Just Like Beating Akron

But not exactly.

A lot of tripe will be written about Franklin’s post game comment, where, and I paraphrase here, he said that Pitt’s victory last year was like their Suoer Bowl (rewarded with key chains instead of championship rings) while Penn State’s victory was like beating Akron.

To Franklin, each game is important and equal.

But to Pitt fans, it struck a sensitive nerve.

And I compared to planting your team flag in the middle of an opponents logo on their home turf after beating them badly, is it really all that bad?

It may have been a subtle dig disguised as an innocent comment that forwards Coach Franklin’s mantra that the only important game is the next one up, or maybe it wasn’t.  But what would Franklin gain by stirring the pot.  We do have to play Pitt two more years.  No sense riling them I up now.

What is important is that Penn State won 33-14 despite the offense not firing on all cylinders.  McSorley struggled with accuracy, while Saquon was relegated to a couple of highlight clips.  On the other hand, the defense rose to the occasion and special teams performed without a mistake.

The victory though, still cost us a spot in the rankings as we fell to #5.  Oklahoma jumped to #2 after manhandling the Buckeyes in prime time at the Shoe.

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Number 4!

Penn State is ranked 4th in both the AP and Coaches Poll!  This is on the heels of a FSU loss, and a poor showing by USC over Western Michigan.

I’ve been waiting . . . for a rank like you, to come into my life . . .

Number4

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And They’re Off!

Penn State stumbled a bit coming out of the gate, but the Lions found their stride en route to a 52-zip rout of the Akron Zips last Saturday.  The weather was less than ideal, (it sucked!) but didn’t seem to affect the players whatsoever.

FeartheRoo

FEAR?  REALLY?  SERIOUSLY?????

PSU took the opening drive down the field as if the Zips hadn’t even shown up.  Unfortunately, their one highlight of the day was a pick in the end zone which cost us a score on the opening drive.

Add in a missed field goal and a kick-off out of bounds, and there is little left to criticize.

There were a few drops by Hamilton, and McSorley completed a couple of passes that, had he thrown them better, would have been touchdowns, but the receivers had to dive to catch them instead of taking them in stride.  But who’s Nitt-picking?

Did I mention the weather sucked?!

I heard one (Pitt) fan opine afterward, “since when does Penn State run up the score?”

Let’s settle this right here.  Penn State did put up 52 points.  Are they not supposed to play just to spare the feelings of the other team?  What did Akron expect when they scheduled this game?  (A big paycheck–that is what they expected and that is what they got!)  It is not possible (and certainly not advisable) to play a top 25 team every week.  It is a given that teams will play opponents that are out of their league.

Alabama is playing Mercer.  Florida State is playing Delaware State.  I could go on and on.  That’s the way football schedules are today.  Some teams will play tougher schedules.  Good for them.  They can then use that to argue away a loss if they want to.

Penn State had to play Akron on Saturday.  That was the team scheduled to play.  McSorley and Barkley had no choice in that matter.  They wanted to play their best regardless of the opponent.

Should they not have played the second half?  Come on!  It’s the first game of the season!  They need some real game practice time.  They learn nothing sitting on the bench.  And maybe they have an outside shot at a Heisman.  Is it fair to bench them and deny them a once-in-a-lifetime accolade because we don’t want to hurt Akron’s feelings?  Maybe if they don’t want to lose 52-0, they should not schedule a big check from PSU or maybe they should have prepared and recruited better?

And if a large margin of victory is equated with “running up the score” then this is not unfamiliar territory for Penn State.  48-14 against Pitt?  81-0 against Cincinnati?  66-10 versus Coastal Carolina.  PSU beat Rutgers 59-34, with McQueary throwing a TD pass in the final minute.  This led to a heated exchange between Paterno and Doug Graber after the game.  Apparently the BACKUP QB changed the play at the line of scrimmage and hit the open receiver.  Paterno later said, “I should not have to apologize for Mike doing what he has been coached to do.”

I, for one, didn’t buy a ticket so I could watch Barkley sit on the bench.

Is it fair that Akron continues competing and trying to avoid a shut out (the primary goal of EVERY defense is a shut out) while PSU heads into the locker room early?  I think not.

And while the timing of the back-up quarterback entering the game can be disputed–you have to weigh game experience versus the risk of injury more so than the margin of victory on the scoreboard–Penn State did play a lot of players that were not starters throughout the second half.

And in the end, the coaches, players and probably even the pollsters know that Penn State’s fate come bowl season will depend not on whether we beat Akron 35-0, 45-0 or 75-0 but rather whether we beat Ohio State, THEM, and the other potential pitfalls in the Big Ten and out of conference schedule.

THE NUMBERS GAME:

Penn State out-gained Akron 569-159 yards, and the Zips managed only 73 on the ground.  What more could you ask for?  Akron ran 63 plays to Penn State’s 65.  The Zips won time of possession by half a minute.  And while the Lions were only 3-9 on third down, they punted only TWICE.

Each team had one interception.

Penn State came in ranked #6.  With a Florida State loss, there is a chance to move up.

Attendance was 101,684.  I was a little impressed that we did that well given the weather conditions and the Labor Day weekend with the students off on Monday.  Some people might complain, but I thought it was a good crowd with a better than expected energy level given the quality of the opponent.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the conference by virtue of a win over Indiana.  The Hoosiers made a game of it for a half, but faded down the stretch, losing 49-21 after leading at the half.

The Wolverines defeated Florida 33-17, and Maryland upset Texas 51-41 in a shoot out.

Northwestern struggled early as well, but beat Nevada 31-20.

Iowa handled Wyoming 24-3.

Purdue lost to Louisville 35-28 which had to rally to defeat the Boilermakers.

The Spartans beat Bowling Green 35-10, and Illinois notched a 24-21 victory over Ball State.  The Cornhuskers eked a out a win over Arkansas State 43-36, while the Badgers routed Utah State 59-10.

Minnesota managed to beat Buffalo 17-7 while Rutgers fell 30-14 to #8 Washington.

AROUND THE NATION:

Alabama took Florida State out of the early running with a decisive 24-7 win.

USC struggled early but finally put away Western Michigan 49-31.

Clemson took Kent State to the woodshed 56-3.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Pitt.

PittPanter

PITT PANTER

That’s it.  Just Pitt.

The Lions are currently about a 20.5 favorite.

While Penn State dominated hapless Akron, Pitt went to OT with Youngstown State.

So Penn State should just walk away with a win next week, right?

Wrong!

Akron is near the bottom of the Bowl Subdivision teams.  Youngstown State, on the other hand, was ranked 9th pres-season in the FCS.  We’re comparing apples to oranges here.

That said, this is not the same Pitt team that beat PSU last year, and I think we are better this year.  And don’t forget that that Pitt team went on to give Clemson their only loss.  Again, though, this is not that Pitt team.

I predict PSU will win.  I think we will cover the spread–too many weapons, and Pitt gave up 418 yards, including 311 in the air.  Doesn’t matter if they gave it up to YSU, KSU or Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.  Penn State is going to score some points.

This is a rivalry game, whether any of us want to admit it or not.  I’m old enough to remember the rivalry of the 70-80’s.  Losing to them last year was bad enough–but when it cost us a spot in the play-offs–well, that’s a panther of a different color.  I’m not a big fan of the revenge factor, but I’m hoping it gives our team a little more adrenaline and inspiration this week.

Game time is 3:30 at Beaver Stadium.  I think we start slow, but keep things close through the half, and then pull away late in the game as our arsenal of weapons becomes too much to handle.

 

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Zipping Some Whine

The eve of the first game is upon us, and I can barely contain my enthusiasm.  However, the approach of this season has not been without it’s anxieties.

First and foremost . . . the season tickets.  For the last 23 years, these precious little pieces of paper came in the mail in late July.

July came and passed.  No tickets.

I got an email.  The tickets would be delayed this year.  New printer.  Blah, blah, blah.  Expect them mid-August.

Mid-August came and went.  No tickets.

I recently bought a new house and moved.  I checked my account.  Several times.  The address was correct.  Even so, the old address was my office address I was using during my divorce.  There were no tickets at the office.  Or home.

I did not see them here or there.  I did not see them anywhere.   I would not could not go to the game, if those precious tickets never came.

And then, another email.  They have been mailed!

TicketsOnWay

Oh, rapture!  Oh, joy!

That was August 22nd.

Tick. Tock.  Tick. Tock.

6DaysLater

It is now August 28th.  NO TICKETS.

Am I worried?  NO!  I was worried back in July.  I am way past worried.  I am way past panic mode.  I am a palpitation away from a stroke or heart attack.

And then they came.  Tuesday.  August 29th.  FOUR days before I actually need them.

True. . .  they could have cut it closer.  I could be running home to check the mail today like I have for the past six weeks.  I felt like Charlie Brown waiting for a valentine.

CharlieBrown

The whole thing irks me.  Penn State has pushed the due dates earlier for donations and ticket payment.  I used to get a complimentary extra parking spot (I still paid for the parking spot, but I did not have to increase my donation to get it) but they took that away.  And now I have to hope there are no mailing snafus or I might not get the tickets in time at all!  It’s just like health insurance!  I pay more and get less.  And maybe I won’t be covered at all!

But, I digress.

Enough whine.  Let’s see what’s on the main course.

Kangaroo kebabs.  A little gamy but it should be a nice appetizer before we dive into a big old plate of Panther Puttanesca (smells like victory!).  We’ll follow this up with a greasy helping of Southern Georgia Fried Panther.  Then, a more traditional serving of grilled Hawkeye (tastes just like chicken!).  Some Hoosier Hash.  Some Northwestern Wildcat, a little tougher than southwestern wildcat.  This will be followed by the main course, Wolverine sauteed in a water Buckeye Nut sauce.  Throw in some Husked Corn and Turtle Cake for dessert and you have a veritable gastronomic season of success.  No Spartan servings at this restaurant.  And NO Scarlet Knapkins!

Are you salivating yet????

Seriously, Penn State opens against the Zips of Akron.  I could write a well-thought out preview, analyzing the strengths of each team (all favoring PSU) and their relative weaknesses (only Akron over here,) but what would that accomplish?

Athlon Sports generously ranks the Zips at 109 in the nation.  This is one of their better rankings.  The Orlando Sentinel has them at 116, whilst Penn State is pretty much a consensual top 10 team across the various polls.  And while Zippy could go all Appalachian State over the Lions, keep in mind that Appalachian State had a damned good team that year.  Akron this year?  Not so much.

I predict a big win, but the point total might be lower if Franklin pulls the starters in the second half.  And if it rains.  And if Joe Moorhead wants to keep the playbook closed so as not to give future opponents video glimpses of our offensive prowess. And if I’m completely wrong and we end up losing for some unfathomable reason.

The point spread hovers around 32-35.  I think we cover that and then some.

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IT IS COMING . . .

The 2017-18 season will begin in less than one month, as the Nittany Lions open at home on September 2nd against the Zips of Akron.

The Lions are ranked 6th by the Coach’s poll and Lindy’s Sports.

Can we produce this level of excitement again?

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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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Roses are Red, But I am Blue

Better late than never, they always say.

But is a recap of the 2017 Rose Bowl really worth anything at this point?  Who wants to read about that now?  It’s been a whole week for goodness sake!  That’s like 49 years in blog years.  The Steelers won their first play-off game yesterday, but I imagine most web browsers are more interested in Ben Roethlisberger’s ankle or Joey Porter’s arrest following their win than they are in rehashing the X’s and O’s of Sunday’s victory over the Dolphins.

dolphin

While I have revived this blog, such as it is, I have not completely revived my zealousness for blogging.  Years ago, I created the 50-Yard Lion Blog for Penn Live, an on-line adjunct to the Harrisburg Patriot News.

At that time, I posted nearly every day.  Maybe it was a recruiting tidbit.  Or a funny picture/meme.  Or a blurb about an opponent.  Or something I read on a message board.  Whatever.  I posted like I was being paid to do it.  Well, I was.

But after a complaint by an Ohio State fan, I was unceremoniously dumped, and left to blogging on my own, sans remuneration.  The zeal has never been the same.

So here are my post-bowl season thoughts on the Rose Bowl (I know, there’s still a bowl game tonight between Alabama and some other team that also lost to Pitt and must have been way more impressive than Penn State so we don’t really care do we–bowl season for most of us blue and white fans ended about 9 pm January 2nd. but I digress):

Damn it!  I’m proud of this team.  The final two minutes were anti-climatic and completely unscripted.  They spoiled what turned out to be one of the most special seasons for Penn State football ever.  We were lucky to even be here.  After the last five seasons, I would never have expected to be in a prestigious bowl at all.

We have almost everyone coming back.  Next year should be fun to watch!

I am already looking forward to September.

You have to give credit to USC.  Down 14 points in the fourth quarter, they did just what Penn State has done to other opponents all season long.  They didn’t give up.  They made the plays they had to make.  They took advantage of our mistakes.

I really wish we had faked the hand off to Barley on 3rd and 4, and then passed the ball for a first down.  USC was waiting on Barkley.  I think a play-action fake would have left something open on a quick slant or to the tight end over the middle.  The time we ran off the clock by losing yardage on a play doomed to fail turned out to be inconsequential, and a first down would have probably won the game.

I vowed to myself not to play the coulda, shoulda, woulda exercise in futility with this game.  But I just did it.  I am a bad person.

I hope we can hold on to our coaches, at least for another season.  There has already been interest in Morehead and Pry.  They are staying for now, but we know how loud money can talk sometimes.

I’m glad I opted not to go to the game.  I had my finger poised to purchase tickets, but the total cost of the trip seemed too excessive given my current circumstances.  (No one’s paying me to write this tripe anymore!) But that lack of regret is not based on the outcome so much as the Rose Parade weather looked gray and cold, and even the game seemed unseasonably cooler than expected.  It would have pissed me the hell off to no end to spend that much money and have to wear a coat in Southern California.  And then to lose the game on top of it!

I am blue, though.  I really thought they would win this game.  I really thought we had it won when we were up 14 points in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. I even EXPECTED the Trojans to miss the field goal and send the game into over time.  It’s not like he hadn’t already missed two kicks.  Or maybe we would block it ala Ohio State.

But for some teams, the glass slipper shatters before midnight.  There is no prince.

But I think there will be a happily ever after.

It was still a phenomenal and fun season.

And despite losing the Rose Bowl, the future still looks rosy.

I remember feeling this way after losing to Oklahoma in 1985.  That loss though, was a springboard to the 1986 undefeated championship season.  Could history be repeating itself?

Only time will tell.

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