In the first ever meeting between Penn State University and the Razorbacks of Arkansas, the Nittany Lions came up well short, losing 24-10 after leading 10-7 at the half. The Razorbacks went hog wild in the second half and burned our defense like a flame thrower going after a pile of dry leaves.
We can argue for hours on end about what went wrong, but it ultimately is the same points being rehashed over and over and over again. It wasn’t New Year’s Day. It was Groundhog Day.
This was our biggest loss of the year. We only lost to Ohio State by 9. Michigan by 4. And Arkansas was the lowest ranked of the ranked teams that beat us.
No running game. No protection for the quarterback. Red Zone offensive woes. Big Play capability, but no blue collar offense. Field goal kicking issues. Clock management issues–nearly everyone watching the game with me (ok that was one person, and the waitress, but I don’t think she was really paying attention to the game) thought we should have at least run a play with 15 seconds on the clock at the end of the first half.
What do you have to lose?
You are 7-5 (at this point) and clinging to a 3 point lead. What is the worst that could happen? A fumble? An INT? It’s 15 seconds. At least TRY.
Different story if you are 12-0, facing the number one team in the country. Then you take your knee and protect your lead going into the half. For God’s sake open your eyes and look at the big picture around you! Stop and smell the ashes of lost opportunities.
Compound all that with the situational problems of players opting out–while Dotson was a loss, his absence was not nearly so glaring as the losses on the defensive side of the ball. I’m thinking we suited up some of our cheerleaders at half time to play defense. Did anyone see our cheerleaders on the sideline in the second half? I rest my case.
In looking back at the game, I really wonder how we managed to lead at the half. Freaking dumb ass luck apparently.
The second half was just a disaster. Top to bottom on both sides of the ball.
Which is worse, our offense being shut out in the second half, or our defense giving up 17 unanswered third quarter points? Pick your poison.
The Razorback’s final scoring drive of the third quarter started at the Arkansas 21 yard line. FOUR RUSHING PLAYS LATER, the Hogs were celebrating in the end zone. Runs of 34, 12, 32 and 1 yard(s).
Game Over. And there was still over 2 painful minutes left in the third.
The stats are the good, the bad and the ugly. We held them to 90 yards passing, and a third down conversion ratio of 4-14. GOOD. Our own third down conversion ratio was 6-15. Meh. But we only had 125 total rushing yards, 47 of which belonged to our quarterback. Granted, their quarterback accounted for a third of their yardage–but he ran for over 100 yards against us. BAD. And while their 3rd down conversion rate was worse, 40% for us compared to 30% for them, they had 8 more first downs than we did, and 13 more minutes of possession, largely due to success running the ball on first down and converting on 2nd. down. You don’t have third down conversions if you convert on first and second down! UGLY.
And in the end, Penn State, once ranked third and undefeated not quite midway into this season, ends up unranked at 7-6. To call this anything less than disappointing is severely naive. Calling it a disappointment is a disappointment to disappointments. We did not have ONE running back rush for over 100 yards this entire season. NOT ONE!
And we led at some point in EVERY game.
THIS is the definition of DISAPPOINTING.
Did Penn State travel well today? I didn’t see many pics of the stadium crowd, but as I sit here listening to the Sugar Bowl game . . . the Ole Miss fans are LOUD. I really didn’t hear much crowd noise today, although I was watching at Champs and not in my living room. What happened to the rabid PSU fan base?
Again, we can replay Ground Hog Day over and over again. Close games. A play or two here or there. Here a play, there a play, everywhere a play play. An injury or so here and there. You put your QB in you take your QB out. You put him back in and he gets so rocked about. You do the Chokie Pokie and you turn your fans around–that’s what this is all about. Losses to a lot of top 20 teams, Illinois being the notable and glaring outlier there. Blah, blah, blah.
If we look at the ESPN power index ratings for the top 20 schools . . .
Take note that of those twenty teams, we have the second WORST record, beating out only Auburn at the very bottom of the list. Other teams faced tough schedules–and did better than we did. In fact, most did.
Do Cincinnati, Pitt, or Ole Miss pay their head coach as much as we do? Do they have superior facilities? Better recruiting? Pitt doesn’t even have an on-campus stadium!
Yet here we are.
Happy Ground Hog Penn State fans.