Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Badgers Bested in BIG Bout

Seriously, who would have thought back in September that Penn State would be playing in Indianapolis this past weekend?  After a narrow loss to Pitt, and uninspired wins over Kent State and Temple, and a dreadful disaster in Ann Arbor, there were probably a lot of fans wondering if Penn State could even become bowl eligible, let alone win the conference and secure a spot in the Rose Bowl.

psuwinsbig

Yet, Saturday, our beloved Nittany Lions took the field, slight underdogs to the big bad boys of Wisconsin who averaged something like 600 pounds on the offensive line.   They defeated the Badgers in a come from behind win that has become their signature this season.  The final was 38-31 and was sweet for a school and fan base who has suffered needlessly the past five years.

One Penn State fan wrote a public letter to Dr. Emmert, who spearheaded the sanctions against Penn State:

At no point in the investigation or trial of Jerry Sandusky was one student-athlete ever implicated in either aiding and abetting Sandusky or in covering up said crimes. Despite that, Dr. Emmert, you chose to sanction a football program and, ultimately, student-athletes, to say nothing of the dedicated student fan base who had nothing to do with the horrific mistreatment of children. And, when you quietly walked back the sanctions and restored the wins to Coach Joe Paterno, you never apologized to those students or alumni for what seemed to be a vengeance against our beloved university.

And that, Dr. Emmert, is why Saturday night in Indianapolis was so sweet. For the athletes who stayed and for those who moved on. For the students who looked beyond the headlines and applied and were accepted to our great university. For our alumni – our wonderful, dedicated alumni. For Coach Bill O’Brien and Coach James Franklin and their staffs. For the lives that have been positively impacted by the research and teaching of our faculty. For the hundreds of thousands of diehard Penn Staters, the 2016 football season only represents what we already know. Penn State is an amazing place. We never believed that we were who you tried to tell us we are.

Dr. Emmert, we are Penn State.

Last week, I posted some numbers about Penn State’s performance vis-a-vis first and second half performances.  I concluded that giving up 28 points in the first half was a bad thing, since both games where opponents scored 28 points in the opening half were losses.

And as the Badgers went up 28-7 in the first half, I did start to have my doubts.  Couple this with the fact that Wisconsin was running the ball virtually at will, and we didn’t seem to have an answer for that.  But apparently, we had them right where we wanted them

The scenario played out as it had for most of this season.  Penn State narrowed the deficit to 14 before the half, and then outscored the Badgers 24-3 in the second half to win the Big Ten Title.

Simply amazing.

Trace McSorely had a record setting day passing.  The defense adjusted and Wisconsin no longer moved the line of scrimmage at will.  Our defense stuffed the over weighted Badger line on fourth down to secure the win.

But while the SEC, PAC-10, and ACC will send their champions to the college playoffs, the Big Ten will send a team that LOST to their champion.  I know, the conference had nothing to do with the selection.  But  . . .

Oddly enough, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney argued before the championship game that Ohio State had “done enough” to earn a spot in the playoff.  Is it any wonder that the fans in Indianapolis booed him soundly during the awards ceremony?

What did the chief representative of this conference have to gain by arguing that the winner of the conference championship did not deserve to be in the playoffs?  Shouldn’t he have been lobbying for two conference teams to be in the playoff?  Wouldn’t that have been good for the conference? (Of course, if he made that argument, he would in all likelihood be arguing that Ohio State and MICHIGAN be in the playoff together).

Is it mere coincidence that one of the playoff committee members is Barry Alvarez, a former Wisconsin coach with strong Big Ten ties?

Some would argue that we should be happy.   Maybe we don’t want to play Alabama?  The Rose Bowl is a really nice bowl in a really nice environment with really nice weather and a really, really nice parade.

So for an NFL team, is just making it to the playoffs as good as making it to the Superbowl?

We can argue for hours about why Penn State should be in the playoffs.  We could do the same for Western Michigan, Michigan, Oklahoma, and whoever else feels slighted.

It seemed the stars were aligning.  But in the end, they got sucked into a black hole of politics and rhetoric.

Sometimes an entire season comes down to a play or two that makes a difference.  Had Penn State not been intercepted by Pitt and won that game, they might have made it in at 11-1.  Had Michigan State kicked an extra point instead of going for two against the Buckeyes, maybe they would be out.  If we hadn’t had half our defense out for injuries against Michigan, maybe the score wouldn’t have looked so bad.

But . . . had we not blocked the punt against OSU–or if Urban had chosen to punt us deep or if Wisconsin had made their last fourth down or if Minnesota hadn’t lost to us in OT . . .  the what if game just goes on and on and on and on and on.

It sure would have been fun to see what this team could do against Alabama.

Instead, we’ll get to see them in action against a very good Southern Cal team.  And Tide jokes are never as funny as Trojan jokes.

After the way September went, I’m thrilled to see this team head to Pasadena.

 

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Big Ten Championship

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Kicking Their Dairy Air

I wish I had

TWEET!

Sorry, false start.  Again.

I really wish I had written a pregame summary this week, predicting a win for Penn State based on a complicated formula of controlling the line of scrimmage, not turning the ball over, controlling time of possession and committing eight false starts.  I would have looked like a freaking genius.  Now, I just look like a freak.  Such is life.

In their final game of the season, the team that just wouldn’t quit wouldn’t quit one last time, beating Wisconsin 31-24.  They were over matched and under scholarshipped.  The bettors were predicting a 24 point margin of victory for the Badgers.  Penn State had already lost to Indiana for crying out loud.

Simply put, Penn State should not have been in this game.

Instead, it was the Badgers who played like they shouldn’t have been in this game.  With a combination of poor throws by Stave (apparently pronounced Stavie–does that mean that the Packers were quarterbacked by Bret Favrie?), interceptions by Penn State, and big plays on offense (4 plays over 50 yards!) the Lions ended the season for the second straight year with a win over a ranked Wisconsin squad.  Okay, they weren’t ranked last year, but they were headed for the Big Championship and ultimately the Rose Bowl.  These were two quality season-ending wins dammit!

I thought last year that we benefitted from circumstance–Wisconsin had the title game already locked win or lose and didn’t want to risk any injuries.  But that was not the case this year.  They weren’t looking ahead to any championship game, and in fact, they were playing for a better bowl–perhaps a BCS game.  They had everything to gain by beating Penn State.

Wisconsin seemed out of whack, especially on defense.  Perhaps their shifting of players in and out was supposed to confuse Hackenberg, but in the end, it was the Badger defense that seemed confused.

But like so many other games this season, the Lions were unable to put the chokehold on their opponent when they had the opportunity.  They actually led by three scores 31-14 in the fourth quarter, but had to survive a Hail Mary pass with one second left to avoid a loss or OT.  Ficken missed a field goal that could have sealed the game, and had one blocked.  With time running out, O’Brien called a time out with FIVE seconds still on the clock.  Although Keiser intercepted Stave in the endzone to essentially end the game, there was still one second left on the clock that should not have been there.  Better clock management, and that final play wouldn’t have happened at all.

But that’s being a little picky for a team that defied all odds to go 7-5 and quite frankly we should be thankful this Thanksgiving that we still have a football program at all.

I simply cannot find the words to describe how happy I am with the win.  I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as Zwinak broke free for 61 yards.  These guys have played their hearts out all year and were so close to having a 10-2 season (but also close to a 4-8 one as well.)  But to come out in this final game in a hostile environment with nothing to play for than pride and put on that kind of performance is simply amazing.  Kudos to the coaches for keeping these guys motivated and focused!   The energy level was amazing!

Hackenberg finishes the season with 2,900+ passing yards, 20 TDs and 10 INTs.  The long ball looked good today.  With more scholarships on the horizon, the future looks bright.  I hope Allan Robinson sticks around for another year.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSUsports:

PSU WIS
FIRST DOWNS………………. 13 27
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)………… 28-126 30-120
PASSING YDS (NET)…………. 339 339
Passes Att-Comp-Int……….. 30-21-0 55-29-3
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS….. 58-465 85-459
Fumble Returns-Yards………. 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards………… 2-9 1–2
Kickoff Returns-Yards……… 5-73 6-78
Interception Returns-Yards…. 3-66 0-0
Punts (Number-Avg)………… 5-30.6 5-47.8
Fumbles-Lost……………… 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards…………… 9-45 4-35
Possession Time…………… 29:13 30:47
Third-Down Conversions…….. 5 of 13 8 of 17
Fourth-Down Conversions……. 0 of 0 2 of 3
Red-Zone Scores-Chances……. 3-5 3-3
Sacks By: Number-Yards…….. 3-18 0-0

Penn State outgained the Badgers by a small amount in total yards, but the Badgers had a slight edge in time of possession.  A closer look at the total yardage, though, shows that PSU gained about 8 yards per play while the Badgers averaged 5.4 yards per play.

INTANGIBLES:

The attendance at Camp-Randall was 78,064.

Bill O’Brien has not lost to Wisconsin.  The Badgers lead the series 9-8.
B1G PICTURE:

The Suckeyes “beat” THEM 42-41 as Hoke chose to go for two but came up short.  I like his call to go for it.  I don’t like the play he called.  It is what it is.

Nebraska looked like crap (how did we lose to them?) against Iowa, falling 38-17.

Sparty struggled offensively, but nearly blanked the gophers, winning 14-3.

Northwestern finally won a conference game, beating Illinois 37-34.

Indiana beat Purdue 56-36.

Future members:  Maryland beat NC State 41-21 while Rutgers lost to UConn 28-17.

Michigan State will face the Buckeyes for the conference title.  Pray that MSU carries the day.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Alabama–lost to Auburn on the final play of the game as the Tigers ran back a missed field goal–yes, you read that correctly–to break the tie and probably send Urban F-in Meyer to the title game.

2.  For Brady Hoke–big balls, but a little bat.

3.  For Duke–the good news–you won your division. The bad–now you have to face F$U.

4.  Oregon State–one point short of Oregon in the Civil War.

5.  Georgia Tech–lost to Georgia in 2OT

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Blue-White Game in April.

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BALL Controlled

This team would not quit.  This team didn’t want to quit.  While the NCAA seems to think that punishing these kids somehow helps the victims of Jerry Sandusky, or will change a culture of football when none of those decision makers are even at the University anymore, this team just wanted to play football.  And play they did.  They were having so much fun, they took this thing to over time.

I debated on the title of this recap for quite a while.  The alternative was Ficken Kicken Good, a play on the KFC ‘finger lickin good’ slogan.  And while Mr. Ficken deserves a lot of credit for slipping his 37-yarder inside the upright to seal Penn State’s OT victory, I think the key to this win was the defense adjusting after two early scores, including a record breaking 17-yard touchdown run by Monte Ball to put the Badgers up 14-7.  Ball was held to 111 yards on 17 carries, which I believe is well below his average.

In the meantime, Zach Zwinak rushed for 179 yards (and exactly 1000 for the season) against the nation’s 9th best rushing defense.

Unlike past games, Penn State did not perform well in the first half, but then dominated the second.  Adjustments were made on both sides of the ball.  O’Brien noted after the game that perhaps he should have rushed the ball even more.

But despite the emotion, and despite the punishing attack of Zwinak, the Badgers fought back.  The score board shows fours across the bottom: fourth down, four to go, fourth quarter, ball on the four yard line.  And with just 18 ticks left on the clock, the Wisconsin Badgers were still poised to disappoint this emotional and scrappy Penn State team.

Fans in the stadium were grumbling about the previous Penn State possession which opened with an incomplete short pass.  Penn State went three and out and failed to milk valuable time off the clock, allowing the Badgers a chance to tie up the game.  Personally, I like the call.  It was a short, safe pass–almost but not a lateral.  Ninety eight times out of a hundred, you complete that pass.  If the receiver makes the first guy miss, you get some good yardage.  Unfortunately, on this cold blustery night, the pass fell incomplete.  Clock stopped.  Hearts stopped.

My feet were frozen, and the night seemed to be growing colder with each passing second.  Penn State clung to a three point lead in the first OT.  But the defense rose to the occasion stifling the first run for a yard by Monte Ball.  They sacked and forced a fumble on the next play, but we were unable to recover the fumble.  On third down, Glenn Carson should have intercepted the pass and secured the win, but dropped the ball.

Things looked bleak as Wisconsin lined up to kick the field goal.    A time out to ice the kicker gave the frozen fans in the stadium the opportunity to reflect on the missed opportunities.  A dropped pass and three and out.  A field goal in OT.  An unrecovered fumble.  An un-intercepted pass.  How many more chances would the Badgers get to send PSU into the off season on a sour note?

The answer was none.  Kyle French yanked his 44-yarder wide worse than me hooking a drive into the trees.

And this team prevailed.  The story lines are well known.  The walk-on QB that many said would never be able to play for any marquee division I team played lights out all season with 17 TDs and five INTs.  He suddenly looked like a D-I QB.  Sam Ficken, missing four field goals and an extra point in a one point loss to Virginia, came back to hit his last 10 and the game winner over the Badgers in OT.  There was Michael Mauti, outspoken leader of this team and key instrument to keeping this team together when many were heading for what they thought were greener pastures, now sitting on the sideline with a knee injury on Senior Day.  And of course, there are those annoying little details like the ignominious firing and subsequent death of a legendary coach, the hiring of Bill O’Brien, and the NCAA over stepping it’s charter to severely punish a school, when none of the administrators have yet to be found guilty of any wrong doing.  There is no dearth of plot lines in this season.

And although there is no bowl game, perhaps in this final, exciting victory, these student-athletes can find some redemption for their dedication and hard work.

Congratulations, Class of 2012!

BY THE NUMBERS:

There was one turn over in the game, a key interception when Wisconsin was driving just one possession before they tied the game.

Penn State won time of possession 31:45 to 28:15.  If you read my pregame statistics, I said it would be crucial for PSU to win this.  The Badgers were 6th in the nation in TOP.

Penn State out gained the Badgers 363 to 349 yards, and out-rushed them by 5.

INTANGIBLES:

The Blue Band Drum Major had trouble sticking both flips, and I think he injured himself on the first one as he seemed to limp a bit after that.  Hopefully he will heal up before the NCAA Drum Major Flipping Combine.

Penn State won the toss and elected to defer in regulation.  The Badgers won the toss in OT.  I thought it odd that PSU chose to play in the North Endzone, but let’s face it, the student section was rather empty (they didn’t even have enough people for the card ceremony which otherwise looked really good) and the bowl of the North end was full and loud.  I know.  I was there.  Of course, it might have had something to do with the wind or other factors.  It’s just odd that the home team didn’t choose to play into its own student section.

The attendance figure of 93,505 obviously reflected tickets sold and not actual bodies in the stadium.  I blame STEP for this.  I think they even counted the ghost of Joe Paterno, but Rodney Erickson apologized afterward.  There were very few empty $100 seats in the lower bowl.  I think STEP needs to readjust it’s pricing to demand, unless the University is satisfied just having a lot of empty seats on game day.

I actually had trouble giving away 6 tickets.  My brother-in-law had two on the 45-yard line that he couldn’t give away.  So STEP isn’t the only culprit here.   I don’t know what the solution is, but apparently the University doesn’t care.  But if I were in charge, there would be open admission for any students (no ticket or cost required) to fill in any available seats AFTER the FIRST QUARTER in the student section, providing of course that the section was sold out.  Upper decks are $50.  I don’t care if they have chair backs.  Who would want to sit up there, when there are $100 seats in the bowl below?  The upper sections at mid field should be half–if on the 50, then $300 instead of $600, $200 instead of $400.  At least it would be a start.  But silly me . . . it isn’t about the fans or the game.  It’s about money.

Did O’Brien refer to his team as F%&KERS or FIGHTERS?  Come on.  Why would he call them that?  It was cold, his voice cracked.  Move on people.  Move on.

O’Brien’s favorite band?

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

What is the real cost of a FREE TATTOO?  Apparently one national championship.  The Buckeyes finish undefeated after a 26-21 win over their arch nemesis from Up North, but they will sit at home with Penn State for the bowl season.  Happy Holidays!

Nebraska punched their ticket to Indy with an uninspired 13-7 win over Iowa, who isn’t even bowl eligible.

Northwestern put up 50 to Illinois’ 14.  Nice season there, Illini.  Go ahead.  make our day.  Try to poach some more athletes.  Losers.  I don’t carry a grudge.  I wear it with pride.

Purdue steamrolled Indiana 56-35.  The Spartans managed to get to bowl eligibility with a 26-10 win over the 6-6 Gophers.

Both future Big Ten teams lost:  Rutgers fell to Pitt 27-6 and Marlyand lost to UNC 45-38.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  For college football, as ND continues to pretend to be relevant.

2.  For Oregon–no title game for you!

3.  For Auburn–3-9 and pounded 49-0 by Bama.

4.  For Championship games–Stanford beat UCLA, setting up a title game between, um, Stanford and UCLA.  Nebraska has to play Wisconsin again.  Woo Hoo!  Why?  Oh yeah, I forgot again.  It’s about the money.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Blue White Game.

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Statistically Speaking: Don’t Badger Me Edition

Here are the NCAA rankings for Penn State and Wisconsin:

NCAA Stats Comparison
Category: Penn St. Wisconsin
Rushing 83 17
Passing Offense 34 110
Total Offense 48 83
Scoring Offense 56 67
Rushing Defense 23 9
Turnovers Gained 40 107
Passes Had Intercepted 18 9
Pass Defense 52 25
Net Punting 110 68
Punt Returns 87 52
Kickoff Returns 110 77
Turnover Margin 21 48
Fumbles Recovered 21 93
Passes Intercepted 64 97
Fumbles Lost 43 17
Turnovers Lost 16 6
Passing Efficiency 49 61
Pass Efficiency Defense 26 25
Total Defense 30 11
Scoring Defense 22 14
Fewest Penalties Per Game 46 5
Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game 58 9
Punt Return Yardage Defense 105 59
Kickoff Return Yardage Defense 72 28
Offense Third-down Efficiency 50 103
Offense Fourth-down Efficiency 48 56
Defense Third-down Efficiency 52 16
Defense Fourth-down Efficiency 22 92
Tackles for Loss 60 67
Offense Tackles for Loss 3 101
Pass Sacks 13 53
Pass Sacks Allowed 53 80
Time of Possession 30 6
First Downs 38 96
First Downs Allowed 27 7
Red Zone Efficiency 87 53
Red Zone Efficiency – Defense 10 113
Average NCAA Rank: 46.68 52.43
Weighted Avg. Rank: 46.17 44.83

The two teams are pretty evenly matched, but PSU has an edge straight up in all categories.  When you weight those categories (more emphasis for things like total defense and less emphasis for fewest penalties) then the Badgers emerge with a slight edge.  If the two teams play “their game” PSU will need to rely on some intangibles to win the game.

Both teams have good rushing defenses.  Penn State will need to keep Monte Ball from running down hill all day, and in particular, the fourth quarter.  Notice that Wisconsin is ranked higher nationally in time of possession.  The Lions will probably need to win that stat . . . if our defense is on the field a long time, the Wisconsin O-line will likely prevail late in the game.

Unfortunately for Penn State, Wisconsin leads just about every defensive category.  Their passing offense is 110th, but if the weather turns out to be as treacherous (cold, rainy, snowy) as I have heard predicted, this will favor the running game.

I do like the Red Zone defense numbers, with PSU ranked 10th and the Badgers at 113. If we can get the ball to the red zone, I think we prevail. Keep in mind that our red zone offensive performance includes the early games like Virginia where we really struggled to put any points on the board. I think we are actually better in the red zone now than the stats would show.

Penn State is between a 2.5 and 3 point favorite depending on the time of day you look.  Most odds makers and pundits claim a three point advantage for the home team.  Looks like Vegas thinks these two teams are pretty closely matched up.

So what are the intangibles?  Neither team NEEDS to win.  If the Lions lose, the season is over.  The season is over if they win.  Win or lose, Wisconsin has already punched their tickets to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Title game and a possible Rose Bowl Berth.

Penn State’s season is over regardless of the outcome.  They can play like there is no to,morrow, because, well, there isn’t.  Wisconsin on the other hand, can’t afford an injury to a quarterback or Monte Ball.  This isn’t pro ball.  Those key players won’t sit out because the playoff spot is assured.  And if Wisconsin loses the Title game, their record will determine how good of a consolation bowl they land in.

But this is senior day for a very special group of senior players.  Michael Mauti, the very special leader of that special group, will be side-lined with a knee injury.  Emotion will be running high.  That can be good and bad.  Emotion ran high in the opening game against the Bobcats, but spent itself out too quickly and wilted in the heat of a hot afternoon.  We don’t need to worry about heat being a factor, but we don’t want to crash and burn late in the afternoon on too much intensity too quickly.

This is where O’Brien needs help from his coordinators and assistants who have played the college game.  Motivating 18-22 year olds who are not being paid a salary in the millions is different than motivating an NFL team.  I have no doubt that creepy old Bret Bielema will have his team fired up.  Can we match and exceed — and sustain —  that emotion?

The answer to that may determine the outcome of the game.

Let’s go with PENN STATE 31 – WISCONSIN 27.

GO STATE!  BEAT BADGERS!

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