "You'd expect a fifth-year captain [like Morelli] to step up, take responsibility and right the ship. That's not his style. The ship has three captains, but no rudder to change course."
The team is expected to have a light practice on Monday and get more contact work in as the week progresses. The consensus among observers is that the squad is facing a pivotal point as a group.
"This team could be on the brink of a tailspin," one observer said. "They have not responded too well previously to losing, but they need to play for something. Play for the seniors. Whatever it is, they need to close out the season [strong] or this could be like the '99 season all over again."
Another observer said the Lasch Building was extremely quiet Sunday and Monday. "It's just a weird feeling," he said.
Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for continuing team coverage.