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Running on Memphis

Put on my plain black shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Dallas News
In the middle of the pouring rain
J.V. Paterno, won’t you look down on me
Yeah, I got a first class ticket
And I bleed blue as a man can be
Then we’re running on Memphis
Running with my feet ten yards down the field
Running on Memphis
But does the vict’ry feel like we are healed?
WalkeninMemphis
Probably any season can be distilled down to a few plays; a few moments.  Snippets of time that mean almost nothing out of context, but everything in the moment.  Their full meaning may not even be evident at the moment they occur, but in retrospect as part of a broad canvas of strokes continually being applied.  Any season can be marked by ups and downs, the natural tides of human emotions splashing up and down the shores of our lives.
But this season feels different.  Maybe not unique–but different.
I still recall the 2005 season.  Penn State was coming off a 4-7 season (2-6 in the conference)–the end of the “dark years” but see, we didn’t know that at the time.  We did not know that as the 2005 season opened.  We were unranked, and ended up #3.  But we coulda been a contender!  After a lackluster out of conference schedule,featuring  wins over South Florida, Cincinnati and Central Michigan (none of these teams having a good year) and then a come from behind 34-29 win at Northwestern that kind of sparked the imagination and excitement.  The turning point!  (Some argue it was the goal line stand against Indiana the season before and I could concede that argument–and it only bolsters what I am trying to say here in a very circuitous way.)  But it was not until we upset #6 Ohio State 17-10 two weeks later that we actually became ranked for the first time since 2002.
And then we lost a heart breaker to THEM–Michigan.  Spit.  Spit.
Who forgets the infamous two seconds?  The heel toe alleged catch?  Multiple shenanigans by the referines.
Those memories are only there because they mattered in some broader unforeseen context.  If Penn State had lost to Northwestern, or Minnesota or Cincinnati–none of that would have mattered or even be remembered.  They might not have even happened!
I am one of those fans that wished Penn State had the chance to play Nebraska in 1994.  In my heart, I truly believe Penn State would have won and been crowned the National Champion.
But that doesn’t mean it would have happened that way.  Penn State might have gone to the Orange Bowl and LOST to Nebraska.  In fact, that scenario is probably statistically just as likely as the one we Lion fans assume would have happened.
Ask any Ohio State fan about that today.  They all sat glued to their seats watching the Fiesta Bowl–where they wanted their team to be–where they deserved???? to be–where destiny was going to watch one of the best offensive powers in the history of college football and a stingy defense to go with it dismantle Clemson and move on to a championship that was almost pre-ordained.
It didn’t happen.  In the end, those moments–snippets in a time sequence that are part of a future always in motion–take on new perspective.
Instead of remembering Justin Fields completing a comeback touchdown pass to win the game, Buckeye fans will forever have etched in their collective memories a receiver falling down, a Clemson defender intercepting and falling to the ground in the end zone, and no National Championship.  Along with that, a touchdown pass to Dobbins waved off for failure to complete the process, and a scoop and score reversed and changed to an incompletion.  A star-player ejected.  There are others I’m sure.  Just ask a Buckeye fan.
That could have been us in 1994.  As it is, we can still believe in our hearts and minds that we were Number One, and we still have some great memories of one of Penn State’s most glorious seasons.
I was afraid our players would not take Memphis seriously.  I was afraid that we would not play with any intensity.  That instead, the collective morale of the team would be one of thinking about what coulda, shoulda, woulda been had the snippets earlier in the year been different.
Nobody wanted a win against Minnesota more than I did.  NO ONE.  Depending on who you are, I will grant you that the desire is equal, but trust me, it was not greater and I am still stewing over the Minnesota loss in 1999.  Iowa 2008.  Michigan 2005.  Oklahoma 1986 Orange Bowl.  USC 2017 Rose Bowl.  I could go on.  You get the point.
I have gone on record asking fellow Penn State fans not to watch the Rose Bowl this year.  The Bowl didn’t want our team–they shouldn’t get our fan support either.  WE ARE!  A package deal.
But then I wonder?  Would a win over Oregon be guaranteed?  Would a loss in a “better” bowl be better than our win over a good Memphis team?  Would a win in the Rose Bowl be more remembered than our victory in the Cotton?  Would we be ranked higher?  We still won’t be number one, and does five mean more than nine after the dust settles?
No.  It wouldn’t.  The loss in Minnesota and the near comeback that failed in Columbus will be what is most remembered.  And a bowl loss would have been equally etched in our collective mindset in a negative way.
This season is what it was.  A year with fairly high expectations (ranked 15th I believe before even the first snap) and while a lot of folks worried about losses to Michigan and their little brother, an almost expected loss to the Buckeyes, and potentially another loss at Iowa, we out-performed expectations and then some.  And although there was disappointment, at the end of the proverbial Ryan Day, I think we will be ranked in the Top 10 and will enjoy the off-season and good memories much more than 95% of other programs in this country.
The Cotton Bowl, although perhaps stressful to us fans that really want to win, was a fun game to watch.  When we finally decided to just run the daggum ball and not try to force passes, we did amazingly well.  I still think James Franklin needs to work on his clock management skills.  A timeout with a minute left in the first half and barring a potential Memphis penalty that would give us an automatic first down, was unnecessary.  We only had two plays left.  TIME WAS NOT THE ISSUE.  Granted, maybe they needed the timeout to come up with a play, but that is a whole other can of worms to open up for an ice fishing trip in Minnesota.  But it looked like we panicked and called time out to save time.  I’m sorry, barring that automatic first down which may or may not occur, you are only going to run two more plays.  You don’t need a minute to do that.
So what happened?  We scored.  Yay!  But now we left enough time on the clock for Memphis to score, and true to the script of the season, they did just that, tacking on a field goal before the half.
In the great, grand scheme of things, it turned out not to have mattered.  But that is hind sight.  We didn’t know at the time if those three points could be the difference in the game.  It was 35-23 at the half (12 point difference) versus the coulda, shoulda, woulda difference of 15.  Both are two score margins, but you know what I’m talking about.
YOU DON’T WANT AN OPPONENT KICKING A FIELD GOAL TO END A HALF.  Period.  If nothing else it gives the underdog momentum.  I’m not even going to argue this any further.
Micah Parsons had a great game, and the defense bent but did not break.  Wait?  What?  Didn’t we give up 39 points?  Yes.  Yes we did.  But Memphis also had more total yards than we did, yet we won the scoreboard battle, which is ultimately the only stat that counts.  Let’s look at those numbers . . .
BY THE NUMBERS:
I think the key stats were the 63 yards rushing for Memphis versus the nearly 400 for Penn State, the eight penalty yards for the Tigers, and the interception returned for a touchdown by Penn State.  Also, the defense forced 6 field goals!  Again, they bent but did not break.
INTANGIBLES:
This was the first meeting between these two schools.  We lead the series 1-0!
Attendance was listed at 54,828.  Penn State didn’t seem to dominate those numbers, but that could be due to Memphis being a lot closer.  Dallas isn’t an exciting bowl destination.  I’m making excuses, but the fan base that traditionally traveled well, didn’t seem to embrace this bowl trip for whatever reasons.
MemphisFans
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
The flagship program of the Big Ten bit the big one against Clemson in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl.  Too bad.  So sad.  Clemson scored late to take a 29-23 lead, but Justin Fields was unable to orchestrate the comeback drive.
Iowa looked impressive as they defeated the Trojans of So Cal 49-24.
Michigan State outlasted the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest, winning 27-21.
Illinois, despite being able to upset the Badgers in the regular season, laid an egg against Cal, losing 35-20.  At least the Buckeyes have some company in the Big Ten Teams that didn’t win their bowl category.  Michigan might join them.  They can have a party!
LOOKING AHEAD:
Up Next–> Blue-White Game:  Beaver Stadium  April 18, 2020.

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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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When They Bring the Black, We Bring the White

As a fan that tends to stay until the last second ticks off the clock, I am rather amazed at the number of times we go on the road to play teams, and by the end of the game, our fans take over the opponent’s stadium, outnumbering their fans.  Perhaps this has happened in Beaver Stadium at some point in time, but no game that I can remember.

I saw where one sportswriter guesstimated the number of PSU fans in the stadium at about a third.  By the fourth quarter, that percentage was probably closer to 90%. IT’s hard to be sure.  A Black Out at night looks like night.

MDblackout

But we didn’t just dominate the stadium.  We dominated the game.  We were the game.

My friend who has followed Penn State football for years made the comment that the first half of the Maryland game was the best offensive half of football in the James Franklin era.  And while the offense was certainly clicking on all cylinders, the defense played a huge role as well, keeping the Terrapins off the scoreboard the entire game.

The Lions first score, an 8 yard scamper into the end zone by Clifford, was set up by a Jan Johnson interception and a couple of Maryland penalties on the play.  The Lions never looked back. They went on to pile up 619 yards of offense and 59 points, while the stingy Lion defense allowed Maryland only 60 rushing yards.

Clifford did throw a pick, but quite frankly it was a phenomenal defensive play that survived a review as well.  Maryland couldn’t capitalize on the turn-over, looking even worse than the Steelers who managed to lose a game after recovering 5 turn-overs!

Micah Parsons was ejected for an ill-advised hit on the Maryland QB–wasn’t helmet to helmet but he launched himself like a Saturn V rocket.  It happened in the first quarter, so he won’t miss time next week.  The defense played as if he were still there.  Hopefully he will learn from the mistake and be better for it moving forward.

I had no problem leaving Champs (in Altoona) at the end of the game, but finding a parking space at 7:30 just before kick-off was a quest worthy of Shrek and Donkey.  Alas, I only had my ass with me and ended up at Cracker Barrel, where they not only wouldn’t serve me alcohol with a valid ID, but they had no television to watch the game!

But, if Penn State were in charge of the Champs parking, I’d have been diverted through Duncansville, into Hollidaysburg, down Convention Center Boulevard, and required to park at Wal-Mart, from whence I would be bused to Champs.  The bus would have to get on I-99 and get off at 17th Street, and travel the entire way up Pleasant Valley Boulevard and Plank Road, stopping at every traffic light.  Twice. It really was quicker to walk from Cracker Barrel.  But I digress.

DISH dropped Fox-Sports, FS1/FS2 and the Big Ten, leaving many fans without coverage for the game.  I’m pretty sure this is part of the new parking and traffic flow (or lack thereof) plan implemented by Penn State.  Just kidding.  Sort of.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Pick a number, any number.  It probably favors Penn State.

619 offensive yards to 128 for the Terps.  Wow.  Just wow.  Where did this come from?

TerpFan

She can’t believe it either!  And that was early in the game!

30 first downs for PSU to 10 for UMD.

Maryland had ONE kick off.  That’s just funny right there.

We won time of possession by 7 minutes, gave up NO sacks, and went an amazing 9 for 13 on third down conversions (up till now we were one of the worst in Division 1 football in 3rd down conversion rates!)

Okay, okay.  Maryland had more penalties and more turn-overs than PSU, so they have something to hang their helmets on there.

INTANGIBLES:

University Park beat College Park in the Parks & Recreation League.

Trace McSorley was in the house, rooting the Nittany Lions on.

The salt and pepper crowd was 53,228, the fewest to watch PSU in person so far this year.  Of course, it was our first away game and the Big Ten Opener for both teams.

Penn State DOMINATES this series 40-2-1.  But even more impressive are the last four games, where PSU has won 38-14, 66-3, 38-3, and 59-0.  That’s a total score of 201-20, and Maryland has not scored a touchdown in the last three games.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

For as much as PSU dominated Maryland on the road, so did the Buckeyes and Justin Fields-of Dreams dominate the hapless Cornhuskers in Lincoln.  The final score was 48-7.  We can debate all we want about whether Maryland is better than Nebraska–probably not, but the season is still early–but it definitely looks like there could be a BIG showdown in Columbus late in the season.  November 23rd to be exact.  Lot of football to be played before then, but I’m just throwing this out there now.  Because I can.

The-M manhandled Rutgers 52-0.  That’s like defeating Our Ladies of the Blessed Sacrament, but we’ll throw the wolverines a bone on this one.  Good job not Mucking that one up, Harbaugh.

The Spartans struggled against the Hoosiers, needing a FG on their last offensive play to edge ahead 34-31.  But wait, wasn’t the final score 40-31?  It was.  Those pesky little Hoosiers tried to lateral their way down the field on the ensuing kick-off with 5 seconds remaining on the clock–but fumbled.  MSU scooped and scored to make the score look deceptively less embarrassing.

Iowa defeated the middle of Tennessee 48-3.  I see another BIG showdown on the horizon in Iowa City, again a road game for the Nits.

Da Badgers struggled a bit with Northwestern early on, but got their game going in the right direction (would that be Southeastern then?) to pull away in the fourth and secure a 24-15 win.

Purdue was apparently caught looking ahead to their game at Beaver Stadium next weekend.  The Boilermakers scored 14 points in the fourth but their comeback was not enough, as the Gophers won 38-31 in West Lafayette.

MEANWHILE . . . 

In North Carolina . . . the Tar Heels went for two in a bid to upset #1 Clemson, but came up short, losing 21-20.  What was Mack Brown thinking????  Play for a tie at home, for the win on the road.  Did he forget where he was?  Of course, had it worked–I thought the particular play call was bad anyway, even if you argue they had momentum and might not outlast Clemson’s depth in OT–he would have been a hero.  It was not to be.

In Pittsburgh . . . with a stadium that had as many Pitt fans throughout the game as Maryland had late in the third quarter . . . the mighty Panthers drove 90 yards to beat the Delaware Blue Hens 17-14.  Thank you for not messing up our strength of schedule any further.

In Philadelphia . . . Temple beat Georgia Tech 24-2.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Next week is Homecoming for Penn State.  They will host the Boilermakers in another noon clash.  You might want to set your alarm and head out at 4 am.  I hear they are having some specials at Wal-Mart so traffic on Atherton will be fierce!

PurdueSchedule

From ESPN

Oddsshark has Penn State as an 11 point favorite early on.  That line is now 28 points, with a predicted score of 45-11.

I’m sorry.  But when I think of Purdue, this is what I think of . . .

PurdueChicken

Or a Boilermaker . . .

Boilermaker

GO STATE!  BEAT BOILERS!

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The Pitt and The (Beaver) Stadium

Edgar Allen Poe wrote a short story, The Pit and the Pendulum, about a man being tortured during the Spanish Inquisition.  No one expects the Inquisition!  The Pitt Panthers were tortured, indeed, inside Beaver Stadium, even wreaking pain upon themselves as well!

SpanishInquisition

The last foreseeable game in the series, and their last hope to BEAT Penn State at football, disappeared in one of the ugliest wins I have ever witnessed at Beaver Stadium.

What in the wide, wide world of effing sports was that?

This was ugly all around.  The traffic was apparently ugly–for some.  The weather was ugly.  It was the first regular season weather delayed game I have ever attended.  I’ll rant on that in a moment.  Betcha just can’t wait!  The Pitt players were”chippy”, as described by the analyst who sits behind me now.  Stepping on KJ Hamler’s leg was just one item submitted as evidence.  The officiating was horrible.  Not seeing it on TV I can’t comment on the reviewed calls, but even the calls on the field were bad–as were the non-calls.  The final score was ugly, but not as ugly as a loss for Penn State would have been.

The coaching was poor on both sides of the ball.  Neither coaching staff appeared to want to win this game.  It was awful on both sides, but perhaps the worst was Narduzzi’s decision to kick a field goal, down 7 late in the game.  What?!? You still have to score a TD to win, bonehead!  There’s a running joke on our bowling team, when a player misses an easy spare–or sometimes jokingly when they miss a difficult split–we ask, “Don’t you want to win?”  Didn’t Narduzzi want to win?

I’m glad he didn’t go for it, for the way the day seemed to be going (the day after Friday the 13th and a FULL MOON) they probably would have scored, gone for two and made it, and completely ruined my weekend.  Thank you, Pat, for not ruining my weekend.

As it was, the goal line stand and subsequent missed field goal left the Lions with a lead of 7 with minutes left in the game.  But with a third and four play and a potential first down winning the game, we heave the ball downfield as if we have to score, and end up punting the ball right back to Narduzzi and his merry bunch of Pittsters. Don’t we want to win?  Somehow we survived.

And speaking of survival, what is with the lightning delay?  First of all, I did not see so much as a twinkle of lightning, nor did I hear even a hint of thunder.  Apparently the NCAA has a STRICT rule which basically says this:

If lightning strikes within 15 miles of a stadium, on-field officials are notified. When a strike happens within 10 miles of the stadium, on-field officials are notified and a public address announcement is made recommending fans to seek shelter. A strike within six miles or less of a stadium prompts players and officials to get off the field and the game is delayed until 30 minutes after the last strike occurs within six miles.

Has anyone ever heard of people being killed or seriously injured by a lightning strike on a stadium?  (Or has anyone ever known anyone to blow themselves up talking on a cell phone while pumping gas?  I’m sorry, that is a rant for another day and another blog.)

I tried to Google this and failed to uncover a report of a single college stadium that has ever been hit by lightning and resulting in death or dismemberment.  I did find one allegation in the African state of Congo where a football team (probably soccer) was struck and killed.

But . . .

FOOTBALL FANS in the central African state of Congo were hurling accusations of witchcraft at each other yesterday after a freak blast of lightning struck dead an entire team on the playing field while their opponents were left completely untouched.

So that’s very scientific right there.

I found a report where a baseball stadium (Cincinnati Reds) was struck during a game–a light tower was hit–but the report failed to mention if anyone was actually hurt by the strike.  I would think if an entire section of fans had been fried, that would have been mentioned.  It was not.  Perhaps I assume too much.

While the stadium has a lot of steel, the seats are aluminum which is not a conductor, and most of it is concrete.  And grounded.

I was already in the stadium when they closed the gates.  I sat in my seat.  I survived.  I did have to use my defibrillator several times, but that was not due to weather, but from James Franklin trying to kill me.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Probably the key stat there is the 24 yards that Pitt managed to rack up on 25 carries.  Again, as we have seen many times before, the time of possession skews heavily in favor of the opposition, but total yardage was pretty close.  As was the final score.

Jordan Stout booted a 57-yarder through the uprights for a field goal to set the new Beaver Stadium record, previously held by Chris Bahr (55 yards, 3 times.)

INTANGIBLES:

Penn State won the toss and deferred.

The Blue Band did not perform for pre-game, presumably due to wet weather and the distinct possibility of being struck by Zeus.  I seem to recall from mythology he did not like Sousaphones, but preferred lyres and pan-pipes.

The all-time series is 53-43-4.  I hope we never play them again.

The announced attendance was 108,661.  The stripe-out looked pretty good, even with the rainy weather.

The BIG (10) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes blasted Indiana 51-10.  The Wolverines and Wisconsin had a bye.  They play each other next week.  How convenient!  Rutgers had a bye week also, but nobody noticed.  I think they might have lost anyway.

Iowa squeaked past Iowa State 18-17.  The Gophers barely beat Georgia Southern (who beat Tennessee previously) 38-35 in a shootout.

Northwestern defeated UNLV 30-14.

But then the Big Ten got all squirrelly.

Michigan State made a field goal, had it wiped off the board for too many men on the field, and then missed the second attempt to lose to Arizona State 10-7.  Dantonio’s face ( the I have an infected hemorrhoid expression) never changed.

The Illini lost to Eastern Michigan 34-31, while the Terrapins were upsot by Temple 20-17.  Maryland had been ranked #21.  Not any more.

And Purdue was soundly defeated by TCU 34-13.

Now don’t get me wrong–any of those teams that lost could still beat us if we don’t get our act together.  But for now, I’ll just pass along the misery, since it loves company.

Meanwhile . . . 

In Charlottesville . . . The Cavaliers handed F$U its second loss in 3 games.

In Atlanta . . . The Rambling Wreck of Georgia Tech lost to “THE” Citadel, 27-24 in OT.

Looking Ahead:

Bye week.

Bye, bye for now.

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Buffaloed

According to the Urban Dictionary, Buffaloed is a word that means to get fooled, manipulated or tricked by someone.

The Nittany Lions, coming off an impressive win over an unimpressive Idaho team, were nearly buffaloed Saturday night in prime time, give or take half an hour.  The pesky little bulls from up north came to play.  They tricked us into thinking they were an easy cupcake!

In what is becoming the signature game plan for the James Franklin era, the team came out of the gate stumbling, with no sense of urgency, and ultimately found themselves down 10-7 in the first half to a team that was arguably better than Idaho, but also very much arguably not as good as most if not all of the Big Ten teams on our schedule.  Buffalo did beat Rutgers last year, so they do have that going for them.

And then, as if it were scripted ahead of time, the Lions came out from the break and played, well, not impressively, but certainly much better than they had in the first half to win the game running away from the Bulls as if they were in Pamplona and their lives depended on it.  Their season, to a certain extent, did depend on it.

The defense provided the spark as John Reid intercepted a pass early in the third quarter and returned it to the house for a pick six.  The Lions never looked back.

Despite winning time of possession 42:36 to 17:24, the Bulls were held to a mere three points in the second half.  We can attribute this deceptive stat in large part to a bend but don’t break defense, but also in part to a quick strike and up tempo offense by the Lions.

Which was actually poetically justified, given that the 1994 Big Ten and Rose Bowl Champion Penn State team was honored at this game.  The ’94 defense spent a lot of time on the field because the offense scored so quickly.

But no Penn State fan will confuse the 2019 team for the 1994 team.  It is of some concern that the running game does not seem to be producing well.  But let’s look at this a little bit closer . . .

QuickStatsBuffalo

From gopsusports.com

Penn State only rushed for 78 yards.  The sky is falling!  We’re doomed.  We can’t even run on Buffalo.  Might as well forfeit all the Big Ten games right now!

But this was on only 24 attempts.  Not that this statistic is any better, but that means we gained only 3.3 yards per rush.  However, that is BETTER than Buffalo, who rushed for 184 yards albeit on 58 attempts for an average of 3.2 per rush!  Penn State is currently 11th in the country in yards per play (7.3.)  We may not run many plays, and they may be passing plays, but we make the most of what we do!

I’m also not a big fan of the running back-by-committee approach.  If you want to get something done–don’t form a committee.  Or a congress.  And I digress.  But I think that’s another reason why you’re not seeing big numbers being put up by the running backs.  One back needs to get a lot of touches to find a rhythm.  Even Ki Jana Carter and Saquon Barkley didn’t score on every play.

And while the offensive line seems to have trouble opening holes for the running backs, they do seem quite capable of holding off the past rush.  On the season there have been 3 sacks for a whopping loss of eleven yards.  And it appears that both Idaho and Buffalo chose to stack the box and stop the run.  Sean Clifford has come through in thwarting that scheme, but it remains to be seen if this will work against better defensive teams.

I, for one, was impressed with (and scared by) Buffalo.  They were a much better poised team than I expected.  A few better throws by their quarterback–he missed some very open receivers which concerns me more than the aforementioned apparent lack of a running game–and this game could have been a lot closer.  Their coaches had a much better game plan in the first half than we did, but they did not adjust in the second half as well as we did.  Their players played with a lot of heart, and by golly, I think they thought they could win up until the fourth quarter.

BY THE NUMBERS:

2-0.  Everything else doesn’t much matter at this point.

Buffalo had ZERO kick off returns.  All touch backs.  I’m sorry, but at the college level that is impressive for a kicker.  You would have thought his leg would have been tired from all the touch backs last week!

Sean Clifford is the fourth ranked passer in the country, according to this site.  I know.  I know.  Consider the competition.  The top ranked QB for the Sooners (Jalen Hurts) has beaten Houston and South Dakota.  Not exactly a resume to brag about either.  We sportswriters are all trying to predict the Powerball numbers at this point.  It’s even less of a crap shoot than a crap shoot.  It’s just crap.

Speaking of crap, Penn State is 13th in the AP Poll, and 11th in the Coaches Poll.  We’re ninth in the Sagarin Ratings, one spot below Central Florida!  And we’re 8th on this poll!  The computers love us!

INTANGIBLES:

Drum Major stuck both flips.

Alleged attendance was 104, 136.

Buffalo won the toss and took the ball.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Penn State struggled for a half against Buffalo, but earlier in the day, the Mighty Wolverines took Army to double overtime before winning the game on a Black Knight fumble.  The final for that nail biter was 24-21.

The school formerly known as just Ohio State blanked Cincinnati 42-0.

Nebraska fell to Colorado 34-31 in OT.  So much for the Big Red Hype Machine.

Maryland crushed the 21st ranked Syracuse Orangemen 63-20.

Michigan State bested Western Michigan 51-17.

Iowa shut-out Rutgers 30-0, despite RutgersAl placing the Hawkeyes on upset alert.

Wisconsin defeated Central Michigan 61-0, although the Altoona Mirror printed that they won 17-0.  Damned, they were so close!!!

AltoonaMirrorMistake

Purdue rolled over Vanderbilt 42-24.The Illini came from behind to defeat UConn 31-23.  They overcame a 13 point deficit.  It was the first non-conference road win for Illinois in a dozen years.

Indiana went all Idaho over Eastern Illinois, winning 52-0.

The Gophers edged Fresno State in OT, 38-35.

Meanwhile . . .

In  Idaho . . . the mashed potatoes rebounded with a  41-31 win over Central Washington.

In Tennessee . . . the Volunteers are 0-2 after losing in OT to BYU.  They lost to Georgia State the previous week.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Pitt.

That’s it.

The final game of this miniseries.  PSU holds the all-time series edge at 52-43-4.

This will be the 100th game between these two schools.

The Panthers rebounded with a 20-10 win over Ohio, after losing to Virginia in their opener 30-14.

PittFootball

The line is currently around 17 points in favor of the home team.

Kick-off is set for noon at Beaver Stadium.

My sister is bringing my nephew–a one time Penn State fan who now goes to Pitt–to the game next week.  I don’t know where we went wrong.  She has already warned me that he will be wearing a Pitt shirt.  Stupid is as stupid does.  But when Penn State struggled in the first half she texted me that it could be a long ride home if Pitt wins next week because my nephew will surely rub it in.  I texted her back. . .

No.  It will be a long walk home for him.

GO STATE!  BEAT PITT!

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Filed under college football, Penn State, sports, Uncategorized

WildCatastrophe

What in the name of sweet baby JoePa was that????!!!!!

Seriously.  What the [insert word] happened?

Granted, we knew this team had some issues.  The offensive line has been about as good as France when it comes to keeping the enemy out of its territory.  Christian Hackenberg vacillates from Heisman hopeful to blind man chucking acorns at a cat.  Our defense has traditionally (as in so far this season) started slow, allowing most opponents to score early on us or at least move the ball at will early, but has to date closed the door when the freaking door needed closing.  It seemed like they not only left the damned door open Saturday, but put up signs to show the way.

This was a team effort loss, that no missed pass interference penalty could hope to save.  Losing on Homecoming, 29-6?  To Northwestern?  Ugh!

Special teams were anything but special.  A blocked field goal and a long punt return to give the Wildcats a short field were glaringly obvious, but what went through Grant Haley’s mind when he tried to run the ball deep out of our endzone on a couple of kick-offs.  This game could have been a lot worse if Northwestern hadn’t kept trying to let us back into it, with missed field goals of their own and one decent punt return by Della Valle, and TWO-count em–PATs missed.  And they still won!

This is worse than a 63-14 loss to a top ranked team.  This was an unranked Northwestern team that although they played fired-up and inspired football against us, is a very pedestrian team.  They will be will be lucky to become bowl eligible (and we appear to be in that location as well.) This was a match-up of two mediocre teams and we outmediocred the competition.  There are no bowls for that kind of effort, unless you count your own toilet bowl.

I honestly thought this was going to be a breakout game.  I hedged my prediction, knowing that we had the aforementioned “issues,” but I did not see this beat down coming.

I don’t know where to begin to pick up the pieces.  Is it simply the sanctions?  Is it coaching?  I really like James Franklin.  I love his style; his energy.  I love his recruiting ability.  But some of his game time decisions leave me scratching my head, although I don’t know for sure if he calls the offensive plays or not.  He is not coaching a group of athletes that he recruited, so we must temper that with our criticism.  Sanctions notwithstanding, he started from zero with this team.  But just because the sanctions have vanished in the future, does not change the effect they had on this team to date.

And you can’t blame the coach for Hackenberg flat out missing a wide open Belton, or any other of the numerous really bad throws he had.  But one wonders why we didn’t see Crook late in the game, when the chance of winning was really beyond what we had time left to do.  Speaking of which, why weren’t we going no huddle in the fourth quarter?  We needed scores, and instead were throwing pick sixes and taking our good old time failing at this one.  I actually think Hack plays better in the hurry-up, pressure on, package–in general.

I’m not saying that Northwestern didn’t play a good game–so if you are a Wildcat fan, don’t get your panties all bunched up.  Ya done good.  Your coach was prepared for this game.  Ours was not, for whatever reason.  And maybe if you keep up that intensity week after week, you’ll make me eat my words.  But until then . . .

I’m going to blame this on ourselves.  The only reason we’re not 5-0 right now is because we did not execute, did not adapt during the game, failed to capitalize on our opponent’s mistakes, and played some of the most uninspired football I have personally witnessed since we lost to Iowa 6-4.  And at least the defense played a great game then!

But this is not a sky is falling rant.  We have another very beatable opponent coming up in the form THEM.  They followed up their epic loss to Utah with an even more epic fail against Minnesota.  Unfortunately, I think we could still outmediocre them as well, but at least we have an extra week to teach blocking, tackling, and kicking.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Per GoPSUsports:

 

Team Statistics

 Team Totals  NU  PSU 
FIRST DOWNS  17  14 
   Rushing 
   Passing  14 
   Penalty 
NET YARDS RUSHING  103  50 
   Rushing Attempts  38  25 
   Average Per Rush  2.7  2.0 
   Rushing Touchdowns 
   Yards Gained Rushing  121  79 
   Yards Lost Rushing  18  29 
NET YARDS PASSING  258  216 
   Completions-Attempts-Int  21-37-1  22-46-1 
   Average Per Attempt  7.0  4.7 
   Average Per Completion  12.3  9.8 
   Passing Touchdowns 
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS  361  266 
   Total offense plays  75  71 
   Average Gain Per Play  4.8  3.7 
Fumbles: Number-Lost  0-0  1-1 
Penalties: Number-Yards  8-75  4-35 
PUNTS-YARDS  6-223  7-250 
   Average Yards Per Punt  37.2  35.7 
   Net Yards Per Punt  26.7  29.7 
   Inside 20 
   50+ Yards 
   Touchbacks 
   Fair catch 
KICKOFFS-YARDS  6-384  3-191 
   Average Yards Per Kickoff  64.0  63.7 
   Net Yards Per Kickoff  44.5  36.7 
   Touchbacks 
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD  1-42-0  2-43-0 
   Average Per Return  42.0  21.5 
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD  2-56-0  4-67-0 
   Average Per Return  28.0  16.8 
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD  1-49-1  1-2-0 
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD  0-0-0  0-0-0 
Miscellaneous Yards  -20 
Possession Time  30:23  29:37 
   1st Quarter  8:58  6:02 
   2nd Quarter  5:46  9:14 
   3rd Quarter  5:52  9:08 
   4th Quarter  9:47  5:13 
Third-Down Conversions  7 of 17  3 of 17 
Fourth-Down Conversions  0 of 2  1 of 4 
Red-Zone Scores-Chances  4-6  1-2 
   Touchdowns  3-6  0-2 
   Field goals  1-6  1-2 
Sacks By: Number-Yards  4-20  1-13 
PAT Kicks  2-4  0-0 
Field Goals  1-2  2-3 
Points off turnovers  18 

Pick a number–any number.  It’s bad. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  Oh, we were okay in time of possession!  And we actually held the Wildcats to around a 100 yards rushing.

INTANGIBLES:

The Drum Major stuck both flips, so we got that going for us.

The weather was perfect.

The Alumni Band performed–great to see the combined units playing together!

This is Franklin’s first loss.

PSU still owns the all-time record at 13-4.

And just what the hell is with the traffic going through Toftrees???!!!  What a clusterf*ck!  Been going that way for 14 years.  Traffic usually doesn’t back up until you go under the 322 underpass going up Fox Hollow Road.  Took me a goddamned hour from getting off the exit on 322 until we got to our parking spot (bumper to bumper from the first golf cart crossing!)  I shouldn’t have to leave Altoona earlier than 8 am for a freaking noon game.

The traffic at Toftrees . . .

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes struggled early but pulled away from Cincinnati, 50-28.

Likewise, Wisconsin started slow, but beat South Florida 27-10.

MSU soundly defeated Wyoming 56-14.

Rutgers defeated Tulane 31-6.

In conference action . . .

THEM lost to Minnesota 30-14.

Nebraska crushed the Illini 45-14.

Maryland defeated Indiana 37-15.

Purdue Outmediocred Iowa, losing 24-10.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  For the Penn State Alumni–at least the tailgate weather was nice.

2.  For Pitt–losers to Akron 21-10.  Hey, didn’t we beat Akron???

3.  Arkansas–lost to 6th ranked Aggies in OT

4.  UMass–lost 47-42 to Bowling Green to go 0-5.

5.  New Mexico State–lost 63-7 to LSU

LOOKING AHEAD:

Bye week.  We’re not looking any further than that.

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Weapons of UMass Destruction

On a bright, sunny fall day, Penn State unleashed its weapons of “U”mass destruction on the Minutemen, ending in a 48-7 decision that could have been worse if the back-ups hadn’t taken over in the third quarter.  Granted, this wasn’t Wisconsin, Alabama, or Oregon we were playing, but I think we got we expected.  The Lions Shock and Awe featured four runners, seven receivers, two quarterbacks, and James Franklin in a pear tree.  What’s to complain about?

The score could have been 66-0 without substitutions later in the game.   It would have been more fun to pitch a shut out.  The final score was still respectable and covered the point spread.  In my weekly foe pause, I begged the team not to struggle.  Didn’t look good for me in the first quarter, but the slow start was erased as the offense picked up steam.  Field goals became touchdowns.  No turn-overs by the blue and white, and the offensive line gained some confidence.  We won’t know until they face better defenses if this has any long term effect.  With the offensive line doing better, the run game did better.  The officiating crew threw no egregious flags or over looked any egregious penalties.  What more could you ask for?

Which begs the question . . .why was there only 99,155 fans?  You can’t blame it on the weather.  Unworthy opponent?  Some pundits thought this might be a trap game.  PSU has never played UMass before.  Granted, not as exciting as a game against Ohio State, but a team can’t compete at that level every week anyway.  The team needs a game like this now and then.  And Nebraska brought in 91,082 versus McNeese State!  Their capacity is listed at 87,000 on wikipedia with a record crowd of 91,585 against Miami this week.  Look at those numbers again–that’s a difference of 503 fans between McNeese State and Miami (FL)!  They apparently aren’t “competition snobs” out in Lincoln–they love their team no matter who they play!

Money a problem???  Even if you can’t afford season tickets, you could buy single game tickets.  It was a great game to bring the kids–warm weather, fairly family friendly atmosphere (compared to a night game against the Bucks), and a fun game to watch.  In fact I saw more kids and babies (one wearing big pink headphones to block out the crowd noise) at this game than any other I can recall.  Seriously, park your STEP and administrative protests at home and get your butt down to watch these kids play.  They may not be the greatest team in the country, but they are playing their hearts out.  Don’t make a statement to the BOT by eschewing this team–make a better statement by showing up and packing the stadium.  Let the BOT know that we fans are a force to be reckoned with!  Make James Franklin smile!

I still can’t get over how eerily this team parallels some of the good (and later in the year, I hope to change that to great, but there is still a lot of work to be done yet to earn that adjective) teams of the vintage Paterno era.  A 13-10 victory in primetime against Rutgers.  Winning on a late field goal against UCF as an underdog.  Mounting a comfortable halftime lead against an inferior opponent and then letting the back-ups have some fun and the second string D giving up a meaningless score in garbage time.  It’s like Joe has been re-incarnated–his spirit is all over and around this team.

So we came out of this game with no turn-overs, no significant injuries, and a back-up QB that looks like he can fill in if duty calls.  The O-line did better, but needs to keep improving.  This team has a legitimate chance to be undefeated when the Buckeyes come to visit in mid October.  They may even be favored to win the next two games.

BY THE NUMBERS:

 

Team Statistics
 Team Totals  UMASS  PSU 
FIRST DOWNS  13  23 
   Rushing  11 
   Passing  11 
   Penalty 
NET YARDS RUSHING  228 
   Rushing Attempts  28  45 
   Average Per Rush  0.1  5.1 
   Rushing Touchdowns 
   Yards Gained Rushing  59  247 
   Yards Lost Rushing  56  19 
NET YARDS PASSING  263  236 
   Completions-Attempts-Int  17-33-0  18-32-0 
   Average Per Attempt  8.0  7.4 
   Average Per Completion  15.5  13.1 
   Passing Touchdowns 
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS  266  464 
   Total offense plays  61  77 
   Average Gain Per Play  4.4  6.0 
Fumbles: Number-Lost  4-1  0-0 
Penalties: Number-Yards  4-30  6-52 
PUNTS-YARDS  5-191  3-122 
   Average Yards Per Punt  38.2  40.7 
   Net Yards Per Punt  36.8  40.3 
   Inside 20 
   50+ Yards 
   Touchbacks 
   Fair catch 
KICKOFFS-YARDS  2-130  9-576 
   Average Yards Per Kickoff  65.0  64.0 
   Net Yards Per Kickoff  40.0  39.6 
   Touchbacks 
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD  1-1-0  2-7-0 
   Average Per Return  1.0  3.5 
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD  1-20-0  1-25-0 
   Average Per Return  20.0  25.0 
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD  0-0-0  0-0-0 
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD  0-0-0  1-7-0 
Miscellaneous Yards 
Possession Time  22:28  37:32 
   1st Quarter  6:03  8:57 
   2nd Quarter  7:14  7:46 
   3rd Quarter  4:25  10:35 
   4th Quarter  4:46  10:14 
Third-Down Conversions  3 of 13  10 of 17 
Fourth-Down Conversions  1 of 4  1 of 1 
Red-Zone Scores-Chances  0-1  6-6 
   Touchdowns  0-1  5-6 
   Field goals  0-1  1-6 
Sacks By: Number-Yards  2-10  3-25 
PAT Kicks  1-1  6-6 
Field Goals  0-1  2-2 
Points off turnovers  14 

 

Penn State scored on EIGHT straight possessions after going three and out with a punt on the first possession of the game.

No turn-overs for PSU!

THREE YARDS total for Umass on the ground!  Shoop there it is!

INTANGIBLES:

UMass won the toss and deferred.

The drum major hit both flips–the first perhaps one of the best flips ever.

James Franklin is 4-0 and the first PSU coach to start his career 4-0 since 1915.

Attendance listed at 99,155.  WE CAN DO BETTER!

THE BIG (10) PICTURE:

Who’s Hot:

Indiana upset Missouri 31-27.

Nebraska out-slugs Miami 41-31.  Lots of off-setting penalties in that one.

Wisconsin rolled out the barrel all over Bowling Green, 68-17.

Maryland bested Syracuse 34-20, a bit of an upset with the Orange favored by 3.

Rutgers sank Navy 31-24.

Minnesota defeated San Jose State 24-7.

Illinois survived a scare and prevailed 42-35 over Texas State.

Iowa beat Pitt 24-20.

Purdue boiled Southern Illinois 35-13.

The Spartans crushed and spit out the remains of Eastern Michigan, 73-14.

Northwestern defeated Western Illinois 24-7.

Who’s Not:

Utah beat THEM 26-10 in a weather delayed game.  They are the only BIG team to lose this week.

Utah fans outnumber the wolverine fans in the Big House after a rain delay!

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Clemson–loses in OT to #1 F$U after missed field goals and fumbles

2.  LSU–lost to Miss St. 34-29.

3.  Hokies–drop two in a row after beating the Buckeyes

4.  Cal–premature celebration but Arizona comes back on a Hail Mary

5.  K-State– wasted opportunities to beat Auburn

LOOKING AHEAD:

Northwestern invades Beaver Stadium for a 12 noon start next Saturday.  The Wildcats are coming off a 24-7 win over Western Illinois.  This week is HOMECOMING.

Northwestern opened the season with a 31-24 loss to Cal, and then followed that with a lackluster performance and a loss to Northern Illinois 23-15.

Well pause for a foe pause later this week.

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Knightmare Nova

Gary “turNova” threw five interceptions while the Penn State defense shut out the Scarlet Knights in the second half, to key a 13-10 win over our newest “rival.”  This game is probably the most hyped, yet unimportant game outside of these two programs, that I have seen in a while.  (The Ohio State-THEM game is the perennial over-hyped game which generally most other fans could care less about.)  But I digress.

Hackenberg passed for over 300 yards, setting a new school record of 7 games in his career of 300+ yards.  Despite a 10 to nothing deficit at the half, this Penn State team did not give up.  They may not have the best team.  They may not have the biggest stars.  We may not have the “best” coach.  But this team gives 110% of itself for a full 60 minutes of every game.

It would appear that Mr. Hackenberg operates best under pressure.  And I’m not talking about defensive pressure, because he saw a lot of that in the first half from the Scarlet Knights.  They were stunting, blitzing, and magically appearing in the backfield to help with the hand-off on nearly every down.  Credit Penn State with making second half adjustments that allowed Hack to have more time.

We still have an annoying problem.  No running game.  Yes, but that is not the annoying problem to which I allude.  We seem to amass large quantities of yardage–mostly through the air, but fail to convert said yardage into points on the scoreboard.  We are totally smashing the stats sheet (and the win column!!!!) but we can’t seem to light up the scoreboard.  Granted, at 3-0, it’s an annoyance.  But with BIGger prizes to play for now, it could become a real pain in the loss column later on.

We can nitt-pick all day about having Hackenberg punt (did not work) and running the wild cat with Hackenberg out as a receiver (which hasn’t worked).  Are we trying too hard to be gimmicky?  I don’t know.  I kind of like seeing new wrinkles.  And with a little better execution, these plays could catch some people by surprise (such as the toss back to Hack at wide receiver for a pass.)  Had we lost, well, then these things might be more important.  But for now, they are just more nuances that other defenses have to prepare for.

What was the deal with Witvoet’s mike?  They didn’t replace it at half time.  He looks like he’s a hundred years old.  Maybe that’s his natural voice!  And to his credit, he and his merry band of misfit zebras called a great game–perhaps the fairest game I have ever seen a Big Ten crew officiate.  Okay, the two holding penalties that called back big plays annoyed me, but I have to admit, they were correct calls.  Now, it’s not like holds like that always get called in our conference, but in the final analysis, they were correct calls.

I’ve seen various estimates of the Penn State crowd (8-10,000) and one poster went so far as to guesstimate 25%.  I think that’s a bit over the top, but it sounds like we were well represented.

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Sorry about that. WordPress won’t properly embed the video like Blogger.

I will also give the Scarlet Knight fans some credit.  They sold out their puny little stadium for this “rivalry.”  And the game noise sounded loud and might have contributed to one false start penalty.  I doubt Beaver Stadium would have been full had this game been played there on this weekend, but I could be wrong.  But when your highest sell-out is still around what the other team pulls in for a spring scrimmage, I wouldn’t spend so much time crowing about it.  That don’t impress me much!

I will also give the Scarlet Knight players kudos.  The emotion in the first half was unbelievable.  You actually played hard enough to win.  But in the end, emotion only carries you so far, and your best just wasn’t good enough.

Some reports have trickled in about bad experiences from RU fans.  These things will happen.  Late start.  Lotsa alcohol.  Every fan base has their black sheep.  People say things.  People throw bags of urine.  Whatever.  But at the very heart of the matter, I understand your pain.  You thought this was YOUR YEAR.  Penn State is perhaps at it’s worst because of the residual of the sanctions.  I saw this in the eyes of Temple fans two years ago when they came to Beaver Stadium in 2012 to face a struggling 1-2 Lion team led by new head coach Bill O’Brien.  You (the opposition) have one of your better teams.  It looks like the stars are aligning.  Then it blasts apart in a super-gary-nova of interceptions and blown opportunities.  And at the end of the knight, you are no closer to that Holy Grail than you ever were before.  Oh well.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From the GoPSUsports site:

 

 Team Totals  PSU  RU 
FIRST DOWNS  19  15 
   Rushing 
   Passing  13 
   Penalty 
NET YARDS RUSHING  64  102 
   Rushing Attempts  33  31 
   Average Per Rush  1.9  3.3 
   Rushing Touchdowns 
   Yards Gained Rushing  91  126 
   Yards Lost Rushing  27  24 
NET YARDS PASSING  309  192 
   Completions-Attempts-Int  25-44-1  15-31-5 
   Average Per Attempt  7.0  6.2 
   Average Per Completion  12.4  12.8 
   Passing Touchdowns 
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS  373  294 
   Total offense plays  77  62 
   Average Gain Per Play  4.8  4.7 
Fumbles: Number-Lost  1-0  1-0 
Penalties: Number-Yards  5-40  9-75 
PUNTS-YARDS  8-217  7-272 
   Average Yards Per Punt  27.1  38.9 
   Net Yards Per Punt  27.1  36.0 
   Inside 20 
   50+ Yards 
   Touchbacks 
   Fair catch 
KICKOFFS-YARDS  4-246  3-173 
   Average Yards Per Kickoff  61.5  57.7 
   Net Yards Per Kickoff  38.5  45.7 
   Touchbacks 
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD  1-0-0  0-0-0 
   Average Per Return  0.0  0.0 
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD  2-36-0  2-42-0 
   Average Per Return  18.0  21.0 
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD  5-3-0  1-26-0 
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD  0-0-0  0-0-0 
Miscellaneous Yards 
Possession Time  33:23  26:37 
   1st Quarter  9:17  5:43 
   2nd Quarter  5:37  9:23 
   3rd Quarter  9:28  5:32 
   4th Quarter  9:01  5:59 
Third-Down Conversions  9 of 20  5 of 14 
Fourth-Down Conversions  0 of 0  0 of 1 
Red-Zone Scores-Chances  3-4  2-2 
   Touchdowns  1-4  1-2 
   Field goals  2-4  1-2 
Sacks By: Number-Yards  3-19  5-17 
PAT Kicks  1-1  1-1 
Field Goals  2-3  1-1 
Points off turnovers 

 

Our third down conversions rate was about 50%, compared to about 33% for RU.  The turn-overs are, without a doubt the key.  Poor QB?  Better D?  I lean to the latter.  Rutgers fans might disagree.

Another interesting number–  1:13.  UCF scored their go-ahead touchdown with 1:13 left on the clock.  They ultimately lost.  Penn State scored leaving 1:13 on the clock.  Rutgers ultimately lost.  Nothing special happened in the Akron game at 1:13.  Penn State ran out the clock and ultimately won.
INTANGIBLES:

Rutgers won the toss and deferred.

Is that you, Octavius?

Rutgers filled their stadium–53,744.

Franklin is the first Penn State coach to go 3-0 in his first season since 1930.

Penn State leads the all-time rivalry 23-2.  PSU has never lost to Rutgers in New Jersey.

THE BIG (10) PICTURE:

THE LOSERS:

Purdue lost to Notre Dame 30-14.

Indiana lost to Bowling Green 45-42.

Maryland lost on a last second, 47 yard field goal to West-By-God-Virginia, 40-37.

Iowa lost their requisite non-com game to Iowa State 20-17.

Minnesota was horn-frogged by TCU, 30-7.

Washington embarrassed Illinois 44-19.  Not really that hard to shame them, though.

THE NON-LOSERS:

Urban Meyer made himself feel better by rolling up the score on Kent State, 66-0.  He overcompensated his teams weakness by taking advantage of a team with greater weaknesses!  Brilliant!

THEM beat Miami(OH) 34-10.

Nebraska bull-dozed the Fresno Bulldogs 55-19.

Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan State were off this week.  I heard Northwestern still lost.  And oh look, Gary Nova just threw another interception!

2014-15 Football Standings

EAST DIVISION
Overall Conference Division
W-L % W-L % W-L %
Penn State 3-0 1.000 1-0 1.000 1-0 1.000
Maryland 2-1 .667 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Michigan 2-1 .667 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Ohio State 2-1 .667 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Indiana 1-1 .500 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Michigan State 1-1 .500 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Rutgers 2-1 .667 0-1 .000 0-1 .000
WEST DIVISION
Overall Conference Division
W-L % W-L % W-L %
Nebraska 3-0 1.000 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Illinois 2-1 .667 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Iowa 2-1 .667 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Minnesota 2-1 .667 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Wisconsin 1-1 .500 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Purdue 1-2 .333 0-0 .000 0-0 .000
Northwestern 0-2 .000 0-0 .000 0-0 .000

 

Through all games of September 13.

 

Penn State and Nebraska are the only undefeated teams in the conference!

 

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Georgia–is there ever a more over-rated SEC team year in and year out?

2.  USC–lost to BC 37-31.

3.  Hokies–after beating the Buckeyes, they fall to unranked East Carolina 28-21.

4.  MD–last second loss on a long field goal.

5.  Texas–lost to UCLA 20-17.  They apparently screwed up the coin toss, giving UCLA opening possession in BOTH halves.

 

LOOKING AHEAD:

Penn State returns to Beaver Stadium next week to face the UMass Minutemen with a 4 PM kick-off.  Coverage will be the Big Ten Network (BTN.)

The Minutemen are 0-3 coming off a loss to Vanderbilt, who scored 14 in the final quarter to pull out the win.

The season to date:

L  30-7 vs. Boston College

L  41-38  vs.  Colorado

L  34-31 vs. Vanderbilt

Priorities:  WIN!  Work on the running game.  Some reps for the back-up QB.

GO STATE!  BEAT MINUTEMEN!

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Zip-Pity Doo Dah Day

Penn State civilly outscored Akron 21-3 to move to 2-0 on the 2014 season.  It was not a pretty sight, but it was not exactly an ugly win.  And it sure as heck beat a pretty loss!

The invading Zips seemed hell-bent on raining on James Franklin’s home opener, as the visitors marched down the field like a hot knife through butter.  They zipped this way and that way and ended up first and goal at the PSU 7 yard line before half the student population even made it to their seats.  But the Lion defense tightened up, and after consecutive sacks, Akron had to settle for a 3 point attempt.  Kicker Tom O’Leary (kind of ironic right there, doncha think?) missed the 31-yarder and the game was still even.

After an exchange of possessions, the Lions took over with good field position at their own 42 yard line.  Hackenberg went to work and did that thing he does with his arm.  Passes of 20 yards to Lewis and 15 yards to Hamilton were sandwiched around a one yard rush by Zwinak.  Hack than scored his first of three TD passes with a strike to a wide open Belton that fooled the Akron defense and reportedly Louis Freeh as well.

The half would end with the score still being 7-0, and the crowd a bit uneasy.  You hate close games like this when one play could turn things ugly in a hurry, and our secondary has been prone to giving up a few big plays now and then.

But there was no breathing room as the second half opened as Penn State fumbled on it’s first possession, setting the Roos up with a short field at the PSU 41 yard line.  The defense bent a little but didn’t break, and Robert Stein (I guess O’Leary lost his job, at least for the moment) booted the 28 yarder through to make it a four point game.

After a change of possessions, Hack hit Jesse James for a 14-3 point lead.  James would catch another pass in the fourth quarter to seal the victory at 21-3, covering the final game-time spread of 14.

So what can I say?

The running game just can’t seem to get off the ground.  It’s a reflex to blame it on the offensive line, but the O-line does seem to be able to pass block pretty darn well.  We did manage to break the century mark–which surprised me.  Watching the game, I’d have thought we had under 60.  We actually seemed to run better out of the wildcat, but that was in the second half and we may have worn the Akron line down by then.  Reading the message boards, the wildcat formation splits Nittany Nation between those that love it and those that hate it.  I don’t love it, but if it works, I’m all for it.  I wonder if the playbook doesn’t have more options from that formation, particularly with Hack split wide and still on the field.  We did see a throw back pass to Hack, but he couldn’t make the catch.  Maybe more exciting possibilities await when Big Ten teams come to play.

Hack had two more INTs–not necessarily bad throws as much as BAD decisions.  He also took a sack after having almost 9 seconds to find a receiver.  I think those things will come in time–better decision making.

And the bottom line here Lion fans . . . we have played two games against quality opponents.  Akron came to play and played us hard.  Maybe they are not McNeese State, but they will win some ball games this year.  Central Florida was coming off a great season with a veteran head coach and was a few votes away from cracking the Top 25 preseason.  And despite a minus 5 turn-over margin, WE ARE UNDEFEATED.  Not a lot of our conference brethren can say the same.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Team Statistics

 

 Team Totals  AKRON  PSU 
FIRST DOWNS  17  27 
   Rushing 
   Passing  12  16 
   Penalty 
NET YARDS RUSHING  69  106 
   Rushing Attempts  25  31 
   Average Per Rush  2.8  3.4 
   Rushing Touchdowns 
   Yards Gained Rushing  89  130 
   Yards Lost Rushing  20  24 
NET YARDS PASSING  208  319 
   Completions-Attempts-Int  24-46-0  22-37-2 
   Average Per Attempt  4.5  8.6 
   Average Per Completion  8.7  14.5 
   Passing Touchdowns 
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS  277  425 
   Total offense plays  71  68 
   Average Gain Per Play  3.9  6.2 
Fumbles: Number-Lost  0-0  1-1 
Penalties: Number-Yards  7-64  3-25 
PUNTS-YARDS  7-331  5-244 
   Average Yards Per Punt  47.3  48.8 
   Net Yards Per Punt  40.9  45.4 
   Inside 20 
   50+ Yards 
   Touchbacks 
   Fair catch 
KICKOFFS-YARDS  2-130  4-247 
   Average Yards Per Kickoff  65.0  61.8 
   Net Yards Per Kickoff  38.5  46.5 
   Touchbacks 
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD  3-17-0  1-5-0 
   Average Per Return  5.7  5.0 
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD  2-36-0  2-53-0 
   Average Per Return  18.0  26.5 
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD  2-52-0  0-0-0 
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD  0-0-0  0-0-0 
Miscellaneous Yards 
Possession Time  29:21  30:39 
   1st Quarter  9:15  5:45 
   2nd Quarter  9:32  5:28 
   3rd Quarter  4:10  10:50 
   4th Quarter  6:24  8:36 
Third-Down Conversions  5 of 17  4 of 10 
Fourth-Down Conversions  0 of 2  0 of 0 
Red-Zone Scores-Chances  1-3  1-3 
   Touchdowns  0-3  1-3 
   Field goals  1-3  0-3 
Sacks By: Number-Yards  1-8  4-14 
PAT Kicks  0-0  3-3 
Field Goals  1-2  0-0 
Points off turnovers 

Penn State continues to look better on the stat sheet than the scoreboard.  I really think that will get better as the season goes on, but perhaps it’s something to worry about.

Time of possession was nearly equal with a slight edge to PSU.  Akron held the ball longer in the first half, but PSU dominated the second.  Can’t complain about that.

We only converted 4-10 third downs, but we had 27 first downs–meaning that we moved the ball well on first and second downs that we only needed third down about a third of the time.

We were vastly improved in the penalty category this week.

INTANGIBLES:

The crowd was listed at 97,354, but it didn’t look that full.

The temperature was warm–not unusual for this time of year, but it could have been a factor if Akron could run the ball and control the clock.  Depth is not our strong suit right now.

The Blue Band Drum Major stuck both flips.  In fact, the opening flip may be the best I’ve seen in a while.  New feature twirler.  Meh.

James Franklin is 2-0, baby.  Penn State is 5-0 over Akron all-time.

The 1994 UNDEFEATED PSU Football was honored at halftime!

Penn State won the toss and deferred.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Well, well, well.  Pretty rough weekend for the BIG party of 14.

Let’s start with the winners . . .

Iowa survived Ball State 17-13.

Nebraska squeaked by FCS McNeese State 31-24, scoring on a 58 yard catch and run to score with 20 seconds left in the game.  Makes a 21-3 outing against Zippy look pretty darn good right about now.

Illinois beat Western Kentucky 42-34 but trailed 27-21 going into the fourth quarter.

Minnesota held off Middle Tennessee State, prevailing 35-24–but they were up 28-0 at the half!

Maryland outscored South Florida 24-17, but trailed going into the fourth quarter as well.

Rutgers defeated Howard (who Akron pasted 41-0) by a score of 38-25.

And Wisconsin bounced back by pummeling Western Illinois 37-3.

And then there were the losers . . .

Purdue tanked against Central Michigan, losing 38-17.

MSU had arguably the toughest opponent in Oregon with the Ducks ranked 3rd at the time.  Michigan State trailed early, stormed back and seemed to be in control.  And then they collapsed.  Epic-ally.  Final Score:  46-27.  I wonder if D’Antonio has ever had that many points put up against one of his teams?

Notre Dame took THEM out to the woodshed, blanking the wolverines 31-0 in South Bend.  Not even a field goal.  I guess they were still upset about Notre Dame ending the series.  The Irish might want to rethink that.

And the Big’s Marquee Stud, Ohio $tate, ranked number 8, fell to an unranked Hokie team 35-21.  Meyer started his post game presser with this:

And also our opponent, really did a good job preparing for us and exposed us a little bit, where some of the weaknesses right now on our team. And it was rather obvious what it is.

Really?  What was IT?  The coaching, perhaps?  Or are you throwing someone else under a Colum-BUS.

I wouldn’t have said this in 2011, but I am SOOOO glad that man isn’t coaching at Penn State.

Indiana was off, and no one noticed.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Stanford lost to USC–the famous Pat Haden game where the USC AD came down from the booth to “talk” to the referees.  And he’s on the selection committee!

2.  McNeese State–a few bad tackles away from OT.  Tsk.  tsk.

3.  The Big Ten–see above

4.  Texas–Longhorns beaten 41-7 by BYU

5.  UMass–41-38 loss to Colorado

LOOKING AHEAD:

Penn State travels to Rutgers to open the Big Ten season next week.

Game Time is 8 PM and the coverage is the Big Ten Network.

Rutgers is 2-0 with a 41-38 win on the road over Washington State and a 38-25 victory over Howard.

We’ll preview this game in a Foe Pause later this week.

GO STATE!  BEAT KNIGHTS!

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Shoop! There It Is!

Having been blogging about Penn State football since the mid 1990’s, you’d think I would finally be able to post a game recap without forgetting something.  As if!

But while thinking back over the game notes, I realized I hadn’t mentioned how great a job Bob Shoop did as defensive coordinator.  The second half was tarnished a bit by the performance of Holman at QB, but then those things happen.  When you prepare for one type of QB, and then suddenly face another, it’s not always easy to adjust for that.  And Holman certainly looked like a better passer.

So here are some more thoughts that I forgot to hit yesterday:

* Zettle is a FORCE.

* Penn State played the 1st quarter with no headset communication.  Maybe that contributed to the disparity between the stats and the points.  Apparently, the NCAA doesn’t have rules like the NFL, which would have equalized the situation by not allowing UCF to use their headsets.  Despite the set back, we prevailed.

* Penn State had TWO receivers over 150 yards on the day.  That’s the first time in school history!

* Ficken Kickin Good–we all know he hit the game winner, but he was 4-4 on the day!

* Forgot to mention the parachutists–the PSU guy hit the stadium, but the UCF rep landed along some train tracks off the mark!  Talk about your omens from the sky!

* Did anyone notice how well we did on first downs?  I meant to look back on this but forgot.  Especially in the first half, we kicked butt on first down, leaving a LOT of 2nd and short situations.  If you look at the second down situations in the first half, Penn State had 5 second and one’s, 2 second and two’s, and was second and six or less 11 out of 14 second downs.  (One second and six was actually a second and one that became a second and six after a five yard penalty.)  In the second half, there were 11 second down opportunities, and PSU was 2nd and five or less 5 of those times with three second and one’s.

* The running game didn’t generate much yardage, but as you can see above, it didn’t have to in order to keep the sticks moving.

* Hamilton and Ficken pulled in Big Ten Players of the Week Honors–not something I forgot, but worth noting at this juncture.

Some great articles were written across the pond.  Johnny Watterson of The Irish Times writes:

But first the cast and inventory: two parachutists, one on the pitch the other on the railway track; a choir of 17; two three-storey sized flags; two marching bands; three Irish Army soldiers and four marines, all bearing flags; a team of Penn State dancers and two teams of cheerleaders; soft drinks engineers; chair arranging executives; four lieutenants of the tape measure; two team rosters of 100 players each; eight team captains; 24-ish coaches and two F16s drowning out the Star Spangled Banner. Gridiron loves its hardware.   

But Penn State had a quarterback called Christian Hackenberg. “Hack”, a young man in just his second season, threw for 454 yards on Saturday, breaking Zack Mills’s single-game school record of 399 yards. 

The most important of those yards came in the run-up to Ficken’s winning field goal as “Hack”, with composure beyond his years, engineered the territory and kept the ball in Penn [State] hands.  

As it sailed over the posts at the Hill end on a trajectory towards Nally, Croke Park became the Bull Run in Pamp lona. The Penn State bench burst on to the pitch and cheerleaders were thrown in the air.

Aisling Crowe describes it as theater and sport colliding:

It was a jaw dropping, awe inspiring sight when first glimpsing the transformed interior of the stadium before the University of Central Florida clashed with the Penn State University. It was Croke Park but not as we know it. The surreal panorama spread out before your eyes. A shrunken pitch surrounded by athletic cheerleaders, acrobatically somersaulting into dangerous positions, marching bands putting a brass spin on some classics including the theme tune to The Sunday Game and flagbearers, mascots and whatever else was needed in the way of support.
The truly awesome scene was in the middle of the pitch where 200 athletes prepared to begin their college season, hopes and dreams spread out before them and the glory of last season behind champions University of Central Florida. 

The clock counted down the minutes to kick off, and a parachutist clad in the Penn State blue and white landed in the middle of the pitch. The UCF Knights parachutist went missing in action, his radar slightly wonky. He came up a little short of the pitch and landed on the train line behind Hill 16. Saturday afternoon shoppers suffered the convenience that shadows the commuter daily as trains were delayed while the errant knight was rescued.  

The NFL may be America’s game but the college version is giving it a run for its money.
This may have been a spectacle but it was also a serious sport. Every tackle, every intercept, every pass that found a runner was greeted with a roar the like of which is usually only heard when the referee blows the final whistle in an All-Ireland final. 

Anyone with dismissive attitudes towards American football would have had their prejudices seriously challenged by the on-pitch action. The first collision from the opening kick off saw the helmet of one of the Nittany Lions fly through the air, knocked from a head with the force of the impact. 

They followed Flynn’s advice to the letter in Croke Park with razzle dazzle to beat Banagher but the sequins were not some frippery tacked on as a distraction. Sport and theatre collide with spectacular results in American football. The sparkle and the show are an integral part of the spectacle but there is real steel behind the stardust that was sprinkled on Dublin yesterday. 


The author had Sam Franklin kicking the winning field goal, but otherwise it was a good report.

And if you are really bored, here is an Irish message board with some locals regaling their thoughts such as these:

That’s was a great game! My first time ever seeing live football, only got sucked in in the last few years. Now I reeeeeally want to see if I can get tickets to one of the Wembley games! The Penn State support was great, really cool to be in the thick of it. 

Fantastic game. Made a converted out of my brother who begrudgingly came along, moaning right up to the start about how ****e AF is. He was screaming at the pitch at the end and has just called me to find out when the next one is.. 

The Penn State head coach stayed for a little while by the tunnel to start up chants with the fans as he left the field, crazy guy  [He’s a WILD and CRAZY guy!]

Just home from a thoroughly enjoyable day. Went with Penn State in all our bets, all came in, Outright win, 1st Touchdown and over 43.5. Some show, great entertainment and at least the rain stayed off. Managed to get a vid of the National anthem and the F-16’s too. 

Fecking savage day. 8th game I’ve been to (3 college, 5 NFL) and first I’ve seen settled by the final play. Had the over backed too so happy out. Pity it wasn’t in the Aviva, looked silly looking down on an empty hill all day, mind you, the ESPN crew did a great job of avoiding that. Jesse James is a legend, plus that WR, thing he was number 7 for Penn. Great day out. Penn state fans were a credit. Really, really great day. 

Apart from the empty stand and rip off programme, great day. Sat with some Penn State fans amongst the UCF hoarde in a great spot. Wife very pregnant and we had planned to ship a few mins before the end. Glad I didn’t, what a finish! Super atmosphere, some slick game play from QB#14 and WR#7 for Penn. The Wife got right into it too but was puzzled why the game, apart from stoppages, just seem to pause quite often? When I told her it was for commercial breaks she cracked up 😁 The noise was cool, the F16s very cool, mexican wave fun and I cannot wait for the NFL reg season to K.O!!! 

Really enjoyed that yesterday. Penn State fans were great even if I was cheering for UCF. Great second half of football. Not sure what it looked like on TV but looking around, it felt quite cavernous. My mate was more interested in the gargle but I really got into it.  [Gotta love the gargle!]

Great day out – great game. First time to go to a game “in the flesh” – absolutely loved it. First two qrts I thought Penn State were gonna walk away it (despite only leading by a single score). UCF’s rushing game was poor and the passing game was non-existant – only for their defence , they would have been buried. 3rd & 4th Qrt’s – UCF’s Qrtback remembered he could throw and the drama went up a notch. To have the game decided on the final play with 3 secs left on the clock – just brilliant (even if I was a tiny bit gutted for UCF).   Will definitely go to the next one (if/when it happens). 

Good day. One of the closest games I’ve seen live, score wise. Atmosphere was okay were I was sitting . Wish I had a chance to do this every week. 

Great game. Really enjoyed it, and was a bargain for e20. My seats were great. Very happy that it was close, as it was a good way to show my friends from here the sport. A blowout would have sucked. . . .A few small things about it did bother me though. The quality of the replays was shocking. I remember a big important offensive PI call happened, and I looked up to see the replay of it, but all they showed was the QB throwing the ball… Hill 16 being closed was also odd and looked awful behind the goal. That last field goal was one of the most exciting finishes to a game this weekend, and will have been all over sports highlight reels in the states last night, and the backdrop is an awful, empty terrace, which is a little embarrassing. The PA system was also terrible, especially for the ref. Could barely make out what was being said half the time. [Sounds like a “true” PSU fan–c/o replays, empty seats and the sound system!]

I have yet to read any reports of “bad” PSU fans.  And the reports from Penn Stater’s sound like they were treated exceptionally well by the locals.

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