The Ducks got roasted, the Wildcats toasted, and Irish eyes are smiling as another weekend of college football passes us by. Meanwhile, in Happy Valley, Penn State fans continue to support a team largely overlooked by the rest of the country. They will not compete in the Big Ten Title game. They will not go to a bowl game. They aren’t ranked.
But they are a group of players playing with heart and determination. They are led by a quarterback–a former walk-on–who many would not have expected to be successful. Yet, he has passed the test, so to speak. But hidden among the passing stats of this football game and season (Matt McGloin is the PSU career passing TD leader, single season completions leader, and season passing yardage leader–not to mention the fact that the Hoosiers threw for 454 yards as well) is another story which has come to an end this Saturday, as Michael Mauti left the game with his third knee injury of his career.
He likely won’t play next week, senior day. He likely won’t be drafted at this point, depending on the severity of that injury.
Yet, the heart of Nittany Nation goes out to this young man. He was a leader on this team, and was in large part responsible for keeping things from falling apart as fellow team mates scrambled to other teams like rats jumping ship.
Maybe he won’t go down as the best linebacker ever at Penn State. But he may be one of the most remembered.
They say that life isn’t fair. With respect to Mauti, that is an understatement.
Bad things happen to good people. We don’t know why. It just happens.
And the fact that the injury came in a meaningless game against a meaningless opponent (no offense intended) on a meaningless play where he was actually chop blocked illegally (but for which no penalty flag was thrown, because, well, let’s face it, Penn State is not–and has never been–favored by this league) only adds insult to injury and magnifies the injustice.
But fifteen yards would in no way compensate this young man–this leader–for what he now loses, as he will be forced to hobble onto the field next week for senior week. What should have been a jubilant, if overshadowed, celebration, will now be a bitter farewell. How would Washington have felt not crossing the Delaware? If Grant couldn’t have faced Lee’s forces? If Neil Armstrong had come down with a cold before lift off?
We cannot imagine the pain and frustration that this leader must now endure. And while some would find fault with comparing the game of football to warfare or space travel, there is no denying that a man of determination and heart will be forced by circumstances beyond his control, to watch rather than participate. It is the emotions we are comparing; not the actual situations.
The game itself became a side light to that injury. The defense responded with a front seven that allowed only 24 yards rushing by Indiana. Players like Gerald Hodges stepped up their game. And while the secondary gave up 454 passing yards, they only allowed 22 points. Coffman was like a stud–he got a lot of phone numbers, but very few dates, and even fewer scores.
The Lions led 28-13 at the half, but then just as they have done numerous times all season, they allowed the other team to come back in the second half, with the Hoosiers closing the gap to 28-22 before they Lion offense regained their mojo and put the game away for good.
BY THE NUMBERS:
From GoPSU sports:
The key here is Indiana’s inability to run the ball, coupled with Penn State’s ability to sustain drives and put points on the board.
Indiana won the toss and took the ball first.
The Drum Major stuck both flips.
The Hoosiers have never beaten Penn State in football.
The crowd of 90, 358 was enthusiastic but lacked the electricity of a marquee match up. I was impressed by the student section, given that many students had already left campus for Thanksgiving break.
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
The Buckeyes stay undefeated, edging Wisconsin in OT 21-14. The Wolverines pasted Iowa 42-17. Northwestern continued the Spartans misery, beating MSU 23-20. Purdue beat Illinois 20-17 while the Huskers inched closer to a match-up with Wisconsin by defeating Minnesota 38-14.
1. Oregon–the ducks got blind-sided by the Cardinal 17-14.
2. K State lost to was crushed by Baylor 52-24.
3. WVU lost to Oklahoma 50-49. How many points have the ‘Neers given up this season?
4. La Tech suffered their second loss to Utah State 48-41.
5. Ohio lost to Ball State 52-27.
The Wisconsin Badgers come to Beaver Stadium next Saturday for a 3:30 match up that means nothing in the great grand scheme of college football. But it is Senior Day for Penn State, and the LAST GAME for this special group of athletes who have been forced to endure hardship beyond what could reasonably be expected.
The Badgers have lost 10-7 at Oregon State, 16-13 in OT to MSU, 30-27 at Nebraska, and 21-14 at home to Ohio State in OT. Their victories over Purdue and Illinois were comparable to PSU, but they took Indiana out behind the woodshed 62-14.
Penn State has opened as a 3 point favorite.
Without Mauti, the linebackers will need to step things up to stop Monte Ball. Ball is on the verge of breaking the record for rushing TDs in his career. PENN STATE MUST NOT LET THIS HAPPEN. If he breaks the record in Indianapolis or in a bowl game, so be it. But the goal should be not to let this landmark happen in our house.
Obviously, you want to send out the seniors on a win, and with no post-season to look forward to, the team will have to live with the outcome of this game for the next ten months.
Will the taste left in our mouths be sweet or sour?
On the other side of the Monte Ball, the Badgers do not NEED a won. They want one. A win will improve bowl status, especially if they don’t beat Nebraska in the Title game for the automatic BCS berth. But this game almost has NFL playoff mentality to it . . . why risk your star players when the title game is already secured. Will the Badgers have the emotional edge? Will the electricity of a home game and senior day translate to improved play on the field for Penn State?
Next week, we shall know.