I don’t know. What’s a Mauti with you?
Michael Mauti will likely go down as one of the best senior leaders in the history of Penn State football. Before the season began, he was outspoken about the NCAA’s decision to allow PSU players to transfer for any reason (even no reason) whatsoever, and he was upset by conference brethren coaches (well, one school anyway) who stalked PSU players on campus to recruit them away. On Saturday, Mr. Mauti put his words into action as part of a good old ass whoppin’ of Tim Beckman’s floundering Illini.
Penn State beat Illinois 35-7 but should have scored more. Oh, my kingdom for a kicker.
Mauti had two picks and returned one 99.5 yards for what could have been a touchdown but was just that much short. Replay kept 7 points off the board, but gave PSU one second. The lack of a kicking game kept three points off the board. But you can’t fault Mauti’s heart or his effort. He is all in. He is all Penn State. He may likely become one of my all time favorite players, and he may be now, though I’m not sure I can part ways with Michael Robinson. MRob led the Lions to a fantastic 2005 season marred only by bungling refs and 2 freaking seconds, at a time when many had lost faith in Joe Paterno and Penn State football.
That’s not so different from now, come to think of it. Maybe there will be a tie at the top of that list.
I won’t dwell too much on game details now, since I live-blogged the game in other entries.
And while Illinois is no Nebraska or Wisconsin, or USC or Alabama, this win was so huge to these kids that have stuck by Penn State and Coach O’Brien. While the recruiting that Beckman did was not illegal, it was unethical and quite frankly, classless and unsportsmanlike.
Now, just to be fair, this Penn State team won’t be mistaken for Alabama or Oregon either. But I am encouraged by what I am seeing, the kicking issue notwithstanding. We seem to be getting better every week. McGloin has shocked a number of football fans, but he still has his moments. I thought his performance against Illinois was a little below what he had been doing–missed some open guys, and took a sack with a ton of negative yardage. On the other hand, he didn’t throw the ball up for grabs and an INT or fumble it either, both of which would have been worse outcomes.
The secondary is still a little suspect. We bit pretty easily on the trick play. Our pass rush still doesn’t consistently put pressure on the QB, and I am concerned that a strong offensive line giving a QB a lot of time could spell disaster.
Yet, I remain cautiously optimistic. Most people I talk to feel that O’Brien hasn’t fully explored the offensive play book yet. Could it be that we haven’t unveiled all our defensive power yet? Could there be some blitz packages we are saving for bigger games? I certainly think that is possible.
And each week shows that the remainder of the schedule is not as daunting as we initially feared. The Spartans showed that Ohio State is not invincible. Nebraska looked really bad the first half of their game against the Badgers . . . and Wisconsin looked equally unimpressive in the second half as Nebraska overcame the shock of all those ugly uniforms on one field to come back and win impressively.
All in all, I am ectstatic over this win and looking forward to heading to Beaver Stadium next week to shock and awe the Northwestern Wildcats.
But I wonder . . . did Beckman tell his team in the locker room after the game that they could have won that game if he had replaced more of them with Penn State players?
BY THE NUMBERS:
Penn State won time of possession with 32:55 minutes of offensive control, thus giving PSU an edge in plays of 82 to 69. The Lions only beat Illinois in total yardage by 18, but gained 173 on the ground to only 74 for Illinois. Illinois had more passing yards, but also suffered 2 interceptions. The Illini missed two field goals making Ficken not look so bad. Ficken actually kicked a FG, but the points came off the board due to a roughing the kicker penalty that kept the PSU drive alive and enabled us to score a touchdown instead.
Mauti’s 99 yard interception return was reminiscent of Harrison’s return in the Superbowl for the Steelers, except for the fact that Harrison scored. But the points weren’t needed and Mauti made his statement. I still wish he had gotten the score, though.
Penn State righted its penalty issues, logging only 2 flags for 17 yards. The Illini were penalized 8 times for 69 yards, and had a player ejected.
The Blue Band made its one trip to an away game. Not sure why they chose this one, as their audience was a meager 46,734 fans, and one sportswriter felt this number was “heavily inflated” (Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror.)
Illinois won the toss and deferred. That worked out well for them, didn’t it.
O’Brien won his debut Big Ten game. I’m not sure why ESPiN had to keep reminding us that Urban Meyer won his debut conference game at Ohio State, even running it along the ticker all night during the Wisconsin-Nebraska game, while not even mentioning that Bill did the same, but whatever. It’s not like Meyer never coached against a Big Ten team before.
|Our uniforms are uglier than yours!|
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
Purdue was still out of conference, but beat Marshall 51-41.
The Buckeyes beat Sparty 17-16. Did you know that was Urban Meyer’s Big Ten debut?
Northwestern defeated Indiana 44-29.
Iowa mirrored Minnesota 31-13 for the Gophers first loss of the season.
Nebraska trailed most of the game, but came from behind to defeat Wisconsin 30-27.
1. Baylor. Scored 63 points, but fell to WVU 70-63. That’s some fine defense there in the Big XII. The ‘Neers should fit right in.
2. Ga Tech–beaten by Middle Tennessee State 49-28.
3. Va Tech–beaten by Cincinnati 27-24 in a wild finish.
4. Arkansas–lost to Texas A&M 58-10. Wow. Just. Wow. And they started out the season ranked 8th!
5. Idaho–beaten 66-0 by North Carolina. At least the Vandals scored 14 against LSU (63-14.)
The undefeated Wildcats bring their game to Beaver Stadium for a nooner next week.
The Mildcats are 5-0 with such impressive wins as these:
W Syracuse 42-41
W Vanderbilt 23-13
W Boston College 22-13
W South Dakota 38-7
W Indiana 44-29
They are ranked 22nd in the USA Today and 24th in the AP.
On the flip side, our wins are not any more or less impressive, and we could have/should have won the two that we lost. It will be interesting to see the opening line on this game (and we know how much that means after thumping a 1.5 point favorite this weekend) but I suspect we might be favored, even though NW is ranked. I also think we will win this game.
And for Mr. Beckman . . . (to Drive By by Train)
On the other side of a field I knew
Stood a coach that looked like you
I guess that’s déjà vu
But I thought this can’t be true
Cause you coach out in Champaign, not here in mid PA
Now you can’t ever get away from me
Oh but those recruits
We could not dispute
They didn’t leave me
Cause they could all see
That you were overwhelmed, and frankly scared as hell
Because we really beat you too
Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there with you
This is just a drive by