Tag Archives: Trace McSorley

It’s Just a Flesh Wound!

fleshwound

“I can still play!”        “You’ve got no arms!”         “It’s just a flesh wound!”

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Ioween: The Night He Came Home

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

KirkIoween

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Iowa was moving the ball.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY THE NUMBERS:

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

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

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

PennStatePumpkin

INTANGIBLES:

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

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

We won the toss.  Cost us 2 points.

No drum major flips–field too wet.

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

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

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

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

Wisconsin lost to Northwestern 31-17.  Wow.

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

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

Maryland trounced the Illini 63-33.

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

LOOKING AHEAD:

This is another Big One Elizabeth.

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

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

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

The wolverines open as a 10-point favorite..

GO STATE!  BEAT THEM!

 

 

 

 

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Pitt Falls

Penn State defeated, trounced, destroyed and otherwise had their way with Pitt en route to a 51-6 final score that was, in fact, only 14-6 at the half.

Let’s get one thing out of the way . . . Pitt does not deserve to have this series continue past next year.  It is not Penn State’s duty or responsibility to support Pitt’s athletic department, particularly when their own fan base can’t support their team.  Even when Toledo defeated Penn State at Beaver Stadium in 2000,there were more Penn State fans in the stands at the end of that game than there were Pitt fans in the stadium at the end of the third quarter Saturday.  I assume their band was forced to stay.  Most everyone else abandoned ship.  And quickly.

It was raining.

Oh boo hoo.  The rain fell on the Penn State fans too.

I almost feel sorry for Pitt fans–especially actual graduates who like football.  The University paraded before us a montage of Nine National Football Championships (8 occurring 1937 or earlier, and one in 1976) and a few hall of famers (the youngest of which was Dan Marino.)  Is it coincidence that Pitt football has been irrelevant since they tore down Pitt Stadium and chose to become a basketball school, which strangely has not won an NCAA tournament?

And before you few Pitt fans start an argument, I know full well that Penn State has not had a recognized championship since 1986.  But Penn State has been ranked in the Top 5 many times, including failed championship runs in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, and 2016.  PSU was ranked #2 before a ONE POINT LOSS to #6 Ohio State in 2017.  Penn State has been ranked every week in the AP poll since defeating Ohio State in 2016.  Pitt has ended up in the final AP ranking twice in 14 years (#15 in 2009 and #25 in 2004.)  I’m not going to waste any more time debating this issue.

Pitt gave up about midway through the third quarter.  Their fans followed suit.  I praised Appalachian state last week for their tenacity and dedication.  They gave us a game.  Pitt gave us a nauseating replay of their glory years in the Great Depression era.  Pitt-iful.  Were there potential Pitt recruits at that game?  How does Narduzzi spin this?  It’s hard to use smoke and mirrors when there is no smoke and your mirrors are broken.

You want to be a big time program?  You want to demand scheduling respect as a big time program?  Then how about acting like one?  How many big time programs–pick one any one, Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Clemson–would prohibit fans from parking and tailgating until three hours before a “rivalry” game?  Oh wait.  Those schools have their own stadiums.  They don’t depend on rentals or interfering with baseball games for a team that has no chance at the playoffs.

Where do you even begin?  How about at the top.  A fifteen yard penalty on the head coach.  Classy.  Multiple penalties.  Botched extra point.  Failed fourth down after eschewing a chip-shot field goal to potentially take the lead.   A bobbled and then blocked punt by the special teams.

And despite the lop-sided score, Penn State did not put on one of their best performances.  McSorley was a meager 14 of 30 for 145 yards.  His stats were plagued to some degree by dropped passes, and he did score one rushing TD.  The offense was hindered also by two fumbles by Ricky Slade.  But neither turnover led to Pitt points.

The Penn State defense gave up what seemed like an incredible amount of yardage in the first half (over 200 yards?) yet inexplicably held the panthers to a mere 6 points.  They shut Pitt out after their only score.  It was like some kind of magic show–things were not as they seemed.

Penn State continued another Franklin era tradition of making good adjustments at halftime, both offensively and defensively.

I’m over 50.  I grew up in the seventies and eighties when this was a rivalry.  But today, there is no compelling reason for Penn State to ever return to the ‘burgh again.  Especially if we might interfere with a Penguins exhibition game or an art exhibit at the Carnegie museum.

Despite the weather and the location, it was a fun night to be a Penn State fan.  Not because we defeated a worthy opponent, but because we defeated Pitt and their delusional coach 51-6 on the Steeler’s field, in their own city, before a national TV audience.

The rain came.  The evil was washed away like the wicked witch of the West(ern) PA.  Ding Dong the Pitt (and series with them) is dead.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Any estimates about how many PSU fans were there?  It looked like about 50%.  That number approached 100% by the time James Franklin challenged the second fumble.

Pitt had only 56 yards passing.  I guess we ain’t Albany.  That’s why we kept reminding them who we are . . we are PENN STATE!

PSU averaged 6.1 yards per play to Pitt’s 4.3.

PSU leads the series 52-43-4.

INTANGIBLES: 

Pitt won the coin toss but elected to receive.  Apparently that was botched as well as it appeared Narduzzi wanted to defer.

Miles Davis notched his first career 100+ yard rushing game.

Trace McSorley extended his streak of games throwing a touchdown to 30.

Nice 39-yard punt return by Thompkins.

Blue Band Drum Major stuck both flips on a wet field.  Can we recruit drum majors or what?!

Appalachian State, by the way, defeated Charlotte 45-9.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes rolled all over the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, 52-3.  Rutgers Al is in the ICU.  Meyer knew nothing about it.

THEM rebounded over Western Michigan, 49-3.

However, in the Eastern part of the state, things were different.  EMU defeated Purdue 20-19.  Not to be outdone, Sparty was upsot by the ASU Sun Devils 16-13, giving up 13 points in the fourth quarter.  It was a bad day for the Big Ten versus devils, as Northwestern fell to the Duke Blue Devils 21-7.

The Gophers beat Fresno State 21-14.

Illinois beat Western Illinois 34-14.

Iowa beat Iowa State 13-3.

Indiana outlasted Virginia on a muddy field, 20-16.

And Nebraska fans should have prayed for more rain.  The Huskers lost to Colorado 33-28.

Maryland out-rolled Bowling Green 45-14.

And The Badgers beat New Mexico 45-14.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Kent State comes to Beaver Stadium next Saturday for a noon kick-off.  Hate the nooners.

The Golden Flashes lost a close one to Illinois,  31-24, but then had an amazing victory over Howard the Duck 54-14.

I expect the coaching staff to tone things down–conservative offense–limit showing plays on film and minimize injuries to key players.  Kent State appears to be ranked around #120.  Let’s face it, this should be a scrimmage, but don’t forget Appalachian State!

I expect a big win and lots of substitutions on offense and defense.

GO STATE!  BEAT FLASH!

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The Appalachian Trial

The 2018 Penn State Football season could not have opened in a less auspicious way. Opening day is a lot like Christmas morning. You dive into the present covered in brightly wrapped paper expecting a new game system, or a new iPhone, or whatever this year’s equivalent of a Cabbage Patch Doll is.

On Saturday the Nittany Lions opened a box containing . . . a sweater.   Worse yet, a cardigan. It’s red. And it doesn’t fit. And we can’t return it.

GameAppState

I got socks, what did you get?  I got a rock. Photo Courtesy of Richard the Lionhearted

 

The glass half full fans will look upon this and say a win is a win. And in their defense, a win is MUCH better than a loss.  It was the first game of the season and we are without Joe Moorhead and Saquon Barkley, among others.  Growing pains are to be expected.  The weather held out.  No serious injuries.  Kum-ba-Yah.  Kum-ba-yah!

The glass half empty crowd is now expecting gloom and doom the rest of the season, with perhaps Penn State not winning another game the rest of the way out–maybe not ever!–or at the least, not competing for a Big Ten title or anything beyond that. They are expecting more packages of socks, mittens (that don’t fit so we must acquit,) underwear (thongs) and boxes of sugar-free chocolates (you just don’t know what you’re going to get!)

So much disappointment in so little time.

But before we start cancelling our trips to Indianapolis and warm, fuzzy locations in January, let’s take a step back and look at what really happened.

The Appalachian State team that took the field in Beaver Stadium did not look like the 23 point underdog we were promised. Their team was well-coached and their players played hard. In fact, one might argue they played hard enough to win. They were not distracted by the crowd of over 105,000 loud fans.

By the way, I thought this crowd was as loud and intimidating as any white out crowd for Ohio State or Michigan. And despite our poor play at times, they supported the team until the bittersweet end.  The student section eventually filled, even though it was a holiday weekend.  Go fans!

I talked with some other fans afterwards and we were all thinking the same thing:  at some point Penn State was going to pull away and Appalachian State would fold and head back to Boone, NC before the team buses were even ready to leave. But alas, that never happened. The Mountaineers were annoyingly tenacious. They just would not quit. I have to give them credit that they never gave up. And neither did the smattering of yellow clad flans throughout the stadium.

The outcome of the game was still in question in the last forty-two seconds of regulation with the score tied.

So many things could have gone wrong for Penn State.

Appalachian State could have gone for it on fourth down, made the conversion and ended up with a more makeable field goal to win it.

What if Moore had been tackled before he reached the end zone on their previous series? Appalachian State could have run the clock down and kicked a chip shot field goal to win by 3.

And then there was KJ Hamler’s amazing kick off return. Our kick off returns to that point were like a GIF looping endlessly. Their kicker kicks 8 yards deep in the end zone to #1, who doesn’t even have to move to receive it. Hamler looks like he’s thinking of running the return. But #20 comes over and blocks him and makes him take a knee. Over and over again.  But finally, Hamler says enough of that and runs around Thomas. 52 yards later the Lions are set up nicely for the game tying drive. But what if he had been tackled at the 5?

We had to convert a fourth down to keep the drive alive. My heart can’t take this.
And on a day when the defense seemed unable to stop the Mountaineers, it was a defensive play that ended the game and sealed the PSU victory. It might have been the only bad pass Zac Thomas threw all day–and it wasn’t that bad; just well-defended. Trace threw several passes that were far worse, but he was spot on in the clutch when they needed him.

And about that D . . . throw out the stats. Seriously, this defense gave up only 3 points in 3 quarters. Seven points were gift wrapped on the first kick-off return, and not the defense’s fault. And it was a special teams gaffe–the unexpected, but should have been expected, on-sides kick. If Penn State recovers–I think it would have been a whole different outcome. Instead, our defense is suddenly back on the field and back on their heels. Momentum shifted abruptly on that play.

In the end, the best team prevailed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the myopic pollsters drop Penn State in the rankings, despite winning. Most of them probably didn’t watch the game and I think Appalachian State will vindicate us. Have you seen the rest of their schedule? Charlotte, Southern Miss, Gardner-Webb (wasn’t he a famous bowler,) South Alabama, Arkansas State, Louisiana (no tech or state, just Louisiana,) Georgia Southern, Coastal Carolina, Texas State, Georgia State and Troy. Can you see the team that played us on Saturday going undefeated the rest of the season? If not, I think you might need glasses. And I should know. I’m an ophthalmologist.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Penn State has not had that many fans attend an opening day since 2008.  105,232. There could have been five more but I couldn’t give my extra tickets away.

Penn State had ZERO turn overs. App State had one, a costly INT in OT.

Trace McSorley was sacked once.

The home game winning streak is now at 15 games.

INTANGIBLES:

I wore the wrong socks. They were blue, but not the PSU socks I normally wear on game day. I’m sorry. It’s my fault we barely won this game. Rest assured, it will not happen again!

The drum major stuck both flips.

We won the first coin toss. And elected to RECEIVE! Did Joe Paterno ever elect to take the ball first when he won a toss? I can’t recall it. Comment below and include the particular game if you can recall one. I’m pretty sure O’Brien did a few times. I like the aggressive attitude.

Lost the OT coin toss.  Fortunately didn’t matter.

Great crowd. Large crowd. Enthusiastic crowd. Loud.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes bruised and black-eyed the Beavers (77-31) without Zack Smith or Urban Meyer. But that’s okay–no kids (or sex toys) were involved.

Michigan State held on to defeat Utah State 38-31. I actually watched that game and was thinking to myself, how embarrassing to almost lose to Utah State. Karma is a bitch. But we held on as well, and I think App State would beat Utah State head to head.

Michigan (THEM–as in The- M) unveiled their secret weapon, Shea Patterson. Pffft. The Irish won that game 24-17 and will likely leap frog us in the polls. I know it’s better for our conference if Michigan wins, but watching Harbuagh lose never gets old. Any Harbaugh. It’s fun at every level.

The Cornhuskers and Scott Frost’s debut got rained out.

The Minnesota Gophers Carl Spacklered New Mexico State 48-10.

The Illini edged Kent state 31-24.

Indiana beat Florida International Airport 38-28.

Maryland had the best start, upsetting the 23rd ranked Longhorns 34-29.

Iowa beat Northern Illinoi 33-7.

In the only conference match-up, Northwestern beat Purdue 31-27.

Rutgers defeated Texas State 35-7 and the Badgers bested Western Kentucky 34-3.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Pitt.

Kickoff at Heinz Field is scheduled for 8 p.m. and the game will be on ABC.

The panthers thrilled their audience of seven fans to a decisive win over Albany 33-7. Albania. Albania. You border on the Adriatic. Your land is mostly mountainous, and your chief export is chrome. Oh wait. That’s Albania, not Albany. Sorry Coach.

The Lions are a 10.5 favorite over the panthers in Pittsburgh.

This is a rivalry game for them. It’s just another opportunity to lose rank points for us. They beat us, we make their season. We beat them, it’s just on to the next game.
While the players in this game weren’t around at the height of this rivalry in the 80’s, (when Pitt deep-sixed Paterno’s effort at an Eastern all sports conference, tore down their stadium, and started a coaching carousel of 10 coaches since 1982 not counting interim coaches)  the Lions know that a loss in Pittsburgh two years ago likely cost them a spot in the play-off where a one-loss OSU team edged out a two loss conference champion that beat said one loss team head to head.  I did not think I would ever be able to end that sentence.

Joe Paterno said that a team improves the most between the first and second games. Whether or not that is true, I do expect some improvement across the board.

SarducciNarduzzi

GO STATE!  BEAT PITT!

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Blocked Field Goals: Is there an APP for that?

Are you excited to get this 2018 college football season underway?

I am cautiously optimistic for Penn State.  With their schedule, I can foresee anything from 7-5 to 12-0.  Yeah, that pretty much narrows it down.

Will McSorley remain healthy?  How hurt is Tommy Stevens?

Do we have enough depth on the defensive line?

Can we replace Saquon Barkley?  (No, but we’re gonna try anyway!)

Can we get a few breaks?  It’s hard to foresee an undefeated season without a little luck along the way.  But PSU might still make the playoffs if they can win the Big Ten despite a loss.  History pretty much rules out a two-loss team in the final four, unless there aren’t enough undefeated or one loss teams to fill the spots, an unlikely scenario.

As I reflect upon this upcoming season, I can’t help but come back to ONE PLAY–one of my personal all-time favorites:

Since that remarkable upset, Penn State has been ranked EVERY WEEK (AP), the team has gone 18-3, and of those three losses two games were decided by 3 points and one game by but a single point–all to ranked teams.

The first test of the 2018 season comes this Saturday at Beaver Stadium at 3:30 PM. The game will be on BTN.  The Mighty Mountaineers of Appalachian State come to Beaver Stadium in hopes of rekindling the magic they made in Michigan in 2007, when they defeated the fifth ranked Wolverines in Ann Arbor on this PLAY:

Someone even wrote a book about it.  Of course, to be fair, THEM (The-M as in Michigan) defeated #10 PSU 14-9 that same year (we lost to the team that lost to Appalachian State!) and the Mountaineers went on to win the FCS Championship in 2007.

And though Appalachian State may be most famous for that upset in Ann Arbor, they were also famous for THIS piece of video perfection:

Appalachian State is HOT HOT HOT?  I think NOT NOT NOT.

An Appalachian Family of Smiling faces?  When I hear that, I think THIS:

AppFamily

But . . . this is not 2007.  Appalachian State is no longer an FCS team, but rather has found a home in the Sun Belt Conference.  They did, however, receive 16 votes in the Coaches Poll (that’s 16 more than Pitt got.)

 

Some Appalachian State quick hits:

-App State will be starting a new quarterback

-lost right side of the offensive line to the NFL (Gossett–>Vikings, Nunn–>Lions)

-New Defensive Coordinator

-lost six defensive starters (defense ranked 29th nationally last year)

I like this match-up.  It’s a cupcake with some meat.  The kind of prey that can bite back.  PSU is currently a 23-point favorite to win.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the margin of victory is less than that–first game, new personnel, don’t want to show off too much of our new and improved Saquon-less offense.

Enjoy the game, PSU fans, and get ready for a heckuva a ride!

AppStQueen

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Winners and Hoosiers

A couple days late and more than a few dollars short . . .

Welcome to the Indiana recap.

Don’t yawn!  That’s contagious.  (yawwwwwn.)  See what you started!

The sun broke through the clouds just in time for kick-off and what a kick off it was!  Saquon Barkley added another highlight reel to his Heisman resumé as he returned the opening kick 98 yards to the house for a 7-0 lead with only 14 seconds missing on the clock.

Apparently, Indiana didn’t think the hole they had dug was deep enough, so on their next possession, they fumbled.  Actually, Campbell forced the fumble for Penn State, recovered by Cabinda.  I am in no way asserting that our defense didn’t make a great play.  Some fumbles are due to offensive ineptitude; this one was a defensive coup.  The end result was that the Loosiers, er, I mean the Hoosiers, were now down 14 points with just under four minutes gone in the game.

And while the Hoosier defense continued to play like they could actually win this thing, special teams came up with another highlight play as Nick Scott scooped and scored on a muffed punt by the lapless Loosiers.  I mean Hapless Hoosiers.

Penn State would build and take a 28 point lead into the second quarter, fueled by yet another Indiana mistake–roughing the punter–and another highlight reel for the Heisman resumé (HRFTHR) by Saquon Barkley where he made a one-handed circus catch (one hand tied behind his back) and then juked and did that Saquon thing with his legs to take the ball deep into Indiana territory.  Trace hooked up with Hamilton for the 28 point lead.

It was at this point, for a mere 15 minutes of fame, or enough time to save 15% with Geico, that the Indiana team decided to try and upset Penn State.  They scored twice in the second quarter–their only 14 points in the game–keying on a big 54-yard reception, and then a late drive following a McSorley pick around mid field.

Indiana never really threatened in the second half, as our defense tightened.  The tone was set on the Hoosiers opening possession (they deferred after winning the coin toss to the second half) when Amani Oruwariye intercepted the Hoosiers.  Unfortunately, the drive stalled at the three yard line and chip shot field goal was sliced wide right.

Penn State did tack on 17 points in the closing half and covered the point spread easily despite miscues.  Yet, this has left some Penn State fans fretting.

Is this really a #4 ranked team?

Is something wrong with McSorley?

Why isn’t the offensive line doing better?

Sometimes I have to recheck the record just to make sure we’re still 5-0, because to read some of these people’s comments, you’d think we were losing!

Let’s look at these concerns individually.

Do we “deserve” to be #4?  No.  I also don’t think Alabama “deserves” to be number one.  The only time the ranking will be earned is the day after the championship game.  At this point, some teams have beaten better teams than others.  But constitutes a better team?  Comparing Alabama’s schedule to date with Penn State’s, is Fresno State, Colorado State or Vanderbilt that much different than Indiana, Akron or Pitt?  Yes, we played Georgia State.  Check out Bama.  They play Mercer.  Have you even heard of Mercer?  I’m too lazy to even Google that shit.  Nobody cares!

Alabama beat #3 FSU.  Are they number 3 now?  Ranked?  Will they ever be ranked this season?  No one knows at this point.

Penn State has no more right to be fourth than any other team.  The so-called experts ranked the Nittany Lions before the season in the top ten.  They belong there.  They have done nothing on the field to not deserve to stay there.  If we are not worthy of our ranking, then that will play out as the season progresses.

And, just what is a number 4 ranked team supposed to look like?  I guess maybe a fourth ranked team wouldn’t almost lose to Iowa (even though 4 previous “top 5” teams lost at Kinnick Stadium.  Maybe a #4 team would have defeated Pitt 76-0.  Pitt’s not a very good team this year, but last year, they were the ONLY team to beat Clemson, the ultimate National Title winner.

Do top ranked teams never make mistakes?  Or, rather, are they able to overcome their mistakes?  We’ve done that.

So should we be concerned about McSorley?

He is not having a great season, but if you remember from last year, he really didn’t get hot until after that awful September start.  And is season isn’t that bad.  He just led our team last week on a less than two minute drill 80 yards across a hostile field against a pretty decent defense.  He’ll be fine.  I’d like to see us roll him out of the pocket more.  I really think he throws better on the run.

Is our offensive line a problem?  Granted, Saquon isn’t burning up yards up the middle, but how many backs in this country are doing that with the defense keying to stop the run?  McSorley has been sacked a good bit, but some of that is his own doing, holding onto the ball too long, or dancing out of the pocket too quickly.  Give them time.  This could be a problem; probably won’t.

I have spent years blogging about Penn State football (I started out in 1999 on a free site called Xoom.  I’m still blogging today.  Still on a free site, because the two or three faithful readers I have would pay to read this drivel.

Over the years, I have pulled my hair out at times after winning a game.  Worrying about every turn over, and fumble, each sack or missed tackle.  I have seen teams that lose to Appalachian State turn around and beat us.  I have seen us beat the top ranked Buckeyes one week, and lose to an unranked Wolverine team the next.

We have the potential to be a great team.  None of the problems folks are losing sleep over are unfixable.  Contrast that to four years ago, when we kept hoping the team would get better as the season went on, but it didn’t due to sanctions, recruiting issues, and whatever.  The team didn’t get better because it quite frankly couldn’t get better.  We didn’t have the athletes.  We are at a point now that we could only have dreamed about five years ago.  We are probably watching a Heisman winner each week in Saquon Barkley.  We are loaded with offensive weapons and defensive playmakers.

Sit back folks and enjoy this ride.  There will be ups and downs, but we might just end up in Atlanta on January 8th!

INTANGIBLES:

Another argument across the sports world is whether Saquon is the best college football player ever?  Can that even be determined?  He certainly is one of the best playing right now.  He can run, he can catch and he can block!  And he even threw a touchdown pass last week!  He is one of the most exicting players I have ever watched at Penn State.

The Neil Diamond Impersonator?  You either loved it or hated it.  I love Sweet Caroline, and I thought the guy did a heckuva job.  Sheer genius!

The attendance was announced at 107, 542.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

Nebraska cornhusked Illinois 28-6.  Wisconsin dropped scat all over Northwestern 33-24.  The Buckeyes blanked the Knights of New Jersey 56-0.  (Rutgersal still thinks Rutgers has an outside shot at the National Championship, or at least a share of the Big Ten Title!)  Maryland terped Minnesota 31-24.  Michigan State edged Iowa 17-10.

And in other news, USC lost to Washington State 30-27.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Lions travel to Northwestern for the dreaded 11:00 am start.

Penn State has lost the last two games versus the Mildcats.  Franklin has not beaten Fitzgerald.  Yet.

The Mildcats have lost to Wisconsin (no surprise there) and Duke (41-17).  But the Dookies are 4-1 with only a loss to Miami to soil their record.  Northwestern has token wins over Nevada and Bowling Green.

The betting line is 14 points, favoring the Lions.

I’m not big on predictions, but I’m going to go out on a limb here . . . I think we win.  We cover the spread and then some.

 

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Margin of (a) Safety

Penn State out-gained the Hawkeyes 579 yards to 273.  They had 29 first downs compared to 11 for Iowa.  99 offensive plays for the guys in white; only 45 for the black and gold that is not the Steelers.  The Lions owned the ball with nearly forty minutes of possession.  Iowa did not register a first down until the final play of the first quarter.

Yet, with a minute and 42 seconds left in the game, the number four ranked team in the country found itself trailing the Hawks 19-15.  They also trailed at the half as Iowa turned a late interception into points on a big pass play.

How could this happen?

All the usual suspects were there.  Turn-overs.  Pass after pass batted down.  Missed and blocked field goals.  A terrific effort by the Iowa defense.

Despite all it’s offensive stats, PSU managed only a field goal in the first half.  And a safety by the defense, which played a great game all but for a couple of plays.

It all brought back shades of 2008.  Penn State, ranked third in the nation, traveled to Iowa City to play an unranked Hawkeye team.  In the closing minutes of that game, Iowa took possession, got some help from a phantom pass interference flag, and ended up kicking a field goal as time expired to beat Penn State.

It was like de ja blue all over again.

But the Hawkeyes forgot one thing this time.  1:42 on the clock.

The ensuing kick-off was returned to the twenty.  The Lions were 80 yards away from keeping their hopes of an undefeated season and possibly another Big Ten Title intact.

They had moved the ball all night.  579 yards of offense!  Saquon Barkley alone had 358 all-purpose yards (a Penn State school record.)  But most of that effort resulted in no points.

Trace McSorley, hurried at times, sacked, and somewhat inconsistent, then led this team on an 80 yard drive, highlighted by two fourth down conversions and an absolutely amazing pass through traffic that put the Lions up by two with no time left on the clock.

The Hawkeye fans were stunned.  (I know the feeling.  I felt it at the end of the Rose Bowl last season when I was sure we had pulled that one out.)

The DRIVE was reminiscent of “the drive” in 1994, when Kerry Collins led his team on a 95 yard drive, on the road, against the Illini defense, which that year was ranked in the top five in the country.  It preserved what would ultimately be an undefeated season, but that drive did not end the game, and our defense still had to preserve the victory.

I don’t remember PSU ever winning on the final play from scrimmage like that–maybe on a field goal as time expired, or a defensive play–but not a Mario Manningham kind of play.

Yeah, Iowa.  I remember that game too.  Wasn’t against you, but I know your pain.

It remains to be seen if the Lions can win out this year.  But if they do, I think we will all look back on this game–and this play–as a significant moment in PSU history.

While the stars seemed aligned against us most of the night, a lot of things suddenly came together at the right time.  On the previous play, McSorley threw an incompletion.  It didn’t look like Hamilton would have been able to score on that play.  We did have a timeout, but had he tried to break free, or they stood him up, time could have slipped away before a time out could have been called.

Iowa tried for two points after touchdowns twice and failed.  The margin of victory was two points.  Both teams had field goal problems.  Had Iowa not scored a touchdown, but ran more clock off and kicked a field goal, the game might have been beyond our reach.

In the end, the Lions made the plays they needed to make, and are still ranked #4 with Indiana up ahead.

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