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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Journalistic Faux Pitt

This appeared in the December 29th issue of the Altoona Mirror:

psufauxpas

Pitt, indeed, lost the Pinstripe Bowl.

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But look closely at the score summary for the bowl game:

psufauxpas3

Holy Crap!  Not only did I not know PSU was in the Pinstripe Bowl again, I had no idea we lost to Northwestern!  This is the reason we lost to USC in the Rose Bowl!  They jinxed us!

Or maybe the proofreader was still on Christmas vacation.

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Badgers Bested in BIG Bout

Seriously, who would have thought back in September that Penn State would be playing in Indianapolis this past weekend?  After a narrow loss to Pitt, and uninspired wins over Kent State and Temple, and a dreadful disaster in Ann Arbor, there were probably a lot of fans wondering if Penn State could even become bowl eligible, let alone win the conference and secure a spot in the Rose Bowl.

psuwinsbig

Yet, Saturday, our beloved Nittany Lions took the field, slight underdogs to the big bad boys of Wisconsin who averaged something like 600 pounds on the offensive line.   They defeated the Badgers in a come from behind win that has become their signature this season.  The final was 38-31 and was sweet for a school and fan base who has suffered needlessly the past five years.

One Penn State fan wrote a public letter to Dr. Emmert, who spearheaded the sanctions against Penn State:

At no point in the investigation or trial of Jerry Sandusky was one student-athlete ever implicated in either aiding and abetting Sandusky or in covering up said crimes. Despite that, Dr. Emmert, you chose to sanction a football program and, ultimately, student-athletes, to say nothing of the dedicated student fan base who had nothing to do with the horrific mistreatment of children. And, when you quietly walked back the sanctions and restored the wins to Coach Joe Paterno, you never apologized to those students or alumni for what seemed to be a vengeance against our beloved university.

And that, Dr. Emmert, is why Saturday night in Indianapolis was so sweet. For the athletes who stayed and for those who moved on. For the students who looked beyond the headlines and applied and were accepted to our great university. For our alumni – our wonderful, dedicated alumni. For Coach Bill O’Brien and Coach James Franklin and their staffs. For the lives that have been positively impacted by the research and teaching of our faculty. For the hundreds of thousands of diehard Penn Staters, the 2016 football season only represents what we already know. Penn State is an amazing place. We never believed that we were who you tried to tell us we are.

Dr. Emmert, we are Penn State.

Last week, I posted some numbers about Penn State’s performance vis-a-vis first and second half performances.  I concluded that giving up 28 points in the first half was a bad thing, since both games where opponents scored 28 points in the opening half were losses.

And as the Badgers went up 28-7 in the first half, I did start to have my doubts.  Couple this with the fact that Wisconsin was running the ball virtually at will, and we didn’t seem to have an answer for that.  But apparently, we had them right where we wanted them

The scenario played out as it had for most of this season.  Penn State narrowed the deficit to 14 before the half, and then outscored the Badgers 24-3 in the second half to win the Big Ten Title.

Simply amazing.

Trace McSorely had a record setting day passing.  The defense adjusted and Wisconsin no longer moved the line of scrimmage at will.  Our defense stuffed the over weighted Badger line on fourth down to secure the win.

But while the SEC, PAC-10, and ACC will send their champions to the college playoffs, the Big Ten will send a team that LOST to their champion.  I know, the conference had nothing to do with the selection.  But  . . .

Oddly enough, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney argued before the championship game that Ohio State had “done enough” to earn a spot in the playoff.  Is it any wonder that the fans in Indianapolis booed him soundly during the awards ceremony?

What did the chief representative of this conference have to gain by arguing that the winner of the conference championship did not deserve to be in the playoffs?  Shouldn’t he have been lobbying for two conference teams to be in the playoff?  Wouldn’t that have been good for the conference? (Of course, if he made that argument, he would in all likelihood be arguing that Ohio State and MICHIGAN be in the playoff together).

Is it mere coincidence that one of the playoff committee members is Barry Alvarez, a former Wisconsin coach with strong Big Ten ties?

Some would argue that we should be happy.   Maybe we don’t want to play Alabama?  The Rose Bowl is a really nice bowl in a really nice environment with really nice weather and a really, really nice parade.

So for an NFL team, is just making it to the playoffs as good as making it to the Superbowl?

We can argue for hours about why Penn State should be in the playoffs.  We could do the same for Western Michigan, Michigan, Oklahoma, and whoever else feels slighted.

It seemed the stars were aligning.  But in the end, they got sucked into a black hole of politics and rhetoric.

Sometimes an entire season comes down to a play or two that makes a difference.  Had Penn State not been intercepted by Pitt and won that game, they might have made it in at 11-1.  Had Michigan State kicked an extra point instead of going for two against the Buckeyes, maybe they would be out.  If we hadn’t had half our defense out for injuries against Michigan, maybe the score wouldn’t have looked so bad.

But . . . had we not blocked the punt against OSU–or if Urban had chosen to punt us deep or if Wisconsin had made their last fourth down or if Minnesota hadn’t lost to us in OT . . .  the what if game just goes on and on and on and on and on.

It sure would have been fun to see what this team could do against Alabama.

Instead, we’ll get to see them in action against a very good Southern Cal team.  And Tide jokes are never as funny as Trojan jokes.

After the way September went, I’m thrilled to see this team head to Pasadena.

 

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Big Ten Championship

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