Category Archives: sports

Tomczak Flak: Mis-leading Man

I went to a Johnstown Tomahawks hockey game Saturday night.  As a promotional feature, they brought back former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Tomczak to sign autographs.  I guess Bubby Brister was too busy and Kordell Stewart wouldn’t return their calls.

I don’t want to rain on Mike Tomczak’s parade, but he is not on any list of Pittsburgh “greats” that I could find.

Yet, here is the publicity photo that you could get autographed.  (Notice I didn’t get mine signed.  I was afraid it might diminish it’s value.  No.  I really just didn’t give a care.)

miketomczak

Wait?!  What?

Super Bowl XX???  That is not one of the Super Bowls that Pittsburgh played in.  Isn’t that kind of misleading?  QUARTERBACK | SUPER BOWL XX CHAMPION.  All while wearing the black and gold beneath the STEELERS logo.

On further review, Super Bowl XX was played in 1986 between the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots.  Da Bears won 46-10 and Mike Tomczak was on that team.  He has a Super Bowl ring for that.  But according to Wikipedia,

He started no games his first year but did earn a Super Bowl ring, and saw playing time in Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986, during the fourth quarter of the Bears’ 46–10 win over the New England Patriots on the kickoff unit, where he was penalized for a facemask penalty.[3] He was a member of the “Shuffling Crew” in the Bears’ video for The Super Bowl Shuffle, mimicking playing guitar.

That would kinda be like me claiming I had an injury playing football at Penn State (which would technically be true if I was playing catch during a tailgate party and sprained my knee.)

And why didn’t they include his guitar playing shuffle on the promo?  The Super Bowl Shuffle was nominated for a Grammy!

miketomczak2

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Hawk and Awe

It was Military Appreciation Day at Beaver Stadium.  Navy beat Notre Dame earlier in the day.  And Penn State released it’s shock and awe weaponry on Iowa.  The Lions devoured the Hawks to the tune of 41-14. And it really wasn’t that close.

iowacorn

The Hawkeyes were ranked as high as 13th in the AP poll (11th in the Coach’s poll), before North Dakota State went all Appalachian State over them in week 4.  The Hawkeyes never recovered completely, dropping games to Northwestern and Wisconsin before coming into Beaver Stadium looking to prove themselves bowl worthy.

Of note, the Hawkeyes were only giving up 18.9 points per game.  The most points they gave up so far this year was 38 to Northwestern. Penn State posted 599 total yards, scoring on their opening drive and never looking back.

Defensively, Penn State held the Hawks to 234 yards, and only 30 on the ground.  THIRTY yards.  On 26 carries, in case you thought they did nothing but pass the ball.

According to GoPSUsports, it is the first time since entering the Big Ten that PSU has held two consecutive Big Ten teams to 50 yards or less rushing.  Penn State has now guaranteed its 12th consecutive winning season, something only four other teams have done in that span.  (They don’t list those teams unfortunately.)

On special teams, we did have a blocked field goal that cost us 3 points, but otherwise, we played very solid.  The return game, especially on kick offs, has vastly improved.

Iowa had the Big Ten’s leading kick off and punt returner.  The Hawks managed to average 19.5 yards per return on kickoffs, and though PSU only punted TWICE, they had zero yards in punt returns.  Put that in your pipe, but don’t inhale!

Penn State went into this game dead last in third down conversions, but despite Iowa’s supposedly good defense, we went 7-14 on that dreaded down which also helped us win time of possession 35 to 25 minutes.

The only thing we lost all day was the coin toss.

Saquon Barkley continues to impress and added a 57 yard scamper for Penn State’s second touchdown. He ran for 169 yards and had 211 all-purpose.  He went over 1,000 yards for the season and is the 8th PSU back to have multiple 1,000 yard rushing season.

One of the big plays in this game, perhaps the turning point if you will, was Cabinda’s Arrington-esque leap to stop Iowa on a fourth down play on their opening drive after PSU took a 7-0 lead.  Iowa was driving with a tying score in mind when this happened:

106,194 fans enjoyed an absolutely beautiful autumn evening in Happy Valley.  The drum major stuck both flips.  The half-time show honored our military.  The Penn State glee club sang “God Bless America” and there was a USO performance as well.

Next up are the Indiana Hoosiers, who are coming off an amazing trouncing of Rutgers, 33-27.  They lost to Ohio State, Nebraska and Northwestern, as well as Wake Forest.  They beat MSU 24-21 in OT in the Big Ten opener, but the Spartans are 0-6 in conference play, and their only wins are against Furman and Notre Dame.  Who would have thought their marquee victory would be Furman?

That’s not to say that this game is an automatic win for Penn State.  If nothing else, the last five years should have taught us there are no automatic wins.  Indiana played the Buckeyes tough for a half of a game.  With the exception of Purdue, we haven’t played as well on the road, and it will be an early start (12 eastern.)

Without going into specifics, I predict a slow start, but a comfortable margin of victory when the final seconds tick off.

Penn State debuted at #12 in the College Football Playoff Rankings last week.  They are already ranked 12th in the AP and 14th in the coach’s poll after beating Iowa.  Nebraska, Texas A&M and Florida were all ranked ahead of us in the CFP ranking, so we could conceivably crack the top ten this week.

For the moment, Penn State is back.  We are winning.  We are improving each and every week (something that I did not see in Franklin’s first two seasons as PSU head coach.)  We are ranked.  How wonderful is that?!  Every game left is WINNABLE, but not automatic.  10-2 is not unrealistic.  This team is exciting.  There is chemistry.  They are fun to watch.  They don’t give up when the chips are down or if they make a mistake.

Strap yourselves in.  There are 3 more wild regular season rides to go.

GO STATE!   BEAT HOOSIERS!

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Oh No U Purdon’t!

Penn State defeated the Perdue Ovenstuffers 62-24. But the roasting was far from easy. The score was tied 17-17 at the half, and Penn State was playing just slightly better then the ABC TV coverage crew.
Boilermakers Get Lions Back on Track
What was up with that? We missed the beginning of the game due to being forced to watch Virginia trying to upset Louisville. After ABC received probably 100,000 calls of complaints to meltdown their switchboard, the coverage shifted to West Lafayette, IN. Our team seemed as confused as the transmission. Sometimes a commercial would just appear at random. Then back to Virginia. Then back to the PSU game. Virginia. PSU. I think we beat Louisville. Virginia edged Purdue. All I know is we beat the snot out of somebody in the second half.
 
Was it take your kid to workday at ABC? Was a five year old playing with the buttons? Or was there a new intern who didn’t know Purdue from Virginia?
 
However, despite the classic (for PSU) slow start, the team came alive in the second half, outscoring the Boilers 45-7. All of a sudden, we weren’t missing tackles. The offense clicked along like a train on a railroad track. Whatever speech Franklin gives these kids at the half, he needs to give it at pregame!
 
My dad used to play golf with a guy, who gave this advice after someone took a mulligan and rehit a good shot: “You should have hit second shot first.” We should have played second half first! Of course, you’d still want to play a good second half, so it is was it is. Season in a nutshell.
 
On the one hand, it means we are making adjustments, which is a good thing. We’re making good adjustments. But it’s more than that. Like I said, we played poorly, tackled poorly, in the first half. I’m not sure I recall a single missed tackle in the second. I could be wrong about that, but the premise is still sound: we played much better in the second half.  It’s not just play calling but execution.
 
And the lead allowed backup quarterback Tommy Stevens some quality reps and he even led a scoring drive.
 
We watched the game at Champs, We couldn’t sit in the stadium section as it was reserved for a party. Apparently, someone forgot to invite the party. At any given time, I don’t think there were more than 6 partiers. Most of the seats went unseated, and the food went uneaten. There were pom poms. No one shook them. Maybe ABC was in charge of the party invitations. Everyone thought the party was in Virginia.
 
Strange, but as we waited for ABC to figure out how to show the PSU game, we mused about the past. We could remember the 70’s and 80’s when you went into a game EXPECTING PSU to win. We didn’t win every game. We weren’t favored in every game. But deep down, we expected to win. And we weren’t disappointed very often.
 
As we watched Virginia play, and PSU struggle to a tie at half time, we feared that perhaps last week was a fluke. Maybe we shouldn’t have expected to win this game.
 
But the second half came. And the rest is history.
 
Bring on the Hawkeyes!

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O What A Feeling!

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.
 
We could 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.
 
Until the muff.
 
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.


PANDEMONIUM.
 
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.
 
PANDEMONIUM!
 
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.

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Is This Thing Still On?

So . . .  how are you doing?

I’m fine, thank you.  Good really.  Really good.  Thanks for asking.

It’s been over two years since I ventured here.

cobwebcomputer

Place probably needs a make-over, but that will have to wait awhile.  For now, I’m just going to ease into this slowly.  Test the waters.

toedipping

A lot has happened on and off the field since I chose to stop blogging after a run of nearly fifteen years.  The assault on my blogging psyche began with the firing of Joe Paterno in 2011, his death, the sanctions, the Sandusky trial, Bill O’Brien, and ultimately the hiring of James Franklin.  Turmoil I tell you.  The blog had become more political and the posts revolved around sanctions, court trials, fairness, defending Joe Paterno . . . .

It was no longer about football.  It was no longer fun.

Over laid on that, were my personal issues.  My father passed away in the summer of 2014 and my life literally fell apart. I turned 50 the week I stopped blogging.   I was depressed.  My marriage of 24 years ended.  I’m still going through the divorce.  Nearly a year of counselling.

I’m not sure whether I am ready to return or not.  I have still posted post-game thoughts on Facebook from time to time, but not nearly the volume of posts I used to create years ago.

But after the Ohio State victory, as I was posting my thoughts on Facebook, my girlfriend asked me, “why don’t you blog anymore?”

Why don’t I indeed?

Stay tuned.

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