Purple Slain

Words will fail me. 

In the great, grand scheme of things, this game was fairly meaningless.  Penn State is not playing for a national championship.  They’re not playing for a conference title.  There is no bowl game on the horizon.  Virginia lost today, but no one really cares about our strength of schedule.  Northwestern cared; they were ranked and 5-0.  Key word there is were.

But to the people that still care about Penn State football . . .  the players, their coaches, the alumni and all the loyal fans . . . this was an amazingly emotional and gratifying win.  It can’t compare to games like the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, the 1983 Sugar Bowl, the 48-14 thumping of #1 Pitt, or the 2005 victory over Ohio State, to name a few, but make no mistake about it, this was a special win.

It almost brought tears to my eyes, and it did bring a lump in my throat.  I am losing my voice from yelling.

Even if I could speak, words would fail me.

Make no mistake about it, what started as a wet, overcast day, got more raw and cold as the crowd watched Alex Butterworth uncork a 54 yard punt (and really, let’s be honest here, we were just ecstatic that he didn’t shank it again) that would then be returned 75 yards to put the boys in purple up 28-17 with less than a minute to go in the third quarter.  Things looked bleak, indeed.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to an imminent loss.  McGloin took control of his team, and Penn State needed him to step up.  He wasn’t helped by four or five drops by his receivers, nor his less than laser sharp throws in the game to this point.  The sharks were circling and he was bleeding in the water.

But he capped off an 18 play, 82 yard drive with an 8 yard strike to his favorite target, Allen Robinson.  And then O’Brien opted to go for the two point conversion.  Certainly, this makes a lot of sense because a field goal will tie the game if you are successful.  But that assumes we can kick another field goal, and if Northwestern holds, you are four points down and forced to score 6, since two safeties would be a ridiculous extrapolation of this thought process.

Penn State converted the two point conversion and you could feel the emotion shift in the stadium.  Although the stadium was no where near capacity, it was perhaps as loud as it has ever been as Northwestern was humbled by the Penn State defense into a three and out.

This was a team on a mission, and it was a team effort.

Under a punishing rush attack by Zach Zwinak (“Z Rally Wheels!”), McGloin led this team on an 85 yard, 15 play drive capped off by his own scamper into the corner of the south endzone to put the Lions on top 32-28.  Unfortunately for us, there was still 2:37 on the clock.

But before the thundering crowd, the defense rose to the occasion like the sun rising over this game as it emerged from the darkness like a phoenix born again from ashes.  Northwestern turned the ball over on four downs, leaving 1:48 on the clock. 

All Penn State had to do was run out the clock, and run they did.  Northwestern held on first down and then called a time out.  They had enough time outs to possibly get the ball back and threaten to ruin this day once again, but the football Gods were angered by this impudence, and Zordich broke the line of scrimmage to the left on the next play, bouncing it outside and up the sideline to the three yard line.  Zordich then scored on the next play, and a Sam Ficken who was perfect on the day gave the final score of 39-28 and finished a 22 point turn around in the fourth quarter.

Yet, the purple monster wouldn’t die.  Northwestern managed a single first down (the only one of the fourth quarter for the Wildcats,) before Gerald Hodges said no more of this, knocking the ball on the turf so that Da’Quan Davis could recover it.  Game.  Set.  Match.

McGloin took a knee and sprinted across the field to shake hands with Pat Fitzgerald.

Ohio State players may not want to go to class, but Penn State players are all class.

Congratulations, Nittany Lions.  And thanks for a great game!

BY THE NUMBERS:

A week after the Wildcats gained 700 yards against Indiana, Penn State held them to 247, well below their season average.  PSU amassed 443 yards with 161 on the ground and controlled time of possession 39:17 to 20:43.  Northwestern had the ball on 3:15 in the fourth quarter, and gained only 26 yards in the final 16 minutes of play.

Penn State had only three penalties, one of which was a befuddling phantom PI that kept a Wildcat drive alive for a TD, brought boos from the crowd, and brought O’Brien out on the field in righteous indignation.  His fire ignited the team though, and may have been crucial spark to the offensive explosion that Penn State produced in the final quarter.

Northwestern’s best plays were the phantom PI and the muffed punt by PSU.

INTANGIBLES:

The Blue Band Drum Major stuck both flips and the Alumni Band performed for the 50th straight year.

Penn State won the toss and took the ball first.

The listed crowd of 95,769 looked much less than that.  What is wrong with everyone?  This is an exciting team that is FUN TO WATCH.  You want to be dissatisfied with the BOT and administration, so be it.  But get your ass in that stadium and cheer on these young men.  Although it took until the second quarter, the students finally managed to make it to the game.  We need to step up for O’Brien, Mauti, McGloin and all the rest.  JUST.  DO.  IT.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Spartans were almost but not quite upset by the pesky Hoosiers.  Sparty prevailed 31-27, scoring two TDs in the fourth.

THEM dominated Purdue 44-13.

Urban Meyer won his second Big Ten game, pasting Nebraska 63-38.  But then, the Buckeyes did go there to play football, not to go to classes.

Illinois tussled with Wisconsin, but came up short, losing 31-14.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  F$U–beaten by the Wolfpack 17-16 late in the game.
2.  Pitt–lost to Syracuse 17-16 in that coveted Friday night spot.
3.  Irish fans who had to see those God awful helmets with the split personality.  Seriously, is there a prize for the team that comes up with the worst uniforms????
4.  Texas–lost to West Virginia 48-45 with Fera missing a field goal.  Schadenfreude.
5.  LSU–swamped by Florida 14-6.  Twenty points in the SEC?  And the lowest scoring Big Ten game featured 45 points this weekend, with one game over a 100!
6.  Georgia–romped by South Carolina 35-7. 

LOOKING AHEAD:

Penn State has a bye week next week before heading to Iowa.

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Filed under analysis, Big Ten, football, Northwestern, Penn State, recap, statistics

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