MS-no-U-don’t

No bowl game for you!

In a game that had all the excitement of watching paint dry and bragging rights to a rivalry trophy that eerily resembles a moss-covered three handled, family credenza on the line, the Nittany Lions defeated the pesky Spartans of Michigan State 35-16 last Saturday before a sparse crowd of–well, the quoted number isn’t even worth mentioning it is so far off. It capped a 10 win season for the Lions, and sent Michigan State home for the season with no hope for a bowl game in Detroit or wherever the last bowl qualifier might end up.

I know for first hand that this was the first Penn State game for some people. What a shame! Granted we won. Granted the weather was better than most final home games in November in Central PA. But the atmosphere was so . . . . I can’t even find a word boring enough to insert here. And the trophy! Looks more like a trophy case than a trophy!

The student section was more like some student rows, a product of Thanksgiving break and a paucity of bodies on campus. I’m not sure how this could be handled. It would be great if the season ended before Thanksgiving, but the television folks don’t want to be airing re-reruns of the Heidi game over the holidays. Or the World Cup! They need to compete with Hallmark for goodness sake! I imagine most schools playing this weekend had tumbleweeds blowing through their student section.

But even the rest of the stadium was on a diet. Too many folks in their tryptophan overdoses chose shopping, deer hunting, or putting up Christmas lights over watching Sean Clifford play his last game in Beaver Stadium. He’s a fighter. He’s an inspiration. He’s our Rudy.

The game itself was somewhat strange. You had the feeling that Penn State was never in danger of losing, yet early in the fourth quarter, there was MSU. 21-16. Like that smelly guy on the bus. Too close for comfort.

As I was actually at the game, I did not have the advantage of instant reply, but both of those pass interference calls on their scoring drive looked bogus. Just bad officiating? Big Ten Conspiracy to get more teams bowl eligible? Who knows? The ploy failed anyway as Penn State pulled away with a couple late scores to seal the Spartan’s fate.

Two missed field goals? WTF? Kicking is a basic part of football. That’s why they put the word foot in it. It’s not called handball. It’s not called catchball. It’s FOOTball. Kick the damned thing through the upright, Charlie Brown. Why in Heaven’s name can’t we recruit a decent place kicker?!?! We can also debate whether MSU should have been flagged on the first missed field goal as one of their defenders got a running start and leaped over the line, but what is the point? Still should have made that kick.

On the other hand, we did win. We are 10-2 and likely headed to a New Years Day bowl. And we won’t see Sean Clifford trotting onto the field next season. So there’s that.

Penn State moved up to #8 in the AP poll and #7 on the other. Too little too late.

The all-time series with the Spartans is all tied at 18-18-1.

In games that actually impacted the national playoff picture, Michigan pwned the Buckeyes, defeating the nuts in Columbus 45-23. They move up to #2. USC defeated Notre Dame and moves up into the number 4 spot. TCU rounds out the final four, pending some conference championship games. The Buckeyes are just outside the money right now, but a loss by any of these teams in their final game would change that. We could see a rematch of the wolverines and the schmuckeyes! I’m just tingling all over. Oh wait. I just stuck my finger in the electric socket. Which is what I’d rather do than watch a rematch of those two teams!

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Red at Knight, Lion’s Delight

The Nittany Lions travelled to Piscataway, New Jersey to summarily dispatch the Big Red R 55-10. There was an alleged crowd of 55,676 –which included Penn State fans and the rest were people in New Jersey who were either lost, confused, demented, or whose lives were simply so awful that they had nothing better to do on a cold Saturday afternoon than spectate whilst Penn State thoroughly demolished any hopes that Rutgers had of going to a bowl game this year.

It was just like the good old days. Penn State dominated every aspect of the game and Rutgers–the birthplace of College Football (and apparently its final resting place as well.) It was like comfort food. All is right in the universe. The last time Rutgers defeated Penn State was 1988–a five point win for the Knights in Joe Paterno’s first losing season of his head coaching career. The Top Song on the Billboard charts that weekend was Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin. Gas cost an average of 96¢ a gallon.

The Scarlet Letter R’s also won 26-3 in 1918. Hugo Bezdek was the Head Coach of the Lions and Penn State only played 4 games with a single victory over Lehigh. This was during a world war. Maybe a pandemic as well. This ain’t the History Channel you know. But aliens were probably involved, and the trophy is probably buried on Oak Island somewhere.

We still struggle on third down, even against a team like Rutgers. Because of the defensive and special teams scores, we had two touchdowns in the first quarter, but only two first downs. The nearly equal time of possession is misleading as well, again a product of the multiple turn-overs by the Scarlet Knights, which led to quick scores.

The pesky little guys in red insisted on scoring first and they did so with a field goal to lead 3-0. We threw them a bone. They choked on it, apparently.

On the ensuing kick-off, Nick Singleton ripped off a return to the HOUSE to put State up 7-0. It was just the third kick-off return for a touchdown since 1975, according to GoPSUsports. The Lions also scored two more touchdowns on scoop and scores (and could have added a third on a pick six that was called back for a bad block. It was the first time PSU has three non-offensive scores in a game since they routed Bowling Green back in 1998 (1 punt return and 2 pick-sixes in that 48-3 victory.)

Not to be outdone, the Red Knights returned that ensuing kick-off 66 yards to the PSU 21. In what was probably their best drive of the day, they managed to find the end zone and re-take the lead 10-7.

Didn’t last long. You saw the rest of the game. You can see the stats. Yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.

The win is James Franklin’s 100th victory as a head coach–his 76th as head coach of the Lions.

Speaking of milestones, Rutgers’ punter, Adam Korsak, now holds the NCAA record for most career punts (339) and yardage. Doesn’t say a lot for the Rutgers offense does it? But if you are a great punter . . . Piscataway is the place to go!

Singleton had a fumble in the first quarter, and our own punter still seems to be having some issues. Rutgers first field goal came off a 25 yard punt shanked out of bounds. But the way our offense and defense have been playing, special teams has not been in the spotlight much. Hopefully Singleton will adjust and secure the ball better going forward, but this has been an issue all year for him.

For a few moments yesterday, the #2-5 teams were all losing. Michigan ultimately prevailed, kicking a field goal with 8 seconds left on the clock. We’ve been there. Done that. Illinois had the ball and the narrow lead with 3:05 on the clock. Unfortunately they miched-again. The Buckeyes trailed Maryland at the half (sounds familiar) but lost 43-30 as the Bucks pulled away in the second (all too familiar!) It would appear that Maryland saved their points from last week but they probably should have banked some from two games ago as well. And TCU narrowly defeated Baylor to preserve their winning record. Alas, the Volunteers were gamecock blocked by South Carolina, losing 63-38. The Gamecocks were 6-4 and 21 point underdogs. Utah lost to Oregon and USC squeaked by UCLA in a preview of Big Ten Games To Come.

At the end of the day, that still left PSU #11 in the AP poll–Utah dropped behind us and Oregon quacked ahead of us. Even Tennessee–now with two losses, and one to an unranked team, still apparently has a better resume than Penn State with losses to #2 and #3. Not at all surprised, but irritated as hell just the same. We are the Rodney Dangerfield of the football world. No respect. We get no respect at all. (Adjusts tie and wipes sweat off forehead.)

Does it really matter? NO!!!! What would have mattered was winning at least one of the games we lost, if not both. There is absolutely no scenario that would allow PSU to threaten for a play-off spot, unless a half dozen or so teams simply disappear off the face of the planet for reasons we cannot explain. Or even if we could explain them.

Just Like Singleton on that kick-off!

While a win against the Spartans is far from guaranteed, it is certainly reasonable to assume Penn State should win, given that the Spartans are 5-6 and just lost to the Hoosiers, a team we manhandled but a couple weeks ago.

It will be Senior Day at Beaver Stadium. The game time is set for 4:00 on FS1. It will be cold. Take the UNDER on the temperature. But the Spartans are one of those quirky teams–a forced rivalry with a God-awful piece of furniture, um trophy–that always seem to give us fits. And they will be playing for bowl eligibility. Will the team that has more to play for prevail?

I’m not one for predicting games, and at the risk of jinxing us, I think this will be another comfortable win for PSU. The Spartans simply to do not impress me. They have three conference wins: Wisconsin (which in most years other than 2022 would be something to brag about,) Illinois (which might have been something to brag about if they had hung on to beat the wolverines,) and Rutgers (whom they beat by SIX points!)

And since there is no known bowl opponent to prepare for and “look past” MSU, I think the Franklin mantra of 1-0 this week will be enough to keep this game in the win column.

GO STATE! SPANK SPARTY!

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Turtlely Awesome, Dudes

What is the difference between a TURTLE and a TERRAPIN? A turtle is a member of the reptile family whose body is encased in a bony shell. A Terrapin is a turtle that can’t play football.

Penn State totally dominated the Terrapins late Saturday afternoon, defeating Maryland 30-0. The day which started out fair and sunny (if 58 degrees can be called fair and this time of year in central PA that is probably a safe conclusion) turned wet and cold as the game progressed. Temperatures dropped like they saw a State Trooper along I-99.

The stadium DJs had to break out Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head and Dancing in the Rain. But the rain didn’t dampen the Lion’s performance or the soggy crowd’s enthusiasm. For a second straight week, the Lions outpaced their opponent in nearly every statistical category.

From GoPSUsports

The third down conversion rate remains an area of concern. Alas this seems to be a sine qua non of Penn State football. On the other hand, the Lions were not only perfect on both fourth down conversions, but they scored a touchdown on both those attempts! We could debate the coaching decision (punt on the first, or kick the field goal on the second) but the outcome justified the means. Sometimes its better to be lucky than right.

Franklin even got an unsportsmanlike penalty, and SI.com describes it like this:

“I had my first unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty in 12 years as a head coach and I was embarrassed by it, so I did my pushups,” Franklin said after the game. “Everybody’s held accountable. I think [the officials] thought I was yelling at the official. I wasn’t. I was yelling at our players. But either way, I got an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.”

Si.com

The post in Fan Nation goes on to speculate he was yelling at Clifford.

Despite over throwing at least three wide open receivers in the first half, which included a nearly perfectly played flea-flicker, Clifford went on to break the Penn State all-time career passing record previously owned by Trace McSorley. We have no way of knowing how many yards Trace would have racked up with six seasons to do so, but the record now stands.

While it may not yet be time for Simba, Drew Allar, to replace Clifford’s Mufasa, time and meaningful game reps are running out for the heir apparent. Many fans, including myself, were expecting Drew Allar to start the second half, up 27 points and Maryland’s offense showing no signs of life. Taulia Tagovi-who-a? Hemby was hemmed in most of the day.

Yet #14 trotted on the field to start the soggy second half. In fact, he played two series adding but a mere 3 points to the final score. And when Allar finally did enter the game for some meaningless garbage time, he was surround by the bottom of the depth chart (no offense Tank Smith, but you are no Nick Singleton or Kaytron Allen.) In a down pour. Hardly the conditions to prepare for next year, unless you assume the more adversity the better. Maybe we should blindfold him too and let him use the Force!

So I ponder this Clifford infatuation. Why?

And then it dawned on me. It is the NIL (name, image and likeness.) No, it is not that Clifford is more photogenic than Allar. But rather, unlike most quarterbacks, Clifford has founded his own company, Limitless NIL, with his brother Liam. This is a company that will help student athletes broker deals for the use of their name, image or likeness, which could add up to thousands if not millions of dollars for the student athlete. It has also completely altered the recruiting game significantly.

Follow me for a few minutes here.

The USA Today sports wrote this about NIL:

Recruiting has changed — for better or worse — with the introduction of new NIL rules.

Players are now able to profit off their name, image and likeness, which has opened the door for blue blood programs to legally provide top prospects with future financial incentives. Colleges aren’t allowed to lay numbers out on the table, but it goes without saying that athletes can recognize the NIL opportunities big-time programs have to offer fairly easily.

USAToday

It is not entirely clear to me exactly what Sean Clifford’s company does, but Newswires sums up the services like this

Limitless NILwas started by former Penn State QB Sean Clifford to help student-athletes build cutting-edge brands in the new world of Name, Image and Likeness, by providing talent management, financial education and marketing strategies.

Newswires

Now put that all together. Sean Clifford is the head of a company that can help broker, for the lack of a better term, NIL deals to student athletes. “Marketing strategies.” So a student athlete comes looking for assistance. Maybe he wants to be a linebacker for Penn State, but Limitless NIL knows a guy in Columbus that can ink a better deal if he becomes a Buckeye. Maybe that’s not exactly how any of this works, but it certainly would seem that Clifford has the potential to make things easier for James Franklin. Or harder. And for Clifford, more accolades and name recognition only helps his own business as well. James rubs his back, and he rubs back. Quid pro quo, Clarice! Quid pro quo!

But all that aside, the Nittany Lions asserted their will over Maryland on both sides of the ball. It was a fun game to watch (if you weren’t sitting out in the cold rain) and the momentum will hopefully carry over to the last two games. The Lions moved up to 11/12 on the polls.

The Might Sound of Maryland Marching Band joined the Ohio State Band with visits to Beaver Stadium this year. They performed a pre-game show and joined the Blue Bland at Halftime with a tribute to the various branches of the Military Service.

UP NEXT: RUTGERS

Another traditional “rival.” PSU leads this all-time series 30-2. That’s one fewer win than Maryland has over us.

Rutgers most recently lost to Michigan State, our final opponent on the regular schedule of fun things to do in State College.

The Scarlety Knights are 4-6 with a lone Big Ten Win over Indiana 24-17. You know what we did to Indiana.

Their victories include an impressive 16-14 two point win over Temple (another traditional “rival” of ours with four wins against us all time as well as a tie,) a lopsided 66-7 win over Lyndsay Wagner (the Bionic Woman,) and a 22-21 one point win over another old “rival” Boston College, who has beaten us 4 times ever.

I am NOT impressed.

The game is away, and starts at 3:30 at SHI(t) Stadium in Piscataway, NJ.

Good Knight, Irene.

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Lions Hammer Hoosiers

The Nittany Lion football team bounced back from their heart-wrenching loss to the Ohio Nutsacks last week to defeat the also-red colored Hoosiers of Indiana 45-14. Which, if you define a Hoosier as someone from Indiana, literally means someone from Indiana of Indiana. Which makes no sense at all. Kind of like this whole football season.

At the risk of getting political here, my title reminded me of a cartoon I saw recently.

Humor and beauty are in the eyes of the beholders.

Penn State dominated every major statistical category–rushing yards, passing yards, total yards, time of possession, and third down conversions. Clifford threw his trademark INT in there, but the defense stifled the Hoosiers, and in fact, after that turn-over, moved them far enough back they had to punt instead of kicking a field goal. At one point, they flashed a graphic on the screen that IU had -2 yards in the game!

I have previously written that this team was following a tragic script. Start out 5-0. Lose a big game to a highly ranked opponent. And then follow that up with a loss to an inferior opponent.

This year IS different. At least to date.

We did not lose to Minnesota. I feared that would happen.

I feared we would struggle to beat Indiana–or even lose, perish the thought–but we did not.

Despite the first quarter ending in a 7-7 tie, the outcome of this game was never really in question. The game did not rest on a football barely touching a pylon.

I saw both offensive and defensive lines assert their will at, um, will.

We got to see some quality time for Drew Allar. That is a big plus, not just for this year, but moving forward from this point.

From WE ARE Penn State

Here are the stats. Read em’ and weep, Hoosiers. Loosiers.

This win does not make me forget the losses to those other two Big Ten teams. It does not convince me that we can win the rest of our games. Ok, it does a little. But it does make me feel like we have turned a corner here in terms of leadership after a tough loss, and that we are capable of dominating a Big Ten foe that we should be able to dominate. (refer to Illinois 2021, or the struggle to beat NW this year.)

Speaking of the Wildcan’ts, did you see that Northwestern led the Buckeyes after one quarter, and the final score was only 21-7?

Rutgers also led the wolverines 17-14 at halftime, before collapsing in the second half. Benn there. done that.

And how about the Irish? Knocked Clemson out of the playoff picture for the moment at least.

And Georgia took care of business against the Volunteers.

LSU knocked off Bama with a gutsy two-point conversion in OT to win 32-31!

Other ranked teams that lost: Kansas State, Syracuse, Illinois and Wake Forest.

So despite some highly ranked teams losing, I don’t see Penn State moving up very much at this point. Probably a few spots, but I doubt we slip past Bama, Clemson or Tennessee. Nor should we. But a nice bowl game beats a sucky bowl game, so we got that to think about. (Checking the AP poll, we moved up 2 spots–nailed it!) The Playoff Rankings were not out yet–Tuesday I believe.

UP NEXT:

The mighty Turtles of Maryland invade Beaver Stadium next Saturday for a 3:30 Kick-off to be featured on FOX.

The Terrapins lost this week to Wisconsin and are 6-3.

In common opponents, they narrowly defeated Indiana, played Northwestern about the same, yet played the Wolverines a lot closer than we did. They did, though, lose to Purdue.

What does that mean? Beats the wolverine out of me. If you carry the one, divide by pi, and take the square root of the margin of victories . . . oh, nevermind.

One opening line has PSU a 12 point favorite. The Terps always seem to play us tough–harkening back to the days of yore when this was a semi-rivalry. We did play them almost every year and we did beat them almost every year. The Lions lead the all-time series 43-3-1. Hardly the stuff that makes rivalries. But two of those three wins have been since 2014 when the Terrapins joined the Big Conference, and many games in the series have been decided by small margins.

It may sound cliched and trite, but limit the turn-overs, make some big plays on offense, and limit the Terrapin offense–this is a game that PSU should win. With the exception of the Michigan game and the fourth quarter of the Ohio State game, I think our defense has played really well, and may be hitting its stride right now.

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Knock, Knock, Hoosier?

The title of this post was once a slogan on the Citizen’s Bank PSU Buttons. Not their best, but certainly not their worst. Which might be this weeks button, which cost me a whole can of mixed vegetables!

What in the bloody wide, wide, world of sports does that mean????????

I get the pun. Hope you get sick of more losses. Sycamore losses. Get it? Get it? Helloooo…….McFly?!?!

What I don’t get is the whole SYCAMORE reference.

We are playing the University of Indiana (or Indiana University–tomato, to-mah-to.) They are in the Big Ten Conference. They are the HOOSIERS. No one has any freaking idea what a Hoosier is other than it is a person from INDIANA. It’s a self-defining entity. Theories abound. Well, a couple at least bound. But I digress.

The SYCAMORES are the sports teams from Indiana State University. They are in Terre Haute, IN, not Bloomingdales. Or Bloomington. Whatever. They are NOT the HOOSIERS. Well, since they are in Indiana, they are Hoosiers–just not THE HOOSIERS. Are they THE Indiana State University? Don’t know. Don’t care.

The Sycamores play in the Missouri Valley Conference. Hardly the Big Ten.

Methinks someone at Citizen’s Bank made a boo boo. Might want to check your bank statements if you have accounts there.

We play the Hoosiers at 3:30 in Bloomington, IN. There may be some sycamores on campus. I do not know and I really do not care.

I thought maybe the Sycamore was the state tree of Indiana.

It’s not. That is the Tulip Tree. Digressing again.

The Hoosiers are 3-5. They started off the season like gangbusters, but then they just played like busters. They opened with wins against the mighty teams of Illinois, Idaho (No you da ho!), and Western Kentucky in OT. They then dropped 5 straight games to Cincinnati, Nebraska, Michigan, Maryland and Rutgers. Who loses to Rutgers? Hoosier daddy? (another erstwhile pin slogan that STILL makes more sense than the current one!)

Granted, Illinois is now ranked (ahead of us, clearing throat) but that was the season opener and the margin of victory was but 3 points. Either way, the Hoosiers did beat a now-ranked team, which is more than we can say for Penn State at this point.

Side Rant: So we are 6-2. Ranked #16. I’m ok with that. But why are LSU, Utah and Kansas State ranked ahead of us? We lost to two teams ranked in the Top 5. LSU lost to Florida State and Tennessee. And the 40-13 Rocky Top score is about the same as our loss to the wolverines. Utah? The Utes lost to Florida and UCLA. UCLA has one loss and is ranked, but Florida isn’t even receiving votes anymore. And while Kansas State beat Oklahoma when the Sooners were still ranked (#6), the Sooners are no longer receiving votes either. And the Wildcats lost to Tulane! Give me a break! We lost to two very good programs right now and historically, and we LED in both of those games, even if for a few minutes.

No respect. We get no respect at all.

The Playoff Rankings have us a spot higher (#15) but still behind those same three schools with less impressive losses.

I can’t believe I’m bragging about the quality of our losses. Has it really come to this????

Oddshark has us 14 point favorites over Indiana, predicting us to WIN, COVER, but the total points will be UNDER (50.5.)

I wonder what the Over/Under is for Clifford Turn overs this week?

We could conceivably end up 10-2. I’m not counting my wins until they’re hatched, but the remaining schedule is manageable.

GO STATE! BEAT HOOSIERS or SYCAMORES!

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OH-I-Can’t Believe It!

The Mighty Nutsacks from Columbus were hungry for a win, trying to secure their spot in the National Play-off scenario and continue their march to yet another Big Ten Title. And Penn State fed that hungry beast a tasty plate of turn overs, fresh from the oven!

Most Penn State fans went into this game thinking the Lions had very little chance of winning, as did most oddsmakers. Many fans feared a lop-sided blow-out similar to the previous beat down in Ann Arbor. A few, though, may have believed a win was possible.

But just like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expected the topsy-turvy 44-31 game we saw played out on Saturday.

Damn you Penn State! Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the stadium and take our loss, you made us all think we could win–that WE CAN DO IT! –and then you collapse in the waning moments of the game, pulling the rug out from under us and dashing our hopes and dreams in a flurry of turn overs and poor tackling. How rude!

In many games–even under Paterno, but especially it seems under Franklin–we see Penn State winning games but not total yardage, first downs, third down conversions, and time of possession. We seem to win despite those stats. But . . . in those cases we usually win the turn over margin.

And that sums up this loss. Four turnovers!

We can argue until we are blue and white in the face about Sean Clifford. It has been the theme all season long. Should he have come back? Should he be the starter? Are our chances of winning better with or without him?

In the end, nobody knows and we will never know.

When he wins, he’s a hero. When he loses, he’s a pariah.

If Allar doesn’t portal into another galaxy far, far away, next year we’ll be blaming our losses on the fact that he didn’t get enough meaningful playing time this year! I’m already composting, I mean composing some blog posts about that just in case. Clifford’s like the gift that keeps on giving . . . the ball away. I thought sure he’d have the record for interceptions in his career, but alas, I was wrong. That title actually belongs to Todd Blackledge. Clifford is a distant 5th place (15 behind going into this season.) But he still has some games to go . . . .

Despite two early turn overs–both interceptions–the Lions took a meager lead of one point into half-time 14-13. Part of that, though was also due to Ryan Day’s poor judgment or greed on trying for a touchdown with 7 seconds left and no time outs instead of kicking the field goal and going up 16-14. A team deserves to lose when a coach pulls crap like that.

But good old James Franklin came out in the third quarter and said, “Hold my beer!” Although we barely made a first down on a fourth down play deeper in our own territory than I would have thought reasonable for an overpaid coach in a tight game–but I’m not getting paid $7 million dollars to analyze this mind you–it was still a bad call. It worked but we should have punted. We were lucky. But it worked so well for him that he doubled down on the other side of the field and went for it on fourth down again. The team failed to convert, leaving a potential three points on the field.

Ryan Day 1 — James Franklin 1. On bone-head coaching decisions that kept points off the board.

We lost the lead late in the third quarter, and PSU finally managed to get back up on top 21-16 with 9:26 still showing on the the scoreboard. The stadium was feeling it. The fans were into it. We had the Buckeyes on the ropes. THIS IS OUR YEAR!

No it isn’t. We left too much time on that clock, and too much time on CJ Stroud’s hands.

Stroud took the field at their 25 yard line. Three plays later, the Buckeyes were on top again. THREE PLAYS.

Two passes, and then a hurry up snap before we were lined up and 41 yards later TreVeyon Henderson was in the end zone and the Bucks never looked back. On a related note, Penn State tried a similar hurry up play starting with a bunch formation and then a quick spread. The play looked like it would have worked and Clifford, going through a huge hole, might have scored. But Ryan Day took a time out, negating the play. The bastard! He out coached Franklin again!

On our ensuing possession, Clifford was strip-sacked, strip searched, and quite frankly the whole thing makes stripping sound like a bad thing. Buckeye ball. ONE play later, they score again. Two touchdowns in 4 plays. One minute off the clock. Sickening.

I will give our offense credit for going back out there and trying. I think we did manage to cover the point spread. But it was too little too late. The Buck was already our of the barn.

So close! Yet so far away.

The crowd was 108,433. down from 109,813 last week. Not as bad a fall as the stock market. Too many red shirts, though. Save the stripe out for Rutgers or Maryland. This should have been a white out.

And what is with the red Phillies hats? Seriously people. We are playing the Buckeyes. And you wear the bad color?!?!?! I understand. You’re in the Super Series playing another team and you want to show your support. But this is a FOOTBALL game. And you’re team today is Penn State. Blue. Or White. Take the red off before going into the stadium. Wear it as proudly as you can before and after. The phanatic will never know. Nobody’s gonna know. They’re gonna know. How will they know? Nobody’s gonna know.

As a side rant, there’s a lady and maybe her husband who sit a few rows in front of me. She only comes to one or two games a year. She always wears MICHIGAN STATE gear. He is always faithful in Blue and/or White. She showed up at the white out last week wearing a GREEN Michigan State sweatshirt. Now I fully understand not EVERYONE is a Penn State fan. And I don’t really have a huge problem with you wearing Spartan apparel and supporting your team. Seems odd when we’re not playing them this week, but whatever. But couldn’t you show a little respect to the guy you are with and wear a WHITE Michigan State shirt????

See? Would that be so hard?

I did see some white Phillies jerseys. Still had red stripes, but I’ll allow that. At least it’s mostly white.

Despite my hatred of the Buckeyes, it was nice to see the Ohio State Band return to Beaver Stadium. It might be their first trip since 2005. I know it’s been a long time. While I bleed Blue and White, it’s still interesting to see other school’s traditions. And better yet, without leaving the comfort of my own stadium.

Why did we play Sweet Caroline in the first quarter? Is that what we’re paying Guido for? Totally messed up the first quarter mojo. We’re all screaming Bom Bom Bom and SO GOOD, SO GOOD, while we were turning the ball over and playing not so good.

They played Living on a Prayer with like 7 minutes left in the first half. We weren’t half way there! Maybe that’s why we stopped playing well at the 9:26 mark in the fourth. The team thought we were all the way there at that point.

I still can’t believe we were that close to a win, on our home field, and couldn’t finish the job.

But it leaves us at 6-2, ranked #16, and wondering O-why-O why couldn’t we have pulled that game out!

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Jekyll & Hyde

For as LOUSY as this team looked against the Wolverines, they looked much more presentable at home against the Golden Gophers. (I can remember a Paterno post-game conference where he actually took the time to spell L-O-U-S-Y out loud letter by letter–and come to think of it, it might have been after a loss to Michigan!)

Before a crowd of 109,813 mostly white-clad fans (less one who was dragged off the field by police) the Nittany Lions turned their ship around, got their shit together, and beat the Gophers 45-17. There were great big globs of greasy grimy gopher guts all over the place. That was impressive to me because I fully expected us to follow the script and lose a second game that we should win (Exhibit A: Illinois 2021.)

That is not to say the transition was perfect. The Nittany Lions trailed 3-0 after the first period and I am sure the upset alert was being flashed around the sports world like the bat signal over Gotham.

But beleaguered senior citizen QB Sean Clifford, booed by the fans in pre-game when his roster picture appeared on the screens, and then again repeatedly in the first quarter as Penn State failed to make a first down going three and out thrice, completed his own transition from Bad Clifford to Good Clifford. WTF kind of sentence structure is that?!?!? (see below)

I fully understand the fan base’s frustration, but to boo a kid in your home stadium is a little gauche to say the least. It is much better to lambast him privately in a blog article that he probably will never read! But my taste of Drew Allar after his limited performance last week has led me to roll back my opinion of him being the starter de novo. Granted, coming into that mess in Michigan Stadium when the stadium was a rockin’ was not the best test of his skills and far from ideal conditions. But he still disappointed me. I did not expect him to lead us to a win, but I really thought he would move the ball better than Clifford and he failed. His prior performances, limited as they were, had led me to believe he was ready to lead this team. Now I’m not so sure. But I sure as heck won’t go so far as to say Franklin knows what he’s doing!

It’s amazing how much better this offensive line looks when there is a passing game threat. They did not give up a sack. With Trace McSorley watching from the sidelines, Clifford set another record, this one for passes completed in his Penn State career. Imagine how many records he would have if he could only play for another four years!

Despite the slow start, the Lions entertained the energetic crowd with stellar defense and highlight reel catches and runs. They even improved their 3rd down conversion record (but in reality, could they have made it worse???) while blowing the Gophers 66% conversion record out of the water, holding them to 2 of 13 attempts.

From GoPSUsports

Quick Hits:

It was a beautiful day and a pleasant fall night for football. It was also homecoming.

7:30 start. Not a fan. Great atmosphere, but I’m older and not able to do this well anymore. Up way past my bedtime. Actually took a nap earlier in the day, and then we tailgated in my Hollidaysburg backyard grilling gopher burgers before heading to Beaver Stadium. We arrived at the stadium around 5:30. Had trouble getting to my spot as I expected–lots of tents and tailgates set up and people everywhere.

One guy yelled at me that I should have come sooner. Really dude? That’s why I have a reserved space so I can show up when I want, not when YOU want. Chill out. Keep drinking your cheap Natty Light and get the hell out of my way before I go Towanda all over your drunk ass.

Light show was neat but a bit over-hyped. Not sure what I expected but I wasn’t over-awed. Maybe it looked cooler on TV.

Crowd was amazing. Three false starts in the first couple series and five false starts over-all for Goldie Gophers. Throw in a couple off-sides. Great job!

Saw three college age girls go together into a Port-a-Potty. Seriously? Why?!?!? Moral support? One on each side to hold the other one over the hole so she doesn’t actually have to contact or hover over the seat by herself? I REALLY wanted to take a video of them coming out of the port-a-john just so people would believe me when I tell the story, but I didn’t want to be THAT creepy guy taking video of girls coming out of the bathroom. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

At least three accidents in the area snarled post-game traffic out of the stadium. I don’t even understand how you can get up enough speed to have an accident in that kind of traffic. Was 2 AM before I got home and I live 40 minutes away.

Stadium seemed really crowded. Someone told me they over-sold the student section.

Guido D’Elia, the original architect of the White Out returned to Beaver Stadium. He has been hired as a consultant, reprising his previous role. Yet more evidence that the current administration is interested in restoring the ROAR that had been built by Paterno. As an interesting, or maybe boring, side note, Guido’s uncle was my English teacher back at Keith Junior High School. But don’t blame my rambling run-ons, and dangling participles on him. I own that.

Penn State moved from 16th to 13th in the AP Poll. Whatever. MUST BEAT OHIO STATE. LOL.

Next up?

I just told you! The Big, Bad Buckeyes. The best team money can buy.

Can we win? Sure! Why not? I might be the next winner of the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes too!

Seriously? We can beat them. NO. Maybe. NO! I SAID NO!

But what if we block a field goal and return it for a touchdown?

Been there. Done that. Only victory for James Franklin over the Buckeyes in 2016. He has yet to out-coach and flat out beat the Buckeyes. If any history is going to repeat itself, it is another loss for Franklin in this game.

But it will be a stripe out! NO! A hundred times NO. It won’t help.

We have Guido . . . .

Let’s talk.

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Lost in Maize

This should have been the title for the recap from last weekend. Alas, I’m a few days late and more than a dollar short.

Our team certainly look lost in the Maize out of Michigan Stadium.

A few sundry thoughts I forgot to mention . . .

We watched the game at Champs. In Altoona. We have a Penn State campus here. It’s a Penn State town. Naturally, you get the occasional fan of other teams show up. Unfortunately there was a gaggle of Michigan fans who came to Champs. And they hooted and cheered throughout the game, mainly because their team gave them something to hoot and cheer about.

This is America. Not sure what that means anymore, but I still think you are free to go where you like and root for whoever you want to. But personally I thought this cheerleading performance was way over the top and kind of classless in a venue clearly supporting Penn State. Even the staff wore Penn State clothing. Smile. Clap politely. Give each other high fives. Whatever. Don’t rub it in to the rest of the place, many of whom were hoping some of yinz would have heart attacks and drop dead. We’d have called the paramedics. After the game. Really, we love you. You represented your school well.

Which brings me to the whole tunnel thing that I over looked because frankly I was not aware that it had happened. Poor class on Penn State’s side of the thing. What can I say? Maybe they were getting even for the fans at Champs. I don’t know. The whole world seems to have taken a leave from common decency.

All I can say is that would NEVER have happened with Joe Paterno as coach, and if it did, some or all of those players would be in his proverbial doghouse and would probably not suit up this weekend.

But Paterno is dead. Franklin is here. This is the new norm. The world sucks.

On to Minnesota . . .

White out game. 7:30. Going to have to plan my naps well for this late barn burner.

The AP is already calling this the upset special.

History is on the side of the Golden Goophers. According to this article, “five times in his first eight seasons at Penn State, the first loss was followed by another.”

If ever there is a must win, this is a must win for this team. Morally, Spiritually. Physically.

Any chance at competing for Big Ten Title (share of one) depends on a win. Want to go to a good bowl game? Win this game.

It’s homecoming and a white out. Don’t waste it.

Unfortunately, I’m not feeling very good about this game. History tells me that it repeats itself.

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Oops! We Miched It Again!

One of the worst parts of writing this blog is trying to come up with an entertaining way to recap a game like this. It’s kind of like being invited to dinner with Jeffrey Dahmer, and trying to be cheerful over dessert. Dahmer, party of two. Um, one?

Undefeated teams, party of two. UM one.

Penn State fans feel like this . . .

To make matters worse, it was on my birthday. The Ides of October. Just for shits and giggles, I went back through the seasons to my birth year. Penn State has played 8 times on October 15 since I was born with an overall record of 4-4. They lost to UCLA in 1966. They beat Syracuse away in 1977 and 1983. They lost to the Orangemen in 1988. They beat the wolverines in 1994. But lost to them in 2005 (two seconds!) We beat Purdue in 2011, and then most recently lost to the Wolverines again this year. And both losses to the wolverines ended perfect seasons.

41-17? How do I even begin to recap this fiasco? Alcohol? Old Lioness suggests this wine:

I fear there is not enough alcohol in the state of Pennsylvania to rehash this mess in the Big House of Horrors.

Now it’s not like we didn’t all see this coming. I already blogged about the sense of déjà blue all over again after we beat Auburn. We took our undefeated, over-rated team to ranked Iowa last year–and lost. This year, same thing, different Waterloo. The script is becoming nauseatingly predictable. Don’t get in the running car–hide behind the chainsaws! At least last year, we could blame Clifford’s injury and the lack of a prepared back-up.

There are no excuses this year. Any year? We are 0-10 against teams ranked in the top ten in our last 10 attempts!

Some would argue that there are a lot of teams that go 0-10 against highly ranked opponents. I don’t understand this argument. Are we to settle for being like everyone else? Are we supposed to lower our expectations? Just because only a handful of teams have won a championship the last ten years, does that mean we should not aspire to that?

Being Penn State used to mean something. Linebacker U. The Grand Experiment. 409 wins! Success (wins) with Honor! This product we now see year in and year out is not acceptable. It’s not just about rooting for the kids. Or graduating kids. Believe it or not, you can get an education and be successful in life without football. The real trick is to do both. I will be there for every remaining home game this season with my blue and white gear on yelling my head off. But looking the other way and passively accepting these results from an $85 million coach is insane! I criticize because I CARE!

And we had two weeks to plan and prepare for this piss-poor performance!!!! WTF?!?!?!

We didn’t have a first down in the first quarter! We barely had a 100 yards rushing (net of 111) while we gave up 433 yards! Our lines were pushed all around Ann Arbor like a skinny nerd at the playground during recess.

Time of possession or the lack thereof? Forty-two minutes for the home team and a measly 18 for the good guys in white. I couldn’t have imagined this in a nightmare.

Clifford did have an amazing run which set up our first touchdown. The defense had a pick six that a-maize-ingly put us up by one point for a whole 4 and a half minutes. And we managed to kick the one field goal we attempted. So we’ve got that going for us moving forward.

It’s obvious that there are some line problems. Thank you Captain Obvious. There have always been line problems. Paterno addressed this back in the day by amassing a line of fifth-year seniors every four years. Guys don’t hang around that long anymore, Mr. Clifford notwithstanding.

We recruit a lot of bling, but no real substance to go with it.

And while Alabama fell to Tennessee proving that no team is perfect all the time, that is the exception to the rule in Tuscaloosa where the Crimson Tide have won SIX championships since 2009, and have played in at least two other championship games that they didn’t win.

Even the Steelers somehow managed to win a game this week.

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State Survives Nor’Wester

As usual, I take some literary liberty in titling this tripe. A true Nor’Wester is a rainy storm in Bangladesh in the spring with winds from the northwest. Doh! We certainly weren’t in Bangladesh. It was not spring. But we played Northwestern, close enough for non-government work, hence the title. And we survived. Barely.

A Nor’Wester can also be a drink of strong liquor, which is what most Penn State fans needed during this game. Even the $10 cans of beer on sale in the stadium couldn’t take the edge off this performance.

What can you say? It was SLOPPY. The weather and the play. On both sides of the ball, thankfully. Maybe the beer sales had something to do with it.

Despite FIVE turn-overs, the Lions managed to eke out a W against the Wildcats of Northwestern 17-7 before a soggy audience of I have no idea how many poncho clad fans. (There was no way there were 105,524 soaking wet bodies in that stadium at ANY point on Saturday!) Thankfully, my seats are under the North deck so we were pleasantly dry for the duration of the game. Even the pre-game tailgate was nice as the rain didn’t start until about an hour before kick off.

Although the score was closer than expected, the stats did show domination by the Lions, especially on the defensive side of scrimmage.

From GoPSUsports.com

The defense continues to bring it week in and week out. Northwestern’s lone score appeared to occur on a broken coverage play, and that one play alone was the difference between a shut out, and a deceptively closer final score. The Wildcats even moved the ball to the one yard line but failed to score on a fourth and goal.

Evan Hull of the Cats had a 29 yard run–the team’s best of the day. Ultimately, the team as a whole had only 31 yards! In wet and sloppy conditions, the wildcats were unable to move the ball on the ground.

Penn State actually rushed for more yards than they had passing, but that was probably more a product of the conservative game plan. Twenty pass attempts versus 58 rushing plays. We can only speculate as to whether this was due to the predicted wet weather, due to a lack of confidence in the passing game (which could be further extrapolated to a lack of confidence in Clifford, either due to injury or inconsistency) or simply the desire not to show future opponents any new plays. The latter, though, is the least likely possibility.

Which brings us to dear old Clifford. He appears to have regressed from his first three games, perhaps peaking at the Auburn game. I still think he was injured on the late hit against Central Michigan, and he took a good solid hit early in the Auburn game, although he seemed to play the rest of that game with above his average expertise.

But isn’t this the typical pattern we have seen with Clifford? Usually there is some injury involved, but throughout his career, he has been plagued with the inconsistency bug. Part of this may just be scheduling . . . the Big Ten schedule is always tougher than the out of conferences foes–even Auburn. Apparent regression might just be a general inability to beat tougher teams. If he is to continue being the starting quarterback moving forward in this season, he will have to have better games in the next three games or this season will head south faster than snow birds in December.

Penn State has had worse quarterbacks in the past, but they have had better ones too. We might have a better one sitting on the bench.

But what is Franklin to do? Pull a six-year starter sitting on a 5-0 record and start a true freshman with limited game experience against #4 Michigan on the road in the biggest toilet bowl in North America? On the other hand, the lack of playing time might push your future star closer to the portal. Decisions! Decisions! I guess that’s why he’s paid the big bucks! 🤣

I had really hoped for a platoon system between the two, but that has not materialized, and the next game is not a good game to try a new experiment, although we do have an extra week to prepare. How’d that work out before Illinois last season? Fuggedaboutit! At this point, it is either sink or swim with the Big Red Dog.

Third down conversion rate still sucks. But we were 100% on fourth down tries! So we’ve got that going for us. (Northwestern sucked just as badly.)

Special teams played well in the sloppy weather. No obvious gaffs to critique.

Other random thoughts on this ignoble victory at sea . . .

Kudos to the fans that actually came, sat in the rain, and persevered to the bittersweet if not soggy end. We have an amazing fan base. Maybe it’s dedication. Obsession? Insanity?

Did you bet on Penn State to cover the spread? If you did, you probably should have been standing in the upper deck in the rain, with your shirt off, and a big blue “S” for stupidity painted on your chest.

I guess if you live in a van down by a concrete island with a tree in Lot 18, you better stock up on AAA batteries. I’m not sure the whole story but this van had some kind of whooping/chirping alarm going off. The owner was walking through the lot trying to find someone with a AAA battery. Or maybe he was looking for an honest man. Who knows? But the battery was apparently necessary to deactivate the alarm. He finally found one, stopped the alarm and then left. But not before . . .

His travelling companion took a piss behind the tree beside the van while the van owner was searching for a battery. The tree isn’t that large, so he wasn’t so much peeing behind a tree, as peeing beside a tree. Everyone could see. There are port-a-potties forty yards away. As someone who had to duck into the woods near Toftrees to relieve himself, I fully understand. But a small tree does not a forest make.

Another couple of guys tried to bum beer off us because they had a long way to walk. State College isn’t that big! Were they heading to Waddle? These weren’t college kids. The guy said he was over forty, perhaps to make it clear he was legal to drink. We had just gotten back to our van and hadn’t unpacked the cooler yet so they moved on to the next tailgate. Reminded me of a time back when my dad was still alive when a college guy tried to bum a cigarette with the promise that his girlfriend would flash us in thankful return. My dad never smoked, but he always brought cigarettes after that! (Just kidding, but it was a family joke for awhile.)

This was the kind of game Joe Paterno would have loved. Three yards and wave of mud. As I sat there watching this game, I could almost picture him wiping off his glasses on the sideline, towel around his neck, and then complaining about the fumbles afterward.

Which also reminds me . . . . the stadium pre-game videos are showing more of Joe Paterno than they have in the the 11 years since his death. I didn’t mention this last week, but the Central Michigan game was attended by Sue Paterno in the President’s sky box.

From the CDT

It didn’t seem like we dominated time of possession like we did. It seemed like we ran a couple plays and fumbled or punted most of the day. It was actually kind of boring in the second half. Maybe I fell asleep. It seemed to really drag after half-time and I got the sense both sides were just trying to run out the ball and get out of the rain.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The battle of Scarlet teams saw the Buckeyes prevail over Rutgers 49-10. Knuts beat Knights. The game was most notable for a fake punt by the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter, already up 39 points. The play ended in a brawl and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano yelling and pointing at Ryan Day, who seemed to rebuke the sentiment with similar gestures and vehemence..

The whole episode brought back memories of Penn State-Rutgers in 1995. My recollection of the game was that back-up QB Mike McQueary (now where have we heard that name before—it will come to me,) changed the called play at the line and threw a late touchdown, thusly “running up” the score 59-34. I put that in quotes because if you’re already playing your second string, it’s not really running it up. And back in 1995, polls meant everything–the 1994 debacle of an undefeated PSU team not being anointed #1 had to still be lingering in the collective mind of the players and coaches. But this site suggests maybe it had more to do with McQueary’s gambling problem, and a need to cover the spread. Anyway, Rutgers seems to get themselves into these predicaments, and coach Graber and Paterno exchanged profanities after the game because of the incident.

Michigan defeated Iowa in a stripe out in Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City. The final there 27-14, with no extra entertainment from Harbaugh and Ferentz. But I would kind of like to see them arm wrestle.

The Cornhuskers found a way to win . . . by playing Indiana. They won 35-21.

The woes continue for the Spartans as MSU lost to Maryland 27-13. How much is MSU paying their coach??? Is there a money back option?

And Illinois defeated the Badgers 34-10 prompting Wisconsin to fire Paul Chryst. There’s a lot of speculation about the cost of that buyout, with figures like $16-19 million dollars thrown out there like lottery prizes. It may be significantly less than that, but it’s still going to be a lot of cheddar!

And the Boilermakers ended the Gophers unblemished season 20-10.

MEANWHILE . . .

. . . in Missouri, the Georgia Bulldogs needed a late game score to defeat the Tigers 26-22.

. . . in Mississippi, 7th ranked Kentucky lost to Ole Miss 22-19.

. . . still in Mississippi, the State Bulldogs knocked Texas A&M out of the rankings 42-24.

. . . and in Texas, the horny toads of TCU knocked the Sooners out of the top 25 with a 55-24 thumping.

. . . and in the ACC, Pitt and Florida State fell out of the rankings with losses to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

Penn State rose to #10 in both polls this week. Georgia fell back to #2 after their near loss experience.

And a bye for Penn State next week before the long anticipated trip to Ann Arbor.

Love the helmet! Thought that might be ex-President Barron at first, but it wasn’t!

GO STATE! BEAT BYE!

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