Sunday, November 25, 2012

BALL Controlled

This team would not quit.  This team didn't want to quit.  While the NCAA seems to think that punishing these kids somehow helps the victims of Jerry Sandusky, or will change a culture of football when none of those decision makers are even at the University anymore, this team just wanted to play football.  And play they did.  They were having so much fun, they took this thing to over time.

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.

In the meantime, Zach Zwinak rushed for 179 yards (and exactly 1000 for the season) against the nation's 9th best rushing defense.

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. 

INTANGIBLES:

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.

SHEDDING TEARS:

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.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Blue White Game. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Now Playing

Unfortunately, for a limited engagement . . .



Image from a Facebook Friend.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Statistically Speaking: Don't Badger Me Edition

Here are the NCAA rankings for Penn State and Wisconsin:



NCAA Stats Comparison  
   
Category:Penn St.Wisconsin
   
Rushing8317
Passing Offense34110
Total Offense4883
Scoring Offense5667
Rushing Defense239
Turnovers Gained40107
Passes Had Intercepted189
Pass Defense5225
Net Punting11068
Punt Returns8752
Kickoff Returns11077
Turnover Margin2148
Fumbles Recovered2193
Passes Intercepted6497
Fumbles Lost4317
Turnovers Lost166
Passing Efficiency4961
Pass Efficiency Defense2625
Total Defense3011
Scoring Defense2214
Fewest Penalties Per Game465
Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game589
Punt Return Yardage Defense10559
Kickoff Return Yardage Defense7228
Offense Third-down Efficiency50103
Offense Fourth-down Efficiency4856
Defense Third-down Efficiency5216
Defense Fourth-down Efficiency2292
Tackles for Loss6067
Offense Tackles for Loss3101
Pass Sacks1353
Pass Sacks Allowed5380
Time of Possession306
First Downs3896
First Downs Allowed277
Red Zone Efficiency8753
Red Zone Efficiency - Defense10113
   
Average NCAA Rank:46.6852.43
Weighted Avg. Rank:46.1744.83

The two teams are pretty evenly matched, but PSU has an edge straight up in all categories.  When you weight those categories (more emphasis for things like total defense and less emphasis for fewest penalties) then the Badgers emerge with a slight edge.  If the two teams play "their game" PSU will need to rely on some intangibles to win the game.

Both teams have good rushing defenses.  Penn State will need to keep Monte Ball from running down hill all day, and in particular, the fourth quarter.  Notice that Wisconsin is ranked higher nationally in time of possession.  The Lions will probably need to win that stat . . . if our defense is on the field a long time, the Wisconsin O-line will likely prevail late in the game.

Unfortunately for Penn State, Wisconsin leads just about every defensive category.  Their passing offense is 110th, but if the weather turns out to be as treacherous (cold, rainy, snowy) as I have heard predicted, this will favor the running game.

I do like the Red Zone defense numbers, with PSU ranked 10th and the Badgers at 113. If we can get the ball to the red zone, I think we prevail. Keep in mind that our red zone offensive performance includes the early games like Virginia where we really struggled to put any points on the board. I think we are actually better in the red zone now than the stats would show.

Penn State is between a 2.5 and 3 point favorite depending on the time of day you look.  Most odds makers and pundits claim a three point advantage for the home team.  Looks like Vegas thinks these two teams are pretty closely matched up. 

So what are the intangibles?  Neither team NEEDS to win.  If the Lions lose, the season is over.  The season is over if they win.  Win or lose, Wisconsin has already punched their tickets to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Title game and a possible Rose Bowl Berth.

Penn State's season is over regardless of the outcome.  They can play like there is no to,morrow, because, well, there isn't.  Wisconsin on the other hand, can't afford an injury to a quarterback or Monte Ball.  This isn't pro ball.  Those key players won't sit out because the playoff spot is assured.  And if Wisconsin loses the Title game, their record will determine how good of a consolation bowl they land in.

But this is senior day for a very special group of senior players.  Michael Mauti, the very special leader of that special group, will be side-lined with a knee injury.  Emotion will be running high.  That can be good and bad.  Emotion ran high in the opening game against the Bobcats, but spent itself out too quickly and wilted in the heat of a hot afternoon.  We don't need to worry about heat being a factor, but we don't want to crash and burn late in the afternoon on too much intensity too quickly.

This is where O'Brien needs help from his coordinators and assistants who have played the college game.  Motivating 18-22 year olds who are not being paid a salary in the millions is different than motivating an NFL team.  I have no doubt that creepy old Bret Bielema will have his team fired up.  Can we match and exceed -- and sustain --  that emotion?

The answer to that may determine the outcome of the game.

Let's go with PENN STATE 31 - WISCONSIN 27.

GO STATE!  BEAT BADGERS!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Badgers. . . .Taste Like Turkey!
 
I'm thankful that Rodney Erickson wasn't present at the Treaty of Versailles . . .
. . . or we might all be speaking German today!

WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Big 10-4 Good Buddy

That's a BIG 10-4 , Good Buddy!
Rumors were circulating last week that Maryland and Rutgers were headed to the Big Ten, bringing the number-challenged misnomer to 14 teams.

That's a Ten-Four, in CB language.  Nebraska heads the convoy.

According to ESPN:
The University of Maryland's Board of Regents voted Monday to accept an invitation to join the Big Ten and begin competition in the conference in the 2014-15 academic year.
Meanwhile, Big East Conference sources told ESPN that Rutgers will be announced as the 14th member of the Big Ten on Tuesday.
"Today is a watershed moment for the University of Maryland," said university president Wallace D. Loh in a release. "Membership in the Big Ten Conference is in the strategic interest of the University of Maryland."
 

Apparently playing second fiddle to Ohio State and THEM along with piss poor refereeing is in the strategeric interests of these fine eastern academic institutions.  I wonder if the welcoming package includes a case of K-Y Jelly?

No seriously.  The Big Ten is wonderful.  Who needs to be bothered with pesky holding calls or chop blocks anyway?  It's all about the money.  Rutgers . . . Maryland . . . come on down!

Maryland probably sees this as a way to maybe keep all the good recruits from going to Penn State.  Good luck with that.

And now we get to play Rutgers every year!  It just keeps getting better and better!
"Looks like we got us a CONVOY!"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Passing the Test

The Ducks got roasted, the Wildcats toasted, and Irish eyes are smiling as another weekend of college football passes us by.  Meanwhile, in Happy Valley, Penn State fans continue to support a team largely overlooked by the rest of the country.  They will not compete in the Big Ten Title game.  They will not go to a bowl game.  They aren't ranked.

But they are a group of players playing with heart and determination.  They are led by a quarterback--a former walk-on--who many would not have expected to be successful.  Yet, he has passed the test, so to speak.  But hidden among the passing stats of this football game and season (Matt McGloin is the PSU career passing TD leader, single season completions leader, and season passing yardage leader--not to mention the fact that the Hoosiers threw for 454 yards as well) is another story which has come to an end this Saturday, as Michael Mauti left the game with his third knee injury of his career.

He likely won't play next week, senior day.  He likely won't be drafted at this point, depending on the severity of that injury. 

Yet, the heart of Nittany Nation goes out to this young man.  He was a leader on this team, and was in large part responsible for keeping things from falling apart as fellow team mates scrambled to other teams like rats jumping ship.

Maybe he won't go down as the best linebacker ever at Penn State.  But he may be one of the most remembered.

They say that life isn't fair.  With respect to Mauti, that is an understatement.

Bad things happen to good people.  We don't know why.  It just happens.

And the fact that the injury came in a meaningless game against a meaningless opponent (no offense intended) on a meaningless play where he was actually chop blocked illegally (but for which no penalty flag was thrown, because, well, let's face it, Penn State is not--and has never been--favored by this league) only adds insult to injury and magnifies the injustice.

But fifteen yards would in no way compensate this young man--this leader--for what he now loses, as he will be forced to hobble onto the field next week for senior week.  What should have been a jubilant, if overshadowed, celebration, will now be a bitter farewell.  How would Washington have felt not crossing the Delaware?  If Grant couldn't have faced Lee's forces?  If Neil Armstrong had come down with a cold before lift off?

We cannot imagine the pain and frustration that this leader must now endure.  And while some would find fault with comparing the game of football to warfare or space travel, there is no denying that a man of determination and heart will be forced by circumstances beyond his control, to watch rather than participate.  It is the emotions we are comparing; not the actual situations.

The game itself became a side light to that injury.  The defense responded with a front seven that allowed only 24 yards rushing by Indiana.  Players like Gerald Hodges stepped up their game.  And while the secondary gave up 454 passing yards, they only allowed 22 points. Coffman was like a stud--he got a lot of phone numbers, but very few dates, and even fewer scores.

The Lions led 28-13 at the half, but then just as they have done numerous times all season, they allowed the other team to come back in the second half, with the Hoosiers closing the gap to 28-22 before they Lion offense regained their mojo and put the game away for good.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSU sports:

The key here is Indiana's inability to run the ball, coupled with Penn State's ability to sustain drives and put points on the board.

INTANGIBLES:

Indiana won the toss and took the ball first.

The Drum Major stuck both flips.

The Hoosiers have never beaten Penn State in football.

The crowd of 90, 358 was enthusiastic but lacked the electricity of a marquee match up.  I was impressed by the student section, given that many students had already left campus for Thanksgiving break.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The Buckeyes stay undefeated, edging Wisconsin in OT 21-14.  The Wolverines pasted Iowa 42-17.  Northwestern continued the Spartans misery, beating MSU 23-20.  Purdue beat Illinois 20-17 while the Huskers inched closer to a match-up with Wisconsin by defeating Minnesota 38-14.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Oregon--the ducks got blind-sided by the Cardinal 17-14.
2.  K State lost to was crushed by Baylor 52-24.
3.  WVU lost to Oklahoma 50-49.  How many points have the 'Neers given up this season?
4.  La Tech suffered their second loss to Utah State 48-41.
5.  Ohio lost to Ball State 52-27.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Wisconsin Badgers come to Beaver Stadium next Saturday for a 3:30 match up that means nothing in the great grand scheme of college football.  But it is Senior Day for Penn State, and the LAST GAME for this special group of athletes who have been forced to endure hardship beyond what could reasonably be expected.

The Badgers have lost 10-7 at Oregon State, 16-13 in OT to MSU, 30-27 at Nebraska, and 21-14 at home to Ohio State in OT.  Their victories over Purdue and Illinois were comparable to PSU, but they took Indiana out behind the woodshed 62-14.

Penn State has opened as a 3 point favorite.

Without Mauti, the linebackers will need to step things up to stop Monte Ball.  Ball is on the verge of breaking the record for rushing TDs in his career.  PENN STATE MUST NOT LET THIS HAPPEN.  If he breaks the record in Indianapolis or in a bowl game, so be it.  But the goal should be not to let this landmark happen in our house.

Obviously, you want to send out the seniors on a win, and with no post-season to look forward to, the team will have to live with the outcome of this game for the next ten months. 

Will the taste left in our mouths be sweet or sour?

On the other side of the Monte Ball, the Badgers do not NEED a won.  They want one.  A win will improve bowl status, especially if they don't beat Nebraska in the Title game for the automatic BCS berth.  But this game almost has NFL playoff mentality to it . . . why risk your star players when the title game is already secured.  Will the Badgers have the emotional edge?  Will the electricity of a home game and senior day translate to improved play on the field for Penn State? 

Next week, we shall know.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nebraska Fiasca

I have not been so angered by a group of referees since the 2005 game in Ann Arbor that marred Penn State's nearly undefeated season.  But thanks to a poorly called--and then more poorly reviewed-- play at the goal line, combined with a safety when it appeared McGloin had left the tackle box, what should have been a close game--perhaps even a Penn State win--was instead a 32-23 decision the other way that was influenced by the stripes more than the solids.

In 2005, I splintered the door frame of our house slamming the door as I stormed out.  I learned from that lesson.  I went next door to my neighbor's house (he's a Pitt fan) and slammed his door this time.

It's the same old story since joining this bush league 19 years ago.  Sure, we'll get a PI call once in a while--against Minnesota.  But name me one game changing call in favor of Penn State against THEM, O$U, Wisconsin, and now Nebraska.  Most Penn State fans can rattle off half a dozen without much thought.

Even McGloin called out the league indirectly.  From Rudel in the Altoona Mirror:
"We'll never get that call here," McGloin said after replays showed tight end Matt Lehman appeared to score before fumbling into the end zone with 7:39 remaining and the Lions down 27-23. "We'll never get that call anywhere."

Of the dozen PSU representatives brought to the visitors' media quarters at Memorial Stadium, including Bill O'Brien, only McGloin came off like Yosemite Sam.
If calling a spade a spade is being Yosemite Sam, then McGloin should be proud to be put in that category.  The rest--O'Brien included, have to be politically correct.  But that doesn't make it correct.

Other sources question the validity of the call, including Dr. Saturday and the USA Today.



Some fans have suggested that this is "payback" for bad calls against Nebraska in 1982.  First of all, that was before replay.  Secondly, the situation was magnified by virtue of two undefeated teams clashing for a potential National Championship.  Granted, Nebraska has a potential Big Ten Title on the line, but 2012 is hardly an equivalent scenario.  On the other hand, if Nebraska fans want to consider the debt paid for a perceived slight in 1982, so be it.  We are even.

But if the Big Ten has any integrity left, it would be well served to fire the replay booth official who made this atrocious call. 

Yet, despite the thievery of nine points in favor of the Huskers, Penn State continued it's disconcerting trend of playing a great first half, but then following it with a dismal performance in the second act.  Penn State actually led this thing 20-6 at the half, but was outscored 26-10 (although only 3 points actually counted) in the second half.

Why is this?

Under the Paterno regime, stale coaching, stubbornness, conservatism, and strength and conditioning were always trotted out by arm chair quarterbacks on Sunday Morning.  But you certainly can't accuse this coaching staff of being stale, stubborn or conservative.  And while I think our defense did whither in the heat against Ohio, I honestly believe that was the fault of the offense that couldn't move the ball and give the defense a rest.  Even well-conditioned athletes can have problems when they overdo things in high heat and humidity.

So now we must create some new excuses, as the old ones simply don't apply.  Are O'Brien and Roof simply poor at adjusting at halftime?  The evidence seems to point that direction.  Yet there were games, such as Northwestern, when we seemed to do better in the second half at adjusting than our opponent.  We had no problems with Purdue or Illinois coming back in the second half of those games either.

Also keep in mind that this group of coaches does not have the players that they recruited for their system.  They have also lost key players to defections, particularly on offense.  And strength and conditioning changes may take several seasons to see optimal results.

In the end, nothing will change.  Maybe there isn't a conspiracy against Penn State.  Maybe there isn't even a bias against the Nittany Lions.  Maybe it is just part of the game and bad luck of the draw.  If that is the case, than these things tend to equal out over time.  And if that is really true, then Buckeye, Wolverine, Badger and Husker fans better get prepared for a couple of decades of bad calls against them when playing Penn State.  I have a feeling they are not all that worried.

And if you are looking for a silver lining in all this . . .Nebraska's win hurts the wolverine's chances of getting into the title game.  That's not a bad thing right there.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSUsports:

I said before this game that Penn State would need to do better on third down conversions (we did not) and control time of possession (we did not) to beat Nebraska.  We also needed to control their running game (we did not) which would be a key factor in their conversions and ability to control the ball.  The end result . . . we lost.  The bad calls certainly didn't help.

INTANGIBLES:

Nebraska won the toss and deferred.  By taking the ball in the second half, PSU should have chosen which direction they would have the wind in the fourth quarter.  O'Brien either chose to go with the wind in third thinking he could add to their lead, or he made a bad choice, having PSU play into the wind in the fourth.  I didn't see too much made about this, but the wind certainly seemed stiff and could have been a factor.

Penn State is 7-8 all time against Big Red.

The crowd was 85,537.  Nebraska continues their record of sell-out crowds dating back to the 1300's.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The league is hell-bent on a Nebraska-Wisconsin match up and that is all but assured, unless the cornhuskers fail against Minnesota or Iowa, which is not likely.

THEM came back against Northwestern, with a Hail Mary-esque pass with seconds remaining to kick a tying field goal.  They prevailed in OT.  How can you let a receiver make that catch?  Take him out.  Take the fifteen yards.  They still wouldn't be in field goal position--or at least it would be a longer kick.  Poor decision by the defensive back or safety.  The wolverines won 38-31.

Wisconsin pounded the Hoosiers into submission 62-14 and pretty much sealed up the asterisk filled Leaders division.

Purdue beat Iowa 27-24.  Did anyone notice?  Or care?

Minnesota beat the Illini 17-3.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Alabama--beaten by the Aggies 29-24.  Thanks for playing.
2.  College Football--the Irish inch to #3 on the Bama loss like a worm crawling through dead meat.
3.  Louisiana-Lafayette had a punt blocked and returned in the waning seconds to lose to Florida.
4.  Miami (FL) lost to Virginia 41-40

LOOKING AHEAD:

Indiana.  Beaver Stadium.  Whatever.  Refs will probably blow a call in our favor and call it even.  Shitheads.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Penn State Fans Report Theft


Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Night Lights

Well that was fun.

With high school football over here in Hollidaysburg, PA, I accidentally tuned into the UConn-Pitt game on ESPN2.  Who would have thought there would be college football on TV on a Friday night?  But there it was, in all its glory.  Thank God for the Big Least!

Paul Pasqualoni (former Syracuse coach) is now at Connecticut.  He's still around. Literally.  If we played dead or alive, I'd have picked dead.  But it's still hard to tell for sure. 

As the announcers put UConn down--ranked 115th in offense in the country, the Huskies drove the opening kick off down the field for only their second opening score of the season.  They never looked back as they cruised to a 24-0 half time lead over the team that almost beat Notre Lame.  I guess the Irish really aren't that good, but then most folks outside of South Bend already knew that little tidbit of information.

But then it got better.  Pitt tried to come back in the second half, down 24-3 going into the fourth quarter.  It was like Charlie Brown expecting candy in his bag and finding only a rock.  The handful of Pitt fans actually thought their team was going to come back, but alas they fell shorter than Mitt Romney in their quest for success.

UConn did their best to let Pitt tie the game, throwing an INT in the end zone for a touchback when a field goal would have iced the game, and then handing the ball off when Pitt had no time outs left and all they really needed to do was take a knee.   It's like they were daring fate to step in and snatch defeat from victory.  But Pitt couldn't snatch anything.

UConn (4-6) will add this to their other list of impressive victories over UMass, Maryland, and Buffalo.

Pitt must now win their last two games against Rutgers and South Florida to qualify for a bowl.  Good luck with that.

Statistically Speaking: Corn Field Edition

Looking at the NCAA stats for Penn State and Nebraska . . .

NCAA Stats Comparison  
   
Category:Penn St.Nebraska
   
Rushing856
Passing Offense3779
Total Offense5517
Scoring Offense6220
Rushing Defense2687
Turnovers Gained4272
Passes Had Intercepted870
Pass Defense435
Net Punting11878
Punt Returns9224
Kickoff Returns11363
Turnover Margin14106
Fumbles Recovered2053
Passes Intercepted6880
Fumbles Lost20116
Turnovers Lost7110
Passing Efficiency5733
Pass Efficiency Defense228
Total Defense2631
Scoring Defense1454
Fewest Penalties Per Game4280
Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game60102
Punt Return Yardage Defense115103
Kickoff Return Yardage Defense7262
Offense Third-down Efficiency4943
Offense Fourth-down Efficiency5820
Defense Third-down Efficiency5337
Defense Fourth-down Efficiency2626
Tackles for Loss7231
Offense Tackles for Loss151
Pass Sacks2720
Pass Sacks Allowed3569
Time of Possession2760
First Downs3621
First Downs Allowed2628
Red Zone Efficiency8928
Red Zone Efficiency - Defense743
   
Average NCAA Rank:46.5952.32
Weighted Avg. Rank:46.5843.67

The weighted stats give extra "weight" to categories like total offense and total defense, while putting less emphasis on categories like Fewest Penalties per game. Straight up, PSU has about a 6 rank point edge over Big Red.  That disappears to a deficit when weighted.  Does that mean anything?  Probably no more than any other statistic you can throw out there.

I think the key match-up for us will be our rushing defense against their rushing defense.  Nebraska's ability to move the ball will be dependent on whether our offense can control the time of possession, whether we can force Martinez to pass (put them in third and long if possible) and whether Rex Burkhead is back and is back 100% or not.  In other words, keep the Big Red O off the field, and when they are out there, force them into passing situations.

Both teams are statistically similar in total defense and third down efficiency on offense.   I believe Penn State will have to be better on third downs than Nebraska to win this game, barring some big plays.  Better third down efficiency keeps drives alive, keeps their defense on the field, and wins time of possession.  You are also more likely to score if you control the ball longer.

This game may come down to some intangibles.  Obviously, the Huskers have the home field advantage and have not lost at home this season.  Yet.  They also have more to play for . . . a berth in the Big Ten Title game.  But, that may be to our advantage, as they also have more to lose than we do.  That could allow us to play looser and gamble more.  They may be more conservative and play tight.  Of course, I could be full of crap, and unfortunately, this latter scenario is more likely.

Let's go with Penn State 35 (all TDs, no FGs) and Nebrask 31.  Sounds like a plan?  And don't we love it when a plan comes together?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Weekly Game Guide: Feeling Corny? Edition

The under .500 Va Tech Chokies are down 13-10 to F$U in Blacksburg.  The Seminoles are favored by 13.5 points.  What the heck!  GO HOKIES!  Do the Hokie Pokie!

Penn State travels to Lincoln (the city, not the vampire hunter) to take on the Huskers.  Nebraska is favored by a TD.  Mark May picks Nebraska.  Nuff said.   GO STATE!  SHUCK the HUSKERS!

Is she feeling Corny?
This weekend in the Big Ten:

Wisconsin has a huge game against Indiana . . . in football.  Who would have ever thought that was even possible?  But with OSU and PSU locked out of the post season festivities, this game could determine who goes to Indy.  The Badgers are favored by 7.  With PSU out of the title picture, I'm fine with Indiana playing for a Big Ten title.  GO HOOSIERS!

The Northwestern Wildcats travel to Ann Arbor to face THEM.  The wolvereenies are favored by 9.5.  GO CATS!

Iowa is favored by 5 over Purdue.  Will there be any (Danny) Hope after this season?  This is a must win for the Boilers and their coach.  Iowa has been up and down all year.  GO BOILERS!

Minnesota is favored by 3.5 over Illinois.  I'm okay with that.  GO GOPHS!

Michigan state and Ohio State have byes.

In games of previous opponents:

Bowling Green handed the Bobcats their second loss of the season last night, winning 26-14.  How did we lose that game?  Oh, to be able to do that one over again!

Navy is favored by 2 over Troy.  GO NAVY!

Temple is an 8.5 dog to Cincinnati.  GO OWLS . . . but good luck with that!

Virginia is favored by 1 over Miami (FL).   Seriously?  Whatever.  GO CAVS!

In other games of remote interest:

Alabama will be tested by Texas A & M.  The Crimson Tide is favored by nearly two TDs.  Roll Tide Roll!

Can BC party like its 1993?  The Irish aren't ranked #1, but they are undefeated and favored by 19.  GO EAGLES!

K State is favored by 7 over TCU.  GO WILDCATS!

Oregon is favored by 28 over Cal. That's just fine.  We don't want anyone ahead of Notre Lame in the BCS standings to lose.  GO DUCKS!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Separated at Birth?


The Framing of Joe Paterno

It's a little long, but well worth the time if you can spare it.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Boilermakers Get Lions Back on Track

Get yours for Thanksgiving!
On a day which saw #1 Alabama come from behind in Death Valley to beat LSU 21-17, and a day when the referees gave Notre Dame a second win for this season, the game in West Lafayette may not have seemed very important. 

But many Penn State fans were worried about a let down against the Boilermakers.  While Purdue is not LSU or Notre Dame, they were capable of almost beating Ohio State (came closer than we did as a matter of fact) and almost beating ND, which apparently is the norm for this season.  Who am I kidding?!  That's the norm for every season.  Where do you think the phrase "luck of the Irish" came from?  A drunk referee no doubt!

And despite the refs, Pitt still had a chance to kick a fairly easy field goal in 2OT to upset the #3 ranked Irish, but failed to do so.  For years, the Pitt team has disappointed their own fans.  Now they are branching out and disappointing fans across the nation who do not want to see a mediocre Irish team in the national title game.  But I digress.

Penn State dominated Purdue just as they dominated Iowa two weeks ago, en route to a 34-9 victory that included a touchdown with no time left on the clock for Purdue.   Was Lloyd Carr in the stadium?  The win re-established the NASCAR offense which apparently was yellow flagged last week--it's as if last week never happened.  McGloin simply picked up where he left off--picking up the pace, throwing no picks, and picking apart the Boiler defense with surgical precision.

The one thing we didn't leave behind was poor refereeing, as Amos was called for a personal foul when he hit Marve too hard on what appeared to be a good, clean hit.  But the the fifteen yards was not enough to help Purdue, nor was a fourth down stop of Penn State at mid-field early in the game.

All in all, it was a satisfying victory and I feel better about the game in Lincoln next weekend.  There are very few times I wish I could go to an away game, but next weekend is one of those times.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSUsports:

The time of possession was nearly equal, so if you are looking for justification in the stats for Penn State's domination, you need to look defensively.  A late score not withstanding, the Lion's D nearly shut out Purdue.  The rushing attack of the Boilers was held to 87 yards.  Penn State averaged 6.7 yards per play to Purdue's 4.3.  Neither team did well on third down (about 33% for both) and Penn State, while still a gambling team on offense, failed to convert any fourth downs.  There was one turn-over in the game, but you can't really blame Purdue's woes on that.

INTANGIBLES:

The Lions dominated before an amazing crowd of 40,098, some of which came only to see the World's Largest Drum.

Penn State is 12-3-1 all-time against the Boilermakers.

Penn State won the toss and elected to defer.

Win #6 makes us bowl . . . oh, never mind.  WTF.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:
Nebraska and THEM are tied at 4-1 atop the LEGENDS division, while the LEADERS division is led by two ineligble teams.  Wisconsin is currently "winning" the LEADER board at 3-2 in the conference.
Root for Perdue, or I'll hit you with this drumstick!

THEM beat Minnesota 35-13 behind quarterback Devin Gardner.  Why did Denard Robinson not play?  I don't know.  I don't care.  I'm too lazy to look it up.

The Buckeyes kicked Illi Silli, beating them 52-22.

Nebraska edged Michigan State late in the game, 28-24.  Michigan State fans are now issued barf bags before entering the stadium, and fans not able to ride roller coasters are cautioned not to enter.

The Hoosiers slipped by Iowa 24-21, and are the only "legitimate" team standing between Wisconsin and another trip to Indy for the Badgers.  Who woulda thought?!

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Holy Freaking Kick the Field Goal Batman, how could Pitt let that slip away????  I am still pissed!
2.  LSU--their defense folded faster than a poker player with a pair of threes. (Or the defense for MSU.  Or Pitt's D.)
3.  West Virginia--lost to TCU in OT 39-38.
4.  Temple lost to Louisville 45-17, the second biggest disappointment in PA
5.  Colorado lost 48-0 to the Cardinal.  I remember when Colorado used to have a football team.

LOOKING AHEAD:

O'Brien's Lions head to Lincoln next Saturday for a 3:30 contest against the Cornshuckers.

Nebraska has manged this record so far . . .

W  Southern Miss 49-20
L   UCLA 30-36
W  Arkansas St. 42-13
W  Idaho St. 73-7
W  Wisconsin 30-27
L   Ohio State 38-63
W  Northwestern 29-28
W  THEM 23-9
W  MSU  28-24

The two common opponents to date:  OSU and NW, the Huskers have fared comparatively well.  Both teams lost to the Buckeyes--Nebraska scored more points, but gave up almost twice as many as we did.  Northwestern had a chance to upset both teams and failed.

While the keys to any game include not making mistakes and scoring more points than your opponent, it is actually not a trivial thing in this instance.  These two teams are probably equally matched (I hope to look at the stats later in the week.)  Nebraska has the home field advantage (their only losses are on the road.)  But I don't get the sense that this is a good catch-up team, although they obviously managed that in East Lansing.  But even Iowa beat the Spartans.  I think the Huskers struggle more when you take them out of their game, but then, what team doesn't???  I hope we can score quickly and early--the formula which has served us well in every victory this season--and limit our mistakes.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Weekly Game Guide: Boilermaker Edition

Purdue is making me thirsty!
Miami is clinging to a lead over Va Tech in Thursday Night Football.  GO CANES!

This Saturday, Penn State travels west to face Purdue.  The Lions are favored by 3.5.  GO STATE!  BEAT PERDUE!

In the Big Ten this weekend:

THEM is favored by 11 over Minnesota.  GO GOPHERS!

Ohio State is a 27.5 point favorite over the Illini.  Let down after last week?  I doubt it.  But I'll still be rooting for Illinois.  Hey!  We could be co-division champs, couldn't we?

Nebraska is a 1.5 favorite over the Spartans, but I think Sparty opened as the favorite.  Whatever.  GO HUSKERS!

Indiana is actually favored by 2.5 over Iowa.  Wow.  GO HOOSIERS!

Wisconsin and Northwestern have a bye.

In games of previous opponents:

Navy is favored by 16.5 over Florida Atlantic.  GO NAVY!

Virginia is a 10.5 dog to NC State.  I've given up on the Cavs.  Whatever.

Temple is a 16 point dog to Louisville.  GO OWLS!

Ohio is playing tonight as a 15.5 point favorite over EMU.  GO BOBCATS!  Thois just in . .  Ohio won 45-14!

In other games of interest:

Alabama is favored by 9 over LSU.  ROLL TIDE ROLL!

Oregon is a 7.5 point favorite over USC.  QUACK.  QUACK.  GO DUCKS!

K State is an 8.5 point favorite over Okie State.  GO WILDCATS!

ND is still a 17 point favorite over Pitt.  HAIL to Pitt?  HELL NO.  But I hope ND loses somewhere along the line.  Might as well be this weekend.  Or not.  Damned.  GO PITT.  Maybe.