Somehow, the weather knew it was football season. For the past two months, the temps have been in the 80’s and 90’s, but on the first Saturday of football season at Penn State, the breeze was crisp, the sky mostly cloudy, and the temp was in the sixties. It was great football weather and much better than melting our foam fingers in sweltering humidity.
The windy climate did not seem to bother true freshman QB Rob Bolden, as he had a record day for freshman QBs. As we drove to the game, I mused about this momentous start. It was the first time in a century that a freshman QB started a season at Penn State. That alone is cause to stop and reflect. I don’t recommend doing that in the middle of I-99, though.
But consider this also . . . Bolden only just started in summer camp, what three weeks ago? Three months ago he was going to his high school prom! Not only did Newsome and McGloin have a year in the system on him, but Paul Johnson had the advantage of early enrollment and playing in the Blue-White game and spring practice.
What this said to me was that this kid has something. Not just that, but the coaches can see it. And it’s not something small. If the talent level were close, Newsome or McGloin would have gotten the nod. No. This kid must be something special. Either that, or Paterno really is getting senile—and I doubt that.
So like most Penn State fans, I was looking forward to seeing this phenom in action. And he did not disappoint. His only major miscue was an INT, but the receiver actually fell down on the play. He overthrew some balls, but with the wind and it being his first collegiate start, that is to be expected. We are looking for results here; not miracles. This is not Notre Dame. We win with players, not ghosts.
Bolden looked calm. He didn’t stare down receivers or get rattled. He took a few hits, including a couple of late calls where the flag was thrown. He has a quick release and really throws a nice tight spiral. You might have to go back to Kerry Collins in 1994 to find a QB with such good mechanics. And he is JUST A FRESHMAN!
Now granted, I’d have liked to see the Lions paste 66 points on them like we did to Sweet Coastal Caroline a few years ago, but despite the slow start, I thought this was one of Penn State’s better openers in recent years. And the early adversity, such as it was, may have been a good wake-up call. It might be a stretch to say it will go anywhere in terms of preparing to play Alabama, but maybe, just maybe, if they do get down early, they will remember that as long as there is time on the clock and plays to made, it is possible to win this game.
Unless you are Youngstown State. Seriously. I admit I had some angst going into the second quarter. I was more pissed off that the 7-3 first quarter score would be flashed around the country and idiots like Mark May would jump on the upset special bandwagon. A score like that would have the talking heads all going Appalachian State on us. The media doesn’t like us anyway—why give them more ammunition to tear us down?
And more annoying than that were the two red clad clowns in front of us jumping up and down like they’re all Division I-A, when like we know they are not. But that didn’t stop them from cheering like they had a real legitimate chance to all Jacksonville State pants us on our home turf and on the Big Ten Network to boot. But they got quiet real fast, and they ended up leaving the game early. I think if you’re going to come into someone else’s house and act like morons, you should grow some balls and stay to the bitter end. Either that or sit quietly and be polite when your team is scaring the fricking hell out of the rest of us. Is that too much to ask? I mean, you’re outnumbered like 50,000 to one here. The odds aren’t good for you, win or lose. But I digress.
So the team hung in there and took a 16-7 lead into halftime.
And then it happened. We had been waiting the entire first half for someone to step up and make a play. Run back a fumble or an INT. Break one for a long run from scrimmage. Something. Anything. Game changing play. Throw us a friggin’ bone here. Give this game a spark and ignite the old Penn State scoring machine.
Chaz Powell did just that as he weaved and ran his way to a 100 yard kick-off return that pretty much sealed the deal and got the Zombie Nation bouncing in the stands for the first time this season.
Other things of note:
Despite the slow start, Penn State only punted once the entire game. It wasn’t a long punt, but it was covered well.
Special teams looked so good you almost might think we actually have a special teams coach. Wagner booted three field goals over 40 yards (he was 1-5 from that distance last year) and this was on a windy day! Fera booted kick-offs consistently deep, if not through the end zone, and actually split the uprights with one. I’m sorry, but the rules need to be changed. You should get some points for that! Our punt returns still need some work, but at least we weren’t fair catching the whole day.
Brackett had a great day and showed why he deserves to be a team captain.
On the defensive side of the ball, Penn State held the Penguins to 75 yards on the ground as a team. Penn State has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last 18 games.
Colasanti had a career day with 13 tackles.
The drum major missed his first flip—which supposedly portends a loss—but he managed to barely stick the second one in the south end zone. The feature twirler is a dude, but he’s got this trademark thing of twirling the baton, throwing it away, bouncing it off the turf and having it come back to him like it’s a boomerang or something.
The Lion mascot appeared sober.
Penn State won the toss and deferred.
The crowd of 101,213 was mostly subdued. The wave was anemic and ill-coordinated. Please wait till we’re winning to pull that crap. I can’t cheer, watch the game, and throw my hands up in the air at the same time in a more or less coordinated fashion.
Joe Paterno notched win #395. Bowden is done. There’s no one else in the mirror.
Penn State is 2-0 versus the Penguins all-time.
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
The Buckeyes took care of Marshall on Thursday Night Football, beating the Herd 45-7. Terrell Pryor is obviously the best QB. Evah. Give him the Heisman. Give them their Big Ten Championship for like the hundredth year in a row. Give them the MNC. We don’t even need to play the rest of the season.
For the rest of us, UConn fell to THEM 30-20. Northwestern edged the Commodores 23-21. Iowa crushed Eastern Illinois 37-7. Michigan State bested Western Michigan by a score of 38-14. The Badgers topped UNLV 41-21. Indiana hosed Towson 51-17, and Minnesota squeaked by Middle Tennessee State 24-17.
Two Big Ten teams lost, with Illinois falling to Missouri 23-13 and the Irish overpowering Purdue by a score of 23-12.
1. Pitt- do we need say anything else?
2. Ole Miss—pants by Jacksonville State in OT
3. North Carolina—lost to LSU 30-24
4. Kansas—pwned by North Dakota State. 6-3. Wow. Just, um, wow.
5. Oregon State—yeah, it was a highly ranked TCU team, but these Beavers just can’t win an early season game to save their dam.
Penn State travels to Tuscaloosa next week to take on the defending National Champions and Number 1 ranked Crimson Tide.
How big is this game? Whoa Nellie! Penn State has done traditionally done well against teams with Heisman winners, but it is likely that Mark Ingram won’t play due to injury.
Against #1 ranked teams in the Paterno era:
1966 unranked Lost to Michigan State 42-8 (A)
1976 unranked Lost to Pitt 24-7 (A)
1981 #11 won against Pitt 48-14 (A)
1982 #2 won against Georgia 27-23 (Sugar Bowl)
1983 unranked lost to Nebraska 44-6 (Giant Stadium)
1986 #2 won against Miami (FL) 14-10 (Fiesta Bowl)
1988 unranked lost to Notre Dame 21-3 (A)
1989 #17 lost to Notre Dame 34-23 (H)
1990 #18 won at Notre Dame 24-21 (A)
1998 #7 lost to Ohio State 28-9 (A)
2006 #24 lost to Ohio State 28-6 (A)
2007 #24 lost to Ohio State 37-17 (H)
So we are 4-8 overall facing #1 ranked teams. We’re 2-0 in bowl games which has no bearing here. We’re 2-6 on the road. But we’re 0-2 at home versus number 1, so thank heavens this is an away game! Our odds are better!
Seriously, I am feeling a little better knowing that we may be able to score some points. The offensive line looked lousy in the first half against the Penguins. They did seem to get better as the game went on, but perhaps YSU got tired. The level of competition is totally different for this week’s game, though.
I think if Bama brings their A-game that got them through last season, I don’t think we can match that level of play at this time. But if they are off a little bit, make a few mistakes, and we play relatively error free football, I think we have a chance. I also hope we don’t crawl into a shell and play not to lose. I don’t mean we should play with reckless abandon and gimmick plays, but I think we have to allow Bolden to pass the ball and use the whole field—which includes the middle.
If Alabama takes something away from us, so be it. But let’s not help them out and do it for them.
Teams that upset their opponents have a few things in common. They tend to play error-free. They usually have their best game of the year. Their opponent is typically not playing its usual game. But more importantly, the coaches and the players play like they WANT TO WIN. They play like they have nothing to lose.
In the great grand scheme of this season, a loss here is no different if we lose a frustratingly conservative game by one point or an aggressive but lopsided loss by 20 or more. It’s a non-conference game and the Big Ten title and BCS bowl are still possible. A national title is a very, very long shot this year and probably impossible with a loss, so if that’s what we’re playing for, so be it. Play to win. I’d much rather see us lose a game we tried to win than lose a game we tried not to lose.