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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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Blooming Ton of Crap

If you face palmed so hard that you’re now cross-eyed . . . you might be a Penn State fan.

TripleFacePalm

If you’re standing on a ledge, despite your team winning . . . you might be a Penn State fan.

I could go on and on, over and over again, repeating the same crap . . . but that would make me a Penn State fan!

Seriously!

33-28, and the Hoosiers not only recover an on-sides kick to gain possession for a possible upsetting score, but they do so because the Nittany Lions shot themselves in the tail–once again–with a penalty mistake.  How can you line up with too many men on one side of the field?  It’s apparently easier than it sounds.  I did not know that was a penalty.  But I am not being paid multiple millions of dollars to know that interesting, and possibly game changing, piece of trivia.

The Hoosiers won nearly every statistical category–total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, first downs, time of possession, better conversion percentages for third and fourth downs–yet still lost the game.  Glad I’m not a Hoosier blogger –I don’t have to recap that crap!

The only thing that saved us was Indiana had 7 penalties to 3 for us, and one more turn-over.  We also were 5-5 in the red zone (albeit only 3 TDs) while the Hoosiers were 3-4 in the Del Grosso Red Zone. And therein is the difference in the game.

Am I happy that we won?

Hell yes.

But could we just start playing–and coaching–a little smarter?

What did you think of the botched fake punt?  There have been times when we’re punting from the opponents 40 yard line where I thought, hey, the odds are you’re going to kick into the end zone for a touchback.  So you’re maybe giving up 20 yards if you fail.

But with the score tied in the first quarter, it seemed . . . rather desperate.  And it was poorly executed, like we had never even practiced it before.

Sure, if it had worked, and we went on to score, it could have looked brilliant.

But the coaching issue I fear goes a little more deeply.  What has happened to our offense?  Is it simply a product of facing defenses of better quality than Pitt and Kent State?

McSorley has been awful on the deep throws.  That is not coaching per se, but maybe it is time to switch things up.  Give the other guys a series or two.  My friend, who has watched more Penn State football than I in his lifetime, thinks McSorley had/has an injury.  The last three games, he certainly has lost his touch.  He has made up for it with his legs, but do we want to be a team that depends on its quarterback for most of our rushing yardage?  I guess if it works . . .

But again, I told you last week I’m not an x’s and o’s kind of guy.  I don’t know if the play calling really is different, or just the results, but my sense is that we have become predictable and bland.

We are Bob Ross, painting an offense.  Let’s put a happy little wide receiver over here.  There’s nothing wrong with having a tight end as a friend.  I guess I’m a little weird. I like to talk to footballs and pylons. That’s okay though; I have more fun than most people.  Lets build a happy little quarterback sneak.  Let’s get crazy and try a fake punt here, for no reason at all.  We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents.

BobRoss

Penn State Football in a nutshell.

A happy accident.  That sums up the Indiana game in a nutshell.

STREAKING:

The Tide continues to roll, but the Buckeyes streak of wins ended at Purdue.  I don’t know what team Urban Meyer took to West Lafayette, but that was not the team he brought to Beaver Stadium.  Dude!  Someone stole his team!

Trace McSorley’s streak of games with a touchdown pass ended.  Tommy Stevens threw the only touchdown pass of the game.

We snapped a two game losing streak.

Nebraska snapped their own 10 game losing streak with a victory over the Gophers.

Rutgers extended their losing streak to 7.

The Big (Ten) Picture:

Michigan trumped Michigan State to take the mid-term lead in the Big Ten Polls.

Wisconsin beat Illinois 49-20.

The Haweyes shut out Maryland 23-0.  Sure hope we don’t have to face that defense.

The Cornhuskers defeated Minnesota 53-28.

Northwestern beat Rutgers 18-15.  Oh, Scarlet Knights, you were soooo close.

And living vicariously through the Boilermakers, Purdue downed Ohio State 49-20.  Read.  That.  Again.  49-20.  The Buckeyes looked lost.  Seriously, it was like the Keystone Kops on some of their defensive plays.  (Or, ahem, like Penn State’s defense at times.)

And if you are tracking the College Football Champion . . . Purdue now has that title, as Ohio State took it from us, and then lost it to Purdue.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Iowa comes to Beaver Stadium next week at 3:30.  The Haweyes are ranked 18th.  The home team is ranked 17/16.  (Appalachian State is 25th!)

They have a home loss to Wisconsin 28-17, but wins over Minnesota (48-31), Indiana 42-16–uh oh) and Maryland (23-0).  Their record is 6-1 overall with OOC victories over Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and Northern Illinois.

The early betting line has Penn State favored by 6.  I am not making that up.. I don’t know why.  Don’t ask me.

GO STATE!  BEAT HAWKS!

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Bye Week Blues and News

Although Penn State did not play this past weekend, the Lions surged into the Top 10, garnering the 8th spot on both polls.

What happened?

In the Red River Rivalry, Texas upset the 7th ranked Sooners on a late field goal, 48-45.  It was not an easy task as the Longhorns watched in horror as a 45-21 fourth quarter lead morphed into a 45-45 nightmare.  But unlike the Nittany Lions, the Texas offense was able to gain just enough yardage to make a game winning field goal possible.

And then there was #5 LSU.  The Tigers lost to the Gators, 27-19.  The upset caused LSU to tumble to 13th in the AP poll and 12th in the coaches.

And if that carnage were not enough, Auburn was defeated by Mississippi State 23-9.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

In conference play, Michigan (THEM) manhandled the Terrapins 42-21.  It is mind boggling that the only loss Texas has so far is Maryland.

Northwestern upset Michigan State 29-19.  More on this later.

Wisconsin handed Nebraska their fifth loss of the season, 41-24.  That’;s NINE losses in a row for the Huskers.

The Buckeyes rolled over Indiana 49-26.

Iowa beat Minnesota 48-31, highlighted by four interceptions and five sacks by the Hawkeye defense.

Illinois defeated Rutgers 38-17.  The Scarlet Knights are 1-5 with a sole win over  Texas State.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Last year, Penn State suffered a one point loss to Ohio State before losing to Michigan State, after the Spartans were upended by Northwestern the previous week.

photo posted on post-gazette.com

The Infamous Land Grant Trophy.  Shouldn’t the Loser have to keep this for a year?

This year, Penn State suffered a one point loss to Ohio State before playing Michigan State who was upset by Northwestern the week before.  The difference this year?  Well, hopefully we don’t lose to Sparty again.  But this year we had a bye week to regroup.

MSU has lost to Arizona State 16-13 and Northwestern 29-19.  They have wins over Utah State 38-31, Indiana 35-21, and Central Michigan 31-20.

The Spartans are currently unranked.

Game time is set for 3:30 on BTN.  This is homecoming for Penn State.  And a Stripe Out.  Check your ticket to see if you are BLUE or WHITE.

GO STATE!  BEAT SPARTANS!

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What in the Hell, MI happened?

Four weeks ago, the Penn State Nittany Lions were on the top of the world.  Well, almost the top.  Number 2 to be exact.  They had just defeated arch-enemy Michigan at home, in primetime, under the lights in their trademark White Out.

MRBEANFACE

And then the cracks started to appear.  A road trip to Columbus was low lighted by a fourth quarter comeback by the Bucks where Penn State snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  Some people blamed it on sphincter ball.  Others criticized Joe Moorhead, who perhaps shoulder some of the blame, but quite frankly probably did not garner enough of the fame when Penn State was winning.

MRBEANFACE2

And while the Lions dropped to 7th in the polls, a shot at the national championship was still tantalizingly within reach.

But first, they had to get past a pesky Spartan team, themselves coming off a heart-breaking loss to Northwestern, and an earlier loss to Notre Dame, a team which seemed destined for the final four.

The weather was less than ideal.  The game was postponed.  And while the Lions sat in a locker room somewhere in East Lansing, the Buckeyes were getting pummeled by Iowa in Kinnick Stadium.

The Lions not only had an outside shot at the national championship picture, but a Buckeye loss might put them right back in the Big Ten Title race.

Apparently, we were tired of racing.

In the late hours of a long, weather delayed game–I was tired waiting–Penn State failed to convert a fourth and short–I liked the call, but not the execution.  With the game still tied, the Spartans marched toward field goal range.  And just when it looked like we stopped them short and could head to over-time, we made the critical mistake.  Roughed the passer.  Fifteen yards pushed them inside the makeable range for their kicker who split the uprights as time expired.

Game.  Set. Match.

MRBEANFACE3

This doesn’t mean Penn State can’t end with a 10-2 season and a decent bowl.  Given the events of the past five years, it is still amazing that we were even within sniffing distance of a Big Ten Title last year, or a chance at a National Crown this year.

So why were so many Penn State fans standing on the ledge?  Why are we so upset this season has taken such a turn for the worse?  How can we not be content to be ranked at all, and heading for a bowl game, when but a few years ago we weren’t even allowed to have such aspirations?

I think there are several reasons.

One, we really lost those games.  Teams win or lose.  Sometimes you get beaten.  Sometimes you play well and get upset.  Sometimes you make more mistakes than the other guy.  While the Buckeyes were picked by the odds makers to win (they didn’t cover by the way) Penn State was in command of that game until the final six minutes, and led up until the final 1:42.  I don’t want to take anything away from the other team’s effort, but Penn State really controlled that game for 3 and a half quarters.  It’s a tough way to lose a game.  Had we fallen behind by 14 in the first quarter and never caught up, so be it.  But to blow a lead like that was just devastating.  It’s not that we lost as much as how we lost.

With Michigan State, who knows what went wrong.  They too are a good team.  We did not play our best.  The weather was less than favorable, but both teams endured the same conditions.  We did not dominate the game.  And we did not make the plays when we needed to make them.  We made the mistake (roughing the passer.)  We might not have prevailed in OT.  Who knows?

Then, on top of losing games we really had legitimate chances to win, we essentially took ourselves out of an undefeated season and a chance to play in the playoff and the Big Ten title is off the table unless Ohio State loses TWICE to Michigan this weekend.

We were in the driver’s seat and we lost control.  Crashed and burned.

Maybe Penn State fans are spoiled.  We have had a lot of success when it comes to undefeated seasons.

According to Wikipedia, Penn State is 8th on the list of schools with undefeated seasons.  That list includes games from the 1800’s, so teams like Yale and Princeton lead the list, followed by Michigan, Notre Dame and  USC.  Harvard is on there, and Oklahoma edged us out.

If you further distill this data to the Joe Paterno era and beyond (1966-present), there have been 56 undefeated teams over basically 50 years.  You won’t see Harvard or Yale on that list, but Boise State and Utah have 2 unblemished records, Toledo has 3, Alabama has 4, but PSU leads the nation with FIVE.  Consider also that Penn State was a yard away from possibly a sixth in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, and a couple seconds in Ann Arbor away from an undefeated season in 2005.

Perhaps we expect to go undefeated, when the odds are really against teams running the table.  Statistically, about one team a year (there are currently 130 schools in the College Football Bowl Subdivision) goes undefeated.  Even if you assume two teams can go undefeated in a season, that is only a 1.5% chance of any given school being unbeaten.

Or maybe, since we have been there before, we do appreciate how precious and rare an undefeated season is, particularly in the era of football that allows forward passes!  Pitt has 8 undefeated seasons overall, but only 1 in the last 50 years.  Of Michigan’s 23 undefeated records, only ONE occurred in the last 50 years (1997.)  For the Irish, 22 overall undefeated seasons with only two in the modern era (1973-Ara Parseghian, and 1988-Lou Holtz!)  Joe Paterno alone has more undefeated seasons (5) than all but 37 schools in their entire history, which includes teams no longer in the Bowl Subdivision.

Regardless of the setbacks and disappointment, this program has come a long way, baby.  With only Maryland on the horizon, a 10-2 season is reasonably expected but not guaranteed.  With the 56-44 victory over the Cornhuskers, Penn State is now undefeated at home for two straight years . . . the last loss in Beaver Stadium was on November 21, 2015 (lost 28-16 to #12 Michigan.)  PSU is 20-1 at Home over the last 21 games!

Penn State is currently 10th in the College Football Playoff Rankings. (12th in the AP.)  Unfortunately, I don’t see any possible way for us to move up 6 spots.  Of course, If Michigan beats Ohio State, who then beats Wisconsin badly to drop them below us–Auburn could lose to Bama.  Clemson and Miami will face-off in the ACC Championship. I believe Oklahoma has a championship game as well . . . . Stranger things have happened.

GO STATE!  BEAT TERPS!

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Bye week Bye-byes!

Weakestlink

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

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

Friday13thClemson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ClemsonEyeChart

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

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

THEM

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

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

The weather?  Meteorologists are calling for White Out conditions.

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

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

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

We will know Saturday if we pass the eye test.

PennStateeyechart

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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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IT IS COMING . . .

The 2017-18 season will begin in less than one month, as the Nittany Lions open at home on September 2nd against the Zips of Akron.

The Lions are ranked 6th by the Coach’s poll and Lindy’s Sports.

Can we produce this level of excitement again?

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