Tag Archives: Spartans

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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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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Sparty Crashers

This was supposed to be the trap game.  This was the latest game of reckoning, or as my fellow blogger, The Nittany Turkey calls it, the Sanguinarian Day of Reckoning.  Or one of many potential days of reckoning that have not yet reckoned.  Penn State had lost the last two to Michigan State and James Franklin was 1-4 against Mark Dantonio.  Michigan State was supposed to have our number, if not our playbook.

Douchebag

But the day of reckoning has been postponed at least another two weeks, as the Nittany Lions dominated the Spartans 28-7 in a torrential downpour in East Lansing, Michigan.  Did you by any chance see the woodshed beating that Michigan put on the Irish in the same downpour, albeit 66 miles or so away?  Makes our win over the wolverines look just a little more shiny this morning.

The only bad news is that this means we have to crate up and haul off the Land Grant Trophy to State College.  Shouldn’t the loser have to keep and dust this piece of crap? It resembles the moss covered three handled family credenza from the Cat in the Hat.  It’s eerily similar to the Lou Grant Trophy.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out . . .

LouGrantLandGrantTrophy

Despite the humiliation of having this monstrosity in our trophy case, the Nittany Lions improved to 8-0 on the season, #5 in both polls (thank you Kansas State and shame on you Auburn!), and Penn State pulls within one of evening up the all-time series with the Spartans at 16-17-1.

While Sean Clifford has had his ups and downs this season, certainly understandable given his first season as a starter, he found a way to throw FOUR touchdown passes under conditions that should be more conducive to a running game.  Pat Friermuth had a hat trick with three touchdown receptions himself.

The defense played their typical Penn State bend but don’t let the other team score defense, holding the Spartans to 83 yards on the ground for 2.7 yards per carry.  Only 7 points appeared on the scoreboard.  Penn State didn’t gain a lot on the ground either, but Noah Cain left the game early with an injury.

That is not to say that Penn State didn’t have it’s problems.  Today was the day for Special Teams to struggle, and that is not at all surprising given the weather conditions.  But a fumbled kick-off (ultimately recovered by the Lions,) a punt return for a touchdown called back for running into the kicker, a missed PAT, and a kick-off out of bounds all add up to a less than stellar performance.  But it was not a game close enough for special teams to make a difference.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Unlike last week, the numbers largely favor Penn State.  Both teams struggled on third down.  Penn State still is committing too many penalties, including spitting on the other team.  Really?  When you’re winning?  Not that losing justifies such behavior but at least we might understand how you could be upset enough to do something like that.

We actually won time of possession, by a small margin.

INTANGIBLES:

The Spartan faithful apparently booed their team as they left the field going into halftime.  The wet soggy crowd of 70,298 was not happy.  The stadium, at least as shown on TV, was never full.

8-0.

Sparty Martian

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes continue to roll as they defeated Wisconsin 38-7.  Fields spent a few minutes in the medical tent.  The game was only 10-0 at the half and the Buckeyes scored a TD late in the second to take that lead into the locker room.

THEM, the wolverines, bounced back from their loss to us to completely embarrass the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 45-14.  Even the announcers were chastising the Irish for not showing up.  Maybe Michigan is pretty good.  I’m glad we played THEM when we did.  They will be a force to reckon with going forward.

Indiana secured bowl eligibility by defeating the Cornhuskers 38-31 for their third straight conference win and their first victory in Lincoln since 1959.

Minnesota is now 8-0, after dispatching Maryland 52-10 in Minneapolis.

Iowa beat Northwestern 20-0 with another great defensive effort.

After beating Wisconsin last week, the Illini followed up their encore performance with a victory over Purdue 24-6.

And Rutgers won a game!  Not a Big Ten game.  Not against an FBS team.  But by God they beat Liberty 44-34!  Take that, Jerry Falwell!

MEANWHILE . . . 

In Manhattan . . . Kansas State held off an Oklahoma comeback as the Sooners appeared to have recovered an onside kick, but on further review were found to be guilty of touching the ball before it went ten yards.   K-state won 48-41 in a thriller.

In Baton Rouge . . . LSU hung on to defeat Auburn 23-20.  The Tigers are off next week before facing Bama.

In Mobile Alabama . . . it wasn’t the Crimson Tide but App State beat the snot out of South Alabama 30-3 to remain unbeaten on the season.

In Fort Worth . . . TCU upset the 15th ranked Longhorns 37-27.

In Houston . . . SMU remained undefeated by beating the Cougars 34-31.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Bye Week.

I will look at the upcoming game with Minnesota next week.

 

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Trojan Lion

Those sneaky Greeks!  The Spartans snuck their best warriors into Beaver Stadium . . . we welcomed them amidst cheers and jubilation!–under the guise of a wooden Lion– a fake gift of a homecoming foe in the throes of a mediocre season.

And we fell for it.

What can you say after a 21-17 loss that saw PSU tumble from the lofty rank of 8th in the nation to 18th place in the AP poll (16th in the Coaches who felt sorrier for us.)

I don’t know what to say.  I don’t even know where to begin.

PatrickStar

PENN STATE IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

So I asked myself, as I pondered this dilemma . . . what do my readers want?  (I only have like 5 regulars, and I think a couple of them are on heavy medications.)  Jimmy might by 45 and living in his mother’s basement,  But I digress.

Do you come here for the brilliant analysis of a post game?  I highly doubt it.  I’m not an X’s and O’s kind of guy.  (I hate Tic-tac-toe.)  I know less about the game than the talking heads on ESPN that we all make fun of.  But at least most of them either coached the game at some level, or played the game themselves.  I have done neither.  If I’m no longer your hero, I understand.

Is it the humorous repartee that keeps you coming back?

A Michigan State fan walks into a bar.  The Penn State fan ducks.

Nope.  Can’t be that.

I’m not really sure I know why you come to this site, but I’m going to go out on a limb here.  It’s Fellowship.  Kinship.  An exchange of thoughts and emotions that only armchair quarterbacks and true fans of the game can understand.  Misery loves company, and celebrations are better with more than one person–your mother upstairs doesn’t count Jimmy.  My weekend is ruined–ruined Andre, we’re ruined!–when Penn State loses.  The sun may come up Sunday morning, but I really don’t give a flying fart if we lost.  I’d rather live a dark Sunday after a win, than a beautiful day that mocks my mood after a loss.

We can over-analyze the facts–the stats, the outcomes, until we’re blue and white in the face.  It won’t change what happened.  But there is a catharsis in the discussion; a cleansing of our football souls.

We should have won that game.  And the one before it, but don’t get me started about that again.

Are we over-rated?  Apparently.  Thank you Mr. Obvious.

After last week’s loss, Coach Franklin spoke about Penn State not playing at an elite level.  We were a great team, but not quite at that elite level.  Well, James, I’ve got news for you.  We are not a great team.  Whereas the Buckeyes can make a pretty sound argument for being an elite team, Michigan State?  Not so much.

We lost to a very pedestrian, very mediocre Spartan team on Saturday.  And while the score looked close, we were not very good and quite frankly, we deserved to lose.  I think we are capable of playing better than we did the last two games, but the results do not support that.

And therein lies the rub.

My anger, frustration, dismay, pain . . feel free to throw in whatever adverse emotions you felt as you watched that game play out . . . really comes down to a mismatch between my perception of reality . . . and reality itself.

I thought we were a great team.  I thought we had a chance to go to the play-offs.  I thought this was going to be a special season (and I’m sorry if you are one of those fans that thinks 10-2 is a special season, because IT IS NOT.)  There will be no Big Ten Title.  There will be no play-off game.  No National Championship.

At Penn State, we fans have been spoiled by our school’s historical success.  In any given year, there is only ONE team (in the past before the BCS and play-off committees, there could be multiple titles based on different polls) but even if you allow 2 teams per year to win, the odds of a school winning a title are pretty dismal.  If there are 120 Bowl Division teams, that chance is one in 120.

Yale has the most titles–18–but has not won a national trophy since 1927.

Alabama is second with 15.  Five have come within the last nine years.

Only 60 colleges can claim at least 1 national football title.  Only 43 have more than one.  In addition to Yale and Princeton, that list also includes these schools that either no longer play football, or won’t be considered for a title ever again:  Chicago, Centre, Washington & Jefferson, Detroit, Dartmouth, Lafayette, and Colgate.

Winning a championship is special.  My oldest child was born in 1994.  She has never seen Penn State play for a national championship.

And when a 10-2 season comes down to five points, that is really too close to just dismiss off-handedly.  (I am assuming we win the rest, but hey, don’t bet your money on my predictions.)

Dammit, we were so close.  And with Georgia, Washington and West Virginia losing, we really could have moved up in the world.

As it is, we are what we are.  And it’s not special.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Out of 15 drives by MSU, 7 drives were less than 5 plays.  For PSU, not counting the knee to end the first half and the 13 second “drive” to end the game, the Lions had 14 drives, with only FOUR going for more than 4 plays.

MSU had 25 first downs.  We had 14.  I just shake my head.

Which explains the lopsided time of possession, which the Spartans won by 34:12 compared with our 25:48.

The Box Score listed only 6 penalties for PSU for 41 yards,  It seemed like a lot more than that because some of them were key penalties that kept MSU drives alive without actually yielding much yardage.  MSU had 3 penalties for 20 yards, and two of those were false starts possibly related to the crowd noise.  None of the reviews went in our favor.

Michigan State out gained us 418 to 397 yards.  Just incredible.

INTANGIBLES:

There was not one single intangible that did not favor PSU.  Home game.  Homecoming crowd of 106,685.  Stripe out.  Saquon Barkley and Michael Mauti on the sidelines.  Revenge for last year’s late loss.  The drum Major stuck both flips.  Ranked freaking 8th in the nation with an outside shot at making the play-offs.

We should be glad the NCAA doesn’t penalize us for wasting our advantages.

And to the “next year is our year crowd” . . .  Bull.  Shit.  THIS WAS OUR YEAR!!!  Senior QB.  Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State at home with Michigan being the only road game of any contention.  Next year’s home schedule is Idaho, Buffalo, Pitt, Purdue, Michigan, Indiana and Rutgers.  Woo freaking hoo.  If you are a season ticket holder that likes to sell their tickets, I wouldn’t bother buying next year.  There’s only one game there you’ll be able to sell for any real money.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The F*CKEYES are still number one.  You don’t need to waste any more time worrying about it.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Indiana.

That’s all I got.

Fighting for a place in that Taxslayer Bowl.  Or maybe James Franklin will take us to the Franklin American Mortgages Music City Bowl.  Cocktails at Mike Reid’s house.

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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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A BIG win!

It was a gray and dismal day.  Earlier in the week, we had bought ribs and chicken to do on the grill.  But as the minutes were ticking away, the desire to stand in a windy parking lot outside Beaver Stadium and grill these meats slowly waned.  The thought of eating a sandwich in the relative warmth of our vehicle was more and more appealing.

A quick text to our travelling party confirmed that sandwiches would be fine.  But then, what about after the game?  It would be at least 7:30-8:00 until the game would be over, and probably at least another hour to we get home.  Aren’t we going to be hungry then?

So at the last minute, we head to Chili’s to eat a lunch before the game, and then stopped at Sheetz to get sandwiches for after the game.  As an added bonus, we could watch the first part of the O$U-UM game before heading to the stadium. Brilliant!

I had the grass fed sunrise burger which was an excellent choice, if you ask me.  Unfortunately, Ohio State missed a field goal, and ultimately fell behind the Merry Harbaughs of Ann Arbor.

With this cloud of wolverine spirit hanging over our heads, we continued our quest to Beaver Stadium.

Alas!  Someone was parked in my space.  Who’s been parking in my place?  They are still there.  I have had the same reserved spot for twenty years.  I have never come to a game to discover squatters. WTH?!

There is no one in the car, but the parking pass hanging from the rear view mirror is for a numbered spot just down the row from mine.  So I head there.

Interesting story.  The person there says that he parked there because someone was parked in his space.  And the person parked in his space was parked there because someone was parked in their space.

He points to an open spot and tells me to “park there.”  I ask him what happens if that person shows up and I’m in their space?  He says, “I’ll handle it.  I’ve got you covered.”

He has me covered?  If I get towed, he’ll pay the charge to get my car back?  What does that even mean?

What in the bloody wide, wide world of sports is wrong with people?!  Earlier this season my sister got into a shouting match with a guy sitting in the seat that she had the ticket to.  She shows her ticket and he rips it up and calls her a cunt.

I call 1-800-NITTANY and explain my predicament.  They say they will send someone out.  Meanwhile, I drank too much iced tea with my burger and I really need to see a man about a horse.  So I head off for the port-a-johns, leaving my car in someone else’s space.

By the time I return, there is someone standing there telling me that he will move his car out of my space and he is sorry.  He is not the same person I spoke to earlier that claimed the car was his and that he had me covered.

Ohio State is still behind, and even though I ultimately get to my spot, the mojo of the day seemed very bad indeed.  My feng shui is out of alignment with the rest of the universe.

Bundled up and well fed, and now worried that I might return to find my car keyed or my tires flat because I made someone move who shouldn’t have been in my space in the first place, I entered the hallowed portals and walkways of Beaver Stadium.

I am quite confident that we will win this game.  Unfortunately, I was quite confident that the wolverines would lose with their back-up quarterback.  More unfortunately, Speight must have soaked in the healing waters of the Lourdes Grotto and is back playing and hell-bent on denying Penn State a berth in the Big Ten Championship.  You already beat us once, man, for the love of God throw us a bone!

I was so confident we would win I replied on a fellow bloggers website (He predicted a 23-20 PSU win):

Senior day. Biggest game at the Beav since what, 2008? Better weather than Piscataway. Only three points? Oy vey! Oy and double oy even. And if Ohio state wins earlier . . . Call me crazy but I am chugging the Kool Aid. PSU by 14. Maybe more if Sparty rolls over and plays dead.

The only thing to cheer about in the first half was the news that Ohio State came from behind to tie UM, and then won in the second OT.

Yet, the team played the script as they had all season.

Penn State came out in the second half and promptly stopped the Spartans on their opening possession for their first three and out.  Michigan State did not punt in the first half.

But, they also scored no touchdowns and recovered no turnovers.  Once again, the team made adjustments at half time and executed a brilliant game plan on both sides of the ball following the break.  The final score was 45-12 and if you felt we were running up the score you might have felt right.  I know most Penn State fans felt MSU ran the score up on us last year 55-16 when Jack Allen, an offensive lineman, scored late in the game.

I almost toyed with the idea of titling this week’s entry, A Tale of Two Halves, but then you might not know which game I was writing about.

Let’s look at this phenomenon a bit further.  Here are the points scored by PSU and their opponents for each game by halves.

First Half Second Half
Game Opponent Delta PSU Opponent Delta PSU
Kent State 13 3 16 0 17 17
Pitt 28 -14 14 14 11 25
Temple 10 11 21 17 -4 13
Michigan 28 -28 0 21 -11 10
Minnesota 13 -10 3 10 10 20
Maryland 14 10 24 0 14 14
O$U 12 -5 7 9 8 17
Purdue 17 0 17 7 38 45
Iowa 7 17 24 7 10 17
Indiana 14 0 14 17 14 31
Rutgers 0 9 9 0 30 30
MSU 12 -2 10 0 35 35
Average 14 -0.75 13.25 8.5 14.33 22.83

As you can see, Penn State was slightly outscored by opponents in the first half–about a point on average.  However, the Lions outscored opponents by just over two touchdowns in the second half.

Only two opponents outscored us in the second half–Temple and UM.

Penn State shut out FOUR opponents in the second half, including the last two.

The only losses?  Penn State gave up 28 points in the opening quarters, nearly twice the overall average. And but an interception in the end zone at Heinz Field away from a win there.  Even in the loss to UM, we scored more points in the second half and allowed fewer.  The hole we dug in the first half though, was too deep to climb out of.

Wisconsin is up next in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis.  The Badgers are 10-2 with losses to the usual suspects (O$U and Michigan).  They are ranked 6th in the AP and the last CFP poll.  Their resume includes a 16-14 win over LSU to start the season.  In common opponents,  they beat an 8th ranked MSU 30-6.  They defeated Iowa  17-9.  They lost to Michigan 14-7, much closer than our loss.  But we beat the Buckeyes.  A 49-20 win over Purdue and a 31-17 victory against the Gophers rounds out the list of common adversaries.  The Vegas oddsmakers have the Badgers at about a 3 point favorite currently.

The Badgers have averaged 28.5 points a game, while only allowing 13.7.  On the flip side, the Lions are scoring 36,1 points per game while allowing 22.8.

Keys to victory:

It would be great to have Saquon back, but if his injury is such that he can’t play, I think we have some good backs behind him.  A healthy Saquon would be a difference maker.

Penn State needs to keep the game close in the first half.

Have FUN–you deserve it.  Play hard.  Adjust.  Play well.

Who knows where this season might end?

starsaligned

THE STARS HAVE ALIGNED!

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Anticipation . . .

Remember this commercial (OK, I’m dating myself a bit here):

I can’t remember the last time I was looking forward to a Penn State football game like I am looking forward to this weekend.

Maybe 2005?  Or 2010 when Joe Paterno won victory #400 over Northwestern?

Since the sanctions in 2011, however, PSU football changed.  No matter how well they performed on the field, there was no ranking.  No polls.  Who cares who won the Ohio State-Michigan game?  Or if Washington wins?  I didn’t even pay much attention to the polls the past five years–until a few weeks ago.

Bill bless-his-heart O’Brien made watching the games fun.  He might go for it on fourth down on his own twenty yard line.  You might be elated by a 4 OT win over the wolverines.  But you might witness Penn State’s first and only loss to Indiana in football.

I was getting tired of the old argument . . . the sanctions.  No depth.  Not enough talent.  Will take time to get back on top.  Anticipation . . .

Yet, here we are.  Tied at the top in our division.  Almost to the Big Ten Championship game.  Perhaps even a few lucky breaks away from a bigger prize . . . .

Spartans.  Spartans.  Spartans.  Focus, Todd.

Must.  Beat. Michigan State.

One game at a time.

The team that really has the conundrum is Michigan State.  I may be going out on a limb here, but even despite the ugly Land Grant Trophy that is up for grabs, a win over Penn State this weekend would be bittersweet.  The Spartans aren’t going anywhere in the post season regardless.  And a Spartan victory would send Michigan or Ohio State to the title game, and possibly a national championship.  I may be wrong here, but I doubt Michigan State fans loathe Penn State as much as they loathe their in-state rival, or the long history with Ohio State.  If I were a die-hard MSU fan, I might actually root for Penn State this weekend.

Of course, a Michigan win over the Buckeyes will put a considerable damper on things, but all will not be lost.  I almost feel kind of dirty rooting for the Buckeyes.  But these are strange times we live in.  I’m no fan of the wolverines either, and I can enjoy a victory over Harbaugh as much as one over Urban Meyer.  In this case, I could really enjoy it.  A happy Meyer begets a happy Lion.

So . . . .

GO STATE!  BEAT SPARTANS!

and LET’S GO BUCK-EYES!

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URBAN MEYER GOES DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SPARTANS WIN 34-24!
BEST NIGHT OF THE SEASON!
THANK YOU MSU!

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