Fan Psychology and Getting Old

This morning came, the dawning of a new day. A Sunday. Glorious sunshine . . . and the Steelers still trying to ruin it for me. Some things never change.

Like sports fans.

I don’t normally post things so quickly after a game. It allows me to calm down. Collect my thoughts. Drink some alcohol. Whatever it takes. I’m busy here, people. Busy, busy, busy.

But as luck or bad luck would have it, I had time last night and the inclination to post quickly.

It really bothered me that I wasn’t very upbeat after beating a team 38-17. What is wrong with me? Is there something wrong with me?

Back in August, I’d have been absolutely giddy to be 4-0 right now. Instead, I’m nervous.

Why?

The status quo has changed.

If we were 2-2 or 3-1, a shot at a playoff spot would be unrealistic or less likely. The bar would not be set so high. But at 4-0 and ranked in the top ten, that goal is so close you can almost smell what the Rock’s got cooking.

It’s part of being a fan. Of being human, really. If you win one game, you want to win the next. And the next. All of them! If you win a National Championship . . . you will want to win another. Won two? Of course you want–NO expect!–the Three-peat!

We’ve won four games and we want more! We want the Lion, dammit. In the playoffs!

But the way we are actually playing, doesn’t quite jibe with the reality we now expect. We know that four wins won’t put you in the play-offs. Who knows how many wins that will be? It’s maddening, really.

My fellow blogger, a real Turkey at heart, put it this way: “I guess I am never satisfied. Some will say a win is a win, but I am worried.”

I remember watching Joe Paterno’s teams in the 70’s and 80’s. Ugly offense and great defense. Three yards and a cloud of dust. I wished we had big explosive plays.

Be careful what you wish for. Now that’s all we’ve got. Ugly wins with flashy, explosive plays.

What happens when the explosion doesn’t happen? What if there is no spark?

Fans are always unhappy. If we run well, we complain that we run too much and don’t pass well. If we pass well, then we want more rushing. If the defense is great, we want better offense. If the defense sucks, then we want it to be better. You get the idea.

We should live more in the moment, and enjoy being 4-0 and ranked in the Top 10.

Top Ten???? How about TOP FOUR! The latest AP poll has Penn State leap-frogging Iowa to the #4 spot behind Alabama, Georgia and Oregon! Whoa Nellie! That bar is really HIGH now! We’re only #6 in the Coaches Poll so we’ve got some work to do there.

I also forgot to blog about my post-game experience yesterday. I was coming out of the stadium with our tailgating party–my two nephews and one of their girlfriends–when a man came walking toward us. Big guy. Sunglasses. Light blue suit. I know he looked familiar, but my aging brain couldn’t quite produce a name. Pretty sure he was a broadcaster . . .

Anyway, he points at me as he passes and says “you look just like him. Cappelletti.”

The young uns I am with–all barely college age–have NO CLUE who John Cappelletti is. My train of thought about the man who said this is now derailed for the moment. I explain to them that John Cappelletti is Penn State’s only Heisman trophy winner, back in 1973. The girlfriend is Googling him and looks at me. “You don’t look like him.” Thank you Mrs. Captain Obvious.

I don’t. But I was wearing my blue #22 jersey. I point to the number and explained to her that I think he was jokingly referring to my jersey because Cappy wore #22.

We get back to the car and I overhear someone at another tailgate make a comment about Matt Millen.

MATT FREAKING MILLEN! OMG!!!!!

The bells are going off! That was Matt Millen. Matt Millen said I looked like John Cappelletti. It was Matt Millen! And I missed a photo op! I was afraid to stop because I know I should have known who he was but I couldn’t come up with the name that quickly. Curse this aged brain of mine!

What Could Have Been!

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Vanilla-nova

On a glorious, sunny autumn afternoon, the Penn State Nittany Lions, keyed by several big plays, defeated the upstart and upset-minded Wildcats of Villanova 38-17 before an alleged crowd of 105,790 fans. Really? Who is counting here? SEC refs? We had 109,000 last week and I can assure you there were more than 4,000 empty seats. I counted at least 23 myself before I lost interest and the stadium music drowned out my thoughts.

How can such a big win leave one so ill at ease?

Is it the complete and utter LACK of a running attack? Eighty yards? Against a basketball school?

We had four plays over 50 yards. But try to get one yard on the ground? It’s like sitting through a root canal.

Take away just two of those explosive plays, and this is a much closer game. It almost ended up 38-24 if not for the replay booth over-turning a fumble, scoop and score in the waning moments of the game.

Of course, things could be worse. We are 4-0. We could be Clemson, who lost their second game of the year to the NC Wolfpack 27-21. We could be Minnesota, losing to Bowling Green 14-10. We could be Wisconsin, who apparently only plays well if they can jump around Camp Randall. The Badgers gave up 31 points in the fourth quarter to allow the belligerent leprechauns to win 41-13. We could be Auburn, who was trailing Georgia State late in the fourth quarter, but scored 14 points (including a pick six while the Bulldogs were driving to win the game.) Is it still a full moon?!?!?

And how about the Ohio State player who apparently quit in the middle of the game?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to be 4-0 at this point. One game at a time. But where is the improvement? We still have a lot of really tough games to play yet. Talent? We got it. But can we win?

It took one play for the offense to score in the first half. It took TWO plays to score in the second half. There is no improvement there.

BTW: Thoughts and prayers to Tyler Will, who was knocked unconscious on the opening kick off the second half. The last I heard he was alert and being treated for a concussion. It almost seemed wrong for Penn State to score on that drive, but I recall Ohio State scoring after they carted Adam Taliaferro off the field paralyzed. The game goes on. Life goes on. I just hope Tyler recovers well. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. Not someone’s life.

Our offensive philosophy seemed very vanilla. If our goal was to work on the running game, they hid it well. Penn State amassed 429 yards in the air and four touchdown throws from Clifford the Big Blue Lion. He did throw one interception but it was a bobbled ball and not really his fault.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Villanova eked out an advantage in time of possession, 31:15 to 28:45. And while we only had 80 yards rushing, the Wildcats only managed 58! The staggering advantage was in the passing game where PSU posted 429 yards to Nova’s 222.

Each team had an interception. Penn State almost had a pick six, but couldn’t quite hold on to the ball.

Stoudt inexplicably kicked one out of bounds. Looked like one of my tee shots. Just ugly.

INTANGIBLES:

The Drum Major stuck both flips.

Penn State lead the all-time series 5-1-1.

4-0.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Iowa struggled early, trailing the Colorado State Rams at the half. But their D pitched a second half shut out and they cruised to a 24-14 win at home.

At the time of this typing, the Buckeyes are going nuts all over hapless Akron. It’s 52-7 and not over yet. I can’t believe the Zips scored 7. They should fire Day.

As I mentioned earlier, Bowling Green bowled over the Gophers 14-10. Michigan defeated the Knights that say Rutgers 20-13. Northwestern pasted Ohio (not THE Ohio State, but the other Ohio) 35-6.

The Terps clobbered Kent State 37-16, while the Boilermakers edged the Illini 13-9. The Spartans defeated the Huskers 23-20 in overtime at Spartan Stadium.

And as of this moment, Indiana is narrowly ahead of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 26-24 with the game just starting the fourth quarter.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Indiana team currently struggling with the hillbillies of Western Kentucky, comes to Beaver Stadium next Saturday for another late 7:30 game. I here it is a STRIPE OUT. Wear stripes. I have no idea if they should be vertical or horizontal. Go vertical. They’ll make you look thinner.

Indiana has lost to some highly ranked teams, Iowa and Cincinnati, but soundly thumped Idaho–no you da hoe- 56-14. The Hawkeyes won 34-6 and the Cincy game was closer, with the Bearcats winning. The fact they are now struggling with the Hilltoppers makes me think they were either looking ahead to the Stripe Out, or they’re not that good. Or Western Kentucky is better. Or how did Ball State lose to Toledo? It’s been a crazy week!

I’m too tired right now to predict this game. I’ll try to get back to you on that later this week.

GO STATE! BEAT HOOSIERS!

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Scouting Villanova

Chevy Nova? Heard of that. Super Nova? Astronomical event. Just Nova? Watched it on PBS. But what exactly is a Villanova?

In Latin, it means New Town.

In Spanish, Nova means not going or no go. Funny story . . . . they had trouble selling the Chevy Nova in Mexico because no one wanted to buy a car that it’s name meant “no go.” Villa means town. Which gives us what? A town not going . . . anywhere?

But slightly more seriously, Villanova is a Catholic University in the suburbs of Philadelphia founded by Augustinian friars and named after St. Thomas of Villanova. And while the name is common amongst basketball fans, it is a rather obscure reference for football aficionados.

Villanova apparently plays football in the Colonial Athletic Association. They are currently 3-0 and 1-0 in that conference. In the abbreviated 2020 season they went 2-2 in conference, third in the north division and were ranked 16th. In the nation? In the conference–I don’t think there are sixteen teams in that conference? Sixteenth among FCS–not FBS teams. We’ll leave it at that.

Sagarin ranks Nova at 143. (Penn State is #10 on his list.) What does that mean? Probably not a hell of a lot, but to put it in some perspective, his computer ranking puts Incarnate Word (is that really a school or does he throw that in there to see if we’re paying attention?!?!?,) Georgia Southern, Austin Peay, Kennesaw State, Charlotte, Princeton and Harvard are all ranked ahead of Villanova. Ball State (who is now 1-2) is at 108!

A little better X’s and O’s read can be found here. Mark and Nirav discuss offense and defense for both teams. Basically, Penn State is bigger, better, faster and has more depth. We taste great and are less filling! Penn State could lose, but should not. But don’t take the Wildcats lightly. Think top tier FCS is comparable to mid-tier FBS. Maybe? Maybe not. But FCS teams do stun the big boys occasionally. They have really nothing to lose and the world to gain. Villanova apparently has a good quarterback who likes to throw deep, but can run as well. As I read their review, I’m picturing a Trace McSorley kind of player. Villanova’s defense apparently is a turn-over machine, so we have to guard against sloppy play on our part. Read their game guide though. It’s worth a couple minutes.

The weather looks to be a non-factor. Well, bad weather might help Villanova, but that ain’t gonna happen, God willing and the crick don’t rise!

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Defending Nova

Well alright then. How can you defend against THAT?????

And what up with da Michigan helmets. Giving me PTSD!

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AU Revoir AU Burn!

LIONS AUBURNING DOWN THE HOUSE!

On a night of tradition, pageantry and poor officiating, the Nittany Lions defeated the Auburn War Eagle Tigers 28-20 before a crowd of 109, 958 mostly white-clad fans in the Greatest Show in College Football.  Oh. What a night!

Despite a rather large number of Auburn fans—the top tiers of the stadium coated the white-out like a creamsicle—the stadium rocked for four quarters.  Hardly anyone left early—why would you?!?!?!  And while this electrified the atmosphere, it made for quite a few unhappy fans trying to get home at midnight.  Honestly, I have never seen the stadium that full as time ran out.  And the normal rush to leave was a mere trickle of fans as most of us stayed behind to savor the sweet victory!

WE ARE Blimp-worthy!

Omens or what? Just before game time, despite no actual rain in the stadium area, there appeared a rainbow over the stadium. That has to be a good sign right? But what about the almost full moon . . .

That’s no space station . . . that’s a MOON!

Some random thoughts in no particular order . . .

Officiating?  I don’t even know where to begin.  Intentional grounding?  Intentionally not called the other way?  First down on fourth or bad spot?  And where the hell did the down go?  This isn’t common core math people.  You only need one hand to count four downs!  You shouldn’t need a calculator, let alone a review to the booth—that still got it wrong anyway!   All I can say is THANK GOD it didn’t affect the outcome of the game!

In a way I liked the fake punt call.  Gutsy but not well executed.  As I watched our guys  huddle before the punt and then run to the line, I thought “Oh My God, we’re going to fake a punt!”  I’m absolutely sure the defense thought the same thing.  I think we telegraphed it too much.  We should have just left our offense on the field and got the ball to one of our playmakers, instead of trying a special teams gimmick.  But alas, hindsight is always 20/20.

A lateral and a pass!  I like it!  Heard one fan opine they wished we saved it for Ohio State.  I don’t know.  Auburn might be better than Ohio State at this point.  And maybe there are some more tricks in Yurcich’s bag yet to be played! Sean Clifford was even out as a receiver. Setting up something for later????

By the way.  I was impressed with Auburn.  Offense and defense.  I really thought they were over-rated, hadn’t played anyone, and would crumble under the white out atmosphere.  They damned near pulled off the upset.  I am impressed.  I met one Auburn fan in the stadium store who was asking about Penn State hockey.  He proudly pointed out that although he was wearing an Auburn shirt, it was WHITE.  He wore a white shirt to our stadium for our white out.  Again.  I was impressed!

Interesting bit of trivia . . . when Penn State first played Auburn in the 1996 Outback Bowl, which they won 43-14, the quarterback was Patrick Nix. This weekend, Penn State beat Auburn 28-20, led by Patrick Nix’s son Bo!

That said, if I have to hear the name Tank Bigsby one more time, it will be one more too many.  The man is a tank!   But seriously, every time they said his name, I’m thinking . . .

They said it has been 90 years since Auburn traveled north to face a Big Ten Opponent.  I’m guessing they aren’t coming back for another 90 years!  They’re like the Haley’s Comet of football!

BY THE NUMBERS:

Penn State outscored the Tigers, and won the total yardage stat, 396 to 367.  But Auburn’s offense was more balanced and the Lions only managed 84 yards on the ground.  Is this a concern?  Again, I was impressed by Auburn’s defense so I’m not ready to panic yet.  But it sure would be nice to grind out some yards in the fourth quarter and chew up some clock.

PSU again “won” the turn-over battle, but barely.  Clifford did throw one up for grabs  right before the end of the first half that was grabbed by Auburn.  We could have had 3-7 more points there that we left on the field.  But Auburn equaled the TO margin with a fumble to open the second half which we converted to points.  Advantage PSU.

Clifford had an 87.5% completion percentage which according to ESPN, was the highest for a PSU QB in 25 years.  Not too shabby!

INTANGIBLES:

White. Out.  Say. No. More.

The attendance of 109,958 fans ranked 9th all time at Beaver Stadium.  Contrast that with Ohio State who, playing Tulsa, had 76,540 fans—their lowest attendance figure in half a century!  Of course, comparing Tulsa to Auburn is like comparing apples to orange colored fans.  But I digress.

Penn State is 2-1 versus Auburn all-time and will face them next season at Auburn.

Penn State has won seven games in a row.

Saquon Barkley, Michael Mauti and Adam Taliaferro all made appearances on the field during the game.

The Drum Major stuck both flips!  Two of the three Big Uglies were at the game.  I saw some other ugly people, but they are everywhere.  And this Yeti creature . . .

And this dude.  He looks familiar . . .

But the highlight of the tailgating came post-game.  We’re sitting in Lot 18 waiting, drinking beer and watching the traffic go nowhere, when a man came by pushing a shopping cart.  With pretzels in it.  He’s yelling “soft pretzels for sale!”  We watch in amusement as he continues on.  I look at my son and say, “I’ve never seen that before.”  He replies, “No.  But it kind of makes me hungry for a pretzel.”  Someone else said he probably found them in a dumpster.  Appetite gone.  But the story gets better.

Not more than five or ten minutes later, ANOTHER guy—who quite frankly looked like a homeless guy, not to be stereotypical here but he did—comes back from the direction the first pretzel guy went, with what looked like the same shopping cart full of pretzels!  And he’s booking it, although still yelling pretzels for sale!  I’m thinking the first pretzel guy is in some dark corner of the campus bleeding to death and this guy just stole his franchise!  You can’t make this stuff up!  Totally random!

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Let’s start with the losers this week:

The Irish pasted Purdue 27-13.  Duke nipped Northwestern 30-23.  Cincinnati battered Indiana 38-24.    The Sooners survived Nebraska 23-16.

And the winner’s are . . .

Iowa topped Kent State 30-7.  The Buckeyes trampled Tulsa 41-20.  Michigan wolfed down NIU 63-10 while the Spartans harried the Hurricanes  38-17.  And little ole Rutgers knighted Delaware 45-13.  Minnesota buffaloed Colorado 30-0.  Maryland turtled past Illinois 20-17 in the only matchup between Big Ten teams. 

The Lions are now ranked 6th in the AP poll and 8th in the Coaches Poll! Iowa is the only Big Ten team ranked ahead of us on both polls (5th and 6th.)

Dr. Blue N. White: Great Scott Sparty! Penn State created 1.21 Gigawatts of Power!

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Lions host cross-state “rival” Villanova next Saturday at NOON.  Yes!  Noon. 

The Wildcats are also 3-0 with victories over Lehigh (47-3), Bucknell (55-3) and Richmond (34-27.)  Which means, like last week, we have no idea how good this team is. 

The all-time series is won by PSU 4-1-1.  The Wildcats won the last meeting 27-6 on September 24, 1949.

OddsShark has PSU 29.5 point favorites, predicting a Penn State victory but noting they think Nova will cover the spread.

I look for the Lions to be lackluster.  The emotion of Wisconsin and Auburn is going to take its toll.  I don’t think we are going to want to show any new wrinkles to future opponents.  I hope we work on the ground game and run blocking.  I also pray we don’t have any injuries or stupid ejections.

I’m gonna say PSU 41-10.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if the D doesn’t pitch a shut out if they play with any enthusiasm.

GO STATE!  BEAT WILDCATS!

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BO-FLINGER

Don’t miss the season premier this Saturday night of BO-FLINGER, where James Franklin takes on the evil Au-Burn Boflinger (played by Bryan Harsin) who plans to invade Fort Nittany and destroy the White Out forever! BoFlinger will be assisted by Odd Job Bo Nix. Aided by Brent “Q” Pry, and a host of Nittany Lions, can James Franklin save the day? We shall see . . .

Don’t forget to look for Pussy Galore in the student section!

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Make Some Noise!!!

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Game Day Atmosphere

I wanted to touch on some items that I did not include in my game recap. Primarily this is because I forgot all about them. I’m getting old. Deal with it.

First off, I had major reservations (if they had been at McDonald’s they would have been McReservations) about the traffic, parking, and new security and ticketing system.

If you are a season ticket holder, you know what I am talking about. If you watch the games on TV, you might as well go back to ESPN.com, Facebook, or the porn site you like to surf, because very little of the rest of this post applies to you. Or head down to the video which I found really interesting.

Penn State went mobile, and we’re not talking about the quarterback here. All tickets were delivered electronically, to be downloaded to your phone and then scanned at the game. Paper tickets are apparently still available upon request, for an ADDITIONAL FEE. $65.00.

When you try something new, when it has been done another way since 1960, you can expect there will be some push back. For me, the mobile ticket wasn’t a big deal. I have a smart phone. I’m a little tech savvy. My concern was that I would be stuck behind a line of disgruntled, tech-less fans who bottlenecked the lines getting into the stadium.

I left earlier than I would have to get to the parking spot. I left the spot earlier to get into the stadium–the countdown clock was 78 minutes till game time. What the hell am I going to do now for 78 minutes????

For the record, the day was one of the smoothest ever. No issues driving to the stadium (I use the NORTH path coming in from Toftrees on Fox Hollow Road.) I park in Lot 18. No lines at the port-a-potties. No trouble going through the metal detector or scanning the tickets.

OK. I didn’t know you had to transfer tickets at the ticketmaster level and couldn’t transfer them from my apple wallet. Live and learn.

The Blue Band entrance brought goosebumps. I love Living on a Prayer and Sweet Caroline. Zombie Nation.

But when the crowd cheered We Want the Lion, the Lion went over, jumped up in the stands, and promptly fell from view. He sank faster than the Titanic. I don’t even think he made it to the top of the stands. It was like the students did not know what to do. Come on! We only missed a year! Or, our mascot put on a few COVID pounds. Need to work on that guys.

We tailgated afterwards to allow traffic to thin out, and left the stadium with NO ISSUES.

Now part of Penn State’s success on this might be that it was a 3:30 game. That spreads the traffic out from 8-3:00 for people coming in. Next week will see more people, but a 7:30 game means more time to get every one in. The real test will be when we play Villanova at noon–with only a four hour window to get 100,000 fans in the door.

Which reminds me: NOT EVERYONE want to come at 8:00 like you do and play corn hole for seven hours. The hatch mark lines painted on the parking lot aren’t there for your games–they are there to mark the vehicle path. I actually had some guy direct me AROUND his cornhole game. Fortunately there were empty spots there to accommodate this detour. But really folks, keep your tailgate at your tailgate or move when traffic comes. Thank you. We’re all in this together.

And now I leave you with a video from For the Blogy which really dos a nice job of explaining Penn State’s play calling and execution on our first two scoring drives.

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Lions, Stillers, and Ducks! Oh My!

What a wonderful weekend of football!

The Oregon Ducks quacked some nuts in Columbus, besting the mighty O$U Buckeyes by a score of 35-28. The announcement at Beaver Stadium elicited the loudest non-play cheer of the day. (When your team loses roughly 8 of the last ten games to another opponent, you have to live vicariously through the success of others teams against said opponent.) It remains to be seen whether the loss “hurts” Penn State. All I know is, we have beaten O$U and won the Big Ten, only to sit and watch the Buckeyes still play for a National Championship. The way I sees it, the more losses they have, the less likely that infamous bit of history will be repeated. For all I care, if they never win a game again I won’t shed a tear, even during allergy season.

Moving on. The Steelers defeated the Buffalo Bills (Boy I Love Losing Superbowls) 23-16 today to cap off the weekend.

But the crown jewel was a Penn State 44-13 victory over the Cardinals of Ball State University.

All week long, all I heard or read was how Ball State was last years MAC champion. Ball State is returning 150% of their players from last season. Ball State is a trap game for Penn State, coming off a physical and emotional road trip at Wisconsin and looking ahead to next week’s opponent from the SEC. I kept checking the rankings because all this talk must surely mean that the Balls were ranked.

They were not. They may be rank. But they are definitely not ranked. And now all those folks be like it’s just Balls State and they suck! You can’t have it both ways. We dominated a good team.

I still remember a time when (70’s-80’s) NO ONE would have been worried about a game like this. I miss those days. Now Montana (the Grizzlies, not Joe) can beat Washington and even Pitt can beat Tennessee. Holy Toledo, the Rockets almost destroyed Notre Dame’s season, losing 32-29.

There. We fixed it.

But Penn State took care of business early on both sides of the ball. Ball State couldn’t even win the coin toss, and the Lions deferred. As we would see over the course of a beautiful September afternoon, none of Stoudt’s kickoffs would be returned. Thus, the Cardinals started from their 25-yard line. They ran three plays for a total drive time of FIFTEEN seconds! The punt took more time off the clock than the offense! Penn State then methodically drove the ball downfield and scored. It took a couple of minutes. They never looked back.

The defense then created a second three-and-out followed by a punt. The Lions worked their magic again to take a 14-0 lead.

Clifford looked a little more comfortable in the pocket, He still had a couple bad throws, but he had a lot of good ones. I like to see progress. I also really like the up-tempo offense. As one fan on a message board noted (and I’m sorry, I don’t remember the board or the fan but if it’s you then post your citation in the comments,) this fast tempo offense is different than anything PSU has ever run. It’s not just no huddle. They don’t take much time at the line. As this fan called it–no prairie dogging. You don’t see everybody looking up and over at the sidelines to get the play. They go to the line. Set. And BAM. They’re off. The refs actually slow them down or they would go faster. The defense can’t substitute because we don’t substitute. It’s freaking amazing.

The down side is it hurts your time of possession. We touched on that last week since it was so heavily lopsided in favor of the Badgers. And while it may or may not be becoming irrelevant, quick scoring offenses make it seem less important. I remember the 1994 team. Most of their drives were 2 minutes or less. Our defensive stats that year weren’t good, but the D spent a lot of time on the field. Perhaps a more meaningful stat would be points/time of possession. For instance, in the Wisconsin game, the Badgers had the ball roughly 43 minutes. They scored 10 points in that period of time for a total of 0.24 points per minute. Contrast that to Penn State’s 16 points scored in 17 minutes of possession–a scoring efficiency of 0.94 points per minute.

So how does this game look? The Lions scored 44 points in roughly 34 minutes of possession while BSU scored only 13 in the 26 minutes they had the ball. The scoring efficiencies would be 1.3 points/minute for Penn State compared to 0.5 points scored per minute for the Cardinals.

I must have way too much time on my hands. And a calculator.

To their credit, Ball State made some adjustments, and Penn State didn’t score on every possession. The score was a respectable 24-6 at the half. The second string defense would give up a fourth quarter score, aided in large part by yet another penalty of the game brought to you courtesy of Target–“Expect Less. Pay More.”

Two weeks in a row, Penn State has been hit with a targeting penalty of a dubious nature. In this case, the ball carrier lowered his head. The Penn State player was already coming in low, but there was helmet to helmet contact. Which technically makes it a penalty. But if the INTENT is on safety, shouldn’t the ball carrier who lowered his head be the one penalized? Had he not done so, there would have been no helmet to helmet contact. This is getting ridiculous. The rule needs to be revisited and tweaked.

Regardless, the score was meaningless, other than the fact that Ball State scored more points on us than Wisconsin. So they have that going for them.

And I feel the timeout by Ball State with TWO SECONDS left in the game was pretty low class and unsportsmanlike. I understand trying to score late in the game even when it doesn’t affect the outcome. But when you came up short, just let the two seconds go. Very bush league in my opinion. I think we would have still covered the spread, but I felt like it was just spiteful. Of course, I still remember Indiana scoring a couple late touchdowns in 1994 that made the score look less lopsided than the game really was. We dropped in the poll and never recovered, ending up #2 behind the Huskers that season.

The students were chanting “BRING ON AUBURN” late in the game, and maybe that pissed BSU off enough to call the TO and try to score one more for the Gipper. Or maybe it was because our back-up quarterback scored against them. Are we supposed to stop playing while you continue to try and make your loss look less losing? Whatever. I just hope the chant doesn’t make us regret what we wish for next Saturday.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Penn State had 495 total yards of offense nicely balanced between passing (253) and rushing (240.) The defense held BSU to 69 yards rushing, and they didn’t get a first down until their third possession.

Jesse Luketa made a nice one-handed INT for a pick six. Penn State has not, um, geez I don’t want to be a jinx here. You know what I mean.

We did miss one field goal (45 yards) on the opening possession of the second half, but otherwise special teams play has been good.

INTANGIBLES:

First home game since the pandemic started. 105,323 fans. It felt so good to be back. So Good! So Good! So Good!

The Drum Major made his flip, with a stutter step that cost him a tenth of a point on the landing. He reports a 97% success rate on flips. Impressive.

This was win 300 in Beaver Stadium since it opened in 1960.

Penn State moved up one spot to #10 in the AP poll, and one spot to #12 on the Coaches Poll.

I did not see David Letterman at the game. Bit disappointed. Also did not see Bill Burr. I am told he likes to schedule appearances at colleges the night before games and then he goes to the game. Any sightings??????

Here’s an interesting trivia question for you: How many different places/venues has Penn State played football on this campus at University Park? Answer later . . .

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

As noted gleefully above, the Buckeyes lost 35-28 to Oregon.

Northwestern beat Indiana State 24-6. The Badgers rebounded against Eastern Michigan 34-7.

MSU dominated Youngstown State 42-14. That score was reversed for Illinois who lost to Virginia 42-14.

The Gophers eked by Miami (OH) 31-26.

Rutgers beat Syracuse 17-7.

The Boilermakers blanked UConn 49-0.

Nebraska roped Buffalo 28-3.

Iowa defeated Iowa State 27-17 while Indiana Vandal-ized Idaho 56-14

Maryland crushed Howard (Mandel? Hughes? The Duck?) 62-0.

And last but certainly least, Michigan bested Washington 31-10. At least they are not the team that lost to the team that lost to Montana!

TRIVIA ANSWER:

FOUR!

Football was played on Beaver Field from 1893-1908.

They then played on New Beaver Field from 1909-1959.

Then they moved it to the current location, Beaver Stadium, 1960-present.

But, apparently they played football on the lawn of Old Main before 1893!!! AFLAC !

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Shape-Shifters from Auburn University come to Beaver Stadium for a prime-time, white-out match-up next Saturday at 7:30 PM.

Wait, What? Shape-shifters? That’s not a mascot! I object your honor.

Well, sometimes they’re the TIGERS. And then sometimes, they are WAR EAGLES.

Sustained.

They are also sometimes called Plainsmen.

Objection!

The reference is from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem, The Deserted Village, that begins “SWEET AUBURN! loveliest village of the plain.”

Sustained and MIND BLOWN.

Auburn is 2-0 as well and ranked 22/20 (AP/Coaches.) According to Odds Shark, Penn State is a 6.5 point favorite. They pick Penn State to win, Auburn to cover and recommend taking the over (52.5 points.)

ESPN GameDay will be coming to Happy Valley! The overall series is tied one apiece.

Auburn was unranked to start the season and has wins over Akron (60-10) and Alabama State (62-0.) Now that’s Alabama State, not Alabama! Talk about misleading stats–they are averaging 61 points per game! Good luck with that next week Tigers. I mean War Eagles. No Tigers. Whatever!!! Neither mascot is going to score that many points against us!

So any stat we look at for Auburn is skewed. How bad are these teams? Sagarin rates Akron at 168 and Alabama State at 236! Auburn is rated 12 while PSU is #8! And in case you are wondering, Wisconsin is 11 and Ball State is 80th. That’s still twice as good as Akron!

I have no idea how this thing will play out. I think Penn State has faced two opponents that are superior to the opponents Auburn has faced. I think early easy romps sometimes gives teams a false sense of security. A home game white out for PSU has to be an advantage, but unlike Ball State, Auburn is used to playing in some pretty hostile SEC environments. At least for the players on the team that played pre-COVID.

How will Penn State’s D perform against that vaunted mythical SEC speed? Can Clifford continue to play error-free? Will we be able to run the ball? These are the key factors in whether Penn State can win this game or not.

While Auburn went 6-4 last season, all four losses were to ranked opponents. They did beat Kentucky (#23 at the time) at home in the opener. They lost to Northwestern 35-19 in the bowl game.

My gut says Penn State is ranked about right. I think Auburn is over-rated but NOT YET TESTED at this point. I pick Penn State to win, and perhaps pull away in the fourth to allow fans to head out and get on the road before midnight. Let’s say PSU 27- Auburn 17. It might be different depending on whether they are Tigers or Eagles. And if the plainsmen show up, all bets are off!

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Are You Ready for Some Foot-BALL STATE?

The Penn State Nittany Lions football team has never played the Ball State University Cardinals. The Lions are currently favored by 22.5 points, depending on who you ask.

What, pray tell, do we know about Ball State?

It’s an institution of higher learning located in Muncie, Indiana. “The Harvard of Muncie” according to David Letterman, one of the schools more famous alumni. It was founded by the Ball Brothers a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away. Or in this case, 1918 in Muncie, Indiana. And in case you are wondering, the Ball Brothers owned the Ball Corporation, makers of fine jars and lids for canning for a very long time.

They have a couple of unusual traditions. During their homecoming parade, they have a bed race. Makes perfect sense. If you live in Muncie.

Students and faculty participated in Ball State’s Annual Homecoming Bed Races, along Riverside street this morning. Photographed by Madeline Curtis, BSU Student Photographer for Creative Services

They also have the FROG BABY. This is a statue of a small child holding a couple of frogs. It was donated to the school by Frank Ball in 1937. It became a tradition to rub the boy’s nose for good luck before taking exams. It worked so well, the students eventually rubbed the nose off and the statue had to be repaired. Since the nose job, the new tradition is to dress the little boy up to match the weather–like a scarf and jacket in winter or a football jersey prior to a game. It has been the focus of frequent vandalism. Shame on whoever did that! We have the same problem here in our town with Yard Kitty . . .

Their mascot is a Cardinal. With teeth. His name be-eth Charlie. I kid you not. Charlie Horse? Heard of him. Charlie Cardinal. Not so much. Does the school know that cardinals don’t have teeth? What kind of school is this?

In addition to David Letterman, Ball State is proud to have graduated Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, and Joyce DeWitt, who played Janet on Three’s Company.

So Ball State honored David Letterman by naming a building after him. Letterman responded with one of his famous Top Ten Lists:

Top 10 Good Things about Having Your Name on a Building

10: Forget your name? Just check the building.

9: On weekends, maintenance crew lets you ride on the floor buffer.

8: By law, they have to let you use the restroom.

7: It’s a lot better than having your name on a lame talk show.

6: I’ll always have a place to crash after a night at the Locker

5: Great way to show up that jerk down the street with the vanity license plate.

4: When people say Letterman is cold and empty, they might be talking about the building.

3: Fun to see the security guard do a double-take when he checks your I.D.

2: Cool to hear exterminator say, “Letterman is crawling with rats.

And the number 1 good thing about having your name on a building: Unlike me, it should still look good when it’s 60.

So in honor of our upcoming contest with Ball State and in deference to David Letterman, I present a BIG TEN LIST. It has 14 items since there are 14 teams in the league.

BIG TEN LIST OF REJECTED BALL STATE MASCOTS:

14: FOOT BALL. After all, they’re not that great at football, and it would look weird to have a football on the basketball or tennis court.

13. Cock & Ball –apparently Trademark issues with South Carolina precluded using this option

12. Nerf Ball. The Squeezably soft mascot.

11. Rubber Ball. The Bouncing Muncies!

10. Ball Bearings. Grease is the word . . .

9. Balls of Fire! That’d be just GREAT.

8. Ball and Chains. You are NOT going to that game until you fix that leak!

7. Golf Ball. Driving for the Touchdown. The quarterback yells Fore! before passing the ball downfield.

6. Wiffle Ball. Full of holes. Never flies like the real thing.

5. Ball Peens. Bringing down the hammer!

4. Crystal Ball. Always in motion the future is. But we probably see a loss.

3. Lucille Ball. The Raging Redheads! They’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!

2. Ball Jars. Preserving their past.

1. Schweddy Balls. They’re delicious and nutritious!

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