Saturday, October 9, 2010


It's 6 a.m. The alarm goes off, playing "I got you Babe." The DJ comes on, "Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today."
It's coooold out there every day. . . when you lose.

And then, we Penn State fans get out of bed and we relive the same game over and over again, trapped in a never ending cycle of dropped passes, missed opportunities, slow starts, bad coaching decisions, clock mismanagement, youthful inexperience, and excuses.

Illinois was a great team. We were licked. We got our ears kicked in. Maybe we were outcoached. The whole bit.

Sound familiar? Welcome again to Groundhog Day, starring Jay Paterno as Phil Connors and Ron Zook as Ned Ryerson.  It never ends.

Truth be told, the weather wasn’t coooold. It was great. It was the only redeeming thing about the entire day, except for Michigan State winning. Does Denard Robinson have to return his Heisman?

Things started out so well. We usually give up an early score—being that we are a better second half team. Illinois even had the unmitigated gall to go for it on fourth down on their own 29 yard line.  We should have known then that things were not going to go well.

But on the first possession, we eventually forced an Illini punt that they left roll into our endzone for a touchback. Royster rushed for 8 yards on the first play. That was probably his best rush of the day—and possibly for the whole team.

Despite second and two, we couldn’t get a first down and we punted. Jack Ramsey fumbled the punt and Penn State recovered at the Illini 23. Holy crap! We were three yards away from the red zone. I don’t know about you, but I was terrified.

Now most teams—at least teams that want to win—would go for the jugular at this point. Throw one to the end zone. Take your best shot. Catch the defense on their heels, that sort of thing. But I just knew that our wily coaching staff wasn’t going to go for any of that new fangled garbage. I figured right then and there we would run the ball three times to set up the field goal.

We did! Three straight runs up the middle, but we actually eked out a first down. We then threw an 8 yard pass to Silas Redd. A pass on first down! I know! I can’t believe it either. It probably worked because Illinois couldn’t believe it either!

So we followed it with a run up the middle that went nowhere. An incomplete pass finished the promising drive and an illegal procedure call iced it for good measure. Bring in Wagner and the Penn State Patented FG was on the board. We limped into the second quarter up 3-0. I’m okay with this at this point. We’re a second half team and the best is yet to come.

But first some angst. Illinois opened the second quarter by concluding an 11 play, 80 yard touchdown drive to take the lead for good, although at this point, I was still disillusioned (deluded) enough to think we still had a chance. After all, we’re a better second half team. We all know how Bama and Iowa scored a ton of points in the first half and how we shut them down in the second. I could almost see the wheels turning in Bradley’s defensive mind through my binoculars. We just needed to keep things close.

Despite good field position, we fail to convert a fourth and one and turned the ball over on downs. Somehow, we manage to force a three and out, but after the punt, field position had turned against us. From inside our 20, Bolden tried to loft one over a defender, but doesn’t loft enough. (He does later in the game when the receiver is wide open but not ten feet tall.) His touch was absent today and he looked uncomfortable—more so than he did against Bama. He actually seems to be regressing, but that couldn’t happen with our fine coaching staff guiding this young man.  Maybe he just had a bad day--I know I did.

Anyway, the defender tips, intercepts and then returns the ball for a touchdown. The Illini are now up 14-3. Not insurmountable for a second half team.

But then Bolden redeems himself—to a degree—with an 80 yard strike to Moye, if you count a woefully underthrown ball to a wide open receiver a strike. Thank God he had ten yards on the defender or it likely would have been intercepted. But the important thing is the score is now 14-10 and that’s great for a strong second half team.  We beat Miami 14-10 but that has absolutely nothing to do with this discussion.

Illinois promptly marched down the field and kicked a field goal to make the score 17-10. We beat Ohio State 17-10 but again that has nothing to do with this game.  And compared to the final score, that would have been fantastic. But alas, the game continued.

We went back to the old punt the ball away and hope that something good happens ploy. It did. Jack be nimble, Jack be Blunt, Jack Ramsey fumbled another punt. This time we take possession inside the 10 yard line. Inside the red zone. I am really, really, scared at this point. Surely with all the years of experience that our coaching staff has, they will come up with some play calling to tie this game up.

What was I thinking? Our staff runs Royster up the gut twice, and to his credit, he gained five yards instead of losing any. But on third and five, in what most defensive coordinators would have guessed to be a passing situation, we tried a pass. It didn’t work. I could cry. I think I did. Watching Wagner trot onto the field in the red zone is like fingernails raking across a chalkboard.

But 17-13 is okay for a second half team. If only we could hold them. Surely, our defensive brain trust is making adjustments. This isn’t Alabama we’re facing. Or Iowa. We’ll just shut them down, and come out and take the lead in the second half.

Apparently, the sky isn’t blue in whatever world I’m pretending to be in. With only 2:43 on the clock, the Illini move the ball down the field like Sherman marching through Georgia. But the Illini run out of downs—and time—and kick a field goal to end the half.

We are but a touchdown away, and we are a second half team. I can barely sit still during halftime, but it may be because of my hemorrhoids.

We got the ball first and are poised for an amazing comeback. It all started with a three and out made possible by our tried and true formula of running twice and then passing on an obvious passing down. Sooner or later we are going to play a team that doesn’t know what we will do before we do it. And by God, this game plan will work then! I really wonder if we know what we’ll do before we do it, for if we did, surely we wouldn’t do it in the first place. But I digress.

I think we were expecting Ramsey to fumble the punt again, but our best play of the day failed on this punt. The Illini marched the ball downfield like a tornado tearing through a trailer park and before I could blink my unbelieving disillusioned eyes, we were now down 27-13.

It’s okay. We’re within 5 field goals. It is still possible to win this game. I was thinking that then. I am typing that now. But my confidence is fading (and I now know the outcome.)

So here we sit at the bottom of the Big Ten, oh for two in conference play and three up on the season. Our inexperienced QB looks more inexperienced now than before he had experience. Our offensive line seems to be getting worse, but is that even possible? I really thought our defense was going to be the shining light in this season, but we can’t keep a pimply faced nerd in an all-boys school from scoring.  But we kick ass in the field goal department.

Everywhere I look there is nothing but anguish and frustration. I can handle losing to Bama. I don’t like it but a loss to Iowa isn’t that bad. But this? This???? Illinois? Who’s never won on our turf before? Next thing you’re going to tell me is that we lose to Indiana for the first time ever. I may have to kill myself. I don’t like this real world of which you speak.

I see no heart on this team.  No leadership.  No fire.  No enthusiasm.  No improvement.  I am tired of hearing how young we are--we are now halfway through the season.

I am no longer disillusioned. I am disgusted. Dismayed. Disgruntled. Just generally dissed.


Illinois only punted 3 times.

Twice, Illinois fumbled punts deep in their territory. Twice, PSU settled for a FG.

Penn State had 7 first downs in the game. Illinois had 23.

Illinois won time of possession 38:12 to 21:48.

Bolden threw one INT—returned for a TD.

65 yards rushing and 170 passing. Pathetic.


Penn State won the toss and deferred.

The Drum Major stuck both flips. The Alumni Band performed.

Illinois won for the first time ever at Beaver Stadium.

The homecoming crowd was 107,638. All but a handful of orange-clad fans were disappointed.

Paterno is now 45-6 in homecoming games.  The worst loss is 1999's upset to Minnesota.  The 6-4 loss to Iowa comes in the top three.  This loss, though, is worse on a different level.  I still give the overall prize to 1999 because it cost us a national title.  This loss only cost us pride and a dark horse chance at a Big Ten Title.  It is unfortunately a clinic exhibition of all the things wrong with our program right now.


The New #1 team in the country downed the Hoosiers 38-10.

Michigan State beat Little Brother 34-17.

The Badgers beat Minnesota 41-23.

Northwestern is leading Purdue 17-13 in the fourth quarter as I write this.  Purdue beat Northwestern 20-17.  Thank Heavens we don't have to play the Boilermakers!

Iowa did not play.


1. For Bama—upset by the Gamecocks. Thanks for hurting our strength of schedule guys!

2. For Big Ten fans—who now have to endure the number 1 ranked Pryors of Columbus

3. For Temple—losers to Northern Illinois 31-17. Kind of takes the shine off our marquee victory.

4. For Miami—guess F$U doesn’t miss Bobby much.

5. For Penn State—we get to lose to TWO #1 teams in the same season!


Bye week. Thank God. I don’t think I can take much more of this season.

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