Penn State is off to a disappointing 0-2 start, dropping a pair of very winnable games.
And there's just one man to blame -- and his name isn't Sam Ficken.
No, the blame can be placed squarely at the feet of NCAA president Mark Emmert.
The image-conscious Emmert is the man who caved to public pressure and slammed the Nittany Lions with multiple severe sanctions this summer in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. He imposed those penalties without conducting an NCAA investigation (instead relying on the Freeh Report) and without allowing the criminal process to play out. Still, he felt the need to punish Penn State immediately.
The penalties he imposed -- including deep scholarship reductions, along with bowl and championship bans -- will cripple the PSU football program over the next decade.
Emmert, however, also dealt a devastating and immediate blow to the Lions by allowing current players to transfer without having to sit out a season.
Several PSU players took advantage of that opening to leave a PSU program in turmoil. The most notable departures were running back Silas Redd, wideout Justin Brown and kicker Anthony Fera. If those three players had stayed in Happy Valley, the Lions would likely be 2-0, not 0-2.
Redd is leading No. 2 Southern Cal in rushing with 163 yards and he's averaging nearly seven yards per carry. He piled up more than 1,200 yards rushing a year ago in Happy Valley. The men who were supposed to replace him at Penn State -- converted wideout Bill Belton and former walk-on Derek Day-- have been plagued by injuries, and the Lions are averaging just 3.3 yards per rush.
Brown is the No. 2 receiver for No. 5 Oklahoma, averaging nearly 15 yards per catch. He's also averaging 22 yards on six punt returns, which is sixth in the nation. In his absence, only sophomore Allen Robinson (19 catches) has emerged as a bona fide wide receiver threat for PSU. The Lions' punt return game, meanwhile, has been downright awful, averaging a miserable 2.0 yards per return.
Fera, however, may be the biggest loss of all for PSU. He hasn't played yet for No. 14 Texas because of a groin injury, but he's listed as questionable for this week. The man who took Fera's job for PSU -- Ficken -- went 1-for-5 in field goal attempts in last week's 17-16 loss to Virginia. He also had an extra-point blocked. Fera was 14-for-17 on field goals and 20-for-20 on extra points last year for PSU. He also averaged 42.0 yards as a punter. This year's PSU punter -- Alex Butterworth -- is averaging just 38.0 yards per punt.
With Redd, Brown and Fera on the 2012 roster, it's probable that Penn State would be unbeaten heading into games vs. Navy and Temple. A 4-0 non-league start would be very possible heading into Big Ten action. With those three players, PSU could also do some damage in a Big Ten that looks to be mediocre at best this season.
Instead, Penn State is 0-2 and there are no "gimme wins" on the remaining schedule.
The long-range future looks even bleaker. Recruiting is suffering mightily, with several former verbal commitments abandoning the Lions in the wake of the NCAA penalties. Blue-chip recruits will likely avoid the Lions like the plague for the foreseeable future.
So Emmert has achieved his goal. He has punished the Penn State football program -- strongly and immediately -- for the school's lack of action in the Sandusky scandal. Whether that punishment is proper is a matter of debate.
But there can be no debate about this -- the 2012 Penn State football team is 0-2, and Emmert is the man most responsible for that record.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dis patch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdis patch.com.