Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick & Treat

On a dark Halloween evening, with scary ghouls like Denard Robison scaring fans and players alike, it was a wily old coach who pulled a trick out of his bag with a fake field goal to seal the deal on a shoot out that made Beaver Stadium look like the OK Corral.  The Lions out lasted the Wolverines 41-31 before an energetic crowd and student white-out.

For Penn State, it was redemption.  It was a win to salvage an otherwise dismal season.  It was a prime time victory as the underdog going up against a ranked--albeit 25th in only one poll--team.  It was another payback for a string of losses at the hands of the Evil Empire Up North.  A win over THEM is ALWAYS a wonderful and special thing.

We sat near some UM fans, wearing those winged helmet things.  Their attitude summed up the fan base as I have had the displeasure of meeting to date.  Before THEM kicked their field goal, they were mouthing off that UM would NOT kick a field goal.,  They didn't have a field goal kicker.  They would go for it.  When they did line up to kick the field goal, these two buffoons "couldn't watch."  "Here comes the shank."  The guy split the uprights.

These fans of THEM are the same ones that all week talked about how bad their defense was, and how nervous they were about this game . . . . but deep down inside they already had this W chalked up.  It was lip service and nothing less.  They truly expected to win.  They own Penn State after all.  They were stunned that they did not win.

But stunned they should be.  A third string quarterback on a middle of the pack Big Ten team just beat THEM.  The betting line was only 2.5 points, but from reading the message boards and listening to the analysts this week, you would have thought THEM was favored by 7 touchdowns.  I'm surprised Penn State even bothered to show up.

But show up we did.  With our pathetic offensive line that allowed only one sack.  With our struggling running back who set a school record for career yardage.  With our third string QB walk-on, the first walk-on QB to ever start a game at Penn State, who calmly led this team to 41 points and nary an interception or turn-over.  With our addled, elderly and befuddled coach that sadly the game has passed by.

Mere words cannot express the joy and pleasure this game brought to a Penn State fan like me, and I am sure to millions across the country.   The two THEM fans did not return to their seats after halftime.  I didn't miss them.

Penn State won this game in several key areas.  First, they came out pumped and excited and tempered that with confidence.  Granted, our offense performed well because of their poor defense, but we could just as easily have struggled to put up 21 points on the board the way we played against the Illini.  Yes--they have a royally awful, putrid defense.  But we took advantage of that as well as we could.  We brings me to key point number two . . .

We had a great game plan.  We passed on first down!  We didn't force McGloin to hand off the ball and play into what little strength THEM had on defense.  Eight different receivers caught passes.  Other teams torched their secondary, and we likewise took advantage of that.  There are very few games in this particular series where our gameplan helped us win the game.  This was one of them.

McGloin silenced his critics.  He was key to this victory.  He did not flinch.  He attacked.  His run to secure a first down was not as athletic as his counterpart in piss yellow and blue, but it was wonderful to watch and it kept the drive alive.  Is there a QB controversy brewing at Penn State?  Probably not.  I suspect Bolden will be back when medically cleared.  But our depth at that position is no longer a question mark or concern.

Receivers hung onto balls.  Royster twisted and strained and second- and third-efforted his way to a first down on a fourth and short, with a will that could not be denied.  Zordich blew into the end zone like a locomotive on fire.  This was a team that was playing to win and that alone made me proud, regardless of outcome.

Defensively, we held the wolverines to a three and out on their first possession.  This may have been the biggest key to victory--keeping THEM off the board first.

When we scored to make it 21-10, there was over three minutes left on the clock.  I turned to my friend and lamented that we left way too much time for Robinson.  But on the ensuing kick-off, THEM fumbled the ball out of bounds at the two, and our defense pinned back their ears.  They forced a second three and out in the half, and PSU took over with a short field after the punt.  We iced the deal with another score before the half making it 28-10.  This was huge because I think it took THEM out of their gameplan and forced them away from Robinson on the ground as much.

When Robinson pulled his team within a touchdown, Penn State answered back with a field goal that Wagner drilled to keep us up two scores.  Like Michael Myers and Jason, this Penn State team would not die.  But neither did the beast on the other side of the ball.

The fake field goal was another key play.  It did not change the score in the game, but THEM had used their final time out just prior to the snap.  There was 3:44 still on the clock, and plenty of time for a quick Robinson strike and on-side kick that would send the stomach acid level to heart burn proportions.  But Wagner made the first down, and it was not easy.  He had to cut the play outside and sprint to the sideline to make enough yardage, but like so many players before him--Zordich, McGloin, Royster--he willed himself to make the yardage.  Penn State kept possession and the frighteningly quick Robinson never got the chance to try on the glass slipper.

The crowd was fantastic!  Thanks to the crowd noise, Robinson had to burn a timeout early in the third quarter, which left them with only two during crunch time.  On the third and fourth down plays on THEM's final possession, the stadium noise was as loud as any other time, though not as sustained as Nebraska in 2002 or Ohio State in 2005.  This game rates a close third, though.

The only disappointment of the night were the empty seats in the student section.  (And yes, there looked to be some in the upper deck of the south end zone.)  But for the students--the so-called best student section in the country--this is unacceptable.  What are the excuses this week?  Apparently, there must be a lot of tests on Monday for which you had to study.  The senior and junior sections NEVER filled up.  It is NOT a problem of getting in.  There was a facebook movement--Project 7--that apparently failed to get the student section filled before the game.  But to the students who did show up--great job!

All in all, the night was a fabulous night to treasure and remember.  A real sweet Halloween treat!


Penn State only punted twice in the game.

Penn State amassed 27 first downs to 19 for THEM.

Our beleagured D held THEM to 432 yards, nearly 100 less than they were averaging.  We actually outgained them by 12 yards!

NO turn-overs in the game by either squad.

On third down conversions, they were 6 of 13 while we were 10-16.  We were 2-2 on fourth down and held THEM to 1-3 on fourth.

Penn State won time of possession 37:29 to 22:31.  A-maize-ing!


The drum major stuck both flips and PSU won the toss and deferred. 

JoePa notched win #399.

Crowd attendance was 108,539.  Imagine if the student section had been full!

Evan Royster took the lead as all-time rusher in Penn State history.  Congratulations Evan!


Michigan State fell at Iowa 37-6.  Wow.  Just . . . wow.

Illoinois defeated Purdue 44-10.

Northwestern edged Indiana 20-17 but Wildcat QB Persa left the game with an apparent concussion.

The Buckeyes blasted Minnesota 52-10.  Aren't they great?

Wisconsin had a bye.

Four teams have one loss in the conference:  MSU, Iowa, Wisconsin and OSU.


1.  Notre Dame--lost to Tulsa 28-27 after throwing an INT in the endzone with 36 seconds left.
2.  Sparty--whacked by Iowa
3.  Missouri--beaten by Nebraska 31-17
4.  F$U--fumbled away a chance to beat NC State
5.  WVU--lost to UConn for the first time ever.


Northwestern comes to Beaver Stadium next Saturday for a 3:30 kickoff.

Here is how the Wildcats have played to date:

W Vanderbilt 23-21
W Illinois State 37-3
W Rice 30-13
W Central Mich 30-25
W Minnesota 29-28
L Purdue 20-17
L Michigan State 35-27
W Indiana 20-17

In the only common opponent  to date, they struggled more with Minnesota.  They led for much of the game against Sparty, but apparently MSU is reverting back to their old form after losing to Iowa badly this weekend.

None of their wins are against opponents with a winning record (Indiana is at .500).

Granted, our resume is not much better, but Temple has a winning record, as does THEM.  Our team has shown some improvement for the first time this season, and NW may be without their starting QB depending on the concussion injury.

I predicted this a win in the pre-season, and I stand by that.  Of course, I would have had JoePa winning #400 against the wolverines, but better late than never.



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