Tag Archives: Beaver Stadium

MS-no-U-don’t

No bowl game for you!

In a game that had all the excitement of watching paint dry and bragging rights to a rivalry trophy that eerily resembles a moss-covered three handled, family credenza on the line, the Nittany Lions defeated the pesky Spartans of Michigan State 35-16 last Saturday before a sparse crowd of–well, the quoted number isn’t even worth mentioning it is so far off. It capped a 10 win season for the Lions, and sent Michigan State home for the season with no hope for a bowl game in Detroit or wherever the last bowl qualifier might end up.

I know for first hand that this was the first Penn State game for some people. What a shame! Granted we won. Granted the weather was better than most final home games in November in Central PA. But the atmosphere was so . . . . I can’t even find a word boring enough to insert here. And the trophy! Looks more like a trophy case than a trophy!

The student section was more like some student rows, a product of Thanksgiving break and a paucity of bodies on campus. I’m not sure how this could be handled. It would be great if the season ended before Thanksgiving, but the television folks don’t want to be airing re-reruns of the Heidi game over the holidays. Or the World Cup! They need to compete with Hallmark for goodness sake! I imagine most schools playing this weekend had tumbleweeds blowing through their student section.

But even the rest of the stadium was on a diet. Too many folks in their tryptophan overdoses chose shopping, deer hunting, or putting up Christmas lights over watching Sean Clifford play his last game in Beaver Stadium. He’s a fighter. He’s an inspiration. He’s our Rudy.

The game itself was somewhat strange. You had the feeling that Penn State was never in danger of losing, yet early in the fourth quarter, there was MSU. 21-16. Like that smelly guy on the bus. Too close for comfort.

As I was actually at the game, I did not have the advantage of instant reply, but both of those pass interference calls on their scoring drive looked bogus. Just bad officiating? Big Ten Conspiracy to get more teams bowl eligible? Who knows? The ploy failed anyway as Penn State pulled away with a couple late scores to seal the Spartan’s fate.

Two missed field goals? WTF? Kicking is a basic part of football. That’s why they put the word foot in it. It’s not called handball. It’s not called catchball. It’s FOOTball. Kick the damned thing through the upright, Charlie Brown. Why in Heaven’s name can’t we recruit a decent place kicker?!?! We can also debate whether MSU should have been flagged on the first missed field goal as one of their defenders got a running start and leaped over the line, but what is the point? Still should have made that kick.

On the other hand, we did win. We are 10-2 and likely headed to a New Years Day bowl. And we won’t see Sean Clifford trotting onto the field next season. So there’s that.

Penn State moved up to #8 in the AP poll and #7 on the other. Too little too late.

The all-time series with the Spartans is all tied at 18-18-1.

In games that actually impacted the national playoff picture, Michigan pwned the Buckeyes, defeating the nuts in Columbus 45-23. They move up to #2. USC defeated Notre Dame and moves up into the number 4 spot. TCU rounds out the final four, pending some conference championship games. The Buckeyes are just outside the money right now, but a loss by any of these teams in their final game would change that. We could see a rematch of the wolverines and the schmuckeyes! I’m just tingling all over. Oh wait. I just stuck my finger in the electric socket. Which is what I’d rather do than watch a rematch of those two teams!

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OH-I-Can’t Believe It!

The Mighty Nutsacks from Columbus were hungry for a win, trying to secure their spot in the National Play-off scenario and continue their march to yet another Big Ten Title. And Penn State fed that hungry beast a tasty plate of turn overs, fresh from the oven!

Most Penn State fans went into this game thinking the Lions had very little chance of winning, as did most oddsmakers. Many fans feared a lop-sided blow-out similar to the previous beat down in Ann Arbor. A few, though, may have believed a win was possible.

But just like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expected the topsy-turvy 44-31 game we saw played out on Saturday.

Damn you Penn State! Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the stadium and take our loss, you made us all think we could win–that WE CAN DO IT! –and then you collapse in the waning moments of the game, pulling the rug out from under us and dashing our hopes and dreams in a flurry of turn overs and poor tackling. How rude!

In many games–even under Paterno, but especially it seems under Franklin–we see Penn State winning games but not total yardage, first downs, third down conversions, and time of possession. We seem to win despite those stats. But . . . in those cases we usually win the turn over margin.

And that sums up this loss. Four turnovers!

We can argue until we are blue and white in the face about Sean Clifford. It has been the theme all season long. Should he have come back? Should he be the starter? Are our chances of winning better with or without him?

In the end, nobody knows and we will never know.

When he wins, he’s a hero. When he loses, he’s a pariah.

If Allar doesn’t portal into another galaxy far, far away, next year we’ll be blaming our losses on the fact that he didn’t get enough meaningful playing time this year! I’m already composting, I mean composing some blog posts about that just in case. Clifford’s like the gift that keeps on giving . . . the ball away. I thought sure he’d have the record for interceptions in his career, but alas, I was wrong. That title actually belongs to Todd Blackledge. Clifford is a distant 5th place (15 behind going into this season.) But he still has some games to go . . . .

Despite two early turn overs–both interceptions–the Lions took a meager lead of one point into half-time 14-13. Part of that, though was also due to Ryan Day’s poor judgment or greed on trying for a touchdown with 7 seconds left and no time outs instead of kicking the field goal and going up 16-14. A team deserves to lose when a coach pulls crap like that.

But good old James Franklin came out in the third quarter and said, “Hold my beer!” Although we barely made a first down on a fourth down play deeper in our own territory than I would have thought reasonable for an overpaid coach in a tight game–but I’m not getting paid $7 million dollars to analyze this mind you–it was still a bad call. It worked but we should have punted. We were lucky. But it worked so well for him that he doubled down on the other side of the field and went for it on fourth down again. The team failed to convert, leaving a potential three points on the field.

Ryan Day 1 — James Franklin 1. On bone-head coaching decisions that kept points off the board.

We lost the lead late in the third quarter, and PSU finally managed to get back up on top 21-16 with 9:26 still showing on the the scoreboard. The stadium was feeling it. The fans were into it. We had the Buckeyes on the ropes. THIS IS OUR YEAR!

No it isn’t. We left too much time on that clock, and too much time on CJ Stroud’s hands.

Stroud took the field at their 25 yard line. Three plays later, the Buckeyes were on top again. THREE PLAYS.

Two passes, and then a hurry up snap before we were lined up and 41 yards later TreVeyon Henderson was in the end zone and the Bucks never looked back. On a related note, Penn State tried a similar hurry up play starting with a bunch formation and then a quick spread. The play looked like it would have worked and Clifford, going through a huge hole, might have scored. But Ryan Day took a time out, negating the play. The bastard! He out coached Franklin again!

On our ensuing possession, Clifford was strip-sacked, strip searched, and quite frankly the whole thing makes stripping sound like a bad thing. Buckeye ball. ONE play later, they score again. Two touchdowns in 4 plays. One minute off the clock. Sickening.

I will give our offense credit for going back out there and trying. I think we did manage to cover the point spread. But it was too little too late. The Buck was already our of the barn.

So close! Yet so far away.

The crowd was 108,433. down from 109,813 last week. Not as bad a fall as the stock market. Too many red shirts, though. Save the stripe out for Rutgers or Maryland. This should have been a white out.

And what is with the red Phillies hats? Seriously people. We are playing the Buckeyes. And you wear the bad color?!?!?! I understand. You’re in the Super Series playing another team and you want to show your support. But this is a FOOTBALL game. And you’re team today is Penn State. Blue. Or White. Take the red off before going into the stadium. Wear it as proudly as you can before and after. The phanatic will never know. Nobody’s gonna know. They’re gonna know. How will they know? Nobody’s gonna know.

As a side rant, there’s a lady and maybe her husband who sit a few rows in front of me. She only comes to one or two games a year. She always wears MICHIGAN STATE gear. He is always faithful in Blue and/or White. She showed up at the white out last week wearing a GREEN Michigan State sweatshirt. Now I fully understand not EVERYONE is a Penn State fan. And I don’t really have a huge problem with you wearing Spartan apparel and supporting your team. Seems odd when we’re not playing them this week, but whatever. But couldn’t you show a little respect to the guy you are with and wear a WHITE Michigan State shirt????

See? Would that be so hard?

I did see some white Phillies jerseys. Still had red stripes, but I’ll allow that. At least it’s mostly white.

Despite my hatred of the Buckeyes, it was nice to see the Ohio State Band return to Beaver Stadium. It might be their first trip since 2005. I know it’s been a long time. While I bleed Blue and White, it’s still interesting to see other school’s traditions. And better yet, without leaving the comfort of my own stadium.

Why did we play Sweet Caroline in the first quarter? Is that what we’re paying Guido for? Totally messed up the first quarter mojo. We’re all screaming Bom Bom Bom and SO GOOD, SO GOOD, while we were turning the ball over and playing not so good.

They played Living on a Prayer with like 7 minutes left in the first half. We weren’t half way there! Maybe that’s why we stopped playing well at the 9:26 mark in the fourth. The team thought we were all the way there at that point.

I still can’t believe we were that close to a win, on our home field, and couldn’t finish the job.

But it leaves us at 6-2, ranked #16, and wondering O-why-O why couldn’t we have pulled that game out!

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Jekyll & Hyde

For as LOUSY as this team looked against the Wolverines, they looked much more presentable at home against the Golden Gophers. (I can remember a Paterno post-game conference where he actually took the time to spell L-O-U-S-Y out loud letter by letter–and come to think of it, it might have been after a loss to Michigan!)

Before a crowd of 109,813 mostly white-clad fans (less one who was dragged off the field by police) the Nittany Lions turned their ship around, got their shit together, and beat the Gophers 45-17. There were great big globs of greasy grimy gopher guts all over the place. That was impressive to me because I fully expected us to follow the script and lose a second game that we should win (Exhibit A: Illinois 2021.)

That is not to say the transition was perfect. The Nittany Lions trailed 3-0 after the first period and I am sure the upset alert was being flashed around the sports world like the bat signal over Gotham.

But beleaguered senior citizen QB Sean Clifford, booed by the fans in pre-game when his roster picture appeared on the screens, and then again repeatedly in the first quarter as Penn State failed to make a first down going three and out thrice, completed his own transition from Bad Clifford to Good Clifford. WTF kind of sentence structure is that?!?!? (see below)

I fully understand the fan base’s frustration, but to boo a kid in your home stadium is a little gauche to say the least. It is much better to lambast him privately in a blog article that he probably will never read! But my taste of Drew Allar after his limited performance last week has led me to roll back my opinion of him being the starter de novo. Granted, coming into that mess in Michigan Stadium when the stadium was a rockin’ was not the best test of his skills and far from ideal conditions. But he still disappointed me. I did not expect him to lead us to a win, but I really thought he would move the ball better than Clifford and he failed. His prior performances, limited as they were, had led me to believe he was ready to lead this team. Now I’m not so sure. But I sure as heck won’t go so far as to say Franklin knows what he’s doing!

It’s amazing how much better this offensive line looks when there is a passing game threat. They did not give up a sack. With Trace McSorley watching from the sidelines, Clifford set another record, this one for passes completed in his Penn State career. Imagine how many records he would have if he could only play for another four years!

Despite the slow start, the Lions entertained the energetic crowd with stellar defense and highlight reel catches and runs. They even improved their 3rd down conversion record (but in reality, could they have made it worse???) while blowing the Gophers 66% conversion record out of the water, holding them to 2 of 13 attempts.

From GoPSUsports

Quick Hits:

It was a beautiful day and a pleasant fall night for football. It was also homecoming.

7:30 start. Not a fan. Great atmosphere, but I’m older and not able to do this well anymore. Up way past my bedtime. Actually took a nap earlier in the day, and then we tailgated in my Hollidaysburg backyard grilling gopher burgers before heading to Beaver Stadium. We arrived at the stadium around 5:30. Had trouble getting to my spot as I expected–lots of tents and tailgates set up and people everywhere.

One guy yelled at me that I should have come sooner. Really dude? That’s why I have a reserved space so I can show up when I want, not when YOU want. Chill out. Keep drinking your cheap Natty Light and get the hell out of my way before I go Towanda all over your drunk ass.

Light show was neat but a bit over-hyped. Not sure what I expected but I wasn’t over-awed. Maybe it looked cooler on TV.

Crowd was amazing. Three false starts in the first couple series and five false starts over-all for Goldie Gophers. Throw in a couple off-sides. Great job!

Saw three college age girls go together into a Port-a-Potty. Seriously? Why?!?!? Moral support? One on each side to hold the other one over the hole so she doesn’t actually have to contact or hover over the seat by herself? I REALLY wanted to take a video of them coming out of the port-a-john just so people would believe me when I tell the story, but I didn’t want to be THAT creepy guy taking video of girls coming out of the bathroom. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

At least three accidents in the area snarled post-game traffic out of the stadium. I don’t even understand how you can get up enough speed to have an accident in that kind of traffic. Was 2 AM before I got home and I live 40 minutes away.

Stadium seemed really crowded. Someone told me they over-sold the student section.

Guido D’Elia, the original architect of the White Out returned to Beaver Stadium. He has been hired as a consultant, reprising his previous role. Yet more evidence that the current administration is interested in restoring the ROAR that had been built by Paterno. As an interesting, or maybe boring, side note, Guido’s uncle was my English teacher back at Keith Junior High School. But don’t blame my rambling run-ons, and dangling participles on him. I own that.

Penn State moved from 16th to 13th in the AP Poll. Whatever. MUST BEAT OHIO STATE. LOL.

Next up?

I just told you! The Big, Bad Buckeyes. The best team money can buy.

Can we win? Sure! Why not? I might be the next winner of the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes too!

Seriously? We can beat them. NO. Maybe. NO! I SAID NO!

But what if we block a field goal and return it for a touchdown?

Been there. Done that. Only victory for James Franklin over the Buckeyes in 2016. He has yet to out-coach and flat out beat the Buckeyes. If any history is going to repeat itself, it is another loss for Franklin in this game.

But it will be a stripe out! NO! A hundred times NO. It won’t help.

We have Guido . . . .

Let’s talk.

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Lost in Maize

This should have been the title for the recap from last weekend. Alas, I’m a few days late and more than a dollar short.

Our team certainly look lost in the Maize out of Michigan Stadium.

A few sundry thoughts I forgot to mention . . .

We watched the game at Champs. In Altoona. We have a Penn State campus here. It’s a Penn State town. Naturally, you get the occasional fan of other teams show up. Unfortunately there was a gaggle of Michigan fans who came to Champs. And they hooted and cheered throughout the game, mainly because their team gave them something to hoot and cheer about.

This is America. Not sure what that means anymore, but I still think you are free to go where you like and root for whoever you want to. But personally I thought this cheerleading performance was way over the top and kind of classless in a venue clearly supporting Penn State. Even the staff wore Penn State clothing. Smile. Clap politely. Give each other high fives. Whatever. Don’t rub it in to the rest of the place, many of whom were hoping some of yinz would have heart attacks and drop dead. We’d have called the paramedics. After the game. Really, we love you. You represented your school well.

Which brings me to the whole tunnel thing that I over looked because frankly I was not aware that it had happened. Poor class on Penn State’s side of the thing. What can I say? Maybe they were getting even for the fans at Champs. I don’t know. The whole world seems to have taken a leave from common decency.

All I can say is that would NEVER have happened with Joe Paterno as coach, and if it did, some or all of those players would be in his proverbial doghouse and would probably not suit up this weekend.

But Paterno is dead. Franklin is here. This is the new norm. The world sucks.

On to Minnesota . . .

White out game. 7:30. Going to have to plan my naps well for this late barn burner.

The AP is already calling this the upset special.

History is on the side of the Golden Goophers. According to this article, “five times in his first eight seasons at Penn State, the first loss was followed by another.”

If ever there is a must win, this is a must win for this team. Morally, Spiritually. Physically.

Any chance at competing for Big Ten Title (share of one) depends on a win. Want to go to a good bowl game? Win this game.

It’s homecoming and a white out. Don’t waste it.

Unfortunately, I’m not feeling very good about this game. History tells me that it repeats itself.

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Oh, High O

Just when I thought it was safe to give up on Penn State football, the Lions come out and defeat the Ohio Bobcats 46-10!

Curse it all! They have dragged me back in like a dying rabbit in the jaws of a mountain lion, or maybe just a mouse dragged in by a house cat.

I can’t even think of anything to complain about this game. Do you know how freaking annoying that is?

The trip into the stadium was miserable. I am in Lot 18 and come in the North route (through Canada, down the St. Lawrence Waterway, and then overland by mule team.) That might have been quicker. Maybe I should have taken that left turn in Albuquerque.

Apparently I am not alone . . . .

Instead, I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic from just past Toftrees all the way to Fox Hollow Road and then to Park Avenue. Worse yet, I drank coffee. Two cups. More like mugs. I’m old. The prostate is not as kind to me as it once was. I don’t know why. I thought I treated it pretty well all these many years. You do the math. So about 12 cars from turning on Fox Hollow Road, I’m leaving my car idling and heading into the woods. It’s less embarrassing than showing up with wet pants. And in the time it took me to relieve myself, the line moved not one inch. Mission accomplished. Nailed it!

And there was a bird that crapped on us in the stadium. Never saw it coming. Probably a Temple Owl. Maybe a Hawkeye. Or . . . could it have been a War Eagle making a pre-emptive strike? I wonder . . .

The sky did turn gray after sunshine at the start of the game. A little wind picked up. I wasn’t cold by any means, but the weather could have been a skosh more pleasant.

But what a game! Granted, everything must be taken with a grain of salt since this was the other Ohio team on our schedule. A Bobcat, not a Buckeye.

I was very pleased by the attendance–not just the reported, seats sold figure of 107,306. The student section filled. The Beav looked full but for a smattering of empty seats in the upscale Club section and the nosebleeds above them. I couldn’t see the upper north deck since I was under it, and afraid to look up lest a bird crap in my eye! As an eye professional, I do not recommend you try that.

All three quarterbacks looked good, but Drew Allar . . . WOW. I’ve seen a couple highly rated quarterbacks come to Penn State–Anthony Morelli. Christian Hackenberg. But this kid is in an entirely different league. And he’s big and mobile. Reminds me a little of Ben Roethlisberger in his early years with the Steelers. He threw a 48 yard pass and made it look so effortless. Like he was tossing a wad of paper in a trashcan beside his desk. Pop. It’s a touchdown.

And how about Nick Singleton? May I call you Nick, Nicholas? Just as I lamented a week ago about the dearth of hundred yard rushers at Penn State the past couple of years. . . BOOM. Pretty much did that on two plays. When he hits that corner, he has the acceleration of a Lamborghini. Noah Who? Singleton is the first PSU player since Larry Johnson to have multiple 40+ TD runs in the same game. That was 2002! He singleton-handedly rushed for 186 yards. On just 10 carries. Ten!

The receivers had a much better day catching balls. I’m not sure anyone really sticks out above the others, but Tinsley might be my favorite at this point early in this season.

From GoPSUsports

So Penn State pretty much doubled up the stats on the Bobcats. Except for penalties which were about even. One play was reviewed for targeting (called on Ohio) but it was not helmet to helmet and no ejection was issued against the Bobcat defender. Time of possession is really skewed because of the quick strike offense displayed by Penn State. We still managed a small advantage there.

We missed a field goal. And an extra point. A little concerning, but is it really anything new? On the other hand, the defense racked up a safety. And we held the Bobcats to 99 yards rushing.

On a full moon day that saw a ton of upsets and potential upsets, this was a very satisfying victory.

Did Someone Say Upsets?

Alabama kicked a field goal with 10 seconds left to avoid losing to unranked Texas. Have you Herd? Notre Dame was not so fortunate, as they fell to unranked Marshall 26-21. The Pitt Panthers stumbled against Tennessee, losing 34-27 in OT at home. The 19th ranked Wisconsin Badgers couldn’t jump around Washington State, losing 17-14 at Camp Randall Stadium. Iowa lost to Iowa State 10-7. Although unranked, the Hawks were 3.5 point favorites to win that one. And then Appalachian State (they are HOT HOT HOT!) went all Michigan over 6th ranked Texas A&M, defeating the Aggies in their home stadium 17-14. Northwestern was favored over Duke by 9.5 but lost at home 31-23. And the Huskers managed to get shucked by Georgia Southern 45-42–at home!

It was like Oprah was giving away upsets. You get an upset! You get an upset! And you get an upset!

It was feast or famine in the Big Ten. Teams either lost, or won BIG. (See what I did there?)

The Buckeyes roasted Arkansas State 45-12. The Goofy Gophers chewed the bejeesus out of Western Kentucky, 62-10. Maryland terrapinned the Charlotte 49ers 56-21. Even Rutgers flexed some muscle, defeating Wagner 66-7. Robert Wagner? More likely Lyle Wagner (sp.) from the Carol Burnette Show. Illinois defeated Virginia 24-3. Not exactly a blow-out by most criteria, but it is for Illinois. Same for the Hoosiers who sliced and fried the potatoes of Idaho (no you da ho) 35-16. The Spartans blanked Akron 52-0 while the Boilermakers little engine that couldn’t last week somehow got back on track against Indiana State, winning 56-0. Kind of makes our win look a little more respectable. And as of the time I am typing this, the rain-delayed Wolverines were making sure no rainbow came out after the storm, ahead of Hawaii 49-10 in the fourth quarter.

Which brings us to . . .

AUBURN.

The Tigers, or the War Eagles, or whatever they choose to identify as, are 2-0. They beat the San Jose State Spartans 24-16. They apparently knew the way to San Jose, but they couldn’t cover the 23.5 points they were favored by. They opened with a win over Mercer 42-16. Mercer? The Mercer Bears play in the FCS Southern Conference and are currently 3rd in their division and ranked 23rd in the FCS Coaches Poll.

So basically, we know very little about Auburn. But then, we know precious little about our team except we do have solid talent at QB and RB and defense. The jury is still out on the offensive line and will be a work in progress.

GO STATE! BEAT TIGERS!

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OFF DEF GAME

The annual (except in pandemic years) scrimmage formerly known as the Blue White Game was played, in some form or other, before a sun-drenched crowd of about 62,000. There were probably that many or more still enjoying the beautiful weather in the parking lots outside the stadium.

Wait what? It still is the Blue White Game, isn’t it?

Au contraire mi amigo. Check out the scoreboard. Scoreboards don’t lie.

It was the Offense versus the Defense in what could only be called one of the most confusing Blue-White, er, Off-Def games I have ever attended. I am clearly blaming Bill O’Brien for starting this shit. And Putin too. Just for the hell of it. It made as much sense as Sleepy Joe’s speeches.

So I settle into a seat somewhere around the forty yard line on the East side. My normal season seats are in the lower bowl in the north end zone, but today I was movin’ on up to the East side, to a deluxe bleacher in the sky-y-y. It was a pretty good crowd for a Saturday (in April) and the manager gave me a smile.

But what to my wondering eyes did appear, but anything resembling a football game.

The first play was a two point conversion. How did I miss the touchdown? I’m not even drunk! I guess after losing to Illinois after NINE overtimes, our coaching brain trust figured it was something we needed to work on. And we scored!

No. Not so fast, Mr. Corso. It is still 0-0. It doesn’t count. It’s just practice. We’re not watching a football game. We’re watching a “practice.” It’s a preview to the actual game. An opening act if you will.

After practicing our two point conversions, we switched to practicing field goals. Not long ones, mind you. Ones that most high school all-American kickers could make. Pinegar was kicking. Is this his sixth year too? Hasn’t he been here a while? I’m really so confused with the whole thing at this point.

And then, surprisingly–amazingly– a football game broke out in the middle of this special teams practice session. No kickoff. We just decide to drop the ball somewhere and start calling real football plays.

Now, let’s pause for a moment–because I know the excitement is way too much for you at this point–but let’s talk about this whole Blue White thing. It has never been a REAL game. You can’t hit the quarterback. They usually don’t return kicks. For crying out loud, everybody knows what plays you are running–you all have the same play book! But it was the closest thing to reproducing a game atmosphere that allowed fans and coaches to see what some of these kids, who might not ever take a snap at Penn State in a real game, could do. It wasn’t a real game, but it was what it was. Who would have thought that Penn State could make it worse?

Hi! I’m Penn State. Challenge accepted. Hold my beer!

This was more of a circus atmosphere. If we kicked field goals at one end zone, practiced field goals at the other end, and then scrimmaged at mid field at the same time, it could have been a three ring circus. We could have put up some tents. The Nittany Lion could have put on a wig and red nose and been a clown.

Thank God the Lionettes performance was left alone by whoever decided to change everything else.

And the scoring–when they decided to keep score, seemed hauntingly familiar. I looked back to April 2012. Yup. Mr. O’Brien and his cockamamie scheme of throwing points out there like a bingo caller at the Catholic Church on Friday night.

Even the announcers were making fun of it on the radio. Steve Jones quipped that he could explain it, but the show only ran till 4:00.

And why doesn’t the defense have to kick an extra point after scoring a touchdown?!?!? So many questions. So little bandwidth. And interest.

We did practice kickoffs–again during a non-scoring period. Just random. Let’s kick off the ball. Not to establish any field position. We’ll just set it down somewhere to do that. But we know the fans are anxious to see a guy just . . . . kick . . . a . . . . ball. Yawwwwwwwwn.

And punts too! I’m tingling with excitement. No wait. It might be a stroke. Or sunburn. My butt is asleep.

Come on! That formation is just screaming FAKE PUNT. The defense doesn’t even have anyone on the line. Get past the ref and you’ve got a first down! Maybe go all the way. To the house! What are you thinking kicking that ball?!?!?

Did this little punting exercise actually contribute one iota toward preparing us for the next season? I. THINK. NOT. Was it entertaining? NO. It was not.

And then they started playing 7 on 7. WTF? Was there a delayed penalty? Hooking? Tripping? Did we ice the football? Where’s the penalty box?

At the end of the afternoon, the defense scored 17 points, while our offense only managed 13. And in case you are wondering, Bill O’Brien’s blue-white game ended with the defense winning 77-65. But that was a full game, uninterrupted by dog and pony shows.

Our star QB recruit Drew Allar threw two interceptions while completing 6 of 14. But if you have read this entry to this point, you fully understand it means absolutely nothing. Less than nothing. You have wasted precious time of your life. Sucks to be you.

Seriously? Who wants to watch a punter punt the ball with no pressure and no return? His mother?

I left early to go home and cut my lawn.

Freaking waste of time.

Come on, Todd. Say something nice. The weather was awesome. Especially for mowing lawn.

But at least I got to see this wonderful lady . . .

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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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Who’s Your Foe?

Or Hoosier Foe?

Even the State of Indiana doesn’t know for sure what the origin of the term HOOSIER is.

Among the more popular theories:

When a visitor hailed a pioneer cabin in Indiana or knocked upon its door, the settler would respond, “Who’s yere?” And from this frequent response Indiana became the “Who’s yere” or Hoosier state. No one ever explained why this was more typical of Indiana than of Illinois or Ohio.

That Indiana rivermen were so spectacularly successful in trouncing or “hushing” their adversaries in the brawling that was then common that they became known as “hushers,” and eventually Hoosiers.

There was once a contractor named Hoosier employed on the Louisville and Portland Canal who preferred to hire laborers from Indiana. They were called “Hoosier’s men” and eventually all Indianans were called Hoosiers.

A theory attributed to Gov. Joseph Wright derived Hoosier from an Indian word for corn, “hoosa.” Indiana flatboatmen taking corn or maize to New Orleans came to be known as “hoosa men” or Hoosiers. Unfortunately for this theory, a search of Indian vocabularies by a careful student of linguistics failed to reveal any such word for corn.

Quite as plausible as these was the facetious explanation offered by “The Hoosier Poet,” James Whitcomb Riley. He claimed that Hoosier originated in the pugnacious habits of our early settlers. They were enthusiastic and vicious fighters who gouged, scratched and bit off noses and ears. This was so common an occurrence that a settler coming into a tavern the morning after a fight and seeing an ear on the floor would touch it with his toe and casually ask, “Whose ear?”

The distinguished Hoosier writer, Meredith Nicholson (The Hoosiers) and many others have inquired into the origin of Hoosier. But by all odds the most serious student of the matter was Jacob Piatt Dunn, Jr., Indiana historian and longtime secretary of the Indiana Historical Society. Dunn noted that “hoosier” was frequently used in many parts of the South in the 19th century for woodsmen or rough hill people. He traced the word back to “hoozer,” in the Cumberland dialect of England. This derives from the Anglo-Saxon word “hoo” meaning high or hill. In the Cumberland dialect, the word “hoozer” meant anything unusually large, presumably like a hill. It is not hard to see how this word was attached to a hill dweller or highlander. Immigrants from Cumberland, England, settled in the southern mountains (Cumberland Mountains, Cumberland River, Cumberland Gap, etc.). Their descendents brought the name with them when they settled in the hills of southern Indiana.

Regardless, we are hosting the ear-biting Tyson’s from Hoosierville this Saturday at Beaver Stadium. What knowest we about these foes?

Indiana (is it politically correct to name a state after Native Americans? Has any one thought this thing through clearly? Personally, I’d be honored to have a state or athletic team named after me, but apparently some find that offensive. And I digressed.) Where was I? Indiana. Right. They were ranked 17th in both polls to start the season, and then promptly plummeted to obscurity following a 34-6 drubbing at the hands of Iowa, which incidentally is a four letter word. Just saying.

The Hoosiers fared a little better against 8th ranked Cincinnati, only losing 38-24. They have two wins–a stellar 56-14 victory over the Vandals of Idaho, and a hard fought for 2 point win over Western Kentucky 33-31.

They are a pesky, tenacious team that has had a modicum of success off the basketball court in the last few years. BY modicum, they have TWO wins against Penn State in football, one of them coming last season . . .

Never Forget

Penn State leads the all-time series 22-2.

Evening game. Rowdy striped out crowd. I give PSU the decided edge in this one.

Also, one of their star receivers, a transfer from Florida State, D.J. Matthews is out for the season following an ACL injury.

Odds Shark has Penn State a 12 point favorite and they are predicting that Penn State wins, covers the spread, and the total will be over (predicted 53.5 points.) I’m fine with that.

I’m thinking somewhere around 34-17 in favor of Penn State, with at least 7 of those Hoosier points coming late in the game. But I can’t even pick lottery numbers well, so don’t quote me on that.

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Fan Psychology and Getting Old

This morning came, the dawning of a new day. A Sunday. Glorious sunshine . . . and the Steelers still trying to ruin it for me. Some things never change.

Like sports fans.

I don’t normally post things so quickly after a game. It allows me to calm down. Collect my thoughts. Drink some alcohol. Whatever it takes. I’m busy here, people. Busy, busy, busy.

But as luck or bad luck would have it, I had time last night and the inclination to post quickly.

It really bothered me that I wasn’t very upbeat after beating a team 38-17. What is wrong with me? Is there something wrong with me?

Back in August, I’d have been absolutely giddy to be 4-0 right now. Instead, I’m nervous.

Why?

The status quo has changed.

If we were 2-2 or 3-1, a shot at a playoff spot would be unrealistic or less likely. The bar would not be set so high. But at 4-0 and ranked in the top ten, that goal is so close you can almost smell what the Rock’s got cooking.

It’s part of being a fan. Of being human, really. If you win one game, you want to win the next. And the next. All of them! If you win a National Championship . . . you will want to win another. Won two? Of course you want–NO expect!–the Three-peat!

We’ve won four games and we want more! We want the Lion, dammit. In the playoffs!

But the way we are actually playing, doesn’t quite jibe with the reality we now expect. We know that four wins won’t put you in the play-offs. Who knows how many wins that will be? It’s maddening, really.

My fellow blogger, a real Turkey at heart, put it this way: “I guess I am never satisfied. Some will say a win is a win, but I am worried.”

I remember watching Joe Paterno’s teams in the 70’s and 80’s. Ugly offense and great defense. Three yards and a cloud of dust. I wished we had big explosive plays.

Be careful what you wish for. Now that’s all we’ve got. Ugly wins with flashy, explosive plays.

What happens when the explosion doesn’t happen? What if there is no spark?

Fans are always unhappy. If we run well, we complain that we run too much and don’t pass well. If we pass well, then we want more rushing. If the defense is great, we want better offense. If the defense sucks, then we want it to be better. You get the idea.

We should live more in the moment, and enjoy being 4-0 and ranked in the Top 10.

Top Ten???? How about TOP FOUR! The latest AP poll has Penn State leap-frogging Iowa to the #4 spot behind Alabama, Georgia and Oregon! Whoa Nellie! That bar is really HIGH now! We’re only #6 in the Coaches Poll so we’ve got some work to do there.

I also forgot to blog about my post-game experience yesterday. I was coming out of the stadium with our tailgating party–my two nephews and one of their girlfriends–when a man came walking toward us. Big guy. Sunglasses. Light blue suit. I know he looked familiar, but my aging brain couldn’t quite produce a name. Pretty sure he was a broadcaster . . .

Anyway, he points at me as he passes and says “you look just like him. Cappelletti.”

The young uns I am with–all barely college age–have NO CLUE who John Cappelletti is. My train of thought about the man who said this is now derailed for the moment. I explain to them that John Cappelletti is Penn State’s only Heisman trophy winner, back in 1973. The girlfriend is Googling him and looks at me. “You don’t look like him.” Thank you Mrs. Captain Obvious.

I don’t. But I was wearing my blue #22 jersey. I point to the number and explained to her that I think he was jokingly referring to my jersey because Cappy wore #22.

We get back to the car and I overhear someone at another tailgate make a comment about Matt Millen.

MATT FREAKING MILLEN! OMG!!!!!

The bells are going off! That was Matt Millen. Matt Millen said I looked like John Cappelletti. It was Matt Millen! And I missed a photo op! I was afraid to stop because I know I should have known who he was but I couldn’t come up with the name that quickly. Curse this aged brain of mine!

What Could Have Been!

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AU Revoir AU Burn!

LIONS AUBURNING DOWN THE HOUSE!

On a night of tradition, pageantry and poor officiating, the Nittany Lions defeated the Auburn War Eagle Tigers 28-20 before a crowd of 109, 958 mostly white-clad fans in the Greatest Show in College Football.  Oh. What a night!

Despite a rather large number of Auburn fans—the top tiers of the stadium coated the white-out like a creamsicle—the stadium rocked for four quarters.  Hardly anyone left early—why would you?!?!?!  And while this electrified the atmosphere, it made for quite a few unhappy fans trying to get home at midnight.  Honestly, I have never seen the stadium that full as time ran out.  And the normal rush to leave was a mere trickle of fans as most of us stayed behind to savor the sweet victory!

WE ARE Blimp-worthy!

Omens or what? Just before game time, despite no actual rain in the stadium area, there appeared a rainbow over the stadium. That has to be a good sign right? But what about the almost full moon . . .

That’s no space station . . . that’s a MOON!

Some random thoughts in no particular order . . .

Officiating?  I don’t even know where to begin.  Intentional grounding?  Intentionally not called the other way?  First down on fourth or bad spot?  And where the hell did the down go?  This isn’t common core math people.  You only need one hand to count four downs!  You shouldn’t need a calculator, let alone a review to the booth—that still got it wrong anyway!   All I can say is THANK GOD it didn’t affect the outcome of the game!

In a way I liked the fake punt call.  Gutsy but not well executed.  As I watched our guys  huddle before the punt and then run to the line, I thought “Oh My God, we’re going to fake a punt!”  I’m absolutely sure the defense thought the same thing.  I think we telegraphed it too much.  We should have just left our offense on the field and got the ball to one of our playmakers, instead of trying a special teams gimmick.  But alas, hindsight is always 20/20.

A lateral and a pass!  I like it!  Heard one fan opine they wished we saved it for Ohio State.  I don’t know.  Auburn might be better than Ohio State at this point.  And maybe there are some more tricks in Yurcich’s bag yet to be played! Sean Clifford was even out as a receiver. Setting up something for later????

By the way.  I was impressed with Auburn.  Offense and defense.  I really thought they were over-rated, hadn’t played anyone, and would crumble under the white out atmosphere.  They damned near pulled off the upset.  I am impressed.  I met one Auburn fan in the stadium store who was asking about Penn State hockey.  He proudly pointed out that although he was wearing an Auburn shirt, it was WHITE.  He wore a white shirt to our stadium for our white out.  Again.  I was impressed!

Interesting bit of trivia . . . when Penn State first played Auburn in the 1996 Outback Bowl, which they won 43-14, the quarterback was Patrick Nix. This weekend, Penn State beat Auburn 28-20, led by Patrick Nix’s son Bo!

That said, if I have to hear the name Tank Bigsby one more time, it will be one more too many.  The man is a tank!   But seriously, every time they said his name, I’m thinking . . .

They said it has been 90 years since Auburn traveled north to face a Big Ten Opponent.  I’m guessing they aren’t coming back for another 90 years!  They’re like the Haley’s Comet of football!

BY THE NUMBERS:

Penn State outscored the Tigers, and won the total yardage stat, 396 to 367.  But Auburn’s offense was more balanced and the Lions only managed 84 yards on the ground.  Is this a concern?  Again, I was impressed by Auburn’s defense so I’m not ready to panic yet.  But it sure would be nice to grind out some yards in the fourth quarter and chew up some clock.

PSU again “won” the turn-over battle, but barely.  Clifford did throw one up for grabs  right before the end of the first half that was grabbed by Auburn.  We could have had 3-7 more points there that we left on the field.  But Auburn equaled the TO margin with a fumble to open the second half which we converted to points.  Advantage PSU.

Clifford had an 87.5% completion percentage which according to ESPN, was the highest for a PSU QB in 25 years.  Not too shabby!

INTANGIBLES:

White. Out.  Say. No. More.

The attendance of 109,958 fans ranked 9th all time at Beaver Stadium.  Contrast that with Ohio State who, playing Tulsa, had 76,540 fans—their lowest attendance figure in half a century!  Of course, comparing Tulsa to Auburn is like comparing apples to orange colored fans.  But I digress.

Penn State is 2-1 versus Auburn all-time and will face them next season at Auburn.

Penn State has won seven games in a row.

Saquon Barkley, Michael Mauti and Adam Taliaferro all made appearances on the field during the game.

The Drum Major stuck both flips!  Two of the three Big Uglies were at the game.  I saw some other ugly people, but they are everywhere.  And this Yeti creature . . .

And this dude.  He looks familiar . . .

But the highlight of the tailgating came post-game.  We’re sitting in Lot 18 waiting, drinking beer and watching the traffic go nowhere, when a man came by pushing a shopping cart.  With pretzels in it.  He’s yelling “soft pretzels for sale!”  We watch in amusement as he continues on.  I look at my son and say, “I’ve never seen that before.”  He replies, “No.  But it kind of makes me hungry for a pretzel.”  Someone else said he probably found them in a dumpster.  Appetite gone.  But the story gets better.

Not more than five or ten minutes later, ANOTHER guy—who quite frankly looked like a homeless guy, not to be stereotypical here but he did—comes back from the direction the first pretzel guy went, with what looked like the same shopping cart full of pretzels!  And he’s booking it, although still yelling pretzels for sale!  I’m thinking the first pretzel guy is in some dark corner of the campus bleeding to death and this guy just stole his franchise!  You can’t make this stuff up!  Totally random!

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Let’s start with the losers this week:

The Irish pasted Purdue 27-13.  Duke nipped Northwestern 30-23.  Cincinnati battered Indiana 38-24.    The Sooners survived Nebraska 23-16.

And the winner’s are . . .

Iowa topped Kent State 30-7.  The Buckeyes trampled Tulsa 41-20.  Michigan wolfed down NIU 63-10 while the Spartans harried the Hurricanes  38-17.  And little ole Rutgers knighted Delaware 45-13.  Minnesota buffaloed Colorado 30-0.  Maryland turtled past Illinois 20-17 in the only matchup between Big Ten teams. 

The Lions are now ranked 6th in the AP poll and 8th in the Coaches Poll! Iowa is the only Big Ten team ranked ahead of us on both polls (5th and 6th.)

Dr. Blue N. White: Great Scott Sparty! Penn State created 1.21 Gigawatts of Power!

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Lions host cross-state “rival” Villanova next Saturday at NOON.  Yes!  Noon. 

The Wildcats are also 3-0 with victories over Lehigh (47-3), Bucknell (55-3) and Richmond (34-27.)  Which means, like last week, we have no idea how good this team is. 

The all-time series is won by PSU 4-1-1.  The Wildcats won the last meeting 27-6 on September 24, 1949.

OddsShark has PSU 29.5 point favorites, predicting a Penn State victory but noting they think Nova will cover the spread.

I look for the Lions to be lackluster.  The emotion of Wisconsin and Auburn is going to take its toll.  I don’t think we are going to want to show any new wrinkles to future opponents.  I hope we work on the ground game and run blocking.  I also pray we don’t have any injuries or stupid ejections.

I’m gonna say PSU 41-10.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if the D doesn’t pitch a shut out if they play with any enthusiasm.

GO STATE!  BEAT WILDCATS!

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