Minnesota Drats!

Because of a camping trip, I was unable to watch the game on TV.  I did listen to most of it, but I finally gave up when we fumbled yet again at the goal line.  There was still some time left on the clock, and part of me wanted to listen to another great comeback win.  I knew that scenario was unlikely, but no more implausible than a 4 OT victory over THEM or a come from behind OT win against the Illini.  I knew it was possible, but decided I’d rather read about the comeback on Sunday and not have my Saturday afternoon ruined any further.

I got home today to discover that not only was there no comeback win, Penn State never got the ball back with over six minutes left to go in the game.

Drat and double drat!

Not a point was scored in the second half.  If your cup is half full, the defense did their job in a manner of speaking.  If your cup is half empty, our offense really sucks.

Ten points.

Not counting OT points, just points in regulation, Penn State is averaging just under 20 points per game since starting Big Ten play.  Worse yet, we are giving up 36 points per game in regulation.

Even in the dark year of 2004, we never gave up more than 21 points, and we beat Indiana.  Of course that team was coached by a legend without sanctions.

This Minnesota loss was a doctoral thesis on how to miss golden opportunities.  The fumble on the goal line is a glaring example, but Minnesota fumbled giving Penn State a wonderful chance to get back in the game.  But even with a Minnesota defensive off-sides call, Penn State could not even manage a first down, let alone a touchdown.

This is where the coaching could certainly be questioned.  It sounded on the radio like we had the running game cranked up.  Zwinak was running lights out and almost single-handedly scored the first Lion touchdown.  Yet, after the off-sides in what was clearly four down territory at the Minnesota 32-yard line with a second and five situation, PSU tried two passing plays resulting in an incompletion and a sack that then triggered a punt instead of a celebration or a fourth down attempt at the least.

I’m not a coach.  Never will be.  But what exactly goes through a coach’s mind at that point in the game?  You’ve got a running back averaging 5.8 yards per tote and two downs (three if you count going for it on fourth) to let him get the first.  Are you trying to catch the other team selling out against the run?  Really?  I don’t understand how we could let that opportunity slip away.

We cannot chalk fumbling at the goal line to a freshman quarterback mistake.  This is the NINTH game of the season.  He’s practically a sophomore in football years.  There is simply no excuse for poor execution like that.

Deep down, although we were underdogs in the game as it was, I think many fans thought–perhaps not aloud or in print–but thought we could and would win this game.  But reality is a real downer sometimes.  For myself, and probably a lot of fans over 40, we remember the times when we always expected Penn State to win.  In the 70’s and 80’s, we didn’t win every game, but by God we started the game thinking we were going to win it.

We were spoiled.  And entering the Big Ten did not change things initially.  In fact, it might have been the Minnesota game in 1999 that really woke Penn State fans up.  We could no longer expect to win.  Each win was a thing to be treasured, and often times the result of a lot of hard work AND luck.

But I still cling to that past.  I still thought we would win this game.  In fact, I was hoping Hackenberg would break out with a big day that would boost his confidence (as well as the fans’) going into the remainder of the schedule.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSUsports:

PSU MINN
FIRST DOWNS………………. 22 19
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)………… 36-190 46-195
PASSING YDS (NET)…………. 163 186
Passes Att-Comp-Int……….. 25-14-0 25-15-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS….. 61-353 71-381
Fumble Returns-Yards………. 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards………… 2-2 1-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards……… 2-39 3-67
Interception Returns-Yards…. 0-0 0-0
Punts (Number-Avg)………… 3-36.3 4-46.0
Fumbles-Lost……………… 2-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards…………… 1-10 5-45
Possession Time…………… 24:32 35:28
Third-Down Conversions…….. 1 of 9 9 of 17
Fourth-Down Conversions……. 1 of 3 3 of 3
Red-Zone Scores-Chances……. 2-4 2-2
Sacks By: Number-Yards…….. 1-7 1-5

One for nine on third down conversions?  Are you kidding me?  While our defense gave up 9 of 17 third down conversions and ALL THREE fourth down conversions to the Gophers?  A performance like that against O$U is perhaps understandable.  But against Minnesota?  I simply scratch my head.  Because of these ratios, the Gophers controlled time of possession, and of course, the scoreboard.  A fumble to start the game, and then one on the goal line late were simply crushing.

INTANGIBLES:

Minnesota won the toss and deferred.  But PSU fumbled on the first play, so Minnesota essentially opened each half with a drive.

Stadium attendance was 48,123.  I guess ice-fishing season hasn’t started yet.

THE B1G PICTURE:

Nebraska defeated THEM 17-13 in Ann Arbor.  And I thought we had a chance against the Huskers.  Maybe I’m still in a funk from this game, but what the hell!  Can we win any of our remaining games?

Oh, there’s Purdue.  They lost 38-14 to Iowa.

Indiana beat Illinois 52-35.

The Badgers beat BYU 27-17 in a rare out of conference game this time of year.

O$U, Michigan State and Northwestern were off.

The Buckeyes took advantage of Oregon’s loss to move up to #3.  Curses!  The BCS ranks weren’t available at this time.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Notre Dame–boo hoo.  Beaten by Pitt 28-21.

2.  LSU–boo hoo hoo.  Beaten by Bama 38-17.

3.  WVU–lost to Texas 47-40.  Oh, you were so close!

4.  Oregon–thanks for playing again, Ducks.   We have a nice consolation bowl lined up for you.

5.  Arkansas lost again.  Way to go Bret!

LOOKING AHEAD:

So far, our season has gone WWLWLWLWL.  The pattern should end WLL (open with two wins, alternate for a while, then end with two losses to balance the opening wins.)  Sure hope it doesn’t end up that way, but, it sure is looking that way.

Purdue comes to Beaver Stadium next week with their only win of the season against Indiana State.  Most of their games haven’t even been close:

L Cincinnati 7-42

W Indiana State 20-14

L  Notre Dame 24-31

L  Wisconsin 10-41

L Northern Illinois  24-55

L  Nebraska  7-44

L  Michigan State  0-14

L  Ohio State  0-56

L  Iowa  14-38

There are no must wins.  There is nothing to play for.  Pride went out the window with a loss to Indiana and a blow-out to the Buckeyes.

I just hope we keep things together and win this damn game.  It might be the last win of the year.

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