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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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Powers Pranks PSU

Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard or have already seen the video of Eli Manning posing as Chad Powers, a walk-on (I mean run-on, like many of my sentences) at Penn State football practice. If you haven’t seen it, behold below. And do you know you could also save 15% or more on car insurance by switching to GECKO?

I recently felt like I was on candid camera being punked when I went to get this weeks Citizen’s Bank game button.

The Penn State football team takes on the Central Michigan Chippewas this Saturday. Here is the button. Please enjoy it. I went through an ordeal to get it. I remember when you could walk into any Mellon now Citizens Bank and there would be a basket of buttons in the lobby. You could literally grab a handful. At one time when I actually had an account there, Leanne (have no idea what her last name was) would hook me up with all the buttons for the regular season before the season started so I didn’t have to make a trip to the bank every week. And she’d give me 12 for every game because I had twelve tickets and everyone could have a button. My times have changed!
I stopped to get my button today and the teller told me I had to donate a food item for the food bank. This is the fourth game and no one asked for a donation before. Pretty sure the other teller there gave me the buttons but she kept silent and looked away when I looked at her. Whatever. It’s a good cause. I pulled out my wallet and offered a couple of bucks. No. Apparently my money isn’t any good at Citizens Bank. I have to give them a can of food or other non-perishable item.
Fortunately, this bank is located in a giant eagle (not a really big bird eagle but in a GIANT EAGLE grocery store–how convenient!) and I needed to get milk anyway. So I went and bought milk and a 69 cent can of beans.
All the regular lines were busy so I entered a self checkout with my two items.
Nooooo! No beans for me! You have to have a Giant Eagle card to use the self checkout. Am I being punked? Where’s the camera??? I hardly ever shop here so I don’t have a card. And now this is another reason I won’t shop here again.
Finally got my milk and exchanged my beans for a button (kind of a reverse Jack in the beanstalk) and headed home.
Put my milk away and was all set to take the picture of my button…….do you think I could find that sucker?!?! Not in my scrubs pocket. Not in the bag. I went out to my car. Holy crap! After all that I don’t even have a button! Well I tore my car apart a second time and found it had slipped between the seat and console. I was exhausted.

But this still may be my favorite non-PSU related prank:

I had always hoped to see Joe Paterno on an episode of Undercover Boss. Maybe James Franklin will give it a try . . .

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Poll Dancing

Penn State moved into both polls, entering the AP poll at #22 and the Coaches Poll at #23.

And in other news, Nebraska has De-Frost-ed, firing Head Coach Scott Frost after three games, two of which were losses.

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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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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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BO-FLINGER

Don’t miss the season premier this Saturday night of BO-FLINGER, where James Franklin takes on the evil Au-Burn Boflinger (played by Bryan Harsin) who plans to invade Fort Nittany and destroy the White Out forever! BoFlinger will be assisted by Odd Job Bo Nix. Aided by Brent “Q” Pry, and a host of Nittany Lions, can James Franklin save the day? We shall see . . .

Don’t forget to look for Pussy Galore in the student section!

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Are You Ready for Some Foot-BALL STATE?

The Penn State Nittany Lions football team has never played the Ball State University Cardinals. The Lions are currently favored by 22.5 points, depending on who you ask.

What, pray tell, do we know about Ball State?

It’s an institution of higher learning located in Muncie, Indiana. “The Harvard of Muncie” according to David Letterman, one of the schools more famous alumni. It was founded by the Ball Brothers a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away. Or in this case, 1918 in Muncie, Indiana. And in case you are wondering, the Ball Brothers owned the Ball Corporation, makers of fine jars and lids for canning for a very long time.

They have a couple of unusual traditions. During their homecoming parade, they have a bed race. Makes perfect sense. If you live in Muncie.

Students and faculty participated in Ball State’s Annual Homecoming Bed Races, along Riverside street this morning. Photographed by Madeline Curtis, BSU Student Photographer for Creative Services

They also have the FROG BABY. This is a statue of a small child holding a couple of frogs. It was donated to the school by Frank Ball in 1937. It became a tradition to rub the boy’s nose for good luck before taking exams. It worked so well, the students eventually rubbed the nose off and the statue had to be repaired. Since the nose job, the new tradition is to dress the little boy up to match the weather–like a scarf and jacket in winter or a football jersey prior to a game. It has been the focus of frequent vandalism. Shame on whoever did that! We have the same problem here in our town with Yard Kitty . . .

Their mascot is a Cardinal. With teeth. His name be-eth Charlie. I kid you not. Charlie Horse? Heard of him. Charlie Cardinal. Not so much. Does the school know that cardinals don’t have teeth? What kind of school is this?

In addition to David Letterman, Ball State is proud to have graduated Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, and Joyce DeWitt, who played Janet on Three’s Company.

So Ball State honored David Letterman by naming a building after him. Letterman responded with one of his famous Top Ten Lists:

Top 10 Good Things about Having Your Name on a Building

10: Forget your name? Just check the building.

9: On weekends, maintenance crew lets you ride on the floor buffer.

8: By law, they have to let you use the restroom.

7: It’s a lot better than having your name on a lame talk show.

6: I’ll always have a place to crash after a night at the Locker

5: Great way to show up that jerk down the street with the vanity license plate.

4: When people say Letterman is cold and empty, they might be talking about the building.

3: Fun to see the security guard do a double-take when he checks your I.D.

2: Cool to hear exterminator say, “Letterman is crawling with rats.

And the number 1 good thing about having your name on a building: Unlike me, it should still look good when it’s 60.

So in honor of our upcoming contest with Ball State and in deference to David Letterman, I present a BIG TEN LIST. It has 14 items since there are 14 teams in the league.

BIG TEN LIST OF REJECTED BALL STATE MASCOTS:

14: FOOT BALL. After all, they’re not that great at football, and it would look weird to have a football on the basketball or tennis court.

13. Cock & Ball –apparently Trademark issues with South Carolina precluded using this option

12. Nerf Ball. The Squeezably soft mascot.

11. Rubber Ball. The Bouncing Muncies!

10. Ball Bearings. Grease is the word . . .

9. Balls of Fire! That’d be just GREAT.

8. Ball and Chains. You are NOT going to that game until you fix that leak!

7. Golf Ball. Driving for the Touchdown. The quarterback yells Fore! before passing the ball downfield.

6. Wiffle Ball. Full of holes. Never flies like the real thing.

5. Ball Peens. Bringing down the hammer!

4. Crystal Ball. Always in motion the future is. But we probably see a loss.

3. Lucille Ball. The Raging Redheads! They’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!

2. Ball Jars. Preserving their past.

1. Schweddy Balls. They’re delicious and nutritious!

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Along Sparty Lines

The Michigan-State Penn State contrived rivalry for one of the ugliest trophies (“The Land Grand Trophy”) in all of sports anywhere at any level is also one of the tightest rivalries in the Big Ten.

The current series, including this game, is 16-17-1 with Sparty holding a one game lead for now.

These games have typically been played at the end of the regular season, and frequently see high scoring affairs with multiple lead changes. The 2020 edition was no exception.

The final score of 39-24 on Senior Day saw the Lions open the scoring with a field goal. 3-0. Sparty answered back with a touchdown to make it 7-3. Then we scored. 10-7. The Spartans then tacked on two more scores in the first half to go to half time 21-10. Back and forth.

But the Lions adjusted at half-time, which has become a tradition of Franklin coached teams. It’s nice that we come out stronger in the second half in most games. It’s nice our coaches make adjustments. But why, oh why, M, C, A can’t we start a game better and adjust as we go?!?!? I know. I ask too much. And give so little in return.

The Lions outscored Michigan State 29-3 after the half to etch the final score into the broad side of that god-awful piece of furniture they call a trophy. It’s like the moss covered, three-handled, family credenza. With sports memorabilia glued or stapled to it. It actually makes losing this game not so bad. “Well, at least we don’t have to hoist or house that piece of junk for another year!”

In retrospect, it’s sad that in a season like this (where you apparently can play for a championship with only five games) that we couldn’t have made more of this opportunity. Losing to Indiana was devastating. We weren’t prepared. We allowed the game to come down to a poor call by the refs and they didn’t disappoint. Ohio State is what it is. The best team money can buy. We’ll get to see them lose to an SEC team in the playoffs, so at least we have that going for us.

Let’s just call this conference what it is: the BIG ONE!

I can make no excuses for Maryland or Iowa. Nebraska was a disaster beyond imagination.

Was it COVID-19? Consider this. Penn State’s win over MSU was the only home victory this year. The last time Penn State failed to win at least one home game? 1918. The Spanish Flu pandemic.

This team could easily have folded up tents and moved on. But they came back these past three games with some more solid (not perfect by any stretch of the imagination) football, despite issues of coaching and clock management that persist. We were the better team on paper–recruiting, experience, etc. And we played like it.

I’m not a big fan of the two quarterback system, but it seems to be working for them for the moment. Call me old fashioned, but when I see Levis take off up the middle, I miss the days of a strong fullback helping to open the running game. And, thankfully, the current coaches haven’t stumbled upon the ancient, dusty texts of Jay Paterno, and moved Clifford out to the wide out position while Levis takes the snap!

There is promise and hope.

On to Illinois. And potentially a Bowl Game. Not that they deserve or earned one, but just because they might be able to. Never pass up an opportunity if it comes knocking.

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AfteR Thoughts

A week or so late and more than a dollar short . . .

Penn State defeated the Rutgers Knights–good knight Irene–by a respectable score of 23-7.

Yawn.

This game would have had no more importance had the Nittany Lions entered it undefeated. As it were, we entered it with but one win. We managed to make a meaningless game even more meaningless!

Enter with one win. Leave with two. We doubled down!

Seriously, Rutgers may be the default birthplace of college football, but for the past century or so, it has also been the graveyard.

Yes, Greg Schiano has returned. Cue the heavenly music. How did it work out for Pitt when Johnny Majors tried to resurrect their program? And at least Johnny Majors had an impact the first time, taking Pitt to a National Championship in 1976.

What has Greg Schiano done for Rutgers football? From 2001-2011, he was 68-67 at Rutgers. His collegiate record is 70-72. (In case you are wondering, Majors was 185-137-10 in his long career.) Granted, Mr. Schiano has taken the scarlety nights to six of their 10 bowls, winning five of them against the mighty likes of Kansas State, Ball State, NC State, Central Florida and Iowa State.) This was Schiano’s first game against Penn State as we did not play Rutgers during the 2001-2011 seasons.

Why am I even talking about this? Because the game itself was pedestrian, irrelevant, and the equivalent of a teenager beating his 4 year old brother at Mario Kart. We came. We played. We dominated.

Since 1950, Rutgers is 1-24 versus Penn State with the only win coming in 1988.

The only reason Penn State fans were worried about this game is that we have already established the propensity to lose against any body.

I do give credit for the players hanging in there and putting forth more effort on the field than I have done in this post.

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Episode VI: A New Hope????

Just when you think you have this Penn State team defined as an under-performing, over-rated, confused and poorly coached, clunking, clattering collection of caliginous junk . . . they go and win a game.

Albeit against Michigan. The Lions win 27-17! A-maize-ing!

Normally this would have been a marquee match-up.

In 2020, the reality was closer to this:

Pat Forde described this game as a “cringe-worthy mess.” Thank you Mr. Obvious. Keep your mind sharp and your pencil sharper.

Granted, few fans outside of Pennsylvania or Michigan likely cared much one way or the other about the outcome of this game. It probably didn’t even have a great TV audience.

But for die hard Penn State fans, this was a Thanksgiving Miracle. A spoonful of sugar to make the pandemic go down. We put the ape in apricot! A ray of sunshine in an otherwise dreary world.

And no matter what happens the rest of the season . . . we are not the team that lost to Penn State.

For Harbaugh, it must be a humiliating defeat. He almost and should have lost to Rutgers the previous week. And with Maryland (who mauled Penn State in week 3 of this Big Ten season) and Ohio State left on their schedule, Jim may not notch another victory in 2020.

But for the Lions and James Franklin . . . . there is hope. It is but a glimmer, but it is there. In the darkness of this miserable season, it stood out today like a welcoming beacon. A torch on our Statue of Victory–give me your tired, your poor and your huddled football team, yearning to breathe victory, the wretched refuse of your dismal season.

A fan from Lock Have, PA made this for me many years ago.

So how did this miracle occur?

Aliens.

It’s as good as any guess.

Let’s face it. We beat a team that is arguably and probably worse than we are. Therein is probably the only analysis necessary.

But pick a stat–any stat. Penn State dominated. 25 PSU first downs to 14 Wolverine first downs. 254 rushing yards to 174. 163 Lion passing yards to 112 for the Maize (we call it corn) and Blue. Total yards were thus 417 for PSU and 286 for UM. We were 8 of 16 (50%) on third down while they were 4 of 12 (33%.) We won time of possession 36:36 to 23:24! They had two fumbles but only lost one–thanks to illegal touching! We did not commit a turn-over!

We did however, miss a field goal, twice kick the ball out of bounds on the kick-off, and got out-penalized 5 times for 30 yards versus only one 10 yard indiscretion by the wolverines.

But it was difficult to enjoy the game. Why? Because I sat there just waiting for the shoe to drop. The fatal mistake. The bone-head play call. The clock mismanagement. You just knew it was going to come. It always comes. The piss poor pass and pick six by Michigan. We almost had the Michigan scoop and score! But replay actually saved us on that one! You can’t say we didn’t try!

Cue I Got You Babe. Okay sportsfans, rise and shine, and don’t forget your crying towels because it’s lousy out there today. It’s lousy out there every Saturday . . . .

Somehow, some way, the Nittany Lions managed not to shoot themselves in the paw, look a gift horse in the mouth, throw caution to the wind while throwing the baby out with the bathwater or find gloom, despair and agony of defeat.

For the record–I went to Zach’s to watch the game instead of Champs or Primanti’s. I went back to my Nike PSU logo sneakers that I wore for the Indiana game, a game which we coulda, shoulda, woulda won. I nixed the PSU socks. Game day decision. Different PSU boxers and a different shirt. I will wear this ensemble for the remaining games. Without washing. (Thankfully there are only two irregular season games and one Championship week match-up left!)

Can we build on this performance? Can we keep momentum rolling?

We will find out next week as our beloved Lions travel to Piscataway, NJ. Welcome to hell, Blofeld! A fitting reward for a win like this? We shall see.

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