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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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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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The Backout Bowl

I was going to opt out on writing a preview blog, you know–worried about a typing injury that might interfere with my ability to perform surgery–but then I felt a certain sense of duty to do what you have come to expect me to do. And to that end, I will do my best to provide you with an insightful (perhaps even inciteful) but ultimately worthless piece of prose that means absolutely nothing. You get what you pay for.

You can probably predict where I am going with this based on the blog’s title and opening paragraph. And if you are a regular reader, then you know that I am a FAN. That is short for fanatic. And I put the TIC in FANATIC.

As with anything in life, any argument has to look at the reality of the situation if it is going to be credible on any level.

So what is the reality of the situation? Dang it! I just broke a nail!

Well, first and foremost, there is nothing to prevent a player from opting out.

A potential injury to a player projected to go high in the draft, could conceivably be a multi-million dollar loss. I strongly considered skipping finals in college–I just didn’t think it was worth risking a brain sprain that might keep me from going on to medical school and costing me a lot of potential income down the road–but reconsidered when I realized that passing those finals and courses was kind of required to get into medical school. It’s way different for athletes. And a lot more money is involved.

Life is not fair.

So those are the facts, ma’am. Read ’em and weep.

Does that mean we can’t discuss this issue further?

Abso-positively-lutely NOT!

This is the freaking Internet! We don’t need silly facts to get in the way of seeking TRUTH!

I did try for maybe a couple minutes, a few clicks here and there, to find some hard data regarding how often a high NFL draft prospect gets injured in a bowl game. Unfortunately, it is not a well studied area of science and most of what I found was anecdotal.

There was an interesting Sports Illustrated article (in the Swimsuit Issue–I spent way too much time looking for data there which is probably a contributing factor to why I have no data to present to you here, but there was one model who dared to eat a donut even though she knew it might keep her from making the big bucks smiling in front of a camera with dental floss for a bikini–she survived and still made money!) Where was I? Maldives? Jamaica. Oh, wrong issue.

Anyway, Jaylon Smith and Jake Butt chime in with their thoughts on players opting out of bowl games to preserve NFL draft status. Both of these players ended up with injuries that adversely affected their draft statuses and their future NFL careers. Opting out was not an “in” thing before this. As the article quotes: “My situation has affected college football forever,” Smith says. “I’m going in the history books.”

Still, even though he lost out on significant money, his rookie season, and risked the longevity of his career with such a serious injury, Smith says he doesn’t regret playing in the Fiesta Bowl. “Being a competitor and a captain of my Notre Dame team, it was important for me to go out the right way,” he says.

The right way. Remember that. I will come back to that later. What about Butt? Here is his response:

Butt knew of Smith’s story, but says he hadn’t considered sitting out from the Orange Bowl until some of his teammates asked him about it after they saw the news that Fournette and McCaffrey would not be playing in their bowl games. Butt figured the reason he’d committed to Michigan in the first place was to play in big, nationally televised games like the Orange Bowl. “I know it sounds a little bit crazy,” he says, “but I would make the same exact choice again. That was one of the biggest games I was going to play in in Michigan my career.”

He would make the same choice again. Very interesting.

College football is unfortunately a business. A very big business. In the Big Ten it is BIG business.

But as a fan who has followed this pastime for many decades–the thrills of victories and the agonies of defeats–I do not like where any of this is heading.

Students who at one time couldn’t even accept a free burger from a coach on a recruiting visit, can now parlay the use of their image into real money. They have always had the opportunity to get scholarships–free rides at schools where that could be worth anywhere from $50-200K.

But it’s no longer about the education. Maybe it never was. But I do recall many of the great Paterno teams being senior laden–many with FIFTH YEAR seniors. You don’t see these kids stick around that long anymore. They don’t even stick around at one school anymore. I remember when you used to have to sit out a year if you transferred. Now, you can use the portal like Captain Kirk travelling around Uranus looking for Klingons. Beam me to a school that will play me, Scotty!

And now, they don’t even have to play their last game.

It’s interesting how this argument would change drastically if you could remove the money factor from the equation.

Seriously. I think you could strongly argue that all these kids would take their free trips to bowl venues and play these games for fame if there were no risk to their fortunes.

But wouldn’t they still risk injury? Adam Taliaferro is a lucky guy. Ryan Shazier likewise. They will never play the game again, for money or not, but they have healed from their severe injuries incurred while PLAYING A GAME.

Football is a rough sport. A quick Google of “which sport has the highest injuries” shows various results. Many of the first page articles claim that basketball has the highest rate of injuries, but there is an NIH article from the Journal of Athletic Training that affirms that football is the highest injury prone collegiate sport. I think we can safely say that for better or worse, football players take a risk of injury every time they walk onto a playing field be it for practice or competition.

Yet, if there was no money involved, I don’t think you would see the number of star players opting out of their bowl games. Think of it like this–if there was a way to insure that any potential future NFL player could be fully compensated for any potential lost revenue even if there was an injury and they were never able to play again–would they play?

The point I’m trying to make here is that these kids aren’t afraid of getting hurt–perhaps never walking again depending on the injury–they are afraid of losing money.

But on the flip side, colleges are just as concerned with the money. Show them the Money!

I found this rather interesting article on the finances of college athletics–which also shows a picture of Penn State and Ohio State playing at the top. The data cited is from the 2018-19 time frame so it is pre-COVID. Private institutions (such as Notre Dame) are not listed because they are not required to divulge their financial data as a public university must do.

Yet these figures tell only part of the story. Most casual observers might be shocked to learn that despite the huge sums of cash seen here, only a handful of schools actually make money through college athletics.

If you didn’t click on the link, Penn State is #6 with a revenue of $164,529,326.

Insane amounts of money. But as a business owner myself, there are also insane amounts of overhead. Facilities, stadiums, advertising, recruiting, coaches salaries, assistants, secretaries and on and on.

When a kid commits to Penn State, Penn State is also committing a lot to that kid. Dotson was given a venue to showcase his talents. Every dollar that Penn State spent on their sports program either directly or indirectly helped Dotson get to the point where he is now.

But Dotson has talent. He could showcase it at any other school.

The schools benefit from the athletes. The athletes benefit from what the schools can provide them with.

It would be rather low class for a school, heading to a bowl game where they will make MONEY to tell one of their players, ‘sorry, Mr. Dotson. We don’t need your services anymore. You won’t be travelling with us, and we won’t be issuing you a diploma. Oh, and by the way, you owe us for the course hours you completed already.’

Can a school even do that? Probably not.

The level of commitment is really one-sided. The University provides. The athletes–and head coaches–take as much advantage as they can, and often move on.

And “the University” is more than just a building and a name. It is alumni. It is fans. As a Pennsylvania citizen, I am personally responsible for one fan’s share of all that money Penn State makes–I buy tickets, I donate, I pay taxes and some of that money goes back to PSU, not to mention parking fees, concessions, and Penn State licensed apparel. I watch the advertisements during their games. I buy some of those products. Some of that goes back to Penn State.

We fans are the reason any of this happens.

If no one goes to games, buys tickets, or watches them on TV, there is no money.

And comically, we fans have the LEAST say in all this business.

Recall earlier I said I would come back to that comment about the right thing to do?

If a player commits to Penn State, and Penn State gives them every opportunity to improve and increase their NFL status, then I think the player owes some commitment back to the school, and by extension the fans and patrons that make all this possible.

I agree with Jaylon Smith. Playing in your final Bowl Game is the right thing to do.

It just might not be the wisest decision if money is what is important to you. I don’t like it, but I do get it.

And that’s the way it is. Players have the option. It is up to them.

So how about that bowl game? Who’s going to win?

ESPN. Penn State–the University–win or lose. And I might even get some entertainment value out of the deal.

But I have no idea who is going to win. I’m not even sure who is playing! The only sure thing is Clifford will play. He’s like death and taxes. And he’ll be a sixth year senior next year!

Come New Year’s Day, I will be rooting for whoever we put on the field in blue and white. Even if we have to put some cheerleaders in on defense! It’s going to be more like a Blue-White scrimmage than a real game, but it is what it is, and I will always be a fan!

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Say it Ain’t Snow!

The Nittany Lions flew to East Lansing, Michigan to take on the highly rated but certainly beatable Spartans in the midst of a driving snowstorm.

They lost by three lousy points, losing 20-17 and falling to 7-5 on the season. No rank for PS-you!

Literally hours after Franklin inked a ten-year $85 million dollar contract, Mel Tucker of Michigan State just laughed and inked his own ten year deal–for $95 million. So what do you get for an extra $10 mil? Looks to be about 3 points.

A $95 Million Look

In bowling, sometimes you throw a good shot, hit the pocket, but it doesn’t carry, leaving a ten pin, or a solid 8, or worse yet an inexplicable split. A guy I used to bowl with had this happen. Our team wasn’t doing well either at the time. As he walked back the approach, he shrugged and said, “season in a nutshell.”

Another heart wrenching loss in a game that could have/should have been won. SEASON IN A NUTSHELL.

Five losses and every single one of them could have been a win. I may be mistaken, but I think Penn State had a lead at some point in every single game. The biggest defeat was by 9 points. Two games were separated by a field goal. One by two points. And another by 4. The average in 5 losses was 4.2 points. Take out the Ohio State game, and that is 3 points per loss.

But, don’t forget the schedule we played. Six teams were ranked in the top 22 when we played them. Four of those losses are to teams in the current top 15 of the AP poll. According to TeamRankings.com, Penn State had the eighth toughest schedule in the country. And we were still a quarterback injury and and a handful of plays away from winning more games.

Am I happy? Hell no!

Am I disappointed? Words can’t even begin to describe my pain.

Jordan Stout, who won the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honor 4 times this season, was just shy of 70% on kicking field goals this season. He missed two extra points this year. But his punting and kick offs were phenomenal. In case you are wondering, 70% on field goals is 80th in the NCAA. Perspective? Eight Big Ten teams have kickers ranked higher with a higher percentage: Ohio State (3), Michigan (8), Iowa (14), Purdue (43), Illinois (54), Wisconsin (67), Rutgers (71) and Indiana (77.) The missed field goal from inside 30 yards and the missed extra point could have tied or won this game for Penn State. Pinegar kicking the last extra point (and making it) is the adage equivalent of closing the barn door after the horse has already left. And while the weather conditions were not ideal (even the MSU kicker missed an extra point as well,) these were not isolated misses unique to this game. This was part of the pattern. Strong leg on kickoffs, accuracy on field goals and PAT’s not so much. Hold my beer! He’s gonna attempt a kick! The coaches should have worked on this (maybe they did and failed) or used a more accurate kicker for PATs and short field goals while letting Stout kick it out of the end zone routinely on kick offs. And if you don’t have anyone else on the roster that can kick better than 70% (80th in the nation), WHY NOT???? Not acceptable for a team that aspires to be elite.

Am I being over critical of a kid that doesn’t deserve criticism? I love this kid. I will root for him as long as he plays. I just wish he could hit a few more field goals and not miss extra points. I’m sorry if a fan criticizing a player bothers you. This is what it is. If you choose to come to Penn State and have 108,000 fans cheering you on when you make a good play, well don’t expect them to turn a blind eye when you make a bad one. You are being “paid” for this–if nothing else you can get a quality education if you want it. And now you can make money off using your image. And you have an opportunity that not many athletes get–a chance to showcase your talent for the coveted money maker of all time: the NFL. Get over it. You don’t want to hear the truth–you can’t handle the truth!–then I’m sure there are THOUSANDS of other high school football players that would LOVE to take your place.

Penn State has not had a running back go for more than a hundred yards all season. In fact, I don’t think anyone rushed for more than 74 yards in one game. That was against Indiana. Criticizing? Or fact? Just state the facts, ma’am.

There was not one iota of improvement in the running game from game 1 to game 12. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result?

That my friends is COACHING.

The coach doesn’t fumble. He doesn’t miss the extra point or field goal. He doesn’t over throw a receiver or throw a pick six. He doesn’t miss a tackle.

But the coach is the one responsible for the putting the players on the field that do. And for calling plays that allow their strengths to match up with the opponent’s weaknesses. And good coaches adjust to adversity and overcome obstacles like fumbles or missed kicks.

The head coach is the captain of the ship. If he didn’t recruit a good offensive line, that is on his head.

If the quarterback is struggling, ill, or ineffective for whatever reason, it is the coach’s decision to continue playing him or not. Do we kick or go for it. Coaching. Do we kick or take a time out and ice our own kicker? Coaching. Do we run or pass? Coaching. Who put the ape in apricot? What do elite teams got that we ain’t got?

COACHING!

You can say that again.

And now we have locked in our head coach for TEN YEARS. Another decade. That’s like one year in Paterno years. But still? What were we thinking?

Are we just going to pay more for the same old mediocrity, or are we going to get more bang for our megamillion bucks? That remains to be seen.

I saw these young men play their hearts out. I didn’t see one game where these guys gave up this year. (and in all fairness–that is coaching to some extent as well.) Maybe Clifford shouldn’t have been playing the Illinois game so soon after his injury. He certainly didn’t look 100%. But he still tried and almost got it done. It’s just a shame that all that hard work and dreams will go down in the books as a 7-5 season with a December to not remember bowl game.

Of all the words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, what might have been.

BUT . . . on the bright side. We don’t have to store the Land Grant Trophy for an entire year!

Land Grant Shed

UPDATE! Since the typing of this post, I see that Jordan Stout was named the Big Ten Punter of the Year. Congratulations Jordan!

Also, Brent Pry has apparently accepted a head coaching position at Virginia Tech. Best wishes until we play them! So who will the 85 Million Dollar man anoint for that position? Shall we just assume for now that the defense will be “learning a new system” for 12 games next year? Oy and double oy!

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Veilleux Be My Quarterback?

On a breezy and brisk November afternoon, the Nittany Lions, coming off a heart-wrenching loss to the Wolverines and an overall disappointing season to date, faced the Scarlet Pimpernel of Piscataway. It was senior day at Beaver Stadium and Military Appreciation day as well, highlighted by a Pennsylvania Air National Guard EC-130J plane flyover at the end of the national anthem.

But the Lions were battling more than just Rutgers . . . fighting off the flu as well–a total of 21 players had it during the week and 14 tried to play.

The results, though, were electrifying, as the Lions shut out the Knights (the first time in school history that the defense shut out two Big Ten teams in one season) and cruised to a 28-0 win before a faux crowd of 106,038. Apparently whoever counts the fans in the stadium also counts election ballots. I know. I know. They count seats SOLD not occupied. And the students were on break. There were actually more fans there than I expected, but hardly a filled stadium . . .

And the first half was as exciting as watching paint dry. Seriously. The bleacher in front of me was empty and I was really tempted to take a nap. I may have nodded off a time or two. The first quarter was simply a punt fest. EIGHT PUNTS. NO POINTS. Penn State didn’t score until there was 1:03 left in the half. But . . .

It was turning point in the game, and quite possibly the future of Penn State football.

Christian Veilleux took over for the ailing Sean Clifford in the second quarter. And while his first two drives weren’t anything to write home about, the kid settled in and finally threw a touchdown pass to Dotson to put Penn State on the board.

Veilleux went 15 of 24 for 235 yards, threw three touchdowns and no interceptions in his college debut. He showed a lot of poise in the pocket albeit against the Scarlet Knights, not the Scarlet and Gray. Poise in the pocket, poise in his pants. Sounds like a commercial for something . . .

His performance already has many fans wondering . . . what if? What if he had come in against Iowa instead of Robeson? What if he started against Illinois? What if? What if?

I was really impressed with what I saw. He had a couple over thrown passes, but for the most part he was right on the money. His ability to throw back across the field while on the run was simply incredible. He used his feet as well as his arm. He was sporting number 9, and I was having flashbacks of McSorley.

Like it or not, Penn State needs a mobile quarterback to be effective. At least since joining the Big Ten. We don’t get many Kerry Collins or Todd Blackledges. Two in fifty years. Our most successful seasons, and by extension most successful quarterbacks, are guys that can throw and run. Doesn’t matter who the head coach or offensive coordinators are. This is who we are, like it or not. Michael Robinson. Darryl Clark. Trace McSorley. And Sean Clifford before his injury which limited his mobility–and by extension, limited our offense.

This is even true in the big league. Look at the successful QBs in the NFL. Lamar Jackson. That Herbert kid that ran all over the field against the Steelers. Meanwhile, the Steelers slog it out with an aging QB that can’t run like he did back when he was more successful. Everyone would love to have a Tom Brady at the helm, but most have to settle for a mobile QB to keep the chains moving. The more options an offense has the more effective it will be.

Of course, they always say the most popular player on any team is the back up quarterback. We humans can be very fickle. And there is a certain gambler in all of us. The idea here is that when we don’t like what is going on, a change–any change–has to be better. We’re willing to bet on it. That’s how most coaches got their jobs in the first place–previous guy got fired because he couldn’t win–the new guy HAS to be better! Hell, that’s how Sleepy Joe got his job. Be careful what we wish for . . .

Which brings us back to James Franklin, who apparently told the State College Quarterback Club earlier in the week that he was not going anywhere. Well, we know he’s not going to Indianapolis or to any playoff games, but I guess we can cross off USC and LSU as well.

I have very mixed feelings.

I really liked JF from day one. His ability to recruit is like nothing we have ever seen at Penn State.

But then there are all the other little things: clock mismanagement, ill-timed trick plays, losing to teams we should defeat, not performing well against ranked teams. It’s been eight years and there doesn’t seem to be any progress.

But would bringing in another coach be any better? Who knows? Only the shadow knows!

Look how well Texas is doing with their carousel of coaches. When was the last time Nebraska had a great team. Tom Osborn? Sometimes, patience is a virtue. But on the other hand, stubbornness can be a curse as well.

For now, I am going to savor this victory, and I look forward to seeing Christian Veilleux lead this team in the future!

Penn State dominated the stat sheet this week. They held the mighty Knights to under a hundred yards rushing OR passing. But the 3rd down conversions are still a problem–might have been better if Christian had started the game and we didn’t have punt-a-palooza in the first quarter.

Next week, the Lions travel to East Lansing, Michigan to take on the formerly highly ranked Spartans. Sparty was simply crushed by THE Ohio State College this past weekend 56-7! They are still ranked 12th/13th in the two polls. Their only other loss was to the Boilermakers in a lopsided 40-21 defeat. They beat Rutgers 31-13 and went to OT with Nebraska. They beat Indiana by 5 points.

After the Illinois game, I thought we had little chance to win this one. Now, I’m not so sure. The Spartans opened as a ONE point favorite. Odds Shark has Penn State winning, covering–take the OVER.

And in other news . . . Oregon doesn’t want in. They bowed out, losing to Utah 38-7. Maybe the Ducks should hire Franklin? Michigan and Notre Dame are still on the outside looking in, but Michigan “controls their destiny” as a victory in THE GAME over the buckeyes would catapult them into the Top 4. Not sure Michigan can win that game, but you never know. On any given Saturday, even Illinois can beat Penn State.

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Colum-Busted

Coming up with a pithy title for each game is sometimes the hardest part of blogging. The rest just kind of flows, like the Force within Luke. This is what you got. Check my flow, uh.

And while it was certainly not the BUST we expected, it was still a loss, leaving us bloggers to sort through the broken pieces and ashes of what had been a promising season just a month ago, trying to find answers and portents of the future.

This was not the same team that folded against Illinois in NINE over times.

But in many ways, it was the same old, same old. Same shit, different sideline.

We cannot run the ball. We knew that was a problem. Has been a problem. Aside from the occasional Saquon blip, it is becoming a standard of Franklin coached Penn State teams. The lack of a ground game is glaring when the QB is not able to run.

Is it the offensive line? The running backs?

Who is going to put the R back into the RPO?

This team demonstrated a lot of heart and moxie on Saturday night albeit in a losing effort. A 33-24 loss is actually pretty respectable giving the starting point of being 23 and a half point underdogs to THE mighty suckeyes. And if not for a few bad breaks–a fumble scoop and score by THE Ohio D, and a general plethora of turn overs that were uncharacteristic of this team coming into this game, the result might have been even closer. Many fans were expecting a repeat of 2013 when THE team from Columbus smashed us 63-14 amid a flurry of Bill O’Brien ill-fated fourth down attempts. James Franklin was not to be out done in that regard. Maybe it’s a Pennsylvania thing–had to watch the Steeler’s play an entire half of football without a placekicker due to a head scratching fake field goal call that not only blew up and scored no points, but saw Boswell sidelined with a concussion. But I digress.

Aside from the loss, it was actually a fun game to watch, and the outcome was still in doubt up until late in the fourth quarter. Kudos to the men in white. The good guys.

It was a good loss as opposed to a bad one. In the end, though, STILL a loss.

Is there hope for the rest of the season? Depends on what you are hoping for. I think we can hope for a bowl game in some obscure location that is not conducive to a “vacation.”

We might match up well with Michigan. We do have the home field advantage in that one, and let’s face it. If there’s a coach out there that can go toe to toe with James Franklin in mismanaging game day calls, I think that would have to be Hairball, um Harbaugh.

I’m pretty sure we’re not going to win a game if we have to run the ball. I’m pretty sure we can’t rely on a long field goal to save any day. And our defense should keep us in all the remaining games. You know, despite giving up a ton of yardage on the ground to the Illini, we still only gave up 10 points in regulation. And the Suckeyes were averaging almost 50 points per game before we stifled them–and 7 of those points were scored by their D!

What exactly was that thing hanging on the back of his jersey? Is it a vanity license plate? A WWE belt buckle? Wide Load? Is that even legal to have that on the uniform?

Championship caliber defense with an intramural offense. No offense, offense. It can’t all be your fault. Seriously, how many offensive coordinators have we had under Franklin? With the exception of the 1994 team, Paterno coached teams were NEVER known for explosive offenses. Three yards and a cloud of dust. Hey diddle diddle. Run it up the middle. When was the last time we had a great offensive line? Hell, when was the last time we had a good offensive line?

We have talent. Have had talent. We just can’t seem to get said talent to reliably produce results on the gridiron on the offensive side of the field.

I thought early in the season that we turned a corner. I liked how things were progressing. The injury to Clifford obviously set us back. Decades. We might be bordering on dark ages. And it is just simply unfathomable that we don’t have any depth at the QB position, arguably the most important position on the team–both sides. But then you can ask how is that a pro team has no one else on the roster that can kick a football? So much head shaking, so little time.

Final conclusion: well played game with a few key mistakes on our part. But we played hard. Played tough. It just wasn’t meant to be.

VARIOUS OTHER THOUGHTS:

We managed to cling to a Top 25 ranking, coming in at 22 with three straight losses.

Villanova is still ranked 13th in the FCS Coaches Poll. Does anyone have a tougher schedule this year than Penn State?

Ohio State extended their win streak to 5 over us, leading the all-time series 22-14 (or 23-14 if you throw in the vacated game of 2010.) We have not won in COLUMBUS since Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. No wait. Not so fast. NOT SO FAST! We won there in 2011. It just seems like we never win there. We will not beat them here or there. We will not beat them anywhere. We cannot beat them in a box. We cannot beat them with a Fox! The Scarlet and Gray have won 9 of the last ten, with the only loss in 2016 on the Kick Six. Tyler Durbin was super reliable inside of 40 yards. But that was not his night. And it is Franklin’s only win over the Columbus Scarlet Jackets.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Lions travel to Maryland to take on the mighty Terrapins. 3:30 game start on FS1.

The season started out promising for the Terrapins after a big win over West Virginia in the opener. Undefeated until the played Iowa. Then three straight conference losses including one to Ohio State. I’m having de ja vu all over again! And PTSD!

These two teams have had eerily similar seasons. Penn State is picked to win by 10.5. In common opponents, they beat Illinois, but loss by more to THE Ohio team and Iowa.

It all depends which Penn State team shows up–the Illinois PSU or the Ohio State PSU. The latter will win this rather easily. The former–all bets are off! The win would make us bowl eligible, for whatever that’s worth–but the same can be said for the Terps!

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Bye Week Blues and More . . .

Penn State survived the bye week without dropping on either poll–coming in at 7th on the AP poll and 9th on the Coaches Poll.

Of course the Penn State of this season still rests on the health of one starting quarterback, fondly known as Sean Clifford, the Big Blue Lion. Details of his injury are sketchy and speculative, and the date of his return are sketchier yet.

Our future path would look something like this on an Etch-A-Sketch . . .

And to make losing our starting quarterback and the Iowa game even worse, the Hawkeyes got the proverbial #2 kicked out of them by Purdue. (A Purdue fan apparently twitterpated or instasnapped that pithy synopsis but I really like it.)

Unfortunately, as amusing as this Iowa loss to Purdue was (24-7 if you didn’t know!) you could insert Penn State into most of those memes the day after we lost to the Hawkeyes. The loss, a bittersweet karma, dropped the Hawkeyes to 11th place on both polls.

The AP top 4 now has Georgia, Cincinnati, Oklahoma and guess who—Alabama. Cincinnati only plays one more ranked team (SMU currently at 21st.) And while Bama and the Bulldogs will play each other at some point in all likelihood–Georgia should cruise and Alabama just has to get past Auburn– it is certainly foreseeable that one losing to the other wouldn’t necessarily drop the loser out of the playoff! Oklahoma does have some tough games left –Oklahoma State and Baylor. That might open the door for a Big Ten team to creep in. Contrast that with the road Penn State has to travel: Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State–all ranked in the top ten and only Michigan is at home. All of these teams have to play each other in the coming weeks.

But first, we have Illinois!

Homecoming at Beaver Stadium. A nooner start.

The opening line is 23-24 points favoring the Nittany Lions.

The New Mascot of Illinois
But this is what that reminds me of

Illinois is 2-5 with a surprising week one win over Nebraska, 30-22. Seven games later they have only one more win, over Charlotte. The secret apparently didn’t lie with Charlotte.

If Clifford doesn’t play, which I think is probably a real possibility–even if he could play it might be prudent to rest him for the next game. I know. I know. 1-0. Whatever. We should be able to beat the Illini with a back-up quarterback. I don’t think we stand a chance against the Buckeyes with what we saw in Iowa City during the second half.

GO STATE! BEAT ILLINI!

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Sweep the Quarterback

I’m late as usual posting this recap. I’m a doctor. I’m always running late. Read some blog articles from 2002 in my waiting room while you wait.

I actually was going to walk away. Completely. Stop blogging forever. I’ve been doing this for over 22 years now. It could be longer but I distinctly remember blogging in 1999 when Penn State defeated Miami on a late touchdown, Kevin Thompson to Chafie Fields.

I started on some platform called Xoom. At some point I blogged on Blogger, and ultimately wound up here. For a brief period of time I blogged on Penn Live, creating the 50-Yard Lion Blog.

And while this loss was one of the most painful I have ever suffered through–losing to Iowa 6-4 in 2004 and then in 2008 on a last second field goal set up by a phantom PI when we were undefeated and ranked #3 come quickly to mind–which reminds me that Iowa is one of those teams–who hasn’t won a national championship since 1960 (pre-modern era–hell Pitt claims tons of championships from back when they kept score on stone tablets!) and has not outright won a Big Ten title (i.e. has not shared a title) since 1958! They are not a team that wins championships; they are the thorn in other team’s seasons to keep them from winning! But I digress and the sentence structure and run-on rambling of this paragraph is enough to give an English teacher a seizure!

Where was I? Oh, this may not have been the most painful loss I have suffered through but it is in the Top 5 for sure. And I don’t care what you think about playing the what if game . . . we don’t know if Penn State would have won if Clifford had stayed healthy. Bull shit. The Penn State offense was putting the vaunted Iowa D to shame. We gave them a pick and prime field position and they were still down 17-3 at the half. Sure Clifford might have thrown some more picks, but he also would have moved the ball and would have scored more points. And maybe Iowa would have adjusted. It won’t happen, but put Kirk Ferentz on a polygraph and ask him who he thinks would have won that game if Clifford had not been unable to return.

Iowa dodged a bullet.

Speaking of dodging a bullet, I was going to walk away from blogging because this loss was just the straw that broke this Lion’s back. Amidst the stress in my own life, personal and financial, this was just too much to bear. But after sulking all day Sunday and watching the Steelers (who maddeningly wear the same colors as the Iowa Hawkeyes) actually win a game, I thought I would throw a few more thoughts out there.

Like this is a touchdown?

How can you review that and conclude that is a score. What part of the Iowa players body is actually IN BOUNDS???? Yes, he hits the magic pylon. But not with the ball! At least Indiana’s QB hit the pylon WITH the ball albeit out of bounds last season. This is simply ridiculous!

Don’t cite me any obscure rule interpretations. IF a player is actually in the field of play, and extends a hand across the goal line–but not the ball–that is NOT a touchdown. Swiping at the pylon as you go out of bounds is NOT a touchdown unless the football is in that hand. The Big Ten refs are a joke!

There was some kind of perverse incongruity in the Iowa fan base. They all wave to the kids in the hospital, then boo injured players (repeatedly) on the field. One fan was caught on camera mocking a shoulder injury. Even one of their coaches flopped to the ground in mockery. It was like some futuristic bizarro world out there.

The loss dropped the Lions to #7, while Iowa’s gift “earned” them a number 2 spot. At least we weren’t Alabama!

But look who also crept back up the charts. Our old nemesis. THE ohio statey buckeyes. #6.

Undefeated seasons, are not uncommon–in most years there are usually one or two teams that emerge unscathed. But multiple clean seasons? Penn State has had 5 since 1968, which is actually one more than Alabama over the same time period. And while there is a lot of football yet to played this year–and plenty more opportunities to see this team lose, it is disheartening to lose one that just slipped through our grasp.

My kingdom for a backup quarterback!

The impact of the transfer of Will Levis is quite apparent. I’m not going to criticize Robeson. He did his best in less than ideal circumstances. Very hostile environment to play in. I did feel the coaches failed him at not correcting the false start problems sooner, but in the end, those penalties really didn’t matter. When he did have the opportunity to make a play, the receivers dropped the ball or Iowa’s defense made the play. And our defense needed to hold them to just one more field goal. Just one more time. Soooo close.

But it was not meant to be.

Football imitates life.

Sometimes they both suck.

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Indiana Groans

Saturday night, before a striped-out crowd of 105,951 mostly partisan fans, the 4th ranked Nittany Lions defended their lofty ranking and perhaps exacted a small amount of revenge for last years season opening debacle against the Hosers.

I felt the level of intensity was a notch or two lower than the Auburn white-out game, but it was not far behind.

The Hoosiers played like they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. When the stadium’s a-rockin’ don’t come a-knockin’! This is not your 2020 Penn State team.

There wasn’t a lot of razzle dazzle. Some nice catches. a bad throw or two. A stupid penalty or three. But what shined was the defense and special teams, holding the Hoosier to ZERO points, which included blocking what should have been a fairly sure 3 points. Being at the game, I don’t know what was said by the announcers, but I wonder if they made a comment about the Indiana kicker being “super reliable” inside 40 yards! Unlike the Ohio State block though of 2016, this was not returned for a touchdown, but the points weren’t necessary.

And while fans seem dismayed we didn’t put up 30-40 points or more (hey! Iowa pasted 51 on the Terps doncha know!) I still get the feeling we’re not going very deep in Yurcich’s playbook yet. No PSU runner has had over 100 yards in a game yet, but the team posted 220 yards this week–a definite improvement even if we can’t get that last freaking one yard on fourth down!

This is who we are. Remember fourth and goal in the 1979 Sugar Bowl against Alabama? I watched a lot of ugly wins in those 409 Paterno victories. They weren’t all 81-0. And while teams are dropping out of the top ten right and left, we’re still winning, baby.

They say defense wins championships . . . it may not be as true as it was in the 1970’s but boy do we have a defense today.

And as far as Iowa jumping us to #3 in the poll? I LIKE IT! Yes. Yes I do. I would much rather be the under dog in this game. It’s a must win no matter where we are ranked. We came into this Indiana game with a bit of a pylon chip on our shoulder. Mission accomplished.

Since most of us posting on message boards and surfing websites like this one are folks who have never actually played a down of real football in their entire lives, we don’t fully understand the physical and mental side of this game. And as I look back over the years of football I’ve watched, the upsets and surprises, the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat, I am more and more convinced of the importance of the mental game.

Why has Wisconsin struggled this season. They were ranked 12th! Over-rated? Maybe. Or is it because they couldn’t live up to that pressure in the first game, lost when they thought they should win, and now there is a domino effect? I honestly believe that if we had beaten Indiana last year, we would have had a better season. Not undefeated, but not a losing effort after an 0-5 start. I don’t think we would have seen the struggles of 2000-2001 if we hadn’t let Minnesota hang around and then knock us off on a late field goal. We had a great defense that year–Lavar Arrington! SI cover baby! We beat #4 Zona in the home opener. Undefeated and ranked #2 until the unranked Gophers destroyed everything. And then what happened? We lost to Michigan by 4 and then Michigan State by 7 to limp into the Alamo Bowl with a 9-3 record. We dominated A&M in that bowl. Why? Because we were a much better team than 9-3. We were a national championship caliber team that made one mistake–underestimating the Gophers–and then never recovered. No one will ever know for sure, but in my heart, I think if we had survived that Minnesota game with a win, we would have finished undefeated.

When you win, you have confidence. Dangerous, because you can be over confident. But the greater problem is when that confidence is shaken. Domino effect. Snowball effect. Sometimes avalanche. Good coaches and good teams can overcome that. But for Wisconsin, it ain’t happening. Auburn almost lost to Georgia State in the week after that let down. Beating LSU has given them a new lease. How will you feel about our team if the Tigers beat Georgia this week?

I believe that the struggles of Auburn and Wisconsin right now do NOT diminish our efforts. They are BECAUSE of our efforts. If Wisconsin had beaten us, they might be undefeated right now. Really? Maybe not. But you do see this a lot when a highly ranked team gets upset. They seem to struggle the rest of the way. Maybe they were over-rated, but maybe their team psyche is damaged and that affects their play going forward.

I’m thrilled to be 5-0. I’m excited to see how we match up this week with Iowa!

BY THE NUMBERS:

Pick a number. Any number. We were better than Indiana.

Indiana only had 4 first downs in the first half. We actually gifted them field position, and they couldn’t score.

Dotson and Clifford set a new Penn State record for 18 touchdowns, eclipsing the 17 held by Blackledge and Jackson. Kind of weird with Todd in the booth last Saturday.

Stout’s kicking is phenomenal– touchbacks (28), kickoffs returned (0) and punts inside the 20 (10).

Indiana has not been shut out since 2000. 246 games ago. Wow.

INTANGIBLES:

Stripe out looked great.

Blue Band Drum Major over-rotated and lost his balance on the landing. Wasn’t a flat out fall, but costly points deducted by the Russian and French judges. Screw them anyway. We won.

Saw this in the parking lot pre-game . . .

Didn’t see the guying selling pretzels out of a shopping cart this time, but I did see a girl carrying a big, blow up pretzel. WTH?!?! For a moment I thought I was on Supermarket Sweep! Did she get the $300 bonus!

We are 23-2 versus the Hoosiers all time and on a 9 game winning streak dating back to last year.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Minnesota defeated the Boilermakers 20-13. Michigan soundly put Wisconsin to bed 38-17. O$U shellacked Rutgers 52-13. The Spartans bested Western Kentucky 48-31, while the Huskers crushed Northwestern into a purple pulp, 56-7. As mentioned, Iowa dominated the Terps 51-14. And Illinois outlasted Charlotte 24-14.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Lions will travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes in a meeting of #3 versus #4 next Saturday at 4:00. It’s the first time since the 2000 Arizona game that both teams are in the Top 4, and the first time both Big Ten teams are in the Top four since we faced Michigan in 1997.

Iowa is second in the country in scoring defense. We are #3.

Looking at the Hawkeyes schedule . . .

The only common opponent is Indiana. Iowa scored more, but allowed more points. Margins of victory are close, 24 for us, and 28 for them.

I think our two schedules are comparable–giving the benefit of the doubt to Iowa State and Auburn being comparable.

Factors to consider: it’s tough to play in Kinnick. Ferentz is a seasoned coach. Pepper with a little Paprika. Maybe some oregano. But I think across the board, Penn State has the talent edge, just based on recruiting statistics. The Hawkeyes look a lot like the Steelers with their colors, and their QB Spencer Petras also wears #7. Steelers aren’t looking so good right now. We got that going for us.

I think this will be a low scoring defensive slug-fest. Not 6-4, but I’d be surprised if these two teams put more than 30-35 points on the board in total.

Will pigs fly like 1995? Who knows? Crazy story. Someone threw a pigs head onto the field. Reminds me of a story one of our anesthetists told about a woman who tried to steal a ham by hiding it in her clothes. She was going through the checkout and the ham fell out. She turned around surprised and outraged and demanded to know “Who threw dat ham?!?!”

Odds Shark has Iowa as a 2 point favorite. If you factor in a 3 point home advantage, then we’d be favored by one at a neutral site. But they pick Iowa to win, cover and that the points will be over 41.5. I’m having trouble picturing these two teams putting that much bling on the scoreboard.

I’m thinking 16-13 Penn State wins. We kick 3 field goals and a touchdown. A nail biter down to the bitter end.

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It’s Game Day!

Hoosier least favorite team today?

INDIANA.

Wow. Maryland did not get the memo about the upset alert on Iowa. The Terps fell 51-14 to the Hawkeye Piereces.

And in throw-up Thursday, the Miami Hurricanes lost to the Cavaliers on the final play of the game as the field goal kicker dinked it off the left upright. Virginia won 30-28. Yes, Virginia. There IS a Santa Claus!

And today . . . let’s root for Rutgers, Wisconsin and Cincinnati.

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