Some gameday notes and observations while wondering if Urban Meyer ever left town:
Usually it takes the media to raise the issue of a letdown, but Joe Paterno did it himself during his Tuesday press conference.
And it did it quickly -- on the first question.
"I think this is a big week for us because there was so much pressure to win last week that I hope we don't have a letdown, because we can't afford it," he said.
Paterno knows the ingredients are there: The Nittany Lions come off their best showing of the season in a 13-3 win over Iowa last week and face a 3-2 Purdue team that most figure will be overmatched, at least by the Penn State defense.
And it's not like the Lions haven't looked past other non-marquee opponents before. Just look back to last year's game with Illinois -- also on Homecoming and also at noon -- when the Nittany Lions laid a 33-13 egg in one of the worst performances of the Paterno Era.
Maybe Illinois was just better, but Penn State managed just seven first downs in the entire game (only two by rush) and played with no passion.
With the remainder of the schedule expected to get more of everybody's attention, this adds up to the proverbial a trap game.
Maybe that's why Paterno played the letdown card early in the week and again Thursday night on his radio show when he was asked about it again.
Having watched/endured unimpressive displays against similar opponents in Indiana and Temple, Paterno night as well wave his yellow caution flag today.
Even if he ends up doing it from the press box.
SUBHD: Nitpicking ...
* Tough break for Derek Moye, who will miss the next couple of games after injuring his foot when he slipped down some stairs. Moye has not only been the offense's best receiving threat, he's been one of its best leaders. He's had to deal with weekly questions about the quarterback derby, and he's done so with measured responses that you'd expect from a fifth-year senior -- even one who has to quietly believe Matt McGloin is a far better option.
* Is this the week the Lions actually execute a screen pass?
* Brandon Beachum's possible return from a foot injury creates an interesting logjam at tailback now that Curtis Dukes, Silas Redd's backup, has played the last two games like a future NFL draft pick.
* Penn State needs to stop fumbling. It's put the ball on the ground 13 times in the last five games and 11 times in the last four. That's a ridiculous number. Worse, it's the root of some of the red-zone issues. Redd and Michael Zordich have fumbled en route to touchdowns. Andrew Szczerba and Devon Smith broke the Lions' backs and took away their last breath with fumbles after gains into Alabama territory. Rob Bolden's fumble (recovered by Zordich) could have lost the Temple game.
* If you don't get enough shots of JoePa today, either on the sidelines or the press box or both, he'll be featured on "Big Ten Icons," on the Big Ten Network today at 4 p.m. Paterno, with 159 wins since the Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993, currently ranks fifth on the conference's all-time victory list behind the Amos Alonzo Stagg (243), Woody Hayes (205), Bo Schembechler (194) and Fielding Yost (165). Incidentally, after he left the University of Chicago, Stagg coached in various capacities as an assistant until he was 96 years old. I'm checking to see whether he met the media every Tuesday.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.