Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Imperfect Storm

As I was driving home from the game yesterday, I was in a reflective mood. Perhaps it was the glinting sunlight in the west, framed by a ceiling of clouds that seemed to reach all the way to California, before ending in a strip of bright blue sky and golden sun. The mountains had a golden haze over them that was simply breathtaking in its beauty. But I doubt this radiance was in any way related to my mood.

Perhaps it was because I was sober. I was driving after all. And reflecting back on the game made me wonder how I might see things if I were a little more lubricated so to speak. I mean, after all, alcohol is the fuel of the entire bar/dating scene, with the underlying premise that people look better to you when they are drunk. Surely this team would look better had I been drunk. But I doubt it. Even an alcoholic stupor could not cast a golden light on this performance.

When you strip away the positives—the fact that we won and the interception return by Bowman—you are left with something that makes stripping sound like a bad thing. Put it back on! I’m blind! Or is that the damned sunshine in my eyes?

I was sober when I wrote this; forgive me if I go astray.

I reflected on the fact that the home season at Beaver Stadium was over. We said good bye to a great group of players including Daryll Clark and Sean Lee. This day is always one of those emotional turmoils like the last day of summer vacation or the feeling on Christmas morning after the last gift has been opened. Happy yet sad. Bittersweet. No more home games until next September—but a part of you remembers all the fumbled punts and you think quietly to yourself, ‘Thank God I don’t have to witness that for awhile!’ And then you feel guilty for feeling that way, because deep down, you really love this game of football, and three months from now you will be tearing your hair out in pain waiting for the season to begin.

Yes—we won. It was an ugly win and an ugly win is better than a pretty loss, if such a beast exists. There are surely fans who will point at me and ask how I can whine and complain when we won. I don’t know how to answer that.

I’m happy that we won—don’t get me wrong on that point. But I am not pleased that punting has become an adventure in heartburn and even a struggling team like Virginia was able to put up 47 points on the Hoosier defense (ours put up 24 if you take away the Bowman score.) You know it’s bad when the crowd cheers—for a fair catch that we didn’t muff!

It’s kind of like getting to the final gift on Christmas. You really want that radio-controlled car that you’ve been begging for since practically this time last Christmas. And even as you open the gift, which your brain tells you is too small and squishy to be that car, you hope against hope that it is something it isn’t. (Deep down you know this team is better than they’ve played.) And when the paper falls away, you’re left with socks. There’s nothing wrong with socks. They’re practical. The ones you are wearing have holes in them. Kent State or Temple (and anyone with cold bare feet) is thrilled with socks. And it is the thought that counts right? Right?

But socks are not a radio-controlled car. It is not what you wanted. It might have been what you needed or even what you deserved. But the kid that wanted the car ain’t going to be happy with socks.

To those who criticize me for wanting more from this team, all I can say to you is, I hope you like your socks. You are those people that love socks. I worry about you—I really do. I guess sock fetishes aren’t always a sign of mental instability, and there are probably a lot of people that like getting socks. Maybe Obama does. Or Joe Paterno. And you.

But this is supposed to be a recap of a game that Penn State won 31-20 over the Indiana Hoosiers. Never mind that Indiana is not bowl eligible. Never mind that the oddsmakers and gamblers had us anywhere from 21-26 point favorites. A lot of them are wishing they hadn’t lost their socks on this game!

In the first quarter alone, we had two fumbles and an interception. We went into halftime with four turnovers. If punting problems weren’t enough special teams angst for one team, then how about a field goal unit that dinked a 34-yarder against the upright? Don’t the Barr’s have any kids that can come to Penn State and kick?

The lack of a special teams coach is an age-old argument, and discussing it won’t change a thing. The only person who can make the change, doesn’t think there is a problem. But I beg to differ. There are many—and there is no one person who has responsibility. Too many problems and too many people involved in the situation. No leader.

Why can’t we settle on ONE person who is responsible for fielding punts? Do they draw straws on the sideline? Oooh. You got the short one! When you look at how the team performs in other aspects of the game, you just wonder why we can’t do basic things like fielding punts, returning punts and kick-offs, and defending them. Penn State should not be nearly last in the country in all these categories.

But blogging about it won’t help. In the end, we came away with a win, kept our BCS hopes alive on life support, and regardless, we will be going to a bowl game. And no matter where it is, I’ll have a good pair of socks!


Team Totals IND PSU
Rushing 4 11
Passing 15 9
Penalty 1 2
Rushing Attempts 24 39
Average Per Rush 2.0 4.6
Rushing Touchdowns 0 2
Yards Gained Rushing 69 187
Yards Lost Rushing 21 6
Completions-Attempts-Int 32-52-1 17-29-2
Average Per Attempt 5.7 6.7
Average Per Completion 9.3 11.4
Passing Touchdowns 2 1
Total offense plays 76 68
Average Gain Per Play 4.6 5.5
Fumbles: Number-Lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties: Number-Yards 3-39 2-10
PUNTS-YARDS 6-236 2-89
Average Yards Per Punt 39.3 44.5
Net Yards Per Punt 36.7 44.5
Inside 20 1 1
50+ Yards 0 1
Touchbacks 0 0
Fair catch 1 1
KICKOFFS-YARDS 5-273 6-374
Average Yards Per Kickoff 54.6 62.3
Net Yards Per Kickoff 35.4 44.7
Touchbacks 0 2
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD 0-0-0 3-16-0
Average Per Return 0.0 5.3
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD 4-66-0 5-96-0
Average Per Return 16.5 19.2
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD 2-9-0 1-73-1
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD 0-0-0 0-0-0
Miscellaneous Yards 0 0
Possession Time 28:32 31:28
1st Quarter 9:50 5:10
2nd Quarter 7:05 7:55
3rd Quarter 3:50 11:10
4th Quarter 7:47 7:13
Third-Down Conversions 8 of 18 8 of 12
Fourth-Down Conversions 1 of 1 0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 2-2 4-5
Sacks By: Number-Yards 0-0 2-11
PAT Kicks 2-2 4-4
Field Goals 2-3 1-2


The drum major completed both flips for what I believe was a perfect season for the Blue Band. The halftime show featured favorite drills and songs from the season, including the Theme from Rocky formation with the two stick figures fighting it out.

Penn State won the toss and deferred.

It was the final game for Blue Sapphire PJ Maierhofer. Her talent and enthusiasm will be missed.
It is win number 392 for Joe who is STILL five ahead of Bobby after his Seminoles beat Wake Forest.

Attendance for Senior Day was 107,379.


The team that shall not be spoken of clinched at least a share of the Big Ten Title and a trip to the Rose Bowl by defeating the Hawkeyes 27-24 in OT. THEM lost to the Badgers 45-24 and must now beat Ohio State to be bowl eligible. It looks like they will add to their streak of not going to bowls this year.

In other action, the Spartans got their coveted 6th win by beating Purdue 40-37. Minnesota struggled but beat South Dakota State 16-13. Are you freaking kidding me? Just when you think wins can’t get any uglier . . .

Northwestern beat the resurgent Illini 21-16.

The final weekend of Big Ten Football features the following matchups:

PSU @ Michigan State
Minnesota @ Iowa
Purdue @ Indiana
Wisconsin @ Northwestern
Ohio State @ THEM

Illinois has two non-conference games remaining, @ Cincinnati on Nov. 27 and hosting Fresno State on Dec. 5.


1. For Irish Fans—the “fumble” will be talked about for ages. Well, at least this week. Anyone think the Big East refs and replay officials had a stake in this game?
2. For USC—my what a difference a year makes!
3. For Houston—thanks for playing
4. For the Canes—from riches to rags
5. For College Football Fans—stuck with a BCS system that will all but guarantee a Big XII versus SEC matchup
6. Mr. & Mrs. Stull who can’t watch a Pitt game from their own seats because of how the crowd boos their son.


Penn State travels to Spartan Stadium for the final game of this season. Sparty is bowl eligible and playing for pride and the ugly Land Grant Trophy. Penn State is still looking--hoping--for an at-large BCS invitation. The game will be ABC regional coverage.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m almost glad this game is away. If you look at our season so far, both losses were at home and we didn’t play loose or comfortable in either of those games. On the other hand, trips to Ann Arbor and Illinois—games we fretted about in the summer—turned out to be no big deal. We actually seem to play looser and more open on the road, at least in the second half of those games. Part of that is a product of the competition—the two home losses were against teams that Joe perceived as being tight games and he played things conservative. Hopefully, the trend on the road continues for one more week.

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