Tag Archives: Big Ten

Blue Chips

Penn State rolled to 4-0 with a 33-14 victory over the Chippewas of Central Michigan before a reported 106,624 blue and white clad fans in Beaver Stadium. State leads the all-time series 2-0.

It was a beautiful autumn day in Happy Valley. It was a day to honor the 1982 National Championship team. The Lions roared out of the gate, and appeared after a 14-0 first quarter to be headed for the 28 point rout the odds makers had predicted.

But the pesky Chips from somewhere in the middle of the mitten state would have none of that. They mounted a respectable comeback in the second quarter to even the score. But the Lions added another 7 before the half, but I imagine the various sports outlets were just giddy about flashing UPSET ALERTS across the country.

In the second half, the defense pitched a shut-out. The offense was just good enough to pad the score and keep the ball moving enough to get the job done. Kaytron Allen notched a 100+ rushing game, and the PSU defense held the Chips to just 88 yards rushing.

Looking at the stats, as we saw in the Auburn game last week, the two teams were pretty evenly matched, except for rushing yardage. And again, the difference was turn-overs, with Penn State remaining squeaky clean, while the Chippewas turned the pigskin over four times, including a muffed punt that we recovered on the 23 yard line to set up a short field. That’s two weeks in a row that Penn State notched four turn-overs.

From GoPSUsports

I was impressed by a couple of things with Central Michigan. They have a really good quarterback. For most of the game, we had trouble getting pressure on him. The only time we sacked him, he left the game injured in the fourth quarter.

I was really impressed by the tackling of CMU. They didn’t go after our runners up high, but went for the feet. There were at least three times I saw Singleton with a Chippewa gnawing at his foot, trying to pull free and run, but he could not.

Sean Clifford continues to perform well enough to win, but almost bad enough to lose. While he seemed to do well in the first quarter, he took a roughing the passer hit midway in the second quarter, and it appeared to me that he did not pass well after that. Or passed worse. I truly wonder if he was hurt, but didn’t seek medical attention. Or the PSU coaching brain trust still thinks an injured veteran is more likely to win than a healthy 5* #1 recruit. That would be so Paterno, back in the day. The guy behind me commented that Clifford’s next four passes were all thrown too low, and into the ground, and that he seemed to be short-arming them. It wouldn’t be the first time we have continued to play this kid when he wasn’t 100%. Perhaps it was just coincidence and just Clifford being Clifford, a roller coaster of ups and downs.

I half expected there to be a chant for CHAD POWERS! CHAD POWERS! Think fast! Run fast!

My kingdom for a kicker! My GOD! This is just awful. A blocked PAT. Two missed field goals. Granted one was a 56-yarder to end the first half, but missing from 38-yards? Very troublesome. We best hope that no future games come down to a kick, or else we will probably lose. With Northwestern losing to Miami (OH), it would appear that the Lions have a good chance to go 5-0. Does Massimo Manca have any eligibility left? Can we portal a kicker before heading to Ann Arbor????

My initial impression leaving the stadium is the game felt closer than it was. We failed to cover the 28 point spread. Not to beat a dead Lion, but there’s that whole kicking woes thing that left some points on the field. So I think the impression is more based on the expectation than the actual result. Instead of focusing on missed PAT opportunities and lousy field goals, I should focus on the shut out the defense pitched in the second half. Or something like that.

Georgia was a 46 point favorite over Kent State, yet they only beat the flashes 39-22. 15 points. A mere two scores with some two-point shenanigans thrown in. Sooner fans watched their team’s undefeated season slip away as K State upset Oklahoma 41-34. Texas went from almost beating Bama to losing to unranked Texas Tech. 10th ranked Arkansas lost to Texas A&M 23-21. 8th-ranked Kentucky only beat Northern Illinois by 8 points. And the state of Tennessee did pretty well against Florida, as the Volunteers defeated the Gators and the Middle Tennessee State Raiders upset Miami (FL) 45-31 for the program’s first ever win over a ranked team!

And apparently Stephen F. Austin (not stone cold Steve, but the red hot lumberjacks) took some little school named Warner to the woodshed, winning 98-0. And SFA took a knee on a two-point conversion that would have made the score 100.

I’m quite happy with our 19 point win.

In the BIG TEN, the Bucks steamrolled Bucky Badger 52-21. The Wolverines survived a Terrapin invasion in Ann Arbor 34-27. Michigan was favored by 17. Iowa rocked Rutgers 27-10 and will host Michigan next week. The Gophers absolutely dominated Michigan State 34-7, making the Spartans look like Carl Spackler. Illinois blanked Chattanooga, so apparently not every team from Tennessee won today. Cincinnati hosed the Hoosiers 45-24, while Purdue eked out a win over Florida Atlantic 28-26. As I noted above, the Wildcats fell to Miami (OH) 17-14.

UP NEXT: NORTHWESTERN.

University or compass direction? You decide!

Their lone win was against Nebraska under Scott Frost, who has since been ousted.

From ESPN

I would be absolutely stunned if Penn State wasn’t favored next week.

GO STATE! BEAT ‘CATS!

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Auburnt

While the devil may have gone down to Georgia, the Lions headed to Alabama for an Auburn Orange-out in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Would that be Ginger-Hair Stadium? Mixed with some white-clad Penn State faithful, it was the largest creamsicle you’ll ever see.

Due to circumstances, I was forced to listen to most of the game on the radio, able to watch only the last quarter of the game on TV. Long story short, I signed up to play in a charity golf tournament in Beaver Falls, PA. I was asked to play last year, but it was the same weekend as the Auburn white-out so I declined. But this year, I figured with a nine o’clock shot-gun start I would be back in time for an 8:00 game. Alas, this game was not played at 8. The weather was great, and I played with my usual links prowess–it was a scramble and most people are scrambling after I hit the ball, but I’d probably have been two under for the day by myself–one under a tree and one under water. So I ended up driving down the ol’ turnpike, trying to keep radio stations playing the game, while signaling touchdowns when we scored and doing the wave all by myself.

That was the short version?

Turns out, this was a game that was just as enjoyable to listen to as it would have been to watch. In fact, it was really nice listening to the PSU radio guys instead of the dimbulbs that often do our national games and seem to hate PSU with every fiber of their being.

The now ranked #14 Nittany Lions brought their A game against AU, playing a nearly flawless four quarters of play. Aside from James Franklin’s questionable call to go for it on fourth down near midfield, early in the game, on the road, in a hostile environment . . . just what the F was he thinking???? Worse yet, your QB just got rocked, fumbled out of bounds, and then you call a QB sneak? I just can’t fathom the disorganization of oxygen-deprived synapses necessary to make that kind of call. And then it led to 3 points, thanks to the D making a stop. In the end, it was as forgettable and unimportant as my drive on the seventh tee. Still have no idea where that ended up.

We also had too many false starts, but . . . there were some holes opened up for the running game and I don’t think the line gave up a sack.

Look carefully in the lower right corner. Brenton Strange is already pointing to the end zone. He knew Singleton was gone at that point, like Babe Ruth calling a home run before he hit it.

Special teams were solid–no missed PATs and two field goals nailed.

Defensively, I was slightly disappointed that we had Auburn in 3rd and long–maybe really long–at least twice and managed to let them get first downs. Other than that? One TD and two FG’s? I’ll take that any day against an SEC team.

The defense did give up 119 rushing yards–but the Tigers only had 77 in the first half if I am correct, and the QB Finley accounted for almost half of those yards (47.) Bigsby was held to 42 yards rushing. As a side note, Bo Nix (the Auburn QB we faced last year who went to Oregon, scored 5 touchdowns en route to an upset of BYU, 41-20!)

Our 41-12 victory was the second largest margin of victory for a Big Ten team over an SEC opponent. (First was Purdue over Missouri 35-3 in 2017.) It was the first home and home sweep over an SEC by a BIG TEN opponent since Northwestern beat Vanderbilt in 2010 and 2012.

And the stat I found most surprising: this telecast on CBS was the first time Penn State had played on that network since losing to Pitt 12-0 in 2000. Twenty-two years without a game on CBS? How is that even possible???? Why hast thou forsaken us, CBS? (It’s money. Than answer is money.)

From GoPSUsports.com

Despite winning 41-12, the stats were not all that dissimilar. I think you can chalk most of that up to 4 turn-overs by the Tigers. Penn State improved their 3rd down conversion rate to almost 50%. Meanwhile our defense kept the Tigers to about a 33% conversion rate.

In the Big Ten, #3 Ohio State rocked Toledo 77-21. the Hawkeyes blanked Nevada 27-0. Michigan crushed UConn 59-0. Da Badgers put a beat down on 66-7. Maryland bested SMU 34-27 and The Scarlet Knights barely edged Temple 16-14. Indiana barely beat Western Kentucky 33-30. The Gophers defeated Colorado 49-7.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma defeated Big Red 49-14, who apparently sucks even without Scott Frost. The Spartans were upsot by the Washington Huskies 39-28. (So Huskies went 1-1 against the Big Ten.) Northwestern managed to lose to Southern Illinois 31-24, while Purdue lost to Syracuse 32-29. (So Orange went 1-1 against the Big Ten too.)

So where do we stand now? The parallels to last season are becoming eerily familiar. Are we looking at a potential special season ahead? Or are we being set up for another huge disappointment?

Let’s look at the similarities. We still have Clifford. For better or worse, until apparently his death do we part. We opened the season on the road with a tough Big Ten opponent. Wisconsin was actually ranked 12th to start last season although they ultimately were unranked at the end of the season and obviously over-rated. A lot of people thought Purdue would upset Penn State in the opener, and the game was close.

Then we beat Ball State easily. This year it was Ohio. Is there really that much difference there?

And then we hosted Auburn at Beaver Stadium at night in a white-out situation. Nearly everyone expected Auburn to win. But PSU survived 28-20.

And the level of expectations soared after that, as did our ranking.

Then we had a rather unimpressive win over Villanova (38-17) before blanking the Hoosiers 24-0 in Beaver Stadium.

Central Michigan is a more worthy opponent than Villanova in any given year, and Northwestern might be worse than Indiana at this point. The Wildcats lost 31-23 to Duke and then lost to Southern Illinois 31-24 this past weekend. They did beat Nebraska, but then, who hasn’t. (North Dakota, in case you were wondering. It was North Dakota.)

Penn State is already favored by about 25 points over the Chippewas, and it is unlikely Northwestern will defeat us at home.

We should be 5-0 heading on the road to Michigan (currently #4 in the nation.) Last season, we were , drum roll please, 5-0 but headed to Iowa who was ranked #3!

I think I’m having déjà blue all over again!

But is anything different this year?

Well, our back-up Quarterback(s) are better. So if Clifford goes down in Michigan, as he did at Iowa, the season might still be saved. I am almost tempted to type that the season might be saved by him going down, but I would never wish an injury on anyone. But from a purely logical, Spock-like point of view, it might not be a bad thing for the team. I should be careful what I theoretically wish for! The back-up quarterback is almost always a fan favorite, unless Tom Brady is your QB. Or Mahomes. Pick a really good quarterback that wins. You get the idea.

We didn’t have Nicholas Singleton last year. He has had back to back 100+ yard games. And for some reason he only rushes 10 times a game. He wears #10. WTF? Give em’ the ball James. Or at least a Jersey with twenty-something on it.

And our offensive line is playing marginally better. Good enough to compete with Michigan? Who knows?

But for now, we’re 0-0 and facing Central Michigan. Not THE Michigan.

The Chippewas (Chip-a-who-whats?) are 1-2 with a win over Bucknell 41-0. Impressive? That don’t impress me much. They lost to Oklahoma State 58-44. The Okies are ranked 9th and it makes you wonder how the little Chips from Up North pinned 44 points on them. Turns out, the Okies scored 44 in the first half, and CMU scored 22 in the fourth quarter. And that’s Big 12 football. Score a ton and hope the other team doesn’t. No D and All O. NoDallo. A dollar for you, and a dollar for you, but nodallo for CMU!

And CMU also lost 38-24 to South Alabama.

Seriously? I can’t even make something up that would make you think they even have a reasonable chance to beat us. They are not Marshall and WE ARE not Notre Dame.

They are the chips.

But then again, I checked out oddshark to see what they have to say. Despite being a 25.5 point underdog, they are predicting CMU to win!

Typo? Or do they know something I don’t know?

We shall see.

GO STATE! BEAT CHIPS!

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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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Ebony & Ivory

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?

Certainly we cannot if the venue is Ross-Ade Stadium (formerly known as Kool-Ade Stadium up until 57 seconds left in the game) during a black-out, invaded by white-clad partisans of Nittany Nation.

It was a back and forth game featuring about 7 lead changes, a fumble, a pick-six, the required targeting ejection, and more shenanigans to count than I have fingers left to count on or brain cells to remember.

“That was a great college game,” quoted somebody whom I now forget and who was not a Purdue or Penn State fan. Yes, to the casual, un-invested observer, it was a fun game to watch. To those of us who actually cared about the outcome, it was a nail-biting, heart-palpitating, stressful hot mess that will result in hours of painful psychoanalysis. Or basically, what we now know as Penn State football, such as it is.

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.

An ugly win is always more beautiful than a pretty loss, if there is such a thing. But most invested fans will assure you there is no pretty loss. A loss is always ugly no matter how you sugarcoat it in valiant efforts, bad luck or moral victories.

Penn State won 35-31, through no fault of their own, and in spite of our best efforts to lose this game.

This isn’t even groundhog day anymore. Even Bill Murray didn’t have to relive such a mess more times than Penn State fans have endured.

Sean Clifford is back. Bless his little heart. I am truly conflicted. On the one hand, I admire his grit and determination. I really wonder what his career would have looked like had he been able to play injury free. Instead, in his 12th season at PSU, he still has a knee brace, and missed a series for cramps. Or diarrhea. Same cramps, just different location. Whatever.

The announcer echoed my sentiments when he said this: “A veteran quarterback in college football . . . . it’s a strained relationship with the fan base. Because if you’ve been there a long time, it means you haven’t been good enough to leave.”

And while he orchestrated the game winning drive with only 2:22 left on the clock and a couple of time outs in his pocket, he is also the one who grossly overthrew an open receiver and was subsequently intercepted and pick-sixed back to the end zone to put us down by 3 in the fourth quarter. It’s kind of like Biden crowing about gas prices falling 20 cents, that he ultimately caused to more than double in the first place. But, I digress.

Clifford did atone for his mistake and Penn State ultimately won. His effort not only gave PSU it’s first victory of the 2022 season, but it also earned him co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

Sports Illustrated somehow graded our offense a B-, with this summary: “Penn State’s run game averaged 3.1 yards per carry (sacks included), below last year’s season average of 3.2 ypc. The longest rush was 12 yards, the Lions dropped three passes and Clifford threw the program’s first pick-six since 2018.” Or, as it has been dubbed, the “puke six.”

I was ready to puke at that point. And I think there were WAY MORE than three dropped passes. Seemed like three per quarter!

SI gave us an overall B for what seemed to clearly be a C. It’s sooooo subjective. I’ll wait for the polls!

The stats were unbelievably close–time of possession, total yards, rushing yards and the margin of victory was 4 points, good enough for the win and covering the spread.

The biggest margin may have been in penalties, which Purdue won, ignominiously.

And just as Penn State was unable to “put the game away” with 9 minutes left to go and up by 4, Purdue returned the favor by being unable to run the clock out or score again later in the fourth, then up by three. A close circus catch was ultimately overturned on review which may have saved the day for the Lions. These fans agreed with the call.

The offensive line still looked underwhelming. We only gave up one sack. (But we only sacked Purdue twice!) Yet again, we failed to produce a 100-yard rusher! In fact, the team only rushed for 98 yards! Penn State hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher since they won at Michigan in 2020!

I thought Nicholas Singleton looked good, but that was on only 10 carries. I fully understand Franklin wants to play a lot of players and keep them out of the portal like Noah Cain (who went to LSU and had 23 yards in 7 attempts versus FSU.) But, I’m thinking you give that kid 20 carries, you are going to see some magic. Prove me wrong, Franklin.

I thought our secondary was supposed to be pretty good. 365 yards? That’s only one per day for a year! But way too many for a single game. Joey Porter, Jr. did have a great game and the PSU defense broke up some great plays in the final minutes of the game to keep us in it and secure the victory. We also should have had a couple interceptions, but I guess if they could catch they’d be playing offense! Maybe this is first game jitters. Maybe the Purdue QB is better than I expected. He surely benefited from the transfer portal–he hit Iowa transfer Charlie Jones 19 times for 153 yards–but it seemed like twice that while watching the game! We shall see how these two teams fare as the season rolls along.

Not sure the best caption: If I pump my arms a few times more I’ll get my 10,000 steps in. Or, I can’t stand up and cheer until my Apple Watch tells me to stand! Or, two minutes left–yeah, we got this one. Or maybe a Mexican Word of the Day? Purdue? Pur-didn’t! That last one was weak. I apologize.

In the end, Penn State prevailed. My greatest fear was that we would tie the game with a field goal, go to 17 over-times, and then lose. And I would crawl into bed crying at 3:00 in the morning, now so upset I couldn’t possibly fall asleep! I still have PTSD from the Illinois game last year!

In the Big Ten, basically everyone won except Purdue and Illinois, who lost to Indiana by 3, and while Nebraska won this weekend out of conference, they lost to Northwestern previously. Of note, Iowa barely defeated the South Dakota State Jackrabbits 7-3, and the Scarlety Nights of Piscataway narrowly defeated Boston College 22-21. Everyone on the Eastern side of the league is 1-0.

Around the nation, Alabama and Georgia rolled, the Buckeyes beat the Irish, and Florida State outlasted LSU for a one point win. The Gators upset 7th ranked Utah 29-26. And the Tarheels narrowly defeated Appalachian State 63-61.

Up Next: OHIO

The University of, not THE STATE one. Oddshark is anointing the Lions a 24.5 point favorite at the time I am typing this.

Penn State is 5-1 all-time with the only loss in 2012, a 24-14 fiasco which kicked off the Bill O’Brien era.

Go State! Beat Bobcats!

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Fall of the Lion Empire

Maybe we were never an Empire. Perhaps not even a dynasty but for a four year period in the 1980’s, when we were all that and a bag of chips. Perhaps we could argue this some other day. The fact is, Penn State is in the Top 10 in all-time wins. With over 100 teams in Division IA, or is it FBS (full of bull shit,) we are, like it or not, in the top 10%.

But the Penn State football program I see today is not my father’s program. Not mine. Not Joe Paterno’s. Not even sure who is in charge of this mess, to be perfectly honest. Sure, James Geoffrey Franklin is the head coach, but I would have to look up who our new Athletic Director is, and if my life depended on me naming the new President of the University, I would be dead. So I looked it up. Just in case. You never know. And maybe I’ll save your life too.

Patrick Kraft succeeded Sandy Barbour, and Neeli Bendapudi followed in the footsteps of Eric Barron as University President. I know almost as little now as I did before I googled that. Neeli Bendapudi? Was she Rajesh Koothrappali’s girlfriend on Big Bang Theory? I hope this has provided you some education, or maybe a trivia answer at the bar.

I still don’t care.

Is it my age showing? My failing health? Who the F*CK knows? And you probably don’t care either. Yet, here we are. Me typing. You reading. Neither of us have a clue why.

Let’s get back to PSU football, shall we? Why? Because unfortunately, this is or at least was, a Penn State Football blog. But mark my words, if we start to see stupid shenanigans on the field, I’m going to jump in that portal and transfer to a sewing or cooking blog. I might even take up hunting or fishing!

Like Edna Mode (The Incredibles) who used to “design for Gods,” I used to blog about one of the more successful football programs in NCAA history.

Joes (those) were the days my friend, we though they’d never end, we’d stand and cheer, forever and a day. We’d play the games we choose, we’d fight and never lose, for we were young and sure to have our way. La-la-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la-la.

Seriously. Picture it. 1982. Beaver Stadium. We expected to win.

When was the last time we as PSU fans truly expected to win? 2016? 2008? 1994?

I actually took a few minutes to gather some data. Penn State’s record from 1966 (Paterno’s first year) until 1999–I’ll get to why I chose that particular year in a moment and data can always be skewed to represent what you want it to or you simply ignore it–was 317-83-3. They actually had ties back in those days and someone had to chisel the scores on a stone scoreboard. We didn’t have cell phones. We had carrier pigeons. And maybe a telegraph if you were rich. But I digress.

So 1966-1999 PSU had a 79% winning percentage. Not too shabby.

Since 2000, the Lions have gone 175-99 for a 64% winning average. In the final Paterno years, 2000-2011, Penn State won 93 and lost 56 (62%) so the winning percentage actually has been slightly better since Paterno passed away (almost 65%.)

BUT . . . in Paterno’s first 34 years, he had only ONE losing season, five undefeated seasons (’68,’69, ’73, ’86 and ’94,) two national championships, and one outright Big Ten Title in 1994. And a partridge in a pear tree.

In his final 12 years, JVP added three Big Ten Titles (’05, ’08 and ’11) but those were determined by tie breakers–not outright. He also had FOUR losing seasons. And a statue–which is now gone. Franklin has ONE Big Ten Title (2016). And NO undefeated seasons. Paterno was 24-12-1 in bowl games, while Franklin is 3-4 here at PSU.

Since Paterno has left, Penn State suffered severe NCAA sanctions, and two head coaching changes. Tom Bradley also served as interim Head Coach for a few games in 2011. And we recently had a shortened pandemic season in 2020 with no fans in the stadium. These factors obviously have some negative impact. Argue till you’re blue and white in the face. I don’t care. The current level of performance at Penn State is abysmal. Bill O’Brien had a 15-9 record at PSU with 3 star players if he was lucky. Franklin is 11-11 in the last two years with highly rated recruiting classes.

Penn State had 8 players chosen in the last NFL draft, fourth in the country behind Georgia (15), LSU (10), and Cincinnati (9.) Only LSU had a worse record and they now have a new coach. An old coach. Well, a new to them old coach.

And now the Big Ten is planning on adding USC and UCLA in a couple of years? Whose seasons are Winter, Spring, Summer and Fail? Seriously? Who thought this was a good idea?

Greed, despair and agony on us. That’s two more games we can’t win.

Right now, I’d rather play Temple. At least we have a fighting chance. And no–I’m not so sure about that!

Basically, the athletic departments at USC and UCLA crunched some numbers. Outside of playing each other, their teams are now going to have to travel a minimum of 1500 miles to play the nearest Big Ten opponent (Lincoln, Nebraska,) and a whopping 2750 miles to Piscataway, New Jersey. And those trips are not just for the football team–but every sport–basketball, baseball, volleyball, and field hockey to name a few. Yet, even with an astronomically increased travel budget, these two schools think they can make more money joining the Big Ten. Absolutely unbelievable. Unfathomable greed.

Now we can recruit in L.A. Big freaking deal. How about just recruiting in PA? Whatever happened to dominate the state? Is southern speed now southern cal speed?

College football will never be the same and it’s actually kind of sad. NIL allows players to ink deals worth millions which pales in comparison to a free college education –with average tuitions in the US ranging from $11,000 and up per year depending on private or public, and in-state or out-of-state. It’s out of control if you ask me.

Portals? It used to be you had to sit out a year if you transferred to another equal division school. Now, you could play next week!

Don’t want to sit on the bench? Enter the portal!

Bowl games? Totally optional. Don’t want to get hurt? Don’t play.

Everything I used to hate about professional sports in now packaged in the college deal and perhaps worse. At least the NFL has contracts and no portal.

That said, I will still watch the games. I will still root for Penn State, and a little part of me will die inside each time they lose. But it will never be the same.

As for this season, you might as well just pick a number be 0 and 12. If you want to have a good chance of being correct, you might want to go low. I’ve seen nothing so far that convinces me that the latest trend of 64% wins is going to change.

New defensive coordinator? Might help. Probably not.

Clifford back again? Might help. Probably not. Most likely scenario: we lose a QB or two to the portal before this season ends. Six seasons? I wonder if he could qualify for a monkey pox exemption and come back again next year. Might as well go for a decade at this point.

And before I end this diatribe, I will answer the cliff hanger I posed earlier. 2000 marked the definitive downturn of Penn State football. The start of the fall, if you will. And really it started in 1999 when the unranked Minnesota Gophers upset the #2 ranked Nittany Lions on a last second field goal. Shocking. Positively shocking.

What happened?

Sandusky retired at the end of that season. George Paterno died in 2002. The stadium expanded in 2001 with the south upper deck and club suites which blocked the view of Mount Nittany and placed a curse on us. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men–only the Shadow knows!

All I know is nothing has been the same since.

So we are now less than a week away from a season opening game on the road at Purdue at night. My excitement level for this game is about a 3, (1 is lowest and 10 is highest.) The line I saw was Penn State favored by 3.5, but that site also picked Purdue to cover and win. Which is entirely possible. I didn’t realize this, but Penn State has won the last 9 games against the Boilermakers. The overall series is 15-3-1. Whereas PSU is #7 in all time wins (909,) the Purdue program is #52 with 629 wins. What does that mean? Well let me tell you which programs have better all time records: West Virginia (769), Pitt (749), Syracuse (730), Boston College (688), Rutgers (662), and Maryland (661). Why did I pick those examples? Because those are the teams Penn State usually dominated at the height of its Empire. The same eastern teams that Big Ten snobs think helped pad Paterno’s (and by extension, Penn State’s) resume.

Penn State has traditionally out performed Purdue. We have better facilities, we recruit better, and we put more players in the NFL. There is no excuse for losing this game.

But we will probably find one.

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RAZOR-BURNED

In the first ever meeting between Penn State University and the Razorbacks of Arkansas, the Nittany Lions came up well short, losing 24-10 after leading 10-7 at the half. The Razorbacks went hog wild in the second half and burned our defense like a flame thrower going after a pile of dry leaves.

We can argue for hours on end about what went wrong, but it ultimately is the same points being rehashed over and over and over again. It wasn’t New Year’s Day. It was Groundhog Day.

This was our biggest loss of the year. We only lost to Ohio State by 9. Michigan by 4. And Arkansas was the lowest ranked of the ranked teams that beat us.

No running game. No protection for the quarterback. Red Zone offensive woes. Big Play capability, but no blue collar offense. Field goal kicking issues. Clock management issues–nearly everyone watching the game with me (ok that was one person, and the waitress, but I don’t think she was really paying attention to the game) thought we should have at least run a play with 15 seconds on the clock at the end of the first half.

What do you have to lose?

You are 7-5 (at this point) and clinging to a 3 point lead. What is the worst that could happen? A fumble? An INT? It’s 15 seconds. At least TRY.

Different story if you are 12-0, facing the number one team in the country. Then you take your knee and protect your lead going into the half. For God’s sake open your eyes and look at the big picture around you! Stop and smell the ashes of lost opportunities.

Compound all that with the situational problems of players opting out–while Dotson was a loss, his absence was not nearly so glaring as the losses on the defensive side of the ball. I’m thinking we suited up some of our cheerleaders at half time to play defense. Did anyone see our cheerleaders on the sideline in the second half? I rest my case.

In looking back at the game, I really wonder how we managed to lead at the half. Freaking dumb ass luck apparently.

The second half was just a disaster. Top to bottom on both sides of the ball.

Which is worse, our offense being shut out in the second half, or our defense giving up 17 unanswered third quarter points? Pick your poison.

The Razorback’s final scoring drive of the third quarter started at the Arkansas 21 yard line. FOUR RUSHING PLAYS LATER, the Hogs were celebrating in the end zone. Runs of 34, 12, 32 and 1 yard(s).

Game Over. And there was still over 2 painful minutes left in the third.

The stats are the good, the bad and the ugly. We held them to 90 yards passing, and a third down conversion ratio of 4-14. GOOD. Our own third down conversion ratio was 6-15. Meh. But we only had 125 total rushing yards, 47 of which belonged to our quarterback. Granted, their quarterback accounted for a third of their yardage–but he ran for over 100 yards against us. BAD. And while their 3rd down conversion rate was worse, 40% for us compared to 30% for them, they had 8 more first downs than we did, and 13 more minutes of possession, largely due to success running the ball on first down and converting on 2nd. down. You don’t have third down conversions if you convert on first and second down! UGLY.

And in the end, Penn State, once ranked third and undefeated not quite midway into this season, ends up unranked at 7-6. To call this anything less than disappointing is severely naive. Calling it a disappointment is a disappointment to disappointments. We did not have ONE running back rush for over 100 yards this entire season. NOT ONE!

And we led at some point in EVERY game.

THIS is the definition of DISAPPOINTING.

Did Penn State travel well today? I didn’t see many pics of the stadium crowd, but as I sit here listening to the Sugar Bowl game . . . the Ole Miss fans are LOUD. I really didn’t hear much crowd noise today, although I was watching at Champs and not in my living room. What happened to the rabid PSU fan base?

Again, we can replay Ground Hog Day over and over again. Close games. A play or two here or there. Here a play, there a play, everywhere a play play. An injury or so here and there. You put your QB in you take your QB out. You put him back in and he gets so rocked about. You do the Chokie Pokie and you turn your fans around–that’s what this is all about. Losses to a lot of top 20 teams, Illinois being the notable and glaring outlier there. Blah, blah, blah.

If we look at the ESPN power index ratings for the top 20 schools . . .

Take note that of those twenty teams, we have the second WORST record, beating out only Auburn at the very bottom of the list. Other teams faced tough schedules–and did better than we did. In fact, most did.

Do Cincinnati, Pitt, or Ole Miss pay their head coach as much as we do? Do they have superior facilities? Better recruiting? Pitt doesn’t even have an on-campus stadium!

Yet here we are.

7-6.

Happy Ground Hog Penn State fans.

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The Backout Bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is not fair.

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

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

Abso-positively-lutely NOT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He would make the same choice again. Very interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can a school even do that? Probably not.

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

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

We fans are the reason any of this happens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Say it Ain’t Snow!

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

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

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

A $95 Million Look

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

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

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

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

Am I happy? Hell no!

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

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

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

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

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

That my friends is COACHING.

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

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

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

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

COACHING!

You can say that again.

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

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

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

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

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

Land Grant Shed

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

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

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Veilleux Be My Quarterback?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have very mixed feelings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oops, We Miched it Again

Well here we are. Another week. Another loss. Another blog attempt to exorcise the demons.

2020 was a rough year for Penn State football, starting 0-5. 2021 says, “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Hold my beer!”

I actually thought we had a good chance to win this game. We actually did. But more on that later.

We are probably a play or three away from being 4-6, but likewise a handful of plays away from being undefeated. The loss to Ohio State was the largest margin: 9 points. The other losses were 3, 2 and 4 points. CLOSE but no cigar or playoff spot.

Football games always come down to match-ups. Who has the best match-ups generally wins. Throw in some random luck–fumbles, weather conditions, etc. But it really comes down to how you match up with the other team–offensive line versus defensive line. Receivers versus corner backs. Special teams play. And one that cannot be over-looked: coaching.

I thought James Franklin had the edge in this one. If there was any coach in the Big Ten that might be worse on game day, it might just be Jim Harbaugh.

James Franklin: “Challenge accepted. Hold my Beer!”

With a brilliant display of coaching ineptitude, he called for a fake field goal from the TWO YARD LINE. The play not only didn’t fool the Wolverines, who had just been bitten by a fake punt that led to a PSU field goal and 3 point lead, but it was so poorly executed that we lost yardage all the way back to the thirty yard line!

There has to be a thought process to this doesn’t there? I mean, we’re not pulling plays out of a helmet are we? (It seems that way sometimes!) I used to think Jay Paterno and Galen Hall played rock-paper-scissors to decide who called the play. So what pray tell was this thought process????

I have fourth and goal from the two yard line. What are my options? Go for it, putting the ball into our best players hands and knowing that barring some freak accident of nature, there won’t be a 99 yard pick six or scoop and score the other way. If you don’t make it, the wolverines are still backed up against their goal line. Hold them and get good field position for another score.

Option 2: Kick a field goal. Not necessarily a given since Stout has an annoying habit of missing extra points and easy field goals. But probably a lower risk play than a fake and you can put points on the board against a tough opponent. Odds makers had PSU a one point underdog. Three points is better than none right?

But Franklin went with option 3 and we can only assume the choice was his to make. He pulled the trigger on a fake field goal that blew up as we all watched in horrified agony.

WHAT WAS HE THINKING?

Did he think the fake punt went so well, that we could pull it off again? We’d have been better off calling for the Spanish Inquisition! No one would have suspected that! Instead, the Wolverines were well prepared to not be embarrassed a second straight time in one quarter. And in all fairness–the fake punt was actually pretty well defended but the pass and catch were flawlessly executed. The fake field goal: not so much. Fool us once, shame on you. Try to fool us twice–shame on you again! They farted in our general direction! Our coach is a hamster and our offense smelt of elderberries!

Statistically speaking, we were pretty close to the team ranked ninth in the nation last week.

Perhaps the key stat here is the third down conversions. The wolverines were 40% while PSU was only 33%. Everything else is close enough for government work to be considered equal. Hey we managed 109 yards. SHOULD BE BETTER. But that is what it is, and it isn’t good.

But despite that. In spite of that. Spite me down Darth Harbaugh and I will become more powerful than you can imagine! WE STILL HAD A LEAD IN THE FOURTH QUARTER! WE HAD A CHANCE TO BEAT THEM!

We were so close! But the fisherman on the State Farm commercial pulled the victory away at the last second. Oooh. You almost had it!

Would the outcome have been different had we not tried the fake field goal? Had Stout not missed what many would consider a makeable 43 yard field goal? Maybe we score a touchdown after the Michigan fumble instead of settling for 3 points. Woulda, coulda shoulda.

Do we want James Franklin to go? Do we want him to stay? To go or not to go, THAT IS the question.

Sitting on the top ranked recruiting class for next year, do we want to risk that and throw the dice with a coach to be named later?

Will bringing in the best recruiting class actually translate to more wins on the field, or just more disappointments? Elevated expectations and poorer results?

The answer is three. It takes three licks to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop.

And with that, I am done with this game.

But that leaves us to look at Rutgers. The level of excitement here is below zero. Unfortunately, the team will probably feel this way as well. This is a coaching challenge. Can JF motivate this team to play hard and hopefully beat Rutgers? We are 17.5 point favorites after all. The bloody knights are 5-5 coming off a 38-3 drubbing of the Hoosiers. They are looking to become bowl eligible with only a game against Maryland after this match-up to secure a spot. A loss this week will essentially end the season for Penn State–look for two more losses–Michigan State and whatever dregs of the college football world we are matched up with in the Detroit Toilet Bowl Extravaganza on December 10th. At least the team will be home for the holidays!

Maybe Franklin will fake a press conference this week.

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