Sunday, November 7, 2010

Purple Wane

I never meant to cause you any sorrow.
I never meant to cause you any pain.
I only wanted to one time see you laughing.
I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple wane.

As darkness fell and the cold chill of November swept through Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions mounted a record tying comeback in Joe Paterno’s already historied tenure to notch victory #400 for the Old Lion King.

A combination of inconsistent offense and virtually non-existent defense had Penn State in a 21-0 hole with but fifty seconds to go in the first half of play. The chances of celebrating win #400 were as bright as the clouded and darkening sky that fortunately only dropped mist and a few tiny pellets of sleet on the 104,147 fans.

But comebacks do happen. The program itself came back from the dark years of 2003 and 2004. The Lions were down 14-0 to #1 Pitt before surging to a 48-14 victory in 1981. Kerry Collins led Penn State on a 95 yard scoring drive against Illinois, the #1 rated defense in the Big Ten—in 1994 on the road in Champaign to preserve an undefeated season. And in 2001, Zack Mills rallied his team from an 18 point deficit to give Joe Paterno his 324th win, breaking Bear Bryant’s record.

So is it really surprising that this milestone not come with some drama?

The Prince of Persa was slicing and dicing the Penn State defense like a Ginzu knife through butter. He was like a chef in those Japanese restaurants, throwing knives around with flashes of steel and vegetables and serving a dish of points to the sparse purple clad crowd that made the trip from Evanston.

Sitting in the stadium, we had no way of knowing that Mr. Persa's parents were in attendance.  But apparently the television audience was reminded a couple of times.  From what I understand, there was more coverage of his parents than there were commercials.  Think about that.

Northwestern had just capped a 7 play, 66 yard drive with a one-handed circus catch in the back of the end zone to make the score 21-0. With less than a minute to play, Penn State could take a knee and run out the clock, try to find a way to make some yards to get a field goal without risking another costly turn over, or . . .

Let’s be honest. No one except maybe Matt McGloin was thinking there was a third possibility. But he ran the two minute offense in 47 seconds, finding Brett Brackett in the back of the end zone to pull State to within 14 points heading into the locker room.

But the late score energized the crowd. It energized the defense. It turned the game around, but I submit to you, dear reader, that the player of the game—the one responsible for this remarkable turnaround—was Hunter Bates in purple and white, the guy that sacked Bolden and caused the fumble. If I were in the habit of handing out proverbial game balls, he would have one right now. That play got Bolden out of the game. Although he struggled a bit initially, McGloin came into the game after that disastrous play and the rest is, dare I say, HISTORY.

What happened at halftime?

A. Team received a talk from Dr. Lou
B. Team went and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express
C. Sue served carbo-loading spaghetti

McGloin’s presence and confidence is infectious. His teammates talk about how he is a calming influence in the huddle. He cracks a joke to lighten the tension. Whatever he does, I wish IT could be bottled and sold. I am a big fan of Rob Bolden, but this McGloin kid has IT, that intangible quality or spark to just make things happen.

Behind this new leader, the Lions came out and took the second half opening possession 84 yards on 14 plays to bring the score to within a mere 7 points. Sitting in the stadium, you could just feel IT. Whatever that kid had, IT was radiating throughout the hallowed structure. The fans were back into the game. They were on their feet. The kids were making plays on both sides of the ball. What had minutes ago in clock time been an insurmountable mountain, was now a realistic goal. You could FEEL the momentum swinging. You could sense that this team was on the cusp of greatness.

The defense rose to the occasion and stuffed the Wildcats, forcing a three and out. In fact, the Wildcats would get only one first down in the third quarter of play, with less than two minutes left on the clock. Penn State owned the third quarter and scored on five consecutive possessions that started with that seemingly innocent 47 second drive to close the first half. THIRTY-FIVE UNANSWERED POINTS. Northwestern was shut out the second half. Paterno got win #400 and a much-deserved ceremony at the end.

Here’s the stadium tribute to Joe Paterno.

Here’s the 400 Win Celebration Site.

Congratulations Joe! And let’s beat Ohio State!


Penn State outgained Northwestern 528 to 369 yards.

McGloin went 18 for 29 for 229 yards and 4 touchdowns. Silas Redd scored the fifth TD.

Evan Royster rushed for 137 yard on 25 carries, while Redd gained 134 on 11 totes.

Penn State punted only 3 times. Fera had two kick-offs downed in the end zone.

#400—speaks for itself.


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

Paterno was carried by his team to the makeshift podium at the south end of the field. Paterno is 8 behind Eddie Robinson and 76 behind John Gagliardi of St. Johns, but stands alone among FBS schools.



In a wild shoot out in Ann Arbor, THEM edged Illinois 67-65 after the Illini failed to convert a two-point conversion in triple OT. I guess since the Big Ten has 12 teams now, we’ll have to start playing defense like the Big XII.

Michigan State beat Minnesota 31-8.

Indiana dropped a pass in the end zone that would have beaten the Hawkeyes, but they held on to win 18-13.

Wisconsin topped Purdue 34-13.


1. Alabama—lost to LSU 24-21.
2. Texas got pounded by Kansas State 39-14
3. F$U lost to North Carolina 37-35
4. Oklahoma got beat by A&M 33-19
5. Utah dropped their first game 47-7 to TCU


This is the Big One, Elizabeth. The Lions travel to Columbus for a showdown at 3:30 next Saturday.

Can they win? Of course they can. Will they? Aye, there’s the rub.

I didn’t think we stood a chance in the pre-season, and thought we had even less a chance after we actually played some early games. BUT . . .

If Pryor makes some mistakes—and as good an athlete as he is, he does that sometimes—and Penn State comes out playing 4 quarters of football like we played the last two, then all bets are off.

I think you have to go with McGloin as the starter. He has the hot hand and that special IT thing that gets the offense moving. I don’t think he can turn around 21 points against a team like the Buckeyes, so we have to come out playing full tilt and not get into that kind of hole. Then again, maybe the kid plays better under pressure.

Either way, I am actually looking forward to this game. And I couldn’t have honestly said that two weeks ago.

ESPN College Gameday will be in Columbus as well.


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