I know this game was played 2 weeks ago, but I wasn’t blogging then. This was my Facebook post after Penn State upsot THE ohio state university. And beating the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer never grows old.
The day started out cold and windy. I ran a 5K race at St. Francis. It was cold. The rest of the day got no better, and by the time we got into the stadium, we were already cold, despite white down jackets and multiple layers. My seats are under the North Upper Deck, so we at least were dry.
The pregame sequence included a video that started out with the definition of PANDEMONIUM. Apparently, we were going to cause some, if the media hype was correct. I have searched high and low on the interwebs for a copy of it but my research has yielded nothing. At the time, I thought it was hokey. Even moreso than the constant “UNRIVALED” slogan which after the past four seasons only makes me think UNRAVELED.
But the elements for pandemonium were there. We have improved since the debacle in Ann Arbor and the shoot out at Heinz Field. Ohio State, for all the hype and publicity, did not seem to be playing like a second ranked team. Pundits weren’t calling for an upset, but they thought PSU might give O$U a run for their money on this white out night.
A good friend of mine asked me before the game, “Do you think we can pull off the upset?” This question has been asked many times in the past 5 years, but there was a tone to his voice to suggest that although he was asking, he thought perhaps an upset could be pulled off.
I wish I had jumped on the chance to look like a freaking psychic and say “yes,” without reservation, but instead I waffled like a politician a week before the election. I gave him the “on any given Saturday,” response. I added that I didn’t think the Buckeyes looked sharp in their most recent games. If we played a perfect game and they made a lot of mistakes . . . And we were looking better, albeit against Gophers and Turtles, not wolverines or buckeyes. I could have prematurely prognosticated in public, but I left it at that.
Yet, there was a feeling. There was something in the air. There was an electricity in the stadium, that was at the same time feverish and subdued.
We wanted to win this game.
But we have seen so many failures in the post-Paterno era that we were afraid to let the emotion out of the bottle, lest we look like idiots drinking in the spirits of 1982, 1986, 1994 and 2005 and ignoring the reality of today that stares us in the face.
We haven’t beat a top 5 team since 1999 (Arizona.) Seventeen LONG years.
We haven’t beat a one or two ranked team since Notre Dame in 1990. Twenty-six LONGER years.
Our last recognized national championship was 1986. Thirty years ago. WOW.
How could we ever expect to win this game? We were 21 point underdogs. We haven’t beat O$U since 2011.
And the first quarter looked good, until we fumbled a punt. We were moving the ball though we failed to convert points. We had already had a field goal blocked on our opening drive–a drive that looked destined for points until it bogged down in Buckeye territory. We could have been up 7-0. We should have been up 3-0. But a blocked field goal left nothing to show for the effort on the scoreboard. Our defense was playing well, and we were holding our own in the field position battle.
But here’s where the script deviated from the past five years.
Instead of rolling over and playing dead, the defense rose to the occasion and forced a field goal. Down 3-0 in the second quarter to the 2nd ranked team was not anything to be ashamed of. It was a damned moral victory, if nothing else. And even as we fell behind 9-0–the Buckeyes missed a PAT–there was still a chance we could pull this out.
The Bucks would tack on another three, before PSU took over with less than two minutes to go in the half. O$U would get the ball back to start the second half and was looking to take a 12 point lead into the locker room. But the offense would have none of that and scored with 9 ticks left on the clock to make a respectable score of 12-7 at the half.
The third quarter would be marred by a defensive breakdown that led to a 74 yard rushing TD to make the score 19-7. A second special teams gaffe (snapping the ball over the punters head) led to a safety and a fourteen point margin for the Scarlet and Gray.
But then the fourth quarter came, and PSU decided to win this thing. No more mistakes. McSorley scampered the width of the field to make two yards and the pylon and suddenly, the upset-minded Nits were within 7 points.
YOU COULD FEEL THE STADIUM COME ALIVE. 107,280 white clad fans (with an unhealthy smattering of red pox marks throughout) rose to the occasion. The defense shut down the Buckeye scoring machine, which heretofor was averaging 49 points per game. Special teams avenged themselves with a field goal after blocking a punt, and then the piece de resistance–a blocked field goal returned for the winning score by Haley.
There was still 4 and a half minutes left on the clock. For a team and fanbase that so desperately needed a win, it would seem like an eternity. A field goal by O$U could tie and send us into overtime on this blustery, cold night. A TD would shatter the glass slipper and leave us with nothing but pumpkin juice, mice and a tattered dress. But the defense rose to the occasion, and Penn State took over on downs and knelt a couple of times to run out the clock, just before midnight. We lived happily,pandemoniously, ever after.
It’s been awhile since fans had any reason to storm the field. Exhilaration filled the air, and yes, there was relief. We didn’t screw it up after all.
I am going to fall short of saying “we are back.” One game does not make a comeback. But it is a damned good start. If we can build on this, then I’ll admit that we are back. But a loss to Purdue, Rutgers or a struggling Michigan State, and the good feeling will be gone. Tonight would become just a fluke. I think having Iowa at night at home should favor us too. Hard to believe, but a lot of fans are now dreaming of a 10-2 season with a nice bowl bid somewhere warm.
Which makes a cold Pennsylvania night a little warmer.