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Notes ON WISCONSIN

Having graduated from Altoona High School back in the days when kids walked to school, up hill, both ways, in 3 feet of snow in ratty sneakers . . .what?  You had sneakers!  We went barefoot!  And we were thankful to have our feet!  But I digress, and I’m pretty sure I never finished that first sentence, so apparently my days spent in English class were apparently wasted–we used pencils!  Not computers!  And we researched with the Dewey Decimal System and a card catalog–NO GOOGLE!

Anyway, our school fight song was ON ALTOONA and the music was actually the Wisconsin fight song, ON WISCONSIN.  So there’s a certain nostalgia thing going on there.

Getting to the stadium was a challenge.  Thanks to ice and unfortunate accidents on I-99, the road past sky top from Altoona was impassable.

So I went off road down the hill, through the grass, to grandmother’s house we go.  I went back to Port Waltzing Matilda.  Surely I could get there from there.  After all, there’s only one traffic light in Port Matilda.  More nostalgia–I remember many Saturday’s sitting at that traffic light as 322 merged with old 220.  The Fire Company always had a chicken barbecue a block beyond that, if you dared pull off the road and lose your place in line.

But there’s a new traffic light in town.  TWO of them.  And the second is due to construction on a bridge which is now ONE LANE.

It took us half an hour just to get through the two lights.

The traffic on I-99, though, was still not moving.  So I came out ahead.

I got to my parking spot well before kick-off.  Unfortunately, the people who were buying four of my tickets (still in my possession) were . . . sitting on 99.  I gave them directions, and they waited through two traffic lights . . . with the end result that I missed most of the first quarter including the Badger’s only touchdown.  So I had that going for me.

The 22-10 game itself was far from a perfect masterpiece, but apparently the Badgers don’t have much this year.  Perhaps outside of Penn State, they are the biggest disappointment in the conference, and perhaps the nation.  The AP poll had the Badgers at #4 preseason (already in the play-off picture!)  My how the mighty have fallen!

While sportswriters and pundits have unfurled  the “back-on-track” and “good solid win”  banners, I was not so impressed.  We had a field goal blocked and another missed–worse yet we iced our own kicker as we still can’t manage the clock properly 10 games into the season.

And what in the wide, wide world of bloody sports was that play call late in the fourth quarter when all we had to do was run the clock out?  It was unnecessary trickeration, and we ended up fumbling the ball back to the Badgers with two and a half minutes left on the scoreboard.  We haven’t fared well with on-sides kicks this year, and I had no reason to believe we would do any better.

Thankfully, the Badgers suck, and couldn’t take advantage of our piss poor play-calling propensity (the four P’s.)

The victory did propel us nearly to the top of the three-loss teams–we’re behind Florida at #14 in the play-off rankings, behind Texas and Florida in the AP poll, and behind Texas but ahead of Florida in the coaches poll.

The Badger’s traveled well.  Lots of badgers prowling the parking lots that were open.

The tribute to Wally Tripplet, and the history behind the “WE ARE” cheer was emotional.

Penn State will travel to High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, NJ to face the Miss Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.  Last I saw, we were 24 point favorites.  I’m not expecting much of a fight from them, but they are a “rival.”  (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more!)

Maybe I’ll do a wrap up.  Maybe not.  I’ll keep you in the suspenses on that one.

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Ioween: The Night He Came Home

Michael Myers wore a Captain James T. Kirk mask.  Kirk Ferentz grew up in the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania.    In 1998 he became the Head Coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes.  20 years later . . . HE CAME HOME.

KirkIoween

On a gloomy, wet day on Halloween weekend, Kirk Ferentz and his gruesome band of Hawkeyes (they taste just like chicken I am told!), put a scare into Penn State and Nittany Nation, as the Lions escaped Beaver Stadium’s Little Shop of Punting Horrors with a 30-24 win that shouldn’t have been that close.

Penn State won the toss and elected to put it’s offense on the field.  (Hey, let’s go into this spooky house!  Looks like fun!) After two incomplete passes sandwiched around a one yard gain, the Lions lined up to punt.  (What was that noise?  I don’t know.  Let’s split up and check it out!)

The punt never got off.  Well, it did, late after a bobbled snap, and was blocked.  Fortunately, the ball rolled through the end zone for only a safety.

After the free kick and a 22 yard return, the Hawkeyes set up shop on their own 44.  Stanley intentionally grounded the ball on the first play, but then connected beautifully for a 29-yard gain.  The Hawkeyes fumbled!  (Michael Myers has been hit!  He’s down!)  No.  Wait.  Somehow Iowa recovered the fumble.  (The body’s gone!  He’s still alive!!!) Our defense–which just doesn’t seem to be able to get a three-and out if their lives depended on it, and in any horror movie, your life does depend on it, allowed the Hawks to get to as far as the four yard line before settling for a field goal from the 9.  We tried to rip that facemask off Michael Myers, but we failed.  And there is a penalty to pay for that.

But down 5-0, we are still alive.  Sort of.  Three plays and minus 15 yards later, we are back to punt again.  (Cue the Halloween theme music.)  We did manage to get the punt off, but shanked it out of bounds.

With a starting position at the PSU 42, Ferentz and company went to work, carving up the Lion’s defense like a jack-o-latern.  Now we be down 12-0 and without so much as a first down of our own to show for it.

But Penn State wouldn’t let these B-movie slashers have all the fun.  McSorley and Sanders worked their magic and Penn State pulled to within 5 with a pass to Freiermuth to make it 12-7.

The defense then somehow, someway, managed a three and out and Iowa was forced to punt.  And just as momentum was shifting our way, we go incomplete, three yard rushing gain and then a sack to set up for our third punt.  The eerie music swells in a crescendo that sent the snap over Gillikin’s head.  Once again, the Lions are fortunate that the snap sailed through the end zone for only another safety.

Two safeties in one game?  (Flashback sequence to another wet, dreary day when the Hawkeyes prevailed 6-4.) I still shudder.

Worse yet, Jamie Lee Franklin’s team took a hit as McSorley was injured on the sack.  But after a John Reid interception, Tommy Stevens stepped in and rushed the remaining three yards  for a touchdown that tied the score at 14-14.

The teams would go into the half knotted up at 17.

In the second half, Iowa would get the ball first, and after ripping off a 23 yard rush to near midfield, our defense tightened again, and forced a punt.  Trace McSorley, back in the game (it was just a flesh wound!) worked his magic and ran 51 yards for paydirt.  The Lions took their first lead of the day.

Penn State would add another field goal to stretch that lead over Michael Myers 27-17.  No way could the monster in the Hawkeye mask catch up to us now.

Yet somehow, although he plods along while the hero runs, he still catches up.  Almost.  The Hawks are within three points.

KJ Hamler returned the kick-off 67 yards and Penn State looked poised to finish off the bad guy once and for all.  But Michael fought back fiercely, blinded in one eye, and held the Lions to another field goal.  30-24.

Michael was only 6 points behind.  A mere TD and an extra point from finishing us off.

And Iowa was moving the ball.

We had a chance to stop them on fourth down–no wait!  (We stopped him!) We jumped off sides!  (No–he’s on the move again!  He’s still coming!!!!) Horrors!

They drove the ball down to the 17 yard line, precious seconds ticking away.

Do we let them score quick so we have time to get in position for a field goal?  Or do we hope the monster can finally be stopped? You just know the killer isn’t going to die!  You can’t stop him.

Interception Nick Scott!  At the the three yard line!  (Michael Myers is down!  Should we shoot him again just to be sure?  No.  There’s only 3:18 left in this film.  He’s dead.)

But Nick Scott only stumbles out to the 9 and PSU must run off some clock.  (In the background, as we breathe a sigh of relief, Michael sits up.)

We manage to get the ball out to the 33, but there is still 1:23 left on the clock for Michael to wreak his revenge . . . (Dammit!  He’s still alive!!!!)

But Jamie survives and lives to face Michael on another day.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Just like last week, the opponent out-performed our Nittany Lions in almost every category except scoring points.

Iowa had more first downs, more rushing, passing and total yards, and won what my fellow blogger the Nittany Turkey calls the “increasingly irrelevant” time of possession by 10 minutes.  (In horror films, that’s time enough for at least a dozen deaths.)  Third down conversions were slightly better by the Hawks (7-20 vs. 4-14.)  They notched 2 safeties, but not due to their prowess but to our ineptitude at snapping the ball.

However, they had one more INT and that is the key difference, although they still had another chance with a little over a minute to go.  We end with the hero still alive, but we all know that Iowa will be back.

PennStatePumpkin

INTANGIBLES:

Up by 10 and moving the ball, we fumbled.  We just can’t seem to put an opponent away in the waning moments of a game.  After the interception, we forced them to use their timeouts.  ONE FIRST DOWN and you WIN.  We failed-again.  Pundits are quick to criticize the coaches, but the coaches didn’t mishandle the fumble exchange, nor did they snap the ball poorly on two punts.  Maybe they need to work on some fundamentals more in practice (tackling in the first quarter jumps to mind as well,) but we can’t blame everything on our coaches.  But  a fourth quarter offensive scheme that works might have won a championship this year.

Crowd listed at 105, 244.  Yeah right.  Tickets sold, not bodies cold.  Still, a decent crowd for the weather conditions.

We won the toss.  Cost us 2 points.

No drum major flips–field too wet.

The Lions are riding a five-game win streak over the Hawkeyes. which ties the previous win streak record in this series.

Military Appreciation Day!  Thank you veterans and active service personnel!

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Both Michigan and Ohio State sat out the weekend.  They looked bored.  To death.

Wisconsin lost to Northwestern 31-17.  Wow.

Minnesota defeated Indiana 38-31.  We softened them up for you, go-fair.

A week after Purdue upsot the Buckeyes, they fall to the Spartans, 23-13.

Maryland trounced the Illini 63-33.

And Nebraska beat Bethune-Cookman (I guess that’s a school?) 45-9.  Nice job not screwing up that one.

LOOKING AHEAD:

This is another Big One Elizabeth.

The Lions will travel to Ann Arbor next week to take on the Wolverines at the Out House at 3:45.  Penn State is 14/13 in the polls.

THEM (as in The-M) is 6-1 and undefeated in conference play.  They are ranked 5th in the nation with a lone loss to the Irish of South Bend.  Their closest victory was a 20-17 come from behind win over Northwestern.

I’m not one for predictions, but I think if we go a third week where the opponent dominates every positive statistical category, I think we will lose.  A lot will depend on how hurt McSorley was and how he recovers from that.

The wolverines open as a 10-point favorite..

GO STATE!  BEAT THEM!

 

 

 

 

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Number 4!

Penn State is ranked 4th in both the AP and Coaches Poll!  This is on the heels of a FSU loss, and a poor showing by USC over Western Michigan.

I’ve been waiting . . . for a rank like you, to come into my life . . .

Number4

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VOTE 4 HACKENBERG

Vote for Christian Hackenberg in the Capital One  Impact Performance . . .

LET’S GO STATE!

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