Category Archives: college football

Blue Chips

Penn State rolled to 4-0 with a 33-14 victory over the Chippewas of Central Michigan before a reported 106,624 blue and white clad fans in Beaver Stadium. State leads the all-time series 2-0.

It was a beautiful autumn day in Happy Valley. It was a day to honor the 1982 National Championship team. The Lions roared out of the gate, and appeared after a 14-0 first quarter to be headed for the 28 point rout the odds makers had predicted.

But the pesky Chips from somewhere in the middle of the mitten state would have none of that. They mounted a respectable comeback in the second quarter to even the score. But the Lions added another 7 before the half, but I imagine the various sports outlets were just giddy about flashing UPSET ALERTS across the country.

In the second half, the defense pitched a shut-out. The offense was just good enough to pad the score and keep the ball moving enough to get the job done. Kaytron Allen notched a 100+ rushing game, and the PSU defense held the Chips to just 88 yards rushing.

Looking at the stats, as we saw in the Auburn game last week, the two teams were pretty evenly matched, except for rushing yardage. And again, the difference was turn-overs, with Penn State remaining squeaky clean, while the Chippewas turned the pigskin over four times, including a muffed punt that we recovered on the 23 yard line to set up a short field. That’s two weeks in a row that Penn State notched four turn-overs.

From GoPSUsports

I was impressed by a couple of things with Central Michigan. They have a really good quarterback. For most of the game, we had trouble getting pressure on him. The only time we sacked him, he left the game injured in the fourth quarter.

I was really impressed by the tackling of CMU. They didn’t go after our runners up high, but went for the feet. There were at least three times I saw Singleton with a Chippewa gnawing at his foot, trying to pull free and run, but he could not.

Sean Clifford continues to perform well enough to win, but almost bad enough to lose. While he seemed to do well in the first quarter, he took a roughing the passer hit midway in the second quarter, and it appeared to me that he did not pass well after that. Or passed worse. I truly wonder if he was hurt, but didn’t seek medical attention. Or the PSU coaching brain trust still thinks an injured veteran is more likely to win than a healthy 5* #1 recruit. That would be so Paterno, back in the day. The guy behind me commented that Clifford’s next four passes were all thrown too low, and into the ground, and that he seemed to be short-arming them. It wouldn’t be the first time we have continued to play this kid when he wasn’t 100%. Perhaps it was just coincidence and just Clifford being Clifford, a roller coaster of ups and downs.

I half expected there to be a chant for CHAD POWERS! CHAD POWERS! Think fast! Run fast!

My kingdom for a kicker! My GOD! This is just awful. A blocked PAT. Two missed field goals. Granted one was a 56-yarder to end the first half, but missing from 38-yards? Very troublesome. We best hope that no future games come down to a kick, or else we will probably lose. With Northwestern losing to Miami (OH), it would appear that the Lions have a good chance to go 5-0. Does Massimo Manca have any eligibility left? Can we portal a kicker before heading to Ann Arbor????

My initial impression leaving the stadium is the game felt closer than it was. We failed to cover the 28 point spread. Not to beat a dead Lion, but there’s that whole kicking woes thing that left some points on the field. So I think the impression is more based on the expectation than the actual result. Instead of focusing on missed PAT opportunities and lousy field goals, I should focus on the shut out the defense pitched in the second half. Or something like that.

Georgia was a 46 point favorite over Kent State, yet they only beat the flashes 39-22. 15 points. A mere two scores with some two-point shenanigans thrown in. Sooner fans watched their team’s undefeated season slip away as K State upset Oklahoma 41-34. Texas went from almost beating Bama to losing to unranked Texas Tech. 10th ranked Arkansas lost to Texas A&M 23-21. 8th-ranked Kentucky only beat Northern Illinois by 8 points. And the state of Tennessee did pretty well against Florida, as the Volunteers defeated the Gators and the Middle Tennessee State Raiders upset Miami (FL) 45-31 for the program’s first ever win over a ranked team!

And apparently Stephen F. Austin (not stone cold Steve, but the red hot lumberjacks) took some little school named Warner to the woodshed, winning 98-0. And SFA took a knee on a two-point conversion that would have made the score 100.

I’m quite happy with our 19 point win.

In the BIG TEN, the Bucks steamrolled Bucky Badger 52-21. The Wolverines survived a Terrapin invasion in Ann Arbor 34-27. Michigan was favored by 17. Iowa rocked Rutgers 27-10 and will host Michigan next week. The Gophers absolutely dominated Michigan State 34-7, making the Spartans look like Carl Spackler. Illinois blanked Chattanooga, so apparently not every team from Tennessee won today. Cincinnati hosed the Hoosiers 45-24, while Purdue eked out a win over Florida Atlantic 28-26. As I noted above, the Wildcats fell to Miami (OH) 17-14.

UP NEXT: NORTHWESTERN.

University or compass direction? You decide!

Their lone win was against Nebraska under Scott Frost, who has since been ousted.

From ESPN

I would be absolutely stunned if Penn State wasn’t favored next week.

GO STATE! BEAT ‘CATS!

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Powers Pranks PSU

Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard or have already seen the video of Eli Manning posing as Chad Powers, a walk-on (I mean run-on, like many of my sentences) at Penn State football practice. If you haven’t seen it, behold below. And do you know you could also save 15% or more on car insurance by switching to GECKO?

I recently felt like I was on candid camera being punked when I went to get this weeks Citizen’s Bank game button.

The Penn State football team takes on the Central Michigan Chippewas this Saturday. Here is the button. Please enjoy it. I went through an ordeal to get it. I remember when you could walk into any Mellon now Citizens Bank and there would be a basket of buttons in the lobby. You could literally grab a handful. At one time when I actually had an account there, Leanne (have no idea what her last name was) would hook me up with all the buttons for the regular season before the season started so I didn’t have to make a trip to the bank every week. And she’d give me 12 for every game because I had twelve tickets and everyone could have a button. My times have changed!
I stopped to get my button today and the teller told me I had to donate a food item for the food bank. This is the fourth game and no one asked for a donation before. Pretty sure the other teller there gave me the buttons but she kept silent and looked away when I looked at her. Whatever. It’s a good cause. I pulled out my wallet and offered a couple of bucks. No. Apparently my money isn’t any good at Citizens Bank. I have to give them a can of food or other non-perishable item.
Fortunately, this bank is located in a giant eagle (not a really big bird eagle but in a GIANT EAGLE grocery store–how convenient!) and I needed to get milk anyway. So I went and bought milk and a 69 cent can of beans.
All the regular lines were busy so I entered a self checkout with my two items.
Nooooo! No beans for me! You have to have a Giant Eagle card to use the self checkout. Am I being punked? Where’s the camera??? I hardly ever shop here so I don’t have a card. And now this is another reason I won’t shop here again.
Finally got my milk and exchanged my beans for a button (kind of a reverse Jack in the beanstalk) and headed home.
Put my milk away and was all set to take the picture of my button…….do you think I could find that sucker?!?! Not in my scrubs pocket. Not in the bag. I went out to my car. Holy crap! After all that I don’t even have a button! Well I tore my car apart a second time and found it had slipped between the seat and console. I was exhausted.

But this still may be my favorite non-PSU related prank:

I had always hoped to see Joe Paterno on an episode of Undercover Boss. Maybe James Franklin will give it a try . . .

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Auburnt

While the devil may have gone down to Georgia, the Lions headed to Alabama for an Auburn Orange-out in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Would that be Ginger-Hair Stadium? Mixed with some white-clad Penn State faithful, it was the largest creamsicle you’ll ever see.

Due to circumstances, I was forced to listen to most of the game on the radio, able to watch only the last quarter of the game on TV. Long story short, I signed up to play in a charity golf tournament in Beaver Falls, PA. I was asked to play last year, but it was the same weekend as the Auburn white-out so I declined. But this year, I figured with a nine o’clock shot-gun start I would be back in time for an 8:00 game. Alas, this game was not played at 8. The weather was great, and I played with my usual links prowess–it was a scramble and most people are scrambling after I hit the ball, but I’d probably have been two under for the day by myself–one under a tree and one under water. So I ended up driving down the ol’ turnpike, trying to keep radio stations playing the game, while signaling touchdowns when we scored and doing the wave all by myself.

That was the short version?

Turns out, this was a game that was just as enjoyable to listen to as it would have been to watch. In fact, it was really nice listening to the PSU radio guys instead of the dimbulbs that often do our national games and seem to hate PSU with every fiber of their being.

The now ranked #14 Nittany Lions brought their A game against AU, playing a nearly flawless four quarters of play. Aside from James Franklin’s questionable call to go for it on fourth down near midfield, early in the game, on the road, in a hostile environment . . . just what the F was he thinking???? Worse yet, your QB just got rocked, fumbled out of bounds, and then you call a QB sneak? I just can’t fathom the disorganization of oxygen-deprived synapses necessary to make that kind of call. And then it led to 3 points, thanks to the D making a stop. In the end, it was as forgettable and unimportant as my drive on the seventh tee. Still have no idea where that ended up.

We also had too many false starts, but . . . there were some holes opened up for the running game and I don’t think the line gave up a sack.

Look carefully in the lower right corner. Brenton Strange is already pointing to the end zone. He knew Singleton was gone at that point, like Babe Ruth calling a home run before he hit it.

Special teams were solid–no missed PATs and two field goals nailed.

Defensively, I was slightly disappointed that we had Auburn in 3rd and long–maybe really long–at least twice and managed to let them get first downs. Other than that? One TD and two FG’s? I’ll take that any day against an SEC team.

The defense did give up 119 rushing yards–but the Tigers only had 77 in the first half if I am correct, and the QB Finley accounted for almost half of those yards (47.) Bigsby was held to 42 yards rushing. As a side note, Bo Nix (the Auburn QB we faced last year who went to Oregon, scored 5 touchdowns en route to an upset of BYU, 41-20!)

Our 41-12 victory was the second largest margin of victory for a Big Ten team over an SEC opponent. (First was Purdue over Missouri 35-3 in 2017.) It was the first home and home sweep over an SEC by a BIG TEN opponent since Northwestern beat Vanderbilt in 2010 and 2012.

And the stat I found most surprising: this telecast on CBS was the first time Penn State had played on that network since losing to Pitt 12-0 in 2000. Twenty-two years without a game on CBS? How is that even possible???? Why hast thou forsaken us, CBS? (It’s money. Than answer is money.)

From GoPSUsports.com

Despite winning 41-12, the stats were not all that dissimilar. I think you can chalk most of that up to 4 turn-overs by the Tigers. Penn State improved their 3rd down conversion rate to almost 50%. Meanwhile our defense kept the Tigers to about a 33% conversion rate.

In the Big Ten, #3 Ohio State rocked Toledo 77-21. the Hawkeyes blanked Nevada 27-0. Michigan crushed UConn 59-0. Da Badgers put a beat down on 66-7. Maryland bested SMU 34-27 and The Scarlet Knights barely edged Temple 16-14. Indiana barely beat Western Kentucky 33-30. The Gophers defeated Colorado 49-7.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma defeated Big Red 49-14, who apparently sucks even without Scott Frost. The Spartans were upsot by the Washington Huskies 39-28. (So Huskies went 1-1 against the Big Ten.) Northwestern managed to lose to Southern Illinois 31-24, while Purdue lost to Syracuse 32-29. (So Orange went 1-1 against the Big Ten too.)

So where do we stand now? The parallels to last season are becoming eerily familiar. Are we looking at a potential special season ahead? Or are we being set up for another huge disappointment?

Let’s look at the similarities. We still have Clifford. For better or worse, until apparently his death do we part. We opened the season on the road with a tough Big Ten opponent. Wisconsin was actually ranked 12th to start last season although they ultimately were unranked at the end of the season and obviously over-rated. A lot of people thought Purdue would upset Penn State in the opener, and the game was close.

Then we beat Ball State easily. This year it was Ohio. Is there really that much difference there?

And then we hosted Auburn at Beaver Stadium at night in a white-out situation. Nearly everyone expected Auburn to win. But PSU survived 28-20.

And the level of expectations soared after that, as did our ranking.

Then we had a rather unimpressive win over Villanova (38-17) before blanking the Hoosiers 24-0 in Beaver Stadium.

Central Michigan is a more worthy opponent than Villanova in any given year, and Northwestern might be worse than Indiana at this point. The Wildcats lost 31-23 to Duke and then lost to Southern Illinois 31-24 this past weekend. They did beat Nebraska, but then, who hasn’t. (North Dakota, in case you were wondering. It was North Dakota.)

Penn State is already favored by about 25 points over the Chippewas, and it is unlikely Northwestern will defeat us at home.

We should be 5-0 heading on the road to Michigan (currently #4 in the nation.) Last season, we were , drum roll please, 5-0 but headed to Iowa who was ranked #3!

I think I’m having déjà blue all over again!

But is anything different this year?

Well, our back-up Quarterback(s) are better. So if Clifford goes down in Michigan, as he did at Iowa, the season might still be saved. I am almost tempted to type that the season might be saved by him going down, but I would never wish an injury on anyone. But from a purely logical, Spock-like point of view, it might not be a bad thing for the team. I should be careful what I theoretically wish for! The back-up quarterback is almost always a fan favorite, unless Tom Brady is your QB. Or Mahomes. Pick a really good quarterback that wins. You get the idea.

We didn’t have Nicholas Singleton last year. He has had back to back 100+ yard games. And for some reason he only rushes 10 times a game. He wears #10. WTF? Give em’ the ball James. Or at least a Jersey with twenty-something on it.

And our offensive line is playing marginally better. Good enough to compete with Michigan? Who knows?

But for now, we’re 0-0 and facing Central Michigan. Not THE Michigan.

The Chippewas (Chip-a-who-whats?) are 1-2 with a win over Bucknell 41-0. Impressive? That don’t impress me much. They lost to Oklahoma State 58-44. The Okies are ranked 9th and it makes you wonder how the little Chips from Up North pinned 44 points on them. Turns out, the Okies scored 44 in the first half, and CMU scored 22 in the fourth quarter. And that’s Big 12 football. Score a ton and hope the other team doesn’t. No D and All O. NoDallo. A dollar for you, and a dollar for you, but nodallo for CMU!

And CMU also lost 38-24 to South Alabama.

Seriously? I can’t even make something up that would make you think they even have a reasonable chance to beat us. They are not Marshall and WE ARE not Notre Dame.

They are the chips.

But then again, I checked out oddshark to see what they have to say. Despite being a 25.5 point underdog, they are predicting CMU to win!

Typo? Or do they know something I don’t know?

We shall see.

GO STATE! BEAT CHIPS!

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Poll Dancing

Penn State moved into both polls, entering the AP poll at #22 and the Coaches Poll at #23.

And in other news, Nebraska has De-Frost-ed, firing Head Coach Scott Frost after three games, two of which were losses.

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Oh, High O

Just when I thought it was safe to give up on Penn State football, the Lions come out and defeat the Ohio Bobcats 46-10!

Curse it all! They have dragged me back in like a dying rabbit in the jaws of a mountain lion, or maybe just a mouse dragged in by a house cat.

I can’t even think of anything to complain about this game. Do you know how freaking annoying that is?

The trip into the stadium was miserable. I am in Lot 18 and come in the North route (through Canada, down the St. Lawrence Waterway, and then overland by mule team.) That might have been quicker. Maybe I should have taken that left turn in Albuquerque.

Apparently I am not alone . . . .

Instead, I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic from just past Toftrees all the way to Fox Hollow Road and then to Park Avenue. Worse yet, I drank coffee. Two cups. More like mugs. I’m old. The prostate is not as kind to me as it once was. I don’t know why. I thought I treated it pretty well all these many years. You do the math. So about 12 cars from turning on Fox Hollow Road, I’m leaving my car idling and heading into the woods. It’s less embarrassing than showing up with wet pants. And in the time it took me to relieve myself, the line moved not one inch. Mission accomplished. Nailed it!

And there was a bird that crapped on us in the stadium. Never saw it coming. Probably a Temple Owl. Maybe a Hawkeye. Or . . . could it have been a War Eagle making a pre-emptive strike? I wonder . . .

The sky did turn gray after sunshine at the start of the game. A little wind picked up. I wasn’t cold by any means, but the weather could have been a skosh more pleasant.

But what a game! Granted, everything must be taken with a grain of salt since this was the other Ohio team on our schedule. A Bobcat, not a Buckeye.

I was very pleased by the attendance–not just the reported, seats sold figure of 107,306. The student section filled. The Beav looked full but for a smattering of empty seats in the upscale Club section and the nosebleeds above them. I couldn’t see the upper north deck since I was under it, and afraid to look up lest a bird crap in my eye! As an eye professional, I do not recommend you try that.

All three quarterbacks looked good, but Drew Allar . . . WOW. I’ve seen a couple highly rated quarterbacks come to Penn State–Anthony Morelli. Christian Hackenberg. But this kid is in an entirely different league. And he’s big and mobile. Reminds me a little of Ben Roethlisberger in his early years with the Steelers. He threw a 48 yard pass and made it look so effortless. Like he was tossing a wad of paper in a trashcan beside his desk. Pop. It’s a touchdown.

And how about Nick Singleton? May I call you Nick, Nicholas? Just as I lamented a week ago about the dearth of hundred yard rushers at Penn State the past couple of years. . . BOOM. Pretty much did that on two plays. When he hits that corner, he has the acceleration of a Lamborghini. Noah Who? Singleton is the first PSU player since Larry Johnson to have multiple 40+ TD runs in the same game. That was 2002! He singleton-handedly rushed for 186 yards. On just 10 carries. Ten!

The receivers had a much better day catching balls. I’m not sure anyone really sticks out above the others, but Tinsley might be my favorite at this point early in this season.

From GoPSUsports

So Penn State pretty much doubled up the stats on the Bobcats. Except for penalties which were about even. One play was reviewed for targeting (called on Ohio) but it was not helmet to helmet and no ejection was issued against the Bobcat defender. Time of possession is really skewed because of the quick strike offense displayed by Penn State. We still managed a small advantage there.

We missed a field goal. And an extra point. A little concerning, but is it really anything new? On the other hand, the defense racked up a safety. And we held the Bobcats to 99 yards rushing.

On a full moon day that saw a ton of upsets and potential upsets, this was a very satisfying victory.

Did Someone Say Upsets?

Alabama kicked a field goal with 10 seconds left to avoid losing to unranked Texas. Have you Herd? Notre Dame was not so fortunate, as they fell to unranked Marshall 26-21. The Pitt Panthers stumbled against Tennessee, losing 34-27 in OT at home. The 19th ranked Wisconsin Badgers couldn’t jump around Washington State, losing 17-14 at Camp Randall Stadium. Iowa lost to Iowa State 10-7. Although unranked, the Hawks were 3.5 point favorites to win that one. And then Appalachian State (they are HOT HOT HOT!) went all Michigan over 6th ranked Texas A&M, defeating the Aggies in their home stadium 17-14. Northwestern was favored over Duke by 9.5 but lost at home 31-23. And the Huskers managed to get shucked by Georgia Southern 45-42–at home!

It was like Oprah was giving away upsets. You get an upset! You get an upset! And you get an upset!

It was feast or famine in the Big Ten. Teams either lost, or won BIG. (See what I did there?)

The Buckeyes roasted Arkansas State 45-12. The Goofy Gophers chewed the bejeesus out of Western Kentucky, 62-10. Maryland terrapinned the Charlotte 49ers 56-21. Even Rutgers flexed some muscle, defeating Wagner 66-7. Robert Wagner? More likely Lyle Wagner (sp.) from the Carol Burnette Show. Illinois defeated Virginia 24-3. Not exactly a blow-out by most criteria, but it is for Illinois. Same for the Hoosiers who sliced and fried the potatoes of Idaho (no you da ho) 35-16. The Spartans blanked Akron 52-0 while the Boilermakers little engine that couldn’t last week somehow got back on track against Indiana State, winning 56-0. Kind of makes our win look a little more respectable. And as of the time I am typing this, the rain-delayed Wolverines were making sure no rainbow came out after the storm, ahead of Hawaii 49-10 in the fourth quarter.

Which brings us to . . .

AUBURN.

The Tigers, or the War Eagles, or whatever they choose to identify as, are 2-0. They beat the San Jose State Spartans 24-16. They apparently knew the way to San Jose, but they couldn’t cover the 23.5 points they were favored by. They opened with a win over Mercer 42-16. Mercer? The Mercer Bears play in the FCS Southern Conference and are currently 3rd in their division and ranked 23rd in the FCS Coaches Poll.

So basically, we know very little about Auburn. But then, we know precious little about our team except we do have solid talent at QB and RB and defense. The jury is still out on the offensive line and will be a work in progress.

GO STATE! BEAT TIGERS!

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Ebony & Ivory

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?

Certainly we cannot if the venue is Ross-Ade Stadium (formerly known as Kool-Ade Stadium up until 57 seconds left in the game) during a black-out, invaded by white-clad partisans of Nittany Nation.

It was a back and forth game featuring about 7 lead changes, a fumble, a pick-six, the required targeting ejection, and more shenanigans to count than I have fingers left to count on or brain cells to remember.

“That was a great college game,” quoted somebody whom I now forget and who was not a Purdue or Penn State fan. Yes, to the casual, un-invested observer, it was a fun game to watch. To those of us who actually cared about the outcome, it was a nail-biting, heart-palpitating, stressful hot mess that will result in hours of painful psychoanalysis. Or basically, what we now know as Penn State football, such as it is.

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.

An ugly win is always more beautiful than a pretty loss, if there is such a thing. But most invested fans will assure you there is no pretty loss. A loss is always ugly no matter how you sugarcoat it in valiant efforts, bad luck or moral victories.

Penn State won 35-31, through no fault of their own, and in spite of our best efforts to lose this game.

This isn’t even groundhog day anymore. Even Bill Murray didn’t have to relive such a mess more times than Penn State fans have endured.

Sean Clifford is back. Bless his little heart. I am truly conflicted. On the one hand, I admire his grit and determination. I really wonder what his career would have looked like had he been able to play injury free. Instead, in his 12th season at PSU, he still has a knee brace, and missed a series for cramps. Or diarrhea. Same cramps, just different location. Whatever.

The announcer echoed my sentiments when he said this: “A veteran quarterback in college football . . . . it’s a strained relationship with the fan base. Because if you’ve been there a long time, it means you haven’t been good enough to leave.”

And while he orchestrated the game winning drive with only 2:22 left on the clock and a couple of time outs in his pocket, he is also the one who grossly overthrew an open receiver and was subsequently intercepted and pick-sixed back to the end zone to put us down by 3 in the fourth quarter. It’s kind of like Biden crowing about gas prices falling 20 cents, that he ultimately caused to more than double in the first place. But, I digress.

Clifford did atone for his mistake and Penn State ultimately won. His effort not only gave PSU it’s first victory of the 2022 season, but it also earned him co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

Sports Illustrated somehow graded our offense a B-, with this summary: “Penn State’s run game averaged 3.1 yards per carry (sacks included), below last year’s season average of 3.2 ypc. The longest rush was 12 yards, the Lions dropped three passes and Clifford threw the program’s first pick-six since 2018.” Or, as it has been dubbed, the “puke six.”

I was ready to puke at that point. And I think there were WAY MORE than three dropped passes. Seemed like three per quarter!

SI gave us an overall B for what seemed to clearly be a C. It’s sooooo subjective. I’ll wait for the polls!

The stats were unbelievably close–time of possession, total yards, rushing yards and the margin of victory was 4 points, good enough for the win and covering the spread.

The biggest margin may have been in penalties, which Purdue won, ignominiously.

And just as Penn State was unable to “put the game away” with 9 minutes left to go and up by 4, Purdue returned the favor by being unable to run the clock out or score again later in the fourth, then up by three. A close circus catch was ultimately overturned on review which may have saved the day for the Lions. These fans agreed with the call.

The offensive line still looked underwhelming. We only gave up one sack. (But we only sacked Purdue twice!) Yet again, we failed to produce a 100-yard rusher! In fact, the team only rushed for 98 yards! Penn State hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher since they won at Michigan in 2020!

I thought Nicholas Singleton looked good, but that was on only 10 carries. I fully understand Franklin wants to play a lot of players and keep them out of the portal like Noah Cain (who went to LSU and had 23 yards in 7 attempts versus FSU.) But, I’m thinking you give that kid 20 carries, you are going to see some magic. Prove me wrong, Franklin.

I thought our secondary was supposed to be pretty good. 365 yards? That’s only one per day for a year! But way too many for a single game. Joey Porter, Jr. did have a great game and the PSU defense broke up some great plays in the final minutes of the game to keep us in it and secure the victory. We also should have had a couple interceptions, but I guess if they could catch they’d be playing offense! Maybe this is first game jitters. Maybe the Purdue QB is better than I expected. He surely benefited from the transfer portal–he hit Iowa transfer Charlie Jones 19 times for 153 yards–but it seemed like twice that while watching the game! We shall see how these two teams fare as the season rolls along.

Not sure the best caption: If I pump my arms a few times more I’ll get my 10,000 steps in. Or, I can’t stand up and cheer until my Apple Watch tells me to stand! Or, two minutes left–yeah, we got this one. Or maybe a Mexican Word of the Day? Purdue? Pur-didn’t! That last one was weak. I apologize.

In the end, Penn State prevailed. My greatest fear was that we would tie the game with a field goal, go to 17 over-times, and then lose. And I would crawl into bed crying at 3:00 in the morning, now so upset I couldn’t possibly fall asleep! I still have PTSD from the Illinois game last year!

In the Big Ten, basically everyone won except Purdue and Illinois, who lost to Indiana by 3, and while Nebraska won this weekend out of conference, they lost to Northwestern previously. Of note, Iowa barely defeated the South Dakota State Jackrabbits 7-3, and the Scarlety Nights of Piscataway narrowly defeated Boston College 22-21. Everyone on the Eastern side of the league is 1-0.

Around the nation, Alabama and Georgia rolled, the Buckeyes beat the Irish, and Florida State outlasted LSU for a one point win. The Gators upset 7th ranked Utah 29-26. And the Tarheels narrowly defeated Appalachian State 63-61.

Up Next: OHIO

The University of, not THE STATE one. Oddshark is anointing the Lions a 24.5 point favorite at the time I am typing this.

Penn State is 5-1 all-time with the only loss in 2012, a 24-14 fiasco which kicked off the Bill O’Brien era.

Go State! Beat Bobcats!

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Fall of the Lion Empire

Maybe we were never an Empire. Perhaps not even a dynasty but for a four year period in the 1980’s, when we were all that and a bag of chips. Perhaps we could argue this some other day. The fact is, Penn State is in the Top 10 in all-time wins. With over 100 teams in Division IA, or is it FBS (full of bull shit,) we are, like it or not, in the top 10%.

But the Penn State football program I see today is not my father’s program. Not mine. Not Joe Paterno’s. Not even sure who is in charge of this mess, to be perfectly honest. Sure, James Geoffrey Franklin is the head coach, but I would have to look up who our new Athletic Director is, and if my life depended on me naming the new President of the University, I would be dead. So I looked it up. Just in case. You never know. And maybe I’ll save your life too.

Patrick Kraft succeeded Sandy Barbour, and Neeli Bendapudi followed in the footsteps of Eric Barron as University President. I know almost as little now as I did before I googled that. Neeli Bendapudi? Was she Rajesh Koothrappali’s girlfriend on Big Bang Theory? I hope this has provided you some education, or maybe a trivia answer at the bar.

I still don’t care.

Is it my age showing? My failing health? Who the F*CK knows? And you probably don’t care either. Yet, here we are. Me typing. You reading. Neither of us have a clue why.

Let’s get back to PSU football, shall we? Why? Because unfortunately, this is or at least was, a Penn State Football blog. But mark my words, if we start to see stupid shenanigans on the field, I’m going to jump in that portal and transfer to a sewing or cooking blog. I might even take up hunting or fishing!

Like Edna Mode (The Incredibles) who used to “design for Gods,” I used to blog about one of the more successful football programs in NCAA history.

Joes (those) were the days my friend, we though they’d never end, we’d stand and cheer, forever and a day. We’d play the games we choose, we’d fight and never lose, for we were young and sure to have our way. La-la-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la-la.

Seriously. Picture it. 1982. Beaver Stadium. We expected to win.

When was the last time we as PSU fans truly expected to win? 2016? 2008? 1994?

I actually took a few minutes to gather some data. Penn State’s record from 1966 (Paterno’s first year) until 1999–I’ll get to why I chose that particular year in a moment and data can always be skewed to represent what you want it to or you simply ignore it–was 317-83-3. They actually had ties back in those days and someone had to chisel the scores on a stone scoreboard. We didn’t have cell phones. We had carrier pigeons. And maybe a telegraph if you were rich. But I digress.

So 1966-1999 PSU had a 79% winning percentage. Not too shabby.

Since 2000, the Lions have gone 175-99 for a 64% winning average. In the final Paterno years, 2000-2011, Penn State won 93 and lost 56 (62%) so the winning percentage actually has been slightly better since Paterno passed away (almost 65%.)

BUT . . . in Paterno’s first 34 years, he had only ONE losing season, five undefeated seasons (’68,’69, ’73, ’86 and ’94,) two national championships, and one outright Big Ten Title in 1994. And a partridge in a pear tree.

In his final 12 years, JVP added three Big Ten Titles (’05, ’08 and ’11) but those were determined by tie breakers–not outright. He also had FOUR losing seasons. And a statue–which is now gone. Franklin has ONE Big Ten Title (2016). And NO undefeated seasons. Paterno was 24-12-1 in bowl games, while Franklin is 3-4 here at PSU.

Since Paterno has left, Penn State suffered severe NCAA sanctions, and two head coaching changes. Tom Bradley also served as interim Head Coach for a few games in 2011. And we recently had a shortened pandemic season in 2020 with no fans in the stadium. These factors obviously have some negative impact. Argue till you’re blue and white in the face. I don’t care. The current level of performance at Penn State is abysmal. Bill O’Brien had a 15-9 record at PSU with 3 star players if he was lucky. Franklin is 11-11 in the last two years with highly rated recruiting classes.

Penn State had 8 players chosen in the last NFL draft, fourth in the country behind Georgia (15), LSU (10), and Cincinnati (9.) Only LSU had a worse record and they now have a new coach. An old coach. Well, a new to them old coach.

And now the Big Ten is planning on adding USC and UCLA in a couple of years? Whose seasons are Winter, Spring, Summer and Fail? Seriously? Who thought this was a good idea?

Greed, despair and agony on us. That’s two more games we can’t win.

Right now, I’d rather play Temple. At least we have a fighting chance. And no–I’m not so sure about that!

Basically, the athletic departments at USC and UCLA crunched some numbers. Outside of playing each other, their teams are now going to have to travel a minimum of 1500 miles to play the nearest Big Ten opponent (Lincoln, Nebraska,) and a whopping 2750 miles to Piscataway, New Jersey. And those trips are not just for the football team–but every sport–basketball, baseball, volleyball, and field hockey to name a few. Yet, even with an astronomically increased travel budget, these two schools think they can make more money joining the Big Ten. Absolutely unbelievable. Unfathomable greed.

Now we can recruit in L.A. Big freaking deal. How about just recruiting in PA? Whatever happened to dominate the state? Is southern speed now southern cal speed?

College football will never be the same and it’s actually kind of sad. NIL allows players to ink deals worth millions which pales in comparison to a free college education –with average tuitions in the US ranging from $11,000 and up per year depending on private or public, and in-state or out-of-state. It’s out of control if you ask me.

Portals? It used to be you had to sit out a year if you transferred to another equal division school. Now, you could play next week!

Don’t want to sit on the bench? Enter the portal!

Bowl games? Totally optional. Don’t want to get hurt? Don’t play.

Everything I used to hate about professional sports in now packaged in the college deal and perhaps worse. At least the NFL has contracts and no portal.

That said, I will still watch the games. I will still root for Penn State, and a little part of me will die inside each time they lose. But it will never be the same.

As for this season, you might as well just pick a number be 0 and 12. If you want to have a good chance of being correct, you might want to go low. I’ve seen nothing so far that convinces me that the latest trend of 64% wins is going to change.

New defensive coordinator? Might help. Probably not.

Clifford back again? Might help. Probably not. Most likely scenario: we lose a QB or two to the portal before this season ends. Six seasons? I wonder if he could qualify for a monkey pox exemption and come back again next year. Might as well go for a decade at this point.

And before I end this diatribe, I will answer the cliff hanger I posed earlier. 2000 marked the definitive downturn of Penn State football. The start of the fall, if you will. And really it started in 1999 when the unranked Minnesota Gophers upset the #2 ranked Nittany Lions on a last second field goal. Shocking. Positively shocking.

What happened?

Sandusky retired at the end of that season. George Paterno died in 2002. The stadium expanded in 2001 with the south upper deck and club suites which blocked the view of Mount Nittany and placed a curse on us. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men–only the Shadow knows!

All I know is nothing has been the same since.

So we are now less than a week away from a season opening game on the road at Purdue at night. My excitement level for this game is about a 3, (1 is lowest and 10 is highest.) The line I saw was Penn State favored by 3.5, but that site also picked Purdue to cover and win. Which is entirely possible. I didn’t realize this, but Penn State has won the last 9 games against the Boilermakers. The overall series is 15-3-1. Whereas PSU is #7 in all time wins (909,) the Purdue program is #52 with 629 wins. What does that mean? Well let me tell you which programs have better all time records: West Virginia (769), Pitt (749), Syracuse (730), Boston College (688), Rutgers (662), and Maryland (661). Why did I pick those examples? Because those are the teams Penn State usually dominated at the height of its Empire. The same eastern teams that Big Ten snobs think helped pad Paterno’s (and by extension, Penn State’s) resume.

Penn State has traditionally out performed Purdue. We have better facilities, we recruit better, and we put more players in the NFL. There is no excuse for losing this game.

But we will probably find one.

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Along Sparty Lines

The Michigan-State Penn State contrived rivalry for one of the ugliest trophies (“The Land Grand Trophy”) in all of sports anywhere at any level is also one of the tightest rivalries in the Big Ten.

The current series, including this game, is 16-17-1 with Sparty holding a one game lead for now.

These games have typically been played at the end of the regular season, and frequently see high scoring affairs with multiple lead changes. The 2020 edition was no exception.

The final score of 39-24 on Senior Day saw the Lions open the scoring with a field goal. 3-0. Sparty answered back with a touchdown to make it 7-3. Then we scored. 10-7. The Spartans then tacked on two more scores in the first half to go to half time 21-10. Back and forth.

But the Lions adjusted at half-time, which has become a tradition of Franklin coached teams. It’s nice that we come out stronger in the second half in most games. It’s nice our coaches make adjustments. But why, oh why, M, C, A can’t we start a game better and adjust as we go?!?!? I know. I ask too much. And give so little in return.

The Lions outscored Michigan State 29-3 after the half to etch the final score into the broad side of that god-awful piece of furniture they call a trophy. It’s like the moss covered, three-handled, family credenza. With sports memorabilia glued or stapled to it. It actually makes losing this game not so bad. “Well, at least we don’t have to hoist or house that piece of junk for another year!”

In retrospect, it’s sad that in a season like this (where you apparently can play for a championship with only five games) that we couldn’t have made more of this opportunity. Losing to Indiana was devastating. We weren’t prepared. We allowed the game to come down to a poor call by the refs and they didn’t disappoint. Ohio State is what it is. The best team money can buy. We’ll get to see them lose to an SEC team in the playoffs, so at least we have that going for us.

Let’s just call this conference what it is: the BIG ONE!

I can make no excuses for Maryland or Iowa. Nebraska was a disaster beyond imagination.

Was it COVID-19? Consider this. Penn State’s win over MSU was the only home victory this year. The last time Penn State failed to win at least one home game? 1918. The Spanish Flu pandemic.

This team could easily have folded up tents and moved on. But they came back these past three games with some more solid (not perfect by any stretch of the imagination) football, despite issues of coaching and clock management that persist. We were the better team on paper–recruiting, experience, etc. And we played like it.

I’m not a big fan of the two quarterback system, but it seems to be working for them for the moment. Call me old fashioned, but when I see Levis take off up the middle, I miss the days of a strong fullback helping to open the running game. And, thankfully, the current coaches haven’t stumbled upon the ancient, dusty texts of Jay Paterno, and moved Clifford out to the wide out position while Levis takes the snap!

There is promise and hope.

On to Illinois. And potentially a Bowl Game. Not that they deserve or earned one, but just because they might be able to. Never pass up an opportunity if it comes knocking.

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AfteR Thoughts

A week or so late and more than a dollar short . . .

Penn State defeated the Rutgers Knights–good knight Irene–by a respectable score of 23-7.

Yawn.

This game would have had no more importance had the Nittany Lions entered it undefeated. As it were, we entered it with but one win. We managed to make a meaningless game even more meaningless!

Enter with one win. Leave with two. We doubled down!

Seriously, Rutgers may be the default birthplace of college football, but for the past century or so, it has also been the graveyard.

Yes, Greg Schiano has returned. Cue the heavenly music. How did it work out for Pitt when Johnny Majors tried to resurrect their program? And at least Johnny Majors had an impact the first time, taking Pitt to a National Championship in 1976.

What has Greg Schiano done for Rutgers football? From 2001-2011, he was 68-67 at Rutgers. His collegiate record is 70-72. (In case you are wondering, Majors was 185-137-10 in his long career.) Granted, Mr. Schiano has taken the scarlety nights to six of their 10 bowls, winning five of them against the mighty likes of Kansas State, Ball State, NC State, Central Florida and Iowa State.) This was Schiano’s first game against Penn State as we did not play Rutgers during the 2001-2011 seasons.

Why am I even talking about this? Because the game itself was pedestrian, irrelevant, and the equivalent of a teenager beating his 4 year old brother at Mario Kart. We came. We played. We dominated.

Since 1950, Rutgers is 1-24 versus Penn State with the only win coming in 1988.

The only reason Penn State fans were worried about this game is that we have already established the propensity to lose against any body.

I do give credit for the players hanging in there and putting forth more effort on the field than I have done in this post.

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Episode VI: A New Hope????

Just when you think you have this Penn State team defined as an under-performing, over-rated, confused and poorly coached, clunking, clattering collection of caliginous junk . . . they go and win a game.

Albeit against Michigan. The Lions win 27-17! A-maize-ing!

Normally this would have been a marquee match-up.

In 2020, the reality was closer to this:

Pat Forde described this game as a “cringe-worthy mess.” Thank you Mr. Obvious. Keep your mind sharp and your pencil sharper.

Granted, few fans outside of Pennsylvania or Michigan likely cared much one way or the other about the outcome of this game. It probably didn’t even have a great TV audience.

But for die hard Penn State fans, this was a Thanksgiving Miracle. A spoonful of sugar to make the pandemic go down. We put the ape in apricot! A ray of sunshine in an otherwise dreary world.

And no matter what happens the rest of the season . . . we are not the team that lost to Penn State.

For Harbaugh, it must be a humiliating defeat. He almost and should have lost to Rutgers the previous week. And with Maryland (who mauled Penn State in week 3 of this Big Ten season) and Ohio State left on their schedule, Jim may not notch another victory in 2020.

But for the Lions and James Franklin . . . . there is hope. It is but a glimmer, but it is there. In the darkness of this miserable season, it stood out today like a welcoming beacon. A torch on our Statue of Victory–give me your tired, your poor and your huddled football team, yearning to breathe victory, the wretched refuse of your dismal season.

A fan from Lock Have, PA made this for me many years ago.

So how did this miracle occur?

Aliens.

It’s as good as any guess.

Let’s face it. We beat a team that is arguably and probably worse than we are. Therein is probably the only analysis necessary.

But pick a stat–any stat. Penn State dominated. 25 PSU first downs to 14 Wolverine first downs. 254 rushing yards to 174. 163 Lion passing yards to 112 for the Maize (we call it corn) and Blue. Total yards were thus 417 for PSU and 286 for UM. We were 8 of 16 (50%) on third down while they were 4 of 12 (33%.) We won time of possession 36:36 to 23:24! They had two fumbles but only lost one–thanks to illegal touching! We did not commit a turn-over!

We did however, miss a field goal, twice kick the ball out of bounds on the kick-off, and got out-penalized 5 times for 30 yards versus only one 10 yard indiscretion by the wolverines.

But it was difficult to enjoy the game. Why? Because I sat there just waiting for the shoe to drop. The fatal mistake. The bone-head play call. The clock mismanagement. You just knew it was going to come. It always comes. The piss poor pass and pick six by Michigan. We almost had the Michigan scoop and score! But replay actually saved us on that one! You can’t say we didn’t try!

Cue I Got You Babe. Okay sportsfans, rise and shine, and don’t forget your crying towels because it’s lousy out there today. It’s lousy out there every Saturday . . . .

Somehow, some way, the Nittany Lions managed not to shoot themselves in the paw, look a gift horse in the mouth, throw caution to the wind while throwing the baby out with the bathwater or find gloom, despair and agony of defeat.

For the record–I went to Zach’s to watch the game instead of Champs or Primanti’s. I went back to my Nike PSU logo sneakers that I wore for the Indiana game, a game which we coulda, shoulda, woulda won. I nixed the PSU socks. Game day decision. Different PSU boxers and a different shirt. I will wear this ensemble for the remaining games. Without washing. (Thankfully there are only two irregular season games and one Championship week match-up left!)

Can we build on this performance? Can we keep momentum rolling?

We will find out next week as our beloved Lions travel to Piscataway, NJ. Welcome to hell, Blofeld! A fitting reward for a win like this? We shall see.

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