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Michi-gunned Down

For an entire week I endured the media hype.  Michigan has the best defense in the country.  They were going to shut down Barkley.  Penn State had no offensive line.  McSorley was going to be running for his life and making mistakes.  Blah, blah, blah.

blahblahblah

Did they know this was 2017 and not 2016???

Jim Harbaugh actually looked shell-shocked in his post-game interview.

I can’t believe their coaching staff only looked at last season’s 49-10 game to prepare for last Saturday.  Yet, they looked unprepared.  They couldn’t stop Barkley.  They couldn’t cover him as a receiver.  They actually looked slow on defense (or we looked really fast–take your pick.)

Of course, there is the possibility that they did prepare but I guess their best wasn’t good enough.

Before a record-setting white out crowd of 110,823 exuberant fans, the second ranked Nittany Lions proceeded to methodically dissect, out man, and out play the vaunted Wolverine defense.

It didn’t take long.  On the second play of the game, Saquon Barkley (for those of you who are Michigan fans, he is a running back that plays for Penn State, a school that is not Michigan nor Ohio State if you can actually believe the concept that there are other schools out there) shifted to take the direct snap out of the wildcat formation.  He then proceeded to take the football 69 yards untouched for six points and our kicker made the point after.  Saquon Barkley . . .  say Bye Bye!

Penn State would go up to 14-0 on the team from up north, on yet another run by Barkley, this time from the fifteen yard line.  Georgia State held Barkley to fewer yards than this alleged number one defense.

The first quarter ended as the wolverines got a spark of life support from a Trace McSorley interception, where it appeared the quarterback and receiver weren’t on the same page.  But one-time PSU commit Quinn Nordin would miss the extra point.  Wouldn’t mean anything in the final analysis but it was just a bit of karma in his face.

To their credit, the maize and blue would try to make a game of it with a second touchdown in the second period, but the score was 21-13 at the half thanks to a 7 play, 75 yard drive engineered by Trace McSorley (for Michigan fans, he’s a quarterback who plays at Penn State, blah, blah, blah, he’s pretty good outside the town of Ann Arbor or so I’ve heard.)  The drive took all of 52 seconds and the team never looked back.

Let’s do some Michi-gun bullets baby:

  • Penn State amassed 506 yards of offense against the “number one defense”
  • Penn State only punted twice.
  • Penn State never had to kick a field goal
  • The Lions averaged 7.2 yards on first down plays
  • The pathetic Penn State line allowed only two sacks
  • Penn State sacked O’Korn seven times
  • McSorley ran for 78 yards
  • Penn State has still not allowed a point in the first quarter
  • If you think that’s impressive, PSU has outscored opponents 72-3 in the third quarter
  • Penn State shut-out the wolverines in the second half.
  • The loss drops the University of Michigan out of the AP poll

The final score was 42-13 as Penn State rattled off 28 unanswered points.  They are 7-0 on the season and still ranked number 2.  This was one of the best whiteout games and certainly one of the most entertaining.  I still put Ohio State 2005 at the top of the list because that game was close, it was an upset victory, and Penn State was resurging from the dark years of 2003-4.  This game was never really in doubt but was just plain fun.  Michi-fun.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes had a week off to prepare for Penn State.

Wisconsin badgered the terrapins 38-13.

The Spartans outlasted Indiana 17-9.

Northwestern fricaseed the Hawks 17-10.

Rutgers beat the Boilers 14-12.  Wait?  What?  Let me check that.  Wow.  They won one.

And the Gophers defeated Illinois 24-17.

Outside the conference, the Irish embarrassed the Trojans 49-14.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Nittany Lions travel to Columbus next week to face the 6th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.  Kick-off is 3:30.

The Buckeyes struggled a bit with Indiana in the opener, trailed at the half, but ultimately put the Hoosiers away 49-21.  If you recall, we beat Indiana 45-14.  Kind of a wash there.  That is the only common opponent to date.

The Bucks have scored no fewer than 54 points in their last four games, against the likes of UNLV, Maryland, Rutgers and Nebraska.

Their one loss was a night-time, prime time loss to the Sooners, 31-16.  This was the second game of the year on their schedule and no game since has been even close.

Ohio State opened as a 7 point favorite.

I think we win.  Their front seven will keep Barkley in check, although I still see him breaking free at one point.  However, our offensive line is getting better, and I think McSorley will have a good day against the Buckeye secondary.  This will be one of the better if not the best offenses we have faced so far so it will be a test for our defense.  I think they will rise to the occasion.  It won’t be as lopsided as this week, but we shall see.

And I leave you with this . . .

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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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IT IS COMING . . .

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

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

Can we produce this level of excitement again?

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Big Ten Championship

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A BIG win!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keys to victory:

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

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

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

Who knows where this season might end?

starsaligned

THE STARS HAVE ALIGNED!

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RU Ready for Penn State Football?

Apparently not.

Rutgers did its best to hang in with Penn State, and even managed to make it to halftime behind by only 9 points.

But Rutgers is a really bad football team.  They have two wins on the season.  Howard.  And New Mexico.  They have not won a Big Ten Game this season.  They came close with a 34-32 loss to Minnesota.

almosthadit

I’m not Penn State but Big Ten give me a win!

Yet, the score was a god-awful 9-0 at the midway point.  Penn State fumbled the opening kick-off.  The Knights still could not score, as they missed a field goal.  I’d have to check the stats (and quite frankly I am too lazy to do that right now) but that might have been the only time they started in PSU territory all night.

But true to form, the lackluster first half performance was just a bland appetizer to the festive and delicious meal yet to come in the second half.  Penn State pulled away while the defense shut down the Scarlet Knights and handed them their 4th shutout of the season.

Special teams avenged their game opening fumble with a blocked punt in the third quarter.

I almost felt sorry for the Rutgers players as the stadium was nearly empty by the middle of the fourth quarter.  Granted, the weather was not pleasant, but still you would have thought some of their fans would hang in there until the end.  I guess that makes them fair weather fans.

Next Up: The Michigan State Spartans.

Sparty almost upset the Buckeyes on senior day at home in East Lansing, but a questionable decision and subsequent play call to go for two with over four minutes to play in the game, left the Green and White a point short.  They lost 17-16.

Up north, the wolverines dispatched the annoying Hoosiers 20-10, but trailed Indiana 7-3 at the half.

This sets up the season finale next week.

If Michigan wins, they will go to the Big Ten Championship game.

If Ohio State wins, and Penn State wins, the Nittany Lions will play in their first ever Big Ten Championship game in sunny Indianapolis, a prize package worth millions.

Since UM and O$U face off at high noon, Penn State will know the outcome of that game by the time they kick off in Happy Valley at 3:30.

The Spartans played the Buckeyes tough, but O$U has struggled on the road this year while dominating at home.  The game against Harbaugh’s team will be in Columbus.  Ohio State opened as an early 7 point favorite.

Either way, PSU needs to take care of business on their own senior day.  The Spartans have three wins (Furman, Notre Dame, and Rutgers.)  When you’re marquee win is against Rutgers, it really puts your season in perspective.

I think Penn State wins this game comfortably, but if UM beats O$U, it may take the wind out of our sails and work against us.

But . . . an Ohio State victory?  Beaver Stadium will be rocking!

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