To Be There, Or Not to Be There . . . That IS the question

Penn State fans are not rookies when it comes to considering the question “is there going to be a football season?” It was not all that long ago–2012 to be exact, when many fans were wondering if there was going to be another season for Penn State football or would the NCAA deliver the “death penalty” to a once proud and successful program.

Fast forward to 2020. Fans–across the country–are now wondering, “will there be a football season this year?” Some already know. The Ivy League presidents have already voted and nixed a 2020 season amid COVID fears and uncertainties.

Choose Wisely . . .

Apparently the Pitt Athletic department has had to change its phone number due to the number of calls from programs across the country seeking Pitt’s advice on playing sports without fans.

Some schools have already considered the logistics of a shortened season (The Big Ten will only play Big Ten teams, and the season will likely be 9-10 games, although no revised schedule has been made public.) The University of Illinois has already issued some preliminary guidelines which include such things as a reduced stadium capacity (20% of 60,670 seats would max out at 12, 134) which is still under their 2019 average attendance figure of 36,702. Fans would only be able to purchase pre-packaged food, and no tailgating would be allowed. Fans would also be encourage to wear face masks. Helmets and foam fingers appear to be optional as well.

This is of course a fluid process at this point, with many athletic departments waiting closer until season kick-off to solidify their guidelines based on fluctuating state regulations (Pennsylvania currently does not allow groups larger than 250 which would mean NO fans if that is not changed,) and how the virus numbers pan out over the next month. Sharply rising numbers (cases and/or deaths) will likely slide the ultimate outcome toward a fan-less season, if any season at all.

Spring football is an option still on the table, but there is no guarantee that the situation risk-wise will be any better, and that also throws a monkey wrench into the normal NFL draft time-frame among other issues.

Just for the record people–a Vaccine does not solve this problem. We have had a flu vaccine for decades and 50-60,000 people still die each year from the regular flu. There is no data yet whether a vaccine will affect the death rate for this virus or not.

I have no crystal ball, and I apparently have no inside sources, but here is my prediction for whether there is or isn’t a season. I think there will be a season, shortened with rule changes in place to protect the players. There will be no fans. I just don’t see that happening. The logistics for PSU to determine which 20% get to go or not is a nightmare no one wants to wake up from. And you can pretty much assume that most fans will be unhappy whatever the final guidelines are. All or none is the better option even if only the Sith deal in absolutes.

Consider this: IF fans are allowed to attend, you are going to spread 20,000 or so fans throughout a 110,000 seat stadium. You will likely be asked to or forced to wear a mask, and probably not be allowed to cheer (yelling creates droplets that spread beyond six feet.) Concessions will be limited or non-existent. Tailgating will be prohibited. Flow of fans into and out of the stadium will be controlled–and keep in mind these jokers can’t even get your cars into and out of the parking lots without an hour of headaches.

Who would even want to go under these circumstances????

I have seen several options being thrown around–refunding the ticket cost for this season versus carrying a credit over to next year. (And what about the seat licensing fees and donations? Another logistic nightmare.) I might consider this if there is a guarantee that ticket prices won’t go up more than say 5-10%. But somewhere down the road, someone is going to have to pay for this lost season (or lost revenue season.) I’d rather it not be me. I am leaning strongly to just getting my money back because the future of large sporting events is likely going to change forever. This virus will do to sports what 9-11 did to air travel. You still enjoy that don’t you???

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Running on Memphis

Put on my plain black shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Dallas News
In the middle of the pouring rain
J.V. Paterno, won’t you look down on me
Yeah, I got a first class ticket
And I bleed blue as a man can be
Then we’re running on Memphis
Running with my feet ten yards down the field
Running on Memphis
But does the vict’ry feel like we are healed?
WalkeninMemphis
Probably any season can be distilled down to a few plays; a few moments.  Snippets of time that mean almost nothing out of context, but everything in the moment.  Their full meaning may not even be evident at the moment they occur, but in retrospect as part of a broad canvas of strokes continually being applied.  Any season can be marked by ups and downs, the natural tides of human emotions splashing up and down the shores of our lives.
But this season feels different.  Maybe not unique–but different.
I still recall the 2005 season.  Penn State was coming off a 4-7 season (2-6 in the conference)–the end of the “dark years” but see, we didn’t know that at the time.  We did not know that as the 2005 season opened.  We were unranked, and ended up #3.  But we coulda been a contender!  After a lackluster out of conference schedule,featuring  wins over South Florida, Cincinnati and Central Michigan (none of these teams having a good year) and then a come from behind 34-29 win at Northwestern that kind of sparked the imagination and excitement.  The turning point!  (Some argue it was the goal line stand against Indiana the season before and I could concede that argument–and it only bolsters what I am trying to say here in a very circuitous way.)  But it was not until we upset #6 Ohio State 17-10 two weeks later that we actually became ranked for the first time since 2002.
And then we lost a heart breaker to THEM–Michigan.  Spit.  Spit.
Who forgets the infamous two seconds?  The heel toe alleged catch?  Multiple shenanigans by the referines.
Those memories are only there because they mattered in some broader unforeseen context.  If Penn State had lost to Northwestern, or Minnesota or Cincinnati–none of that would have mattered or even be remembered.  They might not have even happened!
I am one of those fans that wished Penn State had the chance to play Nebraska in 1994.  In my heart, I truly believe Penn State would have won and been crowned the National Champion.
But that doesn’t mean it would have happened that way.  Penn State might have gone to the Orange Bowl and LOST to Nebraska.  In fact, that scenario is probably statistically just as likely as the one we Lion fans assume would have happened.
Ask any Ohio State fan about that today.  They all sat glued to their seats watching the Fiesta Bowl–where they wanted their team to be–where they deserved???? to be–where destiny was going to watch one of the best offensive powers in the history of college football and a stingy defense to go with it dismantle Clemson and move on to a championship that was almost pre-ordained.
It didn’t happen.  In the end, those moments–snippets in a time sequence that are part of a future always in motion–take on new perspective.
Instead of remembering Justin Fields completing a comeback touchdown pass to win the game, Buckeye fans will forever have etched in their collective memories a receiver falling down, a Clemson defender intercepting and falling to the ground in the end zone, and no National Championship.  Along with that, a touchdown pass to Dobbins waved off for failure to complete the process, and a scoop and score reversed and changed to an incompletion.  A star-player ejected.  There are others I’m sure.  Just ask a Buckeye fan.
That could have been us in 1994.  As it is, we can still believe in our hearts and minds that we were Number One, and we still have some great memories of one of Penn State’s most glorious seasons.
I was afraid our players would not take Memphis seriously.  I was afraid that we would not play with any intensity.  That instead, the collective morale of the team would be one of thinking about what coulda, shoulda, woulda been had the snippets earlier in the year been different.
Nobody wanted a win against Minnesota more than I did.  NO ONE.  Depending on who you are, I will grant you that the desire is equal, but trust me, it was not greater and I am still stewing over the Minnesota loss in 1999.  Iowa 2008.  Michigan 2005.  Oklahoma 1986 Orange Bowl.  USC 2017 Rose Bowl.  I could go on.  You get the point.
I have gone on record asking fellow Penn State fans not to watch the Rose Bowl this year.  The Bowl didn’t want our team–they shouldn’t get our fan support either.  WE ARE!  A package deal.
But then I wonder?  Would a win over Oregon be guaranteed?  Would a loss in a “better” bowl be better than our win over a good Memphis team?  Would a win in the Rose Bowl be more remembered than our victory in the Cotton?  Would we be ranked higher?  We still won’t be number one, and does five mean more than nine after the dust settles?
No.  It wouldn’t.  The loss in Minnesota and the near comeback that failed in Columbus will be what is most remembered.  And a bowl loss would have been equally etched in our collective mindset in a negative way.
This season is what it was.  A year with fairly high expectations (ranked 15th I believe before even the first snap) and while a lot of folks worried about losses to Michigan and their little brother, an almost expected loss to the Buckeyes, and potentially another loss at Iowa, we out-performed expectations and then some.  And although there was disappointment, at the end of the proverbial Ryan Day, I think we will be ranked in the Top 10 and will enjoy the off-season and good memories much more than 95% of other programs in this country.
The Cotton Bowl, although perhaps stressful to us fans that really want to win, was a fun game to watch.  When we finally decided to just run the daggum ball and not try to force passes, we did amazingly well.  I still think James Franklin needs to work on his clock management skills.  A timeout with a minute left in the first half and barring a potential Memphis penalty that would give us an automatic first down, was unnecessary.  We only had two plays left.  TIME WAS NOT THE ISSUE.  Granted, maybe they needed the timeout to come up with a play, but that is a whole other can of worms to open up for an ice fishing trip in Minnesota.  But it looked like we panicked and called time out to save time.  I’m sorry, barring that automatic first down which may or may not occur, you are only going to run two more plays.  You don’t need a minute to do that.
So what happened?  We scored.  Yay!  But now we left enough time on the clock for Memphis to score, and true to the script of the season, they did just that, tacking on a field goal before the half.
In the great, grand scheme of things, it turned out not to have mattered.  But that is hind sight.  We didn’t know at the time if those three points could be the difference in the game.  It was 35-23 at the half (12 point difference) versus the coulda, shoulda, woulda difference of 15.  Both are two score margins, but you know what I’m talking about.
YOU DON’T WANT AN OPPONENT KICKING A FIELD GOAL TO END A HALF.  Period.  If nothing else it gives the underdog momentum.  I’m not even going to argue this any further.
Micah Parsons had a great game, and the defense bent but did not break.  Wait?  What?  Didn’t we give up 39 points?  Yes.  Yes we did.  But Memphis also had more total yards than we did, yet we won the scoreboard battle, which is ultimately the only stat that counts.  Let’s look at those numbers . . .
BY THE NUMBERS:
I think the key stats were the 63 yards rushing for Memphis versus the nearly 400 for Penn State, the eight penalty yards for the Tigers, and the interception returned for a touchdown by Penn State.  Also, the defense forced 6 field goals!  Again, they bent but did not break.
INTANGIBLES:
This was the first meeting between these two schools.  We lead the series 1-0!
Attendance was listed at 54,828.  Penn State didn’t seem to dominate those numbers, but that could be due to Memphis being a lot closer.  Dallas isn’t an exciting bowl destination.  I’m making excuses, but the fan base that traditionally traveled well, didn’t seem to embrace this bowl trip for whatever reasons.
MemphisFans
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
The flagship program of the Big Ten bit the big one against Clemson in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl.  Too bad.  So sad.  Clemson scored late to take a 29-23 lead, but Justin Fields was unable to orchestrate the comeback drive.
Iowa looked impressive as they defeated the Trojans of So Cal 49-24.
Michigan State outlasted the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest, winning 27-21.
Illinois, despite being able to upset the Badgers in the regular season, laid an egg against Cal, losing 35-20.  At least the Buckeyes have some company in the Big Ten Teams that didn’t win their bowl category.  Michigan might join them.  They can have a party!
LOOKING AHEAD:
Up Next–> Blue-White Game:  Beaver Stadium  April 18, 2020.

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What R we doing?

It certainly wasn’t playing football on Saturday afternoon.  Maybe playing BAD football.  But that was supposed to be Rutgers’ job.

We often play down to the level of our competition, but that was ridiculous!

We looked like a pro football team that has already clinched the play-offs and sat their starters out for the last game so as not to injure any one in a meaningless game before the all important play-off games begin.

But we hadn’t clinched anything.  With a Rose Bowl bid possibly on the line, we played like we didn’t care.  As impressed as I was with the gutsy performance of this team a week ago–hanging in there with Suckeyes to the bitter end, I was just as unimpressed by any performance in any category by this team on Saturday.  We didn’t just mail it in.  We sent smoke signals or Morse code.

That was the most boring, yet annoyingly nerve wracking game I have ever sat through in Beaver Stadium.

7-3 at the half?  Are you kidding me?  You are one play away from being beaten by Rutgers.  2-9 and NO Big Ten wins Rutgers!

SimplyLoseRutgers

Granted, it was not an exciting prospect on paper.  41 point favorites.  No Big Ten Title to play for.  No real rival on rivalry weekend.  The stadium was sparse–the students went home from break, and we couldn’t even complete the “S” in the “S zone” until late in the second quarter.  The fan enthusiasm–myself included–was close to zero.  It was cold but not the coldest, and it was mostly tolerable.  Hunting season opened early.  More fans gone.

And even if we were playing to eke out a win without injuring anyone, we failed.  Wade and Reid both went down on the same play.  Reid never returned.

I know Rutgers was only playing for pride, but daggummit, they played harder than we did.  Was Franklin hoping to drop out of the Top 10 and maybe get a lesser bowl opponent to pad his career stats?

The problem with the one game one week attitude–that is, there is a one game season each week and you try to go 1-0 that week–is that when you ultimately don’t go 1-0, the season goes down the toilet bowl, instead of the Rose Bowl.  None of the performances since the Minnesota loss have been our best possible efforts–coaching or executing on both sides of the ball.

And I know Clifford was injured.  That did make an impact.  Let’s face it.  Levis is the better running QB, but he can’t throw.  We had no deep threat whatsoever.

Rutgers is 105th in rushing defense.  Yet Journey Brown managed a mere 103 yards on sixteen carries, eclipsed by the QB Levis’s 108 on 17 carries.  Mostly in the second half.  The Scarlet Knights are slightly better in pass defense, tied for 77th in passing yards allowed (232.5 per game) but we could only manage 81 yards passing for the game.  Want something more funny?  The team Rutgers is tied with for passing yards allowed is . . .  wait for it . . . it’s coming . . . Penn State!

The Altoona Mirror proclaimed “A win is still a win” in it’s Sunday sports headline.  That’s true for sure.  A loss would have been immeasurably worse.  But this is not the way to end one’s regular season and send off the seniors.  (See more below.)

BY THE NUMBERS:

Seriously?  This was Rutgers.  2-9.  No conference wins.  Yet they won time of possession, total yards and out gained us in the air 199-81!  We were 3 of 10 on third downs.  Rutgers had 2 more first downs than we did.  Scoreboard, baby.  27-6.  Still not sure how we managed that and I was there!

INTANGIBLES:

The Drum Major stuck both flips.

The crowd attendance is listed at 98,895.  If there were that many bodies in the stadium, they must have been huddled by the heaters in the bathrooms.  There were not that many people in the stands.

Penn State leads the series 28-2 all-time.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knight prowled the sideline below us, brandishing a sword.  How did he get that in past security?  Doesn’t exactly make me feel safe!

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

So Wisconsin and the $uckeyes will square off for the Big Ten Title.  This will be a rematch, as Ohio $tate already beat the badgers 38-7.  I don’t expect the badgers to keep this close, even on a neutral field.

MEANWHILE, IN  . . . .

Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL . . . the Tide lost to the Tigers after being flagged for too many men on the field.  The penalty allowed Auburn to keep possession and run out the clock.  I wonder if Bama fans are fickle like PSU fans and are calling for Saban to move on?  I wonder if there’s a special teams coach looking for a job today?

Somewhere in Minnesota . . . the Gophers controlled their destiny and that destiny was a losing one.  They got beaten by the badgers 38-17, sending Wisconsin to face the $uckeyes.  You caught us off guard you goofy little gophers.  Shame on us.

LOOKING AHEAD:

There will be a bowl game.  Time and place and opponent to be determined.

But I want to take this moment to chastise the Big Ten and their scheduling.  At one time, Penn State played Pitt, often on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and never had trouble filling their stadium for that game.  It was a rivalry.

The Big Ten has tried to fabricate some rivalries for PSU–most notably the MSU-PSU Land Grant Trophy game, but let’s face it, that was never a rivalry like Pitt was.  I think a couple of years we even finished with Nebraska, which was a rivalry back in the eighties when Paterno and Osborne squared off on the sidelines.  That would have been a better draw than Rutgers.  Rutgers wasn’t ever a rivalry and never will be.

For all that Penn State has done for the Big Ten (I’m sorry, but we elevated this conference from a stodgy old leather helmet era and thanks to Paterno this conference pioneered the now ubiquitous instant reply for officiating)–they can argue all they want, but the Ohio State fans storming the field after beating us suggests we are more of a rival than they are willing to admit–we deserve a better end game than Rutgers.

I understand you have that whole Michigan-Ohio State think shoved up your butts.  I’m okay with that.  Maybe Michigan will even win a game again someday.  But throw us a bone.  Michigan State would have been better than Rutgers.  Give us Nebraska to close out the season.    No one cared about the game Saturday including the fans that actually did show up.  It was a snooze fest from the start, and we are just lucky that the team sort of woke up in the second half.

And maybe take out one of the two bye weeks and end the season before the last day of November when the students are still in class.  Just thinking outside the box here.

And if you are wondering, we finish with Rutgers the next three years and Maryland in 2023.  Not until 2024 do we finish with Michigan State again.

 

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Well That Suck-eyed

Once again, the game is a distant memory and another game is coming up, and I still have not reported in.  Shame on me!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

A small part of me feared that Ohio State really was a top ranked team and would dispatch us like an annoying insect, easily covering the almost 20 point spread and then some.  They did not blow us out of the water.  That’s good.  I’m particularly proud that we hung in there and fought to the bitter end and were actually within 4 points of the upset of the year going into the fourth quarter.  WITH OUR BACK-UP QUARTERBACK!

But . . . there was also a part of me that thought perhaps the Buckeye$ were a bit over-rated, hadn’t played anyone as good as us, and we were going to manage to pull out a win somehow.  We did not.  That’s bad.  Too bad.

The Ugly?  Despite still being ranked 10th in the College Football Playoff rankings, there is almost no mathematical probability of the Lions actually getting to play in that play-off.  Is next year our year?  I always hate that kind of logic/hope.  I’d rather play now.  Too much can happen between now and then.  We had a chance THIS year, but couldn’t make the plays when we needed to make them.  Well, there’s always next year!

Could we hold our own against Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, or Oklahoma????  We didn’t do a bad job against the Buckeye$.  Consider this:  Ohio $tate was defeating teams by an average margin of victory of 41.7 points!  They beat us by 11.  In all their previous games, the closest margin of victory was against MSU–24 points.  We are the closest that Ohio $tate has come to losing all season.  WITH OUR BACK-UP QUARTERBACK!

And let’s face it.  They are as advertised.  Scary good at just about every position.   (The best team money can buy LOL! )

BY THE NUMBERS:

Make no mistake of it.  There are precious few stats that favored the Nittany Lions.  One in particular, though, kind of surprised me.  Although he had 25 more carries than Journey Brown, J.K. Dobbins only averaged 4.4 yards per carry, while Brown averaged 5.8.  Maybe we should have tried to run more?

INTANGIBLES:

Is there a luckier man on this planet than Ryan Day?  Urban Meyer retires amidst turmoil and this guy picks up a team that is almost incapable of losing.  I will be surprised if he doesn’t go undefeated in his first season as head coach.  Hell, I could probably be undefeated right now if I were the head coach of that team!

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Yea.  Whatever.  We’re not in it.  Ohio State will probably win it.  Move along.

LOOKING AHEAD:

So we have a season where we are now waiting to see how good a bowl game we can get, but there is still one game left to play.

Rutgers.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t worth my time.  Rutgers sucks.  Birthplace of BAD football.

Rutgers

GO STATE!  BEAT RUTGERS!

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Don’t Gopher That!

Phantom

Why so silent, good Messieurs?
Did you think that I had left you for good?
Have you missed me, good Messieurs?
I have written you a recap

Here I bring the finished blog
*GOPHER Triumphant*!
I advise you to read on
My instructions should be clear
Remember there are worse things than a shattered perfect year!

My apologies to Gaston Leroux and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Though I may have disappeared as quickly as the Phantom of the Opera, I did not actually disappear.  And it had nothing to do with a devastating loss to the Golden Gophers of Minnesota.  After watching the Lions throw away a possible undefeated season and play-off invitation with a miserably lackluster performance in Minnesota that angered this Phantom to no end, I did what any cold, shivering MVB (most valuable blogger) north of the Mason-Dixon line would do . . .  I went to Disney world!

But here’s a few thoughts I started to type before time ran out and I had to head to Florida . . .

After climbing into the playoff picture for the first time ever, Penn State threw away its best chance to actually play in said playoff picture in a flurry of interceptions, bad breaks and questionable coaching decisions.

Going for two early in the game?  It really didn’t make a difference in the final score–we would still have been down by four and forced to go for a touchdown anyway, but . . . a conversion there would have put us in the position of kicking a field goal to tie the game.  Woulda . . .

We can debate kicking the field goal versus going for it on fourth down all we want–and second guessing is never perfect as we could miss the field goal, they could run the ensuing kick off back, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum, BUT . . . an extra point and a field goal on the scoreboard going into our final drive meant we would only need a field goal to WIN.  Coulda . . .

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

Like it or not, this is who WE ARE  right now.  A team that recruits well, plays well most of the time, but somehow manages to lose a game (or two) along the way that it should have, could have, would have won.

Sorry Mini-soda.  You’ve got a good team there, but I wouldn’t cancel your ice fishing trip because you might be in the playoffs.  We didn’t play like the better team, but we are.  Whatever.  (I actually wrote this before the Gophers went on to flop against Iowa, but I really believe it.  I am amazed at the number of people writing the best team won.  No.  The best team shot itself in the foot and mucked around for sixty minutes and came up short instead of taking care of business.  Minnesota is not the best team, and if there could be a rematch I believe we would win.  I’d be willing to bet the house on it.  Not my house.  But somebody else’s house of course.)

MiniSoda

Maybe USC and Florida State will go after PJ Fleck (aka Pajama Spot) instead of Franklin!  Although I haven’t checked the message boards since the loss, I imagine there is a vocal outcry to oust him!

With that gold tie, Fleck reminded me of Goldmember for some reason.

Goldmember

And since writing that drivel, Penn State has gone on to beat the Hoosiers 34-27 in another nail-biter which shouldn’t have been that close, but again–whatever.  I’m not going to belabor that victory with a recap, since I didn’t see the game (I was drinking in EPCOT!) We got the win and onward to the Buckeyes!

Am I the only PSU fan that thinks we have a chance in Columbus????

It’s probably the alcohol talking!

I’m smelling upset!  (It might be my stomach.) I look at myself in the mirror and I see… RutgersAl!  But I think we upset the Bucks in their house.  Bet the house on it.  Not your house.  Somebody else’s house!  (wink!)

GO STATE!  BEAT BUCKEYES!

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Foreign FOUR

The Nittany Lions have entered foreign territory this week.  Unchartered waters.  Penn State has never been ranked in the Top 4 of the playoff system as it is now.

foreigner4

So long, I’ve been looking too hard, I’ve been waiting too long
Sometimes I don’t know what I will find, I only know it’s a matter of time

I’ve been waiting for a rank like you to come into my life

The Lions debuted at NUMBER 4 on the College Football Playoff Poll, presumably due to their schedule which was more difficult than Clemson’s.  Much to the chagrin of Clemson fans.  But that will all sort itself out for the Tigers as long as they keep winning . . . all four of the teams ahead of them play another one of the four in the coming weeks . . . two of them this weekend.

And while I am feeling fairly confident about this game, I was sitting in Beaver Stadium in 1999 when we played Minnesota–and I felt pretty confident we would win before that game.

NEVER FORGET . . . .

One Play.  One loss.  But it sparked a downward slide–the DARK YEARS–2000-2004.

 

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Bye Week Blues . . . and Whites

Was this not one of the most boring and uninspired weekends of college football?

Not only did Penn State have a bye week, but no team in the Top 5 played this past weekend.  Mea Culpua.  Clemson beat Wofford 59-14 but I’m not sure that counts as a game!  The marquee match up of the week was formerly undefeated SMU playing Memphis.  Memphis won and the number of undefeated teams drops to 7–LSU, Alabama, THE school formerly known as just Ohio State, Clemson, Penn State, Baylor and Minnesota.  Perhaps the most exciting game was the Irish win over Virginia Tech, coming from behind with an 87 yard drive as time expired to win 21-20.

Contrast that to this coming weekend where #1 and #2 will face off in Alabama, Wisconsin (#16) and Iowa (#18) battle it out in Madison, and Penn State (#5) and Minnesota (#13) will square off in Minnesota.

Minnesota?  That makes me think of . . .

grumpyoldmen

Or this guy . . .

minnesotafats

And their mascot is a gopher????  Well,this is what comes to my mind . . .

GopherLoveBoat

So what do we know about the Minnesota Gophers?

MinnesotaSchedule

Not a whole hell of a lot. While the goofy gophers are undefeated, their schedule has been less than impressive.  Granted, the Nittany Lions still have their toughest test ahead, but at least Penn State has beaten some ranked teams.  Minnesota has beaten some rank teams.

Iowa and Michigan are still ranked.  Pitt, Maryland and Michigan State all spent a few moments or two in the Top 25 at some point this season.

According to Team Rankings, Penn State has the 7th most difficult schedule (Auburn is #1) and the Golden Goophers are ranked at #77.

These two teams have two common:  Purdue and Maryland.  Penn State beat the boilermakers 35-7 while Minnesota won 38-31.  Against the Terps, Penn State shut them out 59-0 at Maryland, while the Gophers won 52-10 on their home turf.

OddsShark has Penn State around a 6 point favorite, but while they think Penn State wins, they predict Minnesota to cover, and take the over.  Their predicted score:  PSU 36- Minnesota 32.  I really don’t think the Gophers can put up 32 points against our defense, but with the unpredictability of our offense–and this is not a good type of unpredictability as when opponents can’t predict what we are going to do but rather we don’t know whether our offense is going to look good or not–I do think this will be a close game.

Saturday at noon, in a state called Minnesota, we shall find out.

aurevoirgopher

GO STATE!  BEAT GOPHERS!

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Sparty Crashers

This was supposed to be the trap game.  This was the latest game of reckoning, or as my fellow blogger, The Nittany Turkey calls it, the Sanguinarian Day of Reckoning.  Or one of many potential days of reckoning that have not yet reckoned.  Penn State had lost the last two to Michigan State and James Franklin was 1-4 against Mark Dantonio.  Michigan State was supposed to have our number, if not our playbook.

Douchebag

But the day of reckoning has been postponed at least another two weeks, as the Nittany Lions dominated the Spartans 28-7 in a torrential downpour in East Lansing, Michigan.  Did you by any chance see the woodshed beating that Michigan put on the Irish in the same downpour, albeit 66 miles or so away?  Makes our win over the wolverines look just a little more shiny this morning.

The only bad news is that this means we have to crate up and haul off the Land Grant Trophy to State College.  Shouldn’t the loser have to keep and dust this piece of crap? It resembles the moss covered three handled family credenza from the Cat in the Hat.  It’s eerily similar to the Lou Grant Trophy.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out . . .

LouGrantLandGrantTrophy

Despite the humiliation of having this monstrosity in our trophy case, the Nittany Lions improved to 8-0 on the season, #5 in both polls (thank you Kansas State and shame on you Auburn!), and Penn State pulls within one of evening up the all-time series with the Spartans at 16-17-1.

While Sean Clifford has had his ups and downs this season, certainly understandable given his first season as a starter, he found a way to throw FOUR touchdown passes under conditions that should be more conducive to a running game.  Pat Friermuth had a hat trick with three touchdown receptions himself.

The defense played their typical Penn State bend but don’t let the other team score defense, holding the Spartans to 83 yards on the ground for 2.7 yards per carry.  Only 7 points appeared on the scoreboard.  Penn State didn’t gain a lot on the ground either, but Noah Cain left the game early with an injury.

That is not to say that Penn State didn’t have it’s problems.  Today was the day for Special Teams to struggle, and that is not at all surprising given the weather conditions.  But a fumbled kick-off (ultimately recovered by the Lions,) a punt return for a touchdown called back for running into the kicker, a missed PAT, and a kick-off out of bounds all add up to a less than stellar performance.  But it was not a game close enough for special teams to make a difference.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Unlike last week, the numbers largely favor Penn State.  Both teams struggled on third down.  Penn State still is committing too many penalties, including spitting on the other team.  Really?  When you’re winning?  Not that losing justifies such behavior but at least we might understand how you could be upset enough to do something like that.

We actually won time of possession, by a small margin.

INTANGIBLES:

The Spartan faithful apparently booed their team as they left the field going into halftime.  The wet soggy crowd of 70,298 was not happy.  The stadium, at least as shown on TV, was never full.

8-0.

Sparty Martian

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes continue to roll as they defeated Wisconsin 38-7.  Fields spent a few minutes in the medical tent.  The game was only 10-0 at the half and the Buckeyes scored a TD late in the second to take that lead into the locker room.

THEM, the wolverines, bounced back from their loss to us to completely embarrass the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 45-14.  Even the announcers were chastising the Irish for not showing up.  Maybe Michigan is pretty good.  I’m glad we played THEM when we did.  They will be a force to reckon with going forward.

Indiana secured bowl eligibility by defeating the Cornhuskers 38-31 for their third straight conference win and their first victory in Lincoln since 1959.

Minnesota is now 8-0, after dispatching Maryland 52-10 in Minneapolis.

Iowa beat Northwestern 20-0 with another great defensive effort.

After beating Wisconsin last week, the Illini followed up their encore performance with a victory over Purdue 24-6.

And Rutgers won a game!  Not a Big Ten game.  Not against an FBS team.  But by God they beat Liberty 44-34!  Take that, Jerry Falwell!

MEANWHILE . . . 

In Manhattan . . . Kansas State held off an Oklahoma comeback as the Sooners appeared to have recovered an onside kick, but on further review were found to be guilty of touching the ball before it went ten yards.   K-state won 48-41 in a thriller.

In Baton Rouge . . . LSU hung on to defeat Auburn 23-20.  The Tigers are off next week before facing Bama.

In Mobile Alabama . . . it wasn’t the Crimson Tide but App State beat the snot out of South Alabama 30-3 to remain unbeaten on the season.

In Fort Worth . . . TCU upset the 15th ranked Longhorns 37-27.

In Houston . . . SMU remained undefeated by beating the Cougars 34-31.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Bye Week.

I will look at the upcoming game with Minnesota next week.

 

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BIG Ugly Win is Beautiful

Penn State jumped out to a 21-0 lead Saturday night before the fourth largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history, but then, inexplicably the Nittany Lions went stagnant on offense, allowing the defense to play all but a few minutes of the second half on their own.  Play calling?  Execution?  Lack of a killer instinct?  Bad luck?  Bad juju?

HarbaughSinging

Mount Nittany’s alive, with the sound of cheering . . .

In the end, though, the defense prevailed, holding on fourth and goal albeit with the gift of a dropped pass to complete Michigan’s failure to come back.  Penn State won 28-21.

As one Michigan blogger typed,

Instead it’s a game where Michigan loses in a blizzard of their own making and the rational post-game take is cautious optimism because that wasn’t as bad as we all expected. That was their best performance of the year, the weird road game where you walk into the kitchen, forget why you went there in the first place, and end up making beef stew. You don’t even like beef stew. In my world the thing you do with carrots that have been boiled for five hours is throw them out. And then you lose.

I have been there.  I have done that.  Well, not making beef stew or boiling the bejeesus out of carrots because, well, I can’t cook.  I don’t cook.  Do you see what I’m doing here?  Can you smell what I’ve got cooking?  (It’s a charred hot mess that smells like smoke and ashes, but the Penn State football team–and this season–rose like a Phoenix from that fiery hot mess with a victory over their Big Ten nemesis since day one:  The-M.

Do you remember the crowd noise penalty in 1993?

Was that not fitting that Michigan had to take a time out BEFORE they even ran their first play as the crowd rocked Happy Valley?

Penn State did not waltz away with a blow out victory.  They did not smell the blood on the field in the first quarter and then go for the jugular.  It was not that kind of win.

And just what kind of win was it?

Was Penn State really good, but Michigan able to almost match-up, two teams battling down to the final seconds of regulation with the outcome in doubt?

Did Penn State “get lucky” that Ronnie-no-victory-Bell dropped the pass?

Or did Penn State’s defense make him so edgy he couldn’t complete the “one job”, the “one play” that apparently was this game.

Were the wolverines a beneficiary of bad calls, or were they the victim of them?

I’m, here to tell you that it doesn’t matter.

The scoreboard tells the only story that will be recorded in the annuls of football lore.  You won’t pick up a media guide ten years from now, flip to this season, to this game, and see an asterisk, leading you to a disclaimer in fine print at the bottom of the page that reads, Michigan should have won but their player dropped a pass that should have been a tying touchdown.

Let me tell you this again:  I (and PSU fans all over) have been there before–done that.

Just in the last two seasons alone, we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory over Ohio State and Michigan State.  Back to back losses in two consecutive years where our beloved team LED in the fourth quarter, but could not hang on, and ultimately lost the game.  I still haven’t gotten over the Rose Bowl loss to USC.  A loss.  No asterisks.  No moral victories.  Nothing elite.

BUT THIS GAME WAS DIFFERENT.

We actually won this game.  With an offense that slept through basically two quarters.  Again, we can banter back and forth about whether it was coaching or execution–or God forbid!  maybe Michigan has a pretty good defense did you ever think of that? –but its mental masturbation that will never produce the same orgasm as a victory.

This was a beautiful win, on an incredible night, with an incredible crowd and it would be pointless to argue otherwise.  That’s the job for the Michigan fans.

And if you’re still not convinced this was a great win, ask Wisconsin if they would rather win ugly or lose.

BY THE NUMBERS:

You want numbers?  Really?  Have you been paying attention?  There are only two numbers that really matter.  28.  And 21.  And maybe 7 and 0.

The wolverines out gained us–by air and by land, Paul Revere would have had a  heart attack hanging all the lanterns–out first downed, out converted us on third and fourth downs, out penalized us, and won time of possession 37:45 to 22:15.  They held the ball for 9:19 in the fourth quarter, but it seemed like more.

As the Michigan blogger noted above, that was their best performance of the year . . . and we still came out on top!

There are only TEN teams (out of 130 FBS schools) that are still undefeated at week eight.  Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Baylor, Minnesota, SMU, and Appalachian State!  We are!  One of them!

INTANGIBLES:

110,669 screaming white-clad fans.  BEST.  FANS.  ANYWHERE.

Penn State moved to 7-0 on the season.  #6 on both polls.

KJ Hamler was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.

The drum major stuck both flips.  That’s recruiting AND development, baby.

College Game Day (built by the Home Depot) was in Happy Valley.  Lee Corso picked PSU!

CorsoLionHead

Video on ESPN

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

So let’s see.  The Buckeyes rolled over NW 52-3, Penn State won, and Minnesota is still undefeated, routing Rutgers 42-7.  How about Wisconsin?  Oh, they were playing Illinois.  They’re still undefeated too.  Wait!  What?  They lost?  24-23?  Oh, the inhumanity!  I swear, with God as my witness, that Badgers could fly!

Iowa rebounded with a 26-20 win over Purdue.

Indiana defeated Maryland 34-28.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Nittany Lions must travel to East Lansing for a 3:30 clash with the Spartans who are 4-3 on the season and no longer ranked.

MSUschedule

There are no common opponents yet on the schedule to draw any transitive property comparisons.  On paper, there is no reason we should not be able to beat MSU.  Of course, on the back side of that paper is a collection of stats saying Illinois should not beat Wisconsin–sometimes out opponents don’t read that paper!

Can the Nittany Lions bring enough game (is that two quarters, 28 minutes, I don’t know) to Spartan Stadium or has the last two BIG wins drained the tank?  This is a terrible stretch of games, and will test our players and coaches.

The early betting line I saw was Penn State favored by a touchdown.

MORONS

GO STATE!  BEAT SPARTANS!

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Hawkeye Game is Foul Play

Penn State traveled to Iowa (and even though traveling is a basketball foul, I’m surprised the Big Ten refs didn’t throw a flag for that too) and came back with a 17-12 victory that wasn’t really that close.

IOwaCorn

But Iowa is a quality opponent, unlike Penn State’s schedule so far.  (The jury is still out on Pitt.)  All week long, Penn State fans had to listen to how hard it is to win at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa.  Everything from the infamous pink locker room to the kids in the children’s hospital waving at the fans in the stadium to the stripe out.  James Franklin has never beaten a ranked opponent on the road in the regular season.  0-11.  And it was a full moon.

But the scariest part of the game came down to the referees once again.  Yes.  I am going there.  I’m heading there as fast as I can, speed limit be damned.  And I am going there after we won.  Usually whining about the referees is wine served up in defeat, made from the sourest grapes you can find.

But when the replay officials failed to uphold or let stand the Friermuth touchdown, followed by two holding calls (and let’s pause for a minute to say that there are plenty of holding calls in every football game that don’t get called) that set Penn State so far back from the goal line they ended up settling for a field goal in a game that was just 10-6  at that point.  14-6 would have been crushing for an Iowa offense that hadn’t scored a touchdown since practically the last full moon.

And how can a quarterback fumble the snap, have the ball roll backward, and still get positive yardage for a first down?

And don’t even get me started on the phantom pass interference penalty that brought back memories of the one called on Scirotto that ultimately gave Iowa the chance to kick a field goal and blemish what turned out to be Paterno’s last best chance at another regular undefeated season in 2008.

The difference:  this team was able to persevere and still win, despite what seemed like a concerted effort to keep Iowa in the game and give them a chance at the upset.

EatMoreHawkeyes

 

Shout outs:

To Blake Gillikin:  In a close defensive game like this, you cannot say enough about a punter that continually pinned the Hawks deep in their own territory.

To Noah Caine: If I were the coach, this kid would get 25 carries a game or more.  The ability to rush for first downs late in the game and run out the clock is invaluable.  How many games would have been won if Penn State had just been able to make a first down in the waning moments of a big game?

To Robert Windsor:  Great game defensively.  Six tackles, couple QB hurries, and 2.5 tackles for losses.

Call Outs:

Big Ten Refs.  Jesus, do you guys know the whole TV audience is watching your screw job?  I haven’t seen such a pathetic attempt to change the outcome of a game since Witovet retired.  Here’s a tip . . . if takes more than TWO minutes and you have to use an electron microscope to see blades of grass underneath a knee, then it is TOO CLOSE TO OVERTURN.  You want to get it right–I understand that.  But you got it wrong.  Nice try!  You’ll get a participation trophy after the game.

Friermuth

Kudos to the Penn State staff and team for maintaining composure and focus and still getting the job done.

BY THE NUMBERS:

While Iowa managed to out gain the Lions in total yardage, Penn State led the crucial total yards on the ground, holding the Hawks to just 70 rushing yards.  Thanks to the running game, Penn State also managed to win time of possession.

And Iowa won the penalty battle.  Imagine that!

INTANGIBLES:

James Franklin wins his first game on the road against a ranked opponent.

Penn State secured the #7 spot on both polls.

Penn State leads the all-time series 16-12 with a current streak of 6 wins.

IowaSober

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Wisconsin blanked the Spartans 38-0 while Michigan topped the Illini 42-25.  But that game was 28-25 with just over 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Indiana beat Rutgers 35-0.  Who hasn’t beaten Rutgers?

Purdue rebounded with a big win over the Terrapins, 40-14.

The Gophers throttled the Huskers, 34-7.

MEANWHILE . . . 

In Georgia . . . the Bulldogs stunk it up between the hedges badly enough for South Carolina to get the upset in double OT, 20-17.  What I don’t understand is how Georgia is perennially ranked in the top 10, often top 5, in recruiting classes, yet they never seem to be able to transform that talent into wins.  Sporting News ranked schools recruiting classes for the last 10 years, and while Alabama and Ohio State were #1 and #2, Georgia was #4.  Now college recruiting is far from a science, and any given class may or may not pan out.  But how can they be right most of the time with the Buckeyes and the Tide, but not the Bulldogs?  Methinks Georgia has some way of not developing that talent.  BTW, Michigan is Ninth on that list.

In Louisiana . . . LSU beat the Gators 42-28.

LOOKING AHEAD:

THEM.

The-M.  The Big Block M.  They are all that and a bag of chips.  Too sexy for their helmets.

MFan

Michigan Fans ARE special.

The Wolverines are 5-1 and ranked #16 in both polls.

MichiganSchedule

They almost lost to Army, but granted Army is a good football team–not great–but solid.  Wisconsin pretty much Michigan-Man-handled the wolverines at Camp Randall.  In common opponents, THEM held Iowa to 3.  We held them to 6, with the refs adding another 6.  We had Iowa on the road at night.  They beat the Hawkeyes at the Big House.  Adjust for the home field advantages (3 points). . . carry the one . . .  they matched up +4 on a neutral field and we would have a margin of 8.  This ain’t common core math.  We will beat THEM.

StateFarmWolverine

Harbaugh:  “You keep those khakis packed, James Franklin!”

And if this wasn’t exciting enough already, College GameDay is coming to Happy Valley next week!  Get your Big Ten Ref signs ready!!!

GO STATE!  BEAT THEM!

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