Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Late Wrap Up

The Land Grant Trophy is a piece of hardware that seemingly penalizes the winner, who has to look at its boxy visage like an item of furniture that destroys the feng shui of a room. It almost makes losing to Michigan State a good thing, not having that contraption on campus any longer.

But that is about the only good thing I can find to say about this game.

Due to a scheduling snafu, I was actually vacationing in Orlando at Universal Studios, while Penn State played this game. I found out just prior to boarding the Simpson’s ride that Penn State lost.

As such, it was not until Wednesday that I was able to review the game.

So what happened? On the first play of the game, Baker rushed right up the middle for 16 yards. And just when it looked like Penn State was going to make a defensive stand and force a third and long, Devon Still got tagged for a blow to the helmet/head on the QB. He did it. He got flagged. But PSU uncharacteristically got flagged 8 times for 67 yards in this game. Personally, I think the flags in college and the fines in the NFL are getting out of hand. Are we playing flag football or what? But that is a rant for another day.

Fast forward. Fast forward. Score. The Spartans made it look easy. If I didn’t already know the outcome, I’d be worried we were going to lose by a lot.

Silas Redd bobbled the kickoff and ended up short of the 20. No help there.

McGloin promptly hits Brackett in the flat for a big gain to the 40. Royster folls with a nine yard run. We’re looking good. Toss sweep gets a first down and more. A 25-yard strike to Devon Smith gets the ball to the 16. Red dances to the 10. If I didn’t know the outcome already, I’d say we look like we could win this game.

But then a delay of game and a well defended screen later left PSU in long yardage. McGloin nearly got intercepted and Penn State had to settled for the field goal.

Michigan State starts with good field position at the 36. But the drive would yield nothing thanks to the tight end dropping a wide open pass from Cousins. Punt and touchback sets State up at the 20.

Penn State punts. Huh? What? I must have fallen asleep. Rewind. False start. Rewind. False start. Penn State overcame the first, but not the second. But McGloin was close to making the connection to Moye that could have changed this game around. Close, but no Land Grant Trophy. As it was, Penn State punted; touchback.

At this point, Penn State is 4 points down to the 10th ranked team in the country. I’m not pleased with the penalties, but we seem to be able to move the ball well. We got a break from the Spartan tight end dropping what could have been a big play, but all in all, we’re in this thing.

Would Fera have been able to pin the Spartans deep? Who knows?

Sparty would drive the ball 80 on eight plays highlighted by a double reverse that put them up 14-3. (Didn’t that look like holding against Stephen Morris? I reviewed it even though it isn’t reviewable!) Blown coverage on the TD pass. I just shake my head.

Missed opportunities continued as Bracket let one go off his hands that would have resulted in a first down and a big gain. With the drop, McGloin scrambled on the next blitz, made the pass, but it was well covered and PSU had to kick.

More mistakes—running into the kicker. Didn’t cost us points or field position, but it killed any chance at building momentum, took time off the clock forcing the hurry up offense and wears down our defense. But down 14-3, the game was still winnable.

Taking the opening half possession, McGloin connected with Brown for 26 yards and Penn State appeared on the move. But then the short yardage, tight sphincter bug bit Penn State yet again, unable to convert a second and three into a drive sustaining first down. In one sense, I’m pleased we just didn’t try to shove it up the middle two straight plays. And while the toss play may not have been the best choice in that instance, it had worked earlier, but Michigan State defended it well.

The defense actually comes up with a three and out stop, thanks in part to an overthrow on an open receiver by Cousins, but Penn State cannot capitalize and goes three and out on the next possession.

When I initially read about this game, I was disappointed with the defense. OK—I still am. But the third quarter of this game was a study in offensive frustration that saw Penn State yield great field position on successive ineffective drives until the Spartans, now with great field position could capitalize where Penn State could not. Never mind that McGloin had consecutive 300+ yard passing games. The bottom line was the offense did nothing to help the Penn State D and eventually, the better team took control.

Apparently Penn State plays better in a deep hole, because the Lions came back with a quick, 6 play, 74 yard drive to make the score 21-10 early in the fourth quarter. BUT . . . I did not have the same feeling at this time like I had at halftime of the Northwestern game. Time was running short and Penn State’s D needed to rise to the challenge.

It could not. MSU answered with a 9 play 68 yard drive that featured four straight runs by Baker to set up a short TD pass from Cousins.

But the team did not stop fighting, although the Spartans did their best to keep Penn State in this game. A fumble by Baker allowed Penn State to pull within a touchdown, but not without drama. MSU would intercept McGloin in the end zone, but instead of taking the touchback, Robinson ran the ball out just to have it snatched away by Moye, who made an entire highlight reel out of the final two minutes of this game. Moye finally caught the touchdown pass, but special teams were unable to come up with the on-sides kick.
Game over.

But the season is not over as the Lions have a chance at either a Gator Bowl or an Outback Bowl bid and a New Year’s Day bowl for a 7-5 team is more than you could hope for.

Yet, at 7-5 the season seems less than spectacular. No marquee victories, but a special win over northwestern for #400. Three losses to BCS teams (OSU, MSU and Bama) but two losses to teams with less than stellar records. I like how our guys fought until the very end, but in the final analysis, what fight we had left was due to mistakes by our opponent (two fumbles.) So has this season gone. At times, we look unbeatable. At times, you wonder how we won any games at all.

The defensive front has been a problem most of the season, although injuries have plagued our defense. We just don’t seem to have the killer instinct. Moye can rip the ball away—why can’t our defense? The linebacker corps is improving, but I still don’t see that Connor/Posluszny/Bowman type player yet.

Is the future bright? We certainly have a lot of youth—who now have experience. We have a bowl game to use as a springboard to a great season next year. Can Paterno pull off one more magical season, or will we be faced with frustration and despair yet again?

All I know for sure is this: every time I have counted Paterno out, he has delivered, whether it be miraculous seasons on the field or recovery from injuries/surgery.

That said, I look forward to seeing what rises from the ashes of this season next year.


Damned statistics! Penn State out-gained the Spartans 396-331. But Sparty controlled time of possession by nearly nine minutes and went 3-3 on red zone opportunities. PSU hurt themselves with numerous penalties.

MSU rushed for 163 yards, which goes back to the defensive line I mentioned above.


Penn State won the toss and deferred.

It is the first time since 1965 that MSU won at Beaver Stadium.

Attendance was 102,649, but from people who were there, the crowd didn’t appear that big and didn’t sound that loud on TV. Sorry guys. I call ‘em like I hear ‘em.


Wisconsin appears to have won the Rose Bowl by virtue of being the highest ranked in the BCS at #5. Ohio State shares the Big Ten title for the tenth decade in a row. Always a bridesmaid . . . MSU shares the title with one loss to Iowa. Some things cannot be explained.


1. Boise State—seriously, I was hoping they could bust the BCS.
2. LSU—the glass slipper finally shattered.
3. Alabama—Newtonian physics sucks
4. Iowa—lost to, hee, hee, um, Minnesota. Hee. Hee. Sorry, that is too funny.


Bowl game to be announced.

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