Tag Archives: Beaver Stadium

Bye week Bye-byes!

Weakestlink

Four teams in the top ten tanked this weekend.  Doesn’t anyone want to play Alabama????

Both Washington teams lost, as well as Auburn, but the shocker of the weekend was the Friday the 13th horror flick that played out in the Carrier Dome starring an unranked Syracuse team.

Friday13thClemson

While you might think that would end the Tigers’ hopes for a repeat title, think again.

Just like Jason continues to resurrect himself film after film, Clemson is poised to return to greatness; to arise from the ashes like a football Phoenix.

Clemson dropped all of FIVE spots in the AP poll.  FIVE!

Let’s look at other teams and how a loss affected their top 10 ranking:

Florida State opened the season with a loss to #1 Alabama.  Is there shame in losing to a number one team?  No.  But it did cost them 7 places as they plummeted from 3rd to 10th.  Of course, the Seminoles are now unranked, but that level of discredit was not evident after one game.

Ohio State.  The Buckeyes only dropped four spots, but that was to a team that was highly ranked at the time (Oklahoma.)

The rest of the nation does not fair so well with losses.

Southern Cal dropped 9 spots after losing.  Oklahoma dropped 9 spots despite their victory over the Buckeyes earlier.  Michigan dropped 10 spots after their loss to a now ranked Spartan team.  Washington State and Washington both dropped 7 spots.  And Auburn, bless their little hearts, fell 11 spots after losing this past weekend.

So where is this love for Clemson coming from?  Do they pass they “eye test?”

ClemsonEyeChart

Before the bye week, there was a lot of talk about whether a one-loss Georgia team (the presumptions being that Georgia wins out but loses to Alabama in the SEC title game) could jump an undefeated Nittany Lion team for a spot in the playoff.  I guess now the Bulldogs will have to worry about Clemson jumping them (assuming PSU wins out!)

Which reminds me . . .  Penn State has the first installment of a critical three game series of challenges.

THEM

As in The-M.  The Big Block M that marches across the field to the victors valiant.

The guys with wings (but not a  prayer) on their helmets (did you know that some maxipads have wings too?) come to Beaver Stadium for a 7:30 PM game.

The weather?  Meteorologists are calling for White Out conditions.

The betting line was 11 points favoring Penn State this morning.

The key to this game is simple really.  Penn State has to find a way to score against the Michigan defense.  Period.  Michigan has shown nothing offensively all year to suggest that they will put up many (any) points against the PSU defense.  The wolverines best hopes for an upset hinge on a combination of their defense scoring (pick six or scoop and score), a red zone defense that forces Penn State to kick field goals we can’t make, or a poor day by McSorley that allows the front line to bottle up Barkley.  Success in any one of those goals probably won’t be enough to win.  But two out of three could be disastrous for the Nittany Lions.    Multiple turnovers and missed field goals would be a nightmare.

Yet, I am very optimistic.  I’m not sure we’ve played our best game yet.  There is a lot of room for some improvement in things which are very improvable.  The bye week allowed us to evade the horror-filled losses that other top teams suffered, and allowed us to heal and work on our weaknesses.

We will know Saturday if we pass the eye test.

PennStateeyechart

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Winners and Hoosiers

A couple days late and more than a few dollars short . . .

Welcome to the Indiana recap.

Don’t yawn!  That’s contagious.  (yawwwwwn.)  See what you started!

The sun broke through the clouds just in time for kick-off and what a kick off it was!  Saquon Barkley added another highlight reel to his Heisman resumé as he returned the opening kick 98 yards to the house for a 7-0 lead with only 14 seconds missing on the clock.

Apparently, Indiana didn’t think the hole they had dug was deep enough, so on their next possession, they fumbled.  Actually, Campbell forced the fumble for Penn State, recovered by Cabinda.  I am in no way asserting that our defense didn’t make a great play.  Some fumbles are due to offensive ineptitude; this one was a defensive coup.  The end result was that the Loosiers, er, I mean the Hoosiers, were now down 14 points with just under four minutes gone in the game.

And while the Hoosier defense continued to play like they could actually win this thing, special teams came up with another highlight play as Nick Scott scooped and scored on a muffed punt by the lapless Loosiers.  I mean Hapless Hoosiers.

Penn State would build and take a 28 point lead into the second quarter, fueled by yet another Indiana mistake–roughing the punter–and another highlight reel for the Heisman resumé (HRFTHR) by Saquon Barkley where he made a one-handed circus catch (one hand tied behind his back) and then juked and did that Saquon thing with his legs to take the ball deep into Indiana territory.  Trace hooked up with Hamilton for the 28 point lead.

It was at this point, for a mere 15 minutes of fame, or enough time to save 15% with Geico, that the Indiana team decided to try and upset Penn State.  They scored twice in the second quarter–their only 14 points in the game–keying on a big 54-yard reception, and then a late drive following a McSorley pick around mid field.

Indiana never really threatened in the second half, as our defense tightened.  The tone was set on the Hoosiers opening possession (they deferred after winning the coin toss to the second half) when Amani Oruwariye intercepted the Hoosiers.  Unfortunately, the drive stalled at the three yard line and chip shot field goal was sliced wide right.

Penn State did tack on 17 points in the closing half and covered the point spread easily despite miscues.  Yet, this has left some Penn State fans fretting.

Is this really a #4 ranked team?

Is something wrong with McSorley?

Why isn’t the offensive line doing better?

Sometimes I have to recheck the record just to make sure we’re still 5-0, because to read some of these people’s comments, you’d think we were losing!

Let’s look at these concerns individually.

Do we “deserve” to be #4?  No.  I also don’t think Alabama “deserves” to be number one.  The only time the ranking will be earned is the day after the championship game.  At this point, some teams have beaten better teams than others.  But constitutes a better team?  Comparing Alabama’s schedule to date with Penn State’s, is Fresno State, Colorado State or Vanderbilt that much different than Indiana, Akron or Pitt?  Yes, we played Georgia State.  Check out Bama.  They play Mercer.  Have you even heard of Mercer?  I’m too lazy to even Google that shit.  Nobody cares!

Alabama beat #3 FSU.  Are they number 3 now?  Ranked?  Will they ever be ranked this season?  No one knows at this point.

Penn State has no more right to be fourth than any other team.  The so-called experts ranked the Nittany Lions before the season in the top ten.  They belong there.  They have done nothing on the field to not deserve to stay there.  If we are not worthy of our ranking, then that will play out as the season progresses.

And, just what is a number 4 ranked team supposed to look like?  I guess maybe a fourth ranked team wouldn’t almost lose to Iowa (even though 4 previous “top 5” teams lost at Kinnick Stadium.  Maybe a #4 team would have defeated Pitt 76-0.  Pitt’s not a very good team this year, but last year, they were the ONLY team to beat Clemson, the ultimate National Title winner.

Do top ranked teams never make mistakes?  Or, rather, are they able to overcome their mistakes?  We’ve done that.

So should we be concerned about McSorley?

He is not having a great season, but if you remember from last year, he really didn’t get hot until after that awful September start.  And is season isn’t that bad.  He just led our team last week on a less than two minute drill 80 yards across a hostile field against a pretty decent defense.  He’ll be fine.  I’d like to see us roll him out of the pocket more.  I really think he throws better on the run.

Is our offensive line a problem?  Granted, Saquon isn’t burning up yards up the middle, but how many backs in this country are doing that with the defense keying to stop the run?  McSorley has been sacked a good bit, but some of that is his own doing, holding onto the ball too long, or dancing out of the pocket too quickly.  Give them time.  This could be a problem; probably won’t.

I have spent years blogging about Penn State football (I started out in 1999 on a free site called Xoom.  I’m still blogging today.  Still on a free site, because the two or three faithful readers I have would pay to read this drivel.

Over the years, I have pulled my hair out at times after winning a game.  Worrying about every turn over, and fumble, each sack or missed tackle.  I have seen teams that lose to Appalachian State turn around and beat us.  I have seen us beat the top ranked Buckeyes one week, and lose to an unranked Wolverine team the next.

We have the potential to be a great team.  None of the problems folks are losing sleep over are unfixable.  Contrast that to four years ago, when we kept hoping the team would get better as the season went on, but it didn’t due to sanctions, recruiting issues, and whatever.  The team didn’t get better because it quite frankly couldn’t get better.  We didn’t have the athletes.  We are at a point now that we could only have dreamed about five years ago.  We are probably watching a Heisman winner each week in Saquon Barkley.  We are loaded with offensive weapons and defensive playmakers.

Sit back folks and enjoy this ride.  There will be ups and downs, but we might just end up in Atlanta on January 8th!

INTANGIBLES:

Another argument across the sports world is whether Saquon is the best college football player ever?  Can that even be determined?  He certainly is one of the best playing right now.  He can run, he can catch and he can block!  And he even threw a touchdown pass last week!  He is one of the most exicting players I have ever watched at Penn State.

The Neil Diamond Impersonator?  You either loved it or hated it.  I love Sweet Caroline, and I thought the guy did a heckuva job.  Sheer genius!

The attendance was announced at 107, 542.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Nebraska cornhusked Illinois 28-6.  Wisconsin dropped scat all over Northwestern 33-24.  The Buckeyes blanked the Knights of New Jersey 56-0.  (Rutgersal still thinks Rutgers has an outside shot at the National Championship, or at least a share of the Big Ten Title!)  Maryland terped Minnesota 31-24.  Michigan State edged Iowa 17-10.

And in other news, USC lost to Washington State 30-27.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Lions travel to Northwestern for the dreaded 11:00 am start.

Penn State has lost the last two games versus the Mildcats.  Franklin has not beaten Fitzgerald.  Yet.

The Mildcats have lost to Wisconsin (no surprise there) and Duke (41-17).  But the Dookies are 4-1 with only a loss to Miami to soil their record.  Northwestern has token wins over Nevada and Bowling Green.

The betting line is 14 points, favoring the Lions.

I’m not big on predictions, but I’m going to go out on a limb here . . . I think we win.  We cover the spread and then some.

 

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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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A BIG win!

It was a gray and dismal day.  Earlier in the week, we had bought ribs and chicken to do on the grill.  But as the minutes were ticking away, the desire to stand in a windy parking lot outside Beaver Stadium and grill these meats slowly waned.  The thought of eating a sandwich in the relative warmth of our vehicle was more and more appealing.

A quick text to our travelling party confirmed that sandwiches would be fine.  But then, what about after the game?  It would be at least 7:30-8:00 until the game would be over, and probably at least another hour to we get home.  Aren’t we going to be hungry then?

So at the last minute, we head to Chili’s to eat a lunch before the game, and then stopped at Sheetz to get sandwiches for after the game.  As an added bonus, we could watch the first part of the O$U-UM game before heading to the stadium. Brilliant!

I had the grass fed sunrise burger which was an excellent choice, if you ask me.  Unfortunately, Ohio State missed a field goal, and ultimately fell behind the Merry Harbaughs of Ann Arbor.

With this cloud of wolverine spirit hanging over our heads, we continued our quest to Beaver Stadium.

Alas!  Someone was parked in my space.  Who’s been parking in my place?  They are still there.  I have had the same reserved spot for twenty years.  I have never come to a game to discover squatters. WTH?!

There is no one in the car, but the parking pass hanging from the rear view mirror is for a numbered spot just down the row from mine.  So I head there.

Interesting story.  The person there says that he parked there because someone was parked in his space.  And the person parked in his space was parked there because someone was parked in their space.

He points to an open spot and tells me to “park there.”  I ask him what happens if that person shows up and I’m in their space?  He says, “I’ll handle it.  I’ve got you covered.”

He has me covered?  If I get towed, he’ll pay the charge to get my car back?  What does that even mean?

What in the bloody wide, wide world of sports is wrong with people?!  Earlier this season my sister got into a shouting match with a guy sitting in the seat that she had the ticket to.  She shows her ticket and he rips it up and calls her a cunt.

I call 1-800-NITTANY and explain my predicament.  They say they will send someone out.  Meanwhile, I drank too much iced tea with my burger and I really need to see a man about a horse.  So I head off for the port-a-johns, leaving my car in someone else’s space.

By the time I return, there is someone standing there telling me that he will move his car out of my space and he is sorry.  He is not the same person I spoke to earlier that claimed the car was his and that he had me covered.

Ohio State is still behind, and even though I ultimately get to my spot, the mojo of the day seemed very bad indeed.  My feng shui is out of alignment with the rest of the universe.

Bundled up and well fed, and now worried that I might return to find my car keyed or my tires flat because I made someone move who shouldn’t have been in my space in the first place, I entered the hallowed portals and walkways of Beaver Stadium.

I am quite confident that we will win this game.  Unfortunately, I was quite confident that the wolverines would lose with their back-up quarterback.  More unfortunately, Speight must have soaked in the healing waters of the Lourdes Grotto and is back playing and hell-bent on denying Penn State a berth in the Big Ten Championship.  You already beat us once, man, for the love of God throw us a bone!

I was so confident we would win I replied on a fellow bloggers website (He predicted a 23-20 PSU win):

Senior day. Biggest game at the Beav since what, 2008? Better weather than Piscataway. Only three points? Oy vey! Oy and double oy even. And if Ohio state wins earlier . . . Call me crazy but I am chugging the Kool Aid. PSU by 14. Maybe more if Sparty rolls over and plays dead.

The only thing to cheer about in the first half was the news that Ohio State came from behind to tie UM, and then won in the second OT.

Yet, the team played the script as they had all season.

Penn State came out in the second half and promptly stopped the Spartans on their opening possession for their first three and out.  Michigan State did not punt in the first half.

But, they also scored no touchdowns and recovered no turnovers.  Once again, the team made adjustments at half time and executed a brilliant game plan on both sides of the ball following the break.  The final score was 45-12 and if you felt we were running up the score you might have felt right.  I know most Penn State fans felt MSU ran the score up on us last year 55-16 when Jack Allen, an offensive lineman, scored late in the game.

I almost toyed with the idea of titling this week’s entry, A Tale of Two Halves, but then you might not know which game I was writing about.

Let’s look at this phenomenon a bit further.  Here are the points scored by PSU and their opponents for each game by halves.

First Half Second Half
Game Opponent Delta PSU Opponent Delta PSU
Kent State 13 3 16 0 17 17
Pitt 28 -14 14 14 11 25
Temple 10 11 21 17 -4 13
Michigan 28 -28 0 21 -11 10
Minnesota 13 -10 3 10 10 20
Maryland 14 10 24 0 14 14
O$U 12 -5 7 9 8 17
Purdue 17 0 17 7 38 45
Iowa 7 17 24 7 10 17
Indiana 14 0 14 17 14 31
Rutgers 0 9 9 0 30 30
MSU 12 -2 10 0 35 35
Average 14 -0.75 13.25 8.5 14.33 22.83

As you can see, Penn State was slightly outscored by opponents in the first half–about a point on average.  However, the Lions outscored opponents by just over two touchdowns in the second half.

Only two opponents outscored us in the second half–Temple and UM.

Penn State shut out FOUR opponents in the second half, including the last two.

The only losses?  Penn State gave up 28 points in the opening quarters, nearly twice the overall average. And but an interception in the end zone at Heinz Field away from a win there.  Even in the loss to UM, we scored more points in the second half and allowed fewer.  The hole we dug in the first half though, was too deep to climb out of.

Wisconsin is up next in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis.  The Badgers are 10-2 with losses to the usual suspects (O$U and Michigan).  They are ranked 6th in the AP and the last CFP poll.  Their resume includes a 16-14 win over LSU to start the season.  In common opponents,  they beat an 8th ranked MSU 30-6.  They defeated Iowa  17-9.  They lost to Michigan 14-7, much closer than our loss.  But we beat the Buckeyes.  A 49-20 win over Purdue and a 31-17 victory against the Gophers rounds out the list of common adversaries.  The Vegas oddsmakers have the Badgers at about a 3 point favorite currently.

The Badgers have averaged 28.5 points a game, while only allowing 13.7.  On the flip side, the Lions are scoring 36,1 points per game while allowing 22.8.

Keys to victory:

It would be great to have Saquon back, but if his injury is such that he can’t play, I think we have some good backs behind him.  A healthy Saquon would be a difference maker.

Penn State needs to keep the game close in the first half.

Have FUN–you deserve it.  Play hard.  Adjust.  Play well.

Who knows where this season might end?

starsaligned

THE STARS HAVE ALIGNED!

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Hawk and Awe

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

iowacorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO STATE!   BEAT HOOSIERS!

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O What A Feeling!

I know this game was played 2 weeks ago, but I wasn’t blogging then.  This was my Facebook post after Penn State upsot THE ohio state university.  And beating the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer never grows old.

The day started out cold and windy. I ran a 5K race at St. Francis. It was cold. The rest of the day got no better, and by the time we got into the stadium, we were already cold, despite white down jackets and multiple layers. My seats are under the North Upper Deck, so we at least were dry.
 
The pregame sequence included a video that started out with the definition of PANDEMONIUM. Apparently, we were going to cause some, if the media hype was correct. I have searched high and low on the interwebs for a copy of it but my research has yielded nothing. At the time, I thought it was hokey. Even moreso than the constant “UNRIVALED” slogan which after the past four seasons only makes me think UNRAVELED.
 
But the elements for pandemonium were there. We have improved since the debacle in Ann Arbor and the shoot out at Heinz Field. Ohio State, for all the hype and publicity, did not seem to be playing like a second ranked team. Pundits weren’t calling for an upset, but they thought PSU might give O$U a run for their money on this white out night.
 
A good friend of mine asked me before the game, “Do you think we can pull off the upset?” This question has been asked many times in the past 5 years, but there was a tone to his voice to suggest that although he was asking, he thought perhaps an upset could be pulled off.
 
I wish I had jumped on the chance to look like a freaking psychic and say “yes,” without reservation, but instead I waffled like a politician a week before the election. I gave him the “on any given Saturday,” response. I added that I didn’t think the Buckeyes looked sharp in their most recent games. If we played a perfect game and they made a lot of mistakes . . . And we were looking better, albeit against Gophers and Turtles, not wolverines or buckeyes. I could have prematurely prognosticated in public, but I left it at that.
 
Yet, there was a feeling. There was something in the air. There was an electricity in the stadium, that was at the same time feverish and subdued.
 
We wanted to win this game.
 
We could win this game.
 
But we have seen so many failures in the post-Paterno era that we were afraid to let the emotion out of the bottle, lest we look like idiots drinking in the spirits of 1982, 1986, 1994 and 2005 and ignoring the reality of today that stares us in the face.
 
We haven’t beat a top 5 team since 1999 (Arizona.) Seventeen LONG years.
 
We haven’t beat a one or two ranked team since Notre Dame in 1990. Twenty-six LONGER years.
 
Our last recognized national championship was 1986. Thirty years ago. WOW.
 
How could we ever expect to win this game? We were 21 point underdogs. We haven’t beat O$U since 2011.
 
And the first quarter looked good, until we fumbled a punt. We were moving the ball though we failed to convert points. We had already had a field goal blocked on our opening drive–a drive that looked destined for points until it bogged down in Buckeye territory. We could have been up 7-0. We should have been up 3-0. But a blocked field goal left nothing to show for the effort on the scoreboard. Our defense was playing well, and we were holding our own in the field position battle.
 
Until the muff.
 
But here’s where the script deviated from the past five years.
 
Instead of rolling over and playing dead, the defense rose to the occasion and forced a field goal. Down 3-0 in the second quarter to the 2nd ranked team was not anything to be ashamed of. It was a damned moral victory, if nothing else. And even as we fell behind 9-0–the Buckeyes missed a PAT–there was still a chance we could pull this out.
 
The Bucks would tack on another three, before PSU took over with less than two minutes to go in the half. O$U would get the ball back to start the second half and was looking to take a 12 point lead into the locker room. But the offense would have none of that and scored with 9 ticks left on the clock to make a respectable score of 12-7 at the half.
 
The third quarter would be marred by a defensive breakdown that led to a 74 yard rushing TD to make the score 19-7. A second special teams gaffe (snapping the ball over the punters head) led to a safety and a fourteen point margin for the Scarlet and Gray.
 
But then the fourth quarter came, and PSU decided to win this thing. No more mistakes. McSorley scampered the width of the field to make two yards and the pylon and suddenly, the upset-minded Nits were within 7 points.
 
YOU COULD FEEL THE STADIUM COME ALIVE. 107,280 white clad fans (with an unhealthy smattering of red pox marks throughout) rose to the occasion. The defense shut down the Buckeye scoring machine, which heretofor was averaging 49 points per game. Special teams avenged themselves with a field goal after blocking a punt, and then the piece de resistance–a blocked field goal returned for the winning score by Haley.


PANDEMONIUM.
 
There was still 4 and a half minutes left on the clock. For a team and fanbase that so desperately needed a win, it would seem like an eternity. A field goal by O$U could tie and send us into overtime on this blustery, cold night. A TD would shatter the glass slipper and leave us with nothing but pumpkin juice, mice and a tattered dress. But the defense rose to the occasion, and Penn State took over on downs and knelt a couple of times to run out the clock, just before midnight. We lived happily,pandemoniously, ever after.
 
PANDEMONIUM!
 
It’s been awhile since fans had any reason to storm the field. Exhilaration filled the air, and yes, there was relief. We didn’t screw it up after all.
 
I am going to fall short of saying “we are back.” One game does not make a comeback. But it is a damned good start. If we can build on this, then I’ll admit that we are back. But a loss to Purdue, Rutgers or a struggling Michigan State, and the good feeling will be gone. Tonight would become just a fluke. I think having Iowa at night at home should favor us too. Hard to believe, but a lot of fans are now dreaming of a 10-2 season with a nice bowl bid somewhere warm.
 
Which makes a cold Pennsylvania night a little warmer.

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