I debated on the title of this recap for quite a while. The alternative was Ficken Kicken Good, a play on the KFC 'finger lickin good' slogan. And while Mr. Ficken deserves a lot of credit for slipping his 37-yarder inside the upright to seal Penn State's OT victory, I think the key to this win was the defense adjusting after two early scores, including a record breaking 17-yard touchdown run by Monte Ball to put the Badgers up 14-7. Ball was held to 111 yards on 17 carries, which I believe is well below his average.
Unlike past games, Penn State did not perform well in the first half, but then dominated the second. Adjustments were made on both sides of the ball. O'Brien noted after the game that perhaps he should have rushed the ball even more.
But despite the emotion, and despite the punishing attack of Zwinak, the Badgers fought back. The score board shows fours across the bottom: fourth down, four to go, fourth quarter, ball on the four yard line. And with just 18 ticks left on the clock, the Wisconsin Badgers were still poised to disappoint this emotional and scrappy Penn State team.
Fans in the stadium were grumbling about the previous Penn State possession which opened with an incomplete short pass. Penn State went three and out and failed to milk valuable time off the clock, allowing the Badgers a chance to tie up the game. Personally, I like the call. It was a short, safe pass--almost but not a lateral. Ninety eight times out of a hundred, you complete that pass. If the receiver makes the first guy miss, you get some good yardage. Unfortunately, on this cold blustery night, the pass fell incomplete. Clock stopped. Hearts stopped.
My feet were frozen, and the night seemed to be growing colder with each passing second. Penn State clung to a three point lead in the first OT. But the defense rose to the occasion stifling the first run for a yard by Monte Ball. They sacked and forced a fumble on the next play, but we were unable to recover the fumble. On third down, Glenn Carson should have intercepted the pass and secured the win, but dropped the ball.
Things looked bleak as Wisconsin lined up to kick the field goal. A time out to ice the kicker gave the frozen fans in the stadium the opportunity to reflect on the missed opportunities. A dropped pass and three and out. A field goal in OT. An unrecovered fumble. An un-intercepted pass. How many more chances would the Badgers get to send PSU into the off season on a sour note?
The answer was none. Kyle French yanked his 44-yarder wide worse than me hooking a drive into the trees.
And this team prevailed. The story lines are well known. The walk-on QB that many said would never be able to play for any marquee division I team played lights out all season with 17 TDs and five INTs. He suddenly looked like a D-I QB. Sam Ficken, missing four field goals and an extra point in a one point loss to Virginia, came back to hit his last 10 and the game winner over the Badgers in OT. There was Michael Mauti, outspoken leader of this team and key instrument to keeping this team together when many were heading for what they thought were greener pastures, now sitting on the sideline with a knee injury on Senior Day. And of course, there are those annoying little details like the ignominious firing and subsequent death of a legendary coach, the hiring of Bill O'Brien, and the NCAA over stepping it's charter to severely punish a school, when none of the administrators have yet to be found guilty of any wrong doing. There is no dearth of plot lines in this season.
And although there is no bowl game, perhaps in this final, exciting victory, these student-athletes can find some redemption for their dedication and hard work.
Congratulations, Class of 2012!
BY THE NUMBERS:
There was one turn over in the game, a key interception when Wisconsin was driving just one possession before they tied the game.
Penn State won time of possession 31:45 to 28:15. If you read my pregame statistics, I said it would be crucial for PSU to win this. The Badgers were 6th in the nation in TOP.
Penn State out gained the Badgers 363 to 349 yards, and out-rushed them by 5.
The Blue Band Drum Major had trouble sticking both flips, and I think he injured himself on the first one as he seemed to limp a bit after that. Hopefully he will heal up before the NCAA Drum Major Flipping Combine.
Penn State won the toss and elected to defer in regulation. The Badgers won the toss in OT. I thought it odd that PSU chose to play in the North Endzone, but let's face it, the student section was rather empty (they didn't even have enough people for the card ceremony which otherwise looked really good) and the bowl of the North end was full and loud. I know. I was there. Of course, it might have had something to do with the wind or other factors. It's just odd that the home team didn't choose to play into its own student section.
The attendance figure of 93,505 obviously reflected tickets sold and not actual bodies in the stadium. I blame STEP for this. I think they even counted the ghost of Joe Paterno, but Rodney Erickson apologized afterward. There were very few empty $100 seats in the lower bowl. I think STEP needs to readjust it's pricing to demand, unless the University is satisfied just having a lot of empty seats on game day.
I actually had trouble giving away 6 tickets. My brother-in-law had two on the 45-yard line that he couldn't give away. So STEP isn't the only culprit here. I don't know what the solution is, but apparently the University doesn't care. But if I were in charge, there would be open admission for any students (no ticket or cost required) to fill in any available seats AFTER the FIRST QUARTER in the student section, providing of course that the section was sold out. Upper decks are $50. I don't care if they have chair backs. Who would want to sit up there, when there are $100 seats in the bowl below? The upper sections at mid field should be half--if on the 50, then $300 instead of $600, $200 instead of $400. At least it would be a start. But silly me . . . it isn't about the fans or the game. It's about money.
Did O'Brien refer to his team as F%&KERS or FIGHTERS? Come on. Why would he call them that? It was cold, his voice cracked. Move on people. Move on.
|O'Brien's favorite band?|
THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
What is the real cost of a FREE TATTOO? Apparently one national championship. The Buckeyes finish undefeated after a 26-21 win over their arch nemesis from Up North, but they will sit at home with Penn State for the bowl season. Happy Holidays!
Nebraska punched their ticket to Indy with an uninspired 13-7 win over Iowa, who isn't even bowl eligible.
Northwestern put up 50 to Illinois' 14. Nice season there, Illini. Go ahead. make our day. Try to poach some more athletes. Losers. I don't carry a grudge. I wear it with pride.
Purdue steamrolled Indiana 56-35. The Spartans managed to get to bowl eligibility with a 26-10 win over the 6-6 Gophers.
Both future Big Ten teams lost: Rutgers fell to Pitt 27-6 and Marlyand lost to UNC 45-38.
1. For college football, as ND continues to pretend to be relevant.
2. For Oregon--no title game for you!
3. For Auburn--3-9 and pounded 49-0 by Bama.
4. For Championship games--Stanford beat UCLA, setting up a title game between, um, Stanford and UCLA. Nebraska has to play Wisconsin again. Woo Hoo! Why? Oh yeah, I forgot again. It's about the money.
Blue White Game.