Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Morning Service


Did you write the book of plays?

And do you have faith in Joe Pa's ways?

If the Lion tells you so.

---From The Day the Lion Cried
Bielema Kneels at the gates of Hog Heaven

Welcome to the Irreverent Church of the Gridiron, your humble source for Sunday Morning Quarterbacking and football-related sermons.

Yesterday, Georgia defeated LSU 44-41 in a thriller of a football game in front of a packed crowd of red-clad parishioners.  We can only assume the game was played at Georgia.  That and the Big G on the field were giveaways.

But a packed stadium is no longer the norm.  Not at Beaver Stadium.  Not in Georgia.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Declining student attendance is an illness that has been spreading for years nationwide. But now it has hit the Southeastern Conference, home to college football's best teams and supposedly its most fervent fans, giving athletics officials reason to fret about future ticket sales and fundraising.

As it turns out, Georgia students left empty 39% of their designated sections of Sanford Stadium over the last four seasons, according to school records of student-ticket scans. Despite their allocation of about 18,000 seats, the number of students at games between 2009 and 2012 never exceeded 15,000.   
Winning isn't even necessarily a solution. The average student crowd to see last year's Georgia team—which finished the season ranked No. 5—was almost 6,000 short of maximum capacity. Even at Alabama, 32% of student seats went unused by students between 2009 and 2012, when the Crimson Tide won three national championships. Alabama coach Nick Saban wrote a flattering letter last week in the student paper to recruit students back. 
At Penn State, the decline in attendance affects not just the student section, but season tickets and single game sales as well.  Even in the dark years of 2003-4, Penn State filled the stadium most weekends, or at least broke the 100K mark.  But that was before STEP and a different economy.  STEP and economic pressures, among other things, are keeping the fans at home in front of their HDTVs.

Even more concerning than declining attendance, is declining participation in high school athletics.  According to this article in the Altoona Mirror . . .

The small-school scourge devoured Rockwood High School's football program this season.

After entering a preseason scrimmage against Tussey Mountain with just 12 players on its roster, and losing one more during that game with a shoulder injury, Rockwood made the decision to cancel its 2013 season before it even began.

Whether Rockwood, a District 5 program that competed in the WestPAC conference, will revive its football program in the future remains to be seen.

But one thing is certain - Rockwood is not alone in its struggle to field adequate football numbers. 
Ferndale, a District 6-A school, had just 20 players out for football this year, and its program is hanging by a thread. Johnsonburg, a District 9 school, eliminated its football program for the 2013 season and decided on a co-op arrangement with Ridgway.

Do the math.  If this decline is spread across small schools across the entire country, that means fewer students that colleges have to recruit.

Has college football--and perhaps scholastic football in general--jumped the shark?


Only time will tell.  I don't think the empty seats at Beaver Stadium will change in the near future--although an opponent like THEM and Nebraska will likely fill the stadium.  When Purdue rolls in to take on the Lions, though, there will be plenty of room to spread out.  I'd recommend bringing a pillow, but that is not allowable thanks to the new stadium bag policy!  Funny thing . . . I can take my PSU seat cushion with pockets to a St. Francis game, but not to a Penn State game.  There is something very wrong here, but no one is willing to do anything about it. 

Keep the faith, Lion Faithful!  That is all I can say.

Sunday Verses:
The Buckeyes Win?  Isn't that Special?


From Buckeyes 31:24--

The REF is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green fields: he alloweth me to hold Badgers.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of self-righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of defeat, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy flag and thy whistle they comfort me.
Thou preparest a celebration before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my helmet with buckeyes; my Gatorade cup runneth over.
 Surely ESPN and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of Pope Urban for ever.

From Sooners 35:21--

Make a joyful noise unto ESPN, all ye teams.
Serve Bob Stoops with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Irish are evil.
For the Sooners are good; their defense everlasting; and this win endureth to all generations.

Spreading the Word:

Temple (0-4) fell to the Vandals of Idaho.  Talk about losing their religion.  Owl be darned.

Arizona State defeated Southern Cal 62-41.  As a result, Lane Kiffin was fired.  I'm not sure this is good news.  Lane Kiffin was the best thing that could happen to USC in my opinion.  They deserved each other.

UCF failed to upset South Carolina, falling 28-25.  Not a bad showing, though, against a ranked team. 

Purdue fell to Northern Illinois . . . by a score of 55-24!  No spoilermakers here.

Iowa beat Minnesota 23-7.  Our strength of schedule is getting killed here!

West-By-God-Virginia beat ranked Oklahoma State 30-21.   Apparently there is a Santa Claus, West Virginia, even if I can't find it on the map.

Former PSU QB Bench started for the USF Bulls.  He went 13 of 27 for 188 yds, one TD and one INT in a losing effort to Miami (FL).  The final score:  49-21.

Johnny Football (Texas A & M) defeated Bret Bielema (Arkansas) 45-33.  I don't think Bret managed to get his autograph.

And top-ranked Alabama shut-out Ole Miss 25-0.  They could have beaten Young Miss and Swiss Miss as well.

The Benediction:

Go now into the world.  Throw Long and Prosper.  And please, God, let Penn State beat Indiana.  Amen.

Friday, September 27, 2013

NCAA Takes Umbrage at Paterno Suit

No surprise here.
I've sentenced programs younger than you to the gas chamber.
Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.
How about a Fresca?

The NCAA seeks to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Paterno Estate, and a handful of trustees, faculty members, former playrs and former coaches.  The NCAA calls the suit "misdirected."
The filing in Centre County court said the suit contains "sundry misdirected complaints" and argued that the plaintiffs don't have standing to challenge the consent agreement between the NCAA and Penn State over the child molestation scandal involving ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

"Plaintiffs resort to tortured interpretations of the NCAA bylaws and the case law in an effort to obscure two inescapable facts: they are the wrong plaintiffs and they have sued the wrong defendants," the NCAA wrote.

"Plaintiffs are obviously deeply disappointed with the consent decree and its effect on the legendary football program that they love," the NCAA wrote. "But plaintiffs cannot cobble together a sustainable lawsuit from their sundry misdirected complaints, however sincere their disagreement with the agreed resolution of the Jerry Sandusky matter."

If the lawsuit succeeds, the NCAA said, it would make it impossible for the organization to ever enter into a consensual resolution of a rules infractions matter, even if the university and the NCAA agreed on it.
Where do we even begin?

In saying that the plaintiffs are disappointed by the effect the consent decree has had on the football program, aren't they in essence admitting that the consent decree has had an adverse effect?  Wouldn't that effect harm former players, current faculty, and ex-coaches?  How does it not affect the estate and reputation of Joe Paterno?

And they are worried that it would make it impossible for the NCAA to enter into consent decrees in the future?  Is that a bad thing?  This Consent Decree did not deal with a rules infraction matter, so how would that impact future consent decrees that actually DO deal with infractions?

Let's examine what a CONSENT DECREE is?

According to Wikipedia
A consent decree (also referred to as a consent order or stipulated judgment or agreed judgment) is a final, binding judicial decree or judgment memorializing a voluntary agreement between parties to a suit in return for withdrawal of a criminal charge or an end to a civil litigation. In a typical consent decree, the defendant has already ceased or agrees to cease the conduct alleged by the plaintiff to be illegal and consents to a court injunction barring the conduct in the future.  Consent decrees are used most commonly in criminal law and family law. They are frequently used by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. They are sometimes used in antitrust law and labor law.

So I am a little confused here.  No criminal charges were withdrawn, and no civil suits against Penn State were ended (see red text above.)  Even if we interpret criminal activity to be NCAA infractions, we still don't have a case here, since Penn State did not violate any NCAA rule.  Apparently this interpretation of a "consent decree" has been construed above and beyond a normal legal definition to suit the purposes of the NCAA.

Let's be perfectly honest here.  The NCAA basically had no jurisdiction in this matter, created a punishment to which Penn State agreed (at the time based on mis-information in the form of public opinion and the Freeh Report), and now relies soley on this consent decree document to justify the continued punishment.

The courts must allow outside parties to contest this, because outside parties are affected by the outcome of this document.

For instance, if you sign a "consent decree" with your neighbor to absolve him of killing your spouse (hiring a hit man so to speak) and both parties agree, that does not make it legal.  The NCAA had no authority to absolve Penn State of any litigation or criminal conduct, and they certainly weren't absolving them of any infractions--in fact they were punishing them when no infraction had occurred.

Can the governor of a state enter into a consent decree with the president and agree to fine the state's taxpayers for a potential violation of a federal statute?

I'm sorry, but the fact that Penn State--and in particular a few members of the administration acting on behalf of the institution--and the NCAA entered into this agreement, does not mean that it should not be analyzed in a court of law.

State College businesses are suffering because of the bowl ban, particularly travel related industries.  Former coaches are having trouble finding jobs because of the stigma of implied guilt due to acceptance of this decree.  Professors may also find employment opportunities vanish because of this stigma.  And no matter what anyone does, the damage to Joe Paterno's reputation is permanent.  Writers/journalists/reporters are never going to retract the vile commentary or public perception of Paterno they created.

And the NCAA does not care, as evidenced by the trite comment about Paterno's family being unable to unload some signed footballs after his death.  Such comments are insensitive and certainly do not belong in a legal brief.

Maybe the Paterno lawsuit isn't the best way to correct this injustice.  But right now, it appears to be the only way.  Let's move this to discovery and let the courts decide whether the NCAA was acting in good faith when it circumvented it's on protocols, punished a memeber school for no actual infractions, and then hides behind a consent decree that is not the normal legal standard for this type of situation.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weekly Game Guide: Bye Bye Week Edition

Penn State has a bye this week.

But Virginia Tech is taking on Georgia Tech tonight, currently leading the Rambling Wreck 14-3.   GaTech was favored by 7.5 points.  Go figure.  Still rooting for Georgia Tech in the second half.

In the Big Ten this week . . .

The Ohio $tate $eyes take on da Badgers of Wisconsin.  The bucks are favored by 7, apparently regardless of quarterback.  Actually, the way the bucks have been scoring, one might wonder if Braxton lost his job.  Probably not.  Either way, gotta root for da Badgers.

Iowa, who lost to Northern Illinois is favored by 1 over the Gophers in Minnesota.  Go Gophers!

Speaking of Northern Illinois, they are favored by 3.5 over Purdue.  I'll give you a minute to stop laughing.  Seriously, it's not like a MAC team can't Toledo a team like Penn State . . .but to go into the game FAVORED?  That's a whole new level of disrespect right there.  GO HUSKIES!  No.  Strike that.  Although it would be funnier than hell.  We have to play Purdon't later this year, so we might as well root for them, right?  GO BOILERS!  No.  Wait.  Who cares?  GO HUSKIES!

Illinois is favored by 24.5 over Miami (OH).  Whatever.

Apparently, this is an official bye week in the Big Ten for half the current teams.  Penn State, Indiana, Michigan State, THEM, Northwestern, and Nebraska are all off this weekend.

Not to be left out, future members Maryland and Rutgers are off this week as well.  Strange things going on.  Has anyone seen College Football Gameday stocking up on black coffins and body bags too?

In Other Games:

Central Florida is a 7 point dog to South Carolina.  GO KNIGHTS!

Georgia is a 3 point fave over LSU.  GO BULLDOGS!

And on the Lighter Side:

I won't post a picture here, but you can check it out over here, if you want.
On a punt return during the Cardinals loss to New Orleans, the tip of Rashad Johnson’s left middle finger was lopped off when the safety tried to tackle running back Darren Sproles.

Afterwards, the 27-year-old went to the Arizona sideline and took off his glove. The tip of the finger was still inside the glove, according to NFL.com, and Johnson continued to play.

Whoa!  Let's not put labels on people here. . .

He's a Zombie!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's a Start!

For the first time since November 2011, I have some REAL good news to pass on.

It appears the hard work of "restoring" Penn State's image is starting to pay off.  (Penn Staters already know that there never was a problem with the image until the attorney general and the media lit a fire that could not be quenched without a blood sacrifice.) 

But be that as it may be, the walls are starting to crumble, freeing the Penn State football program from penalties it never deserved.

From the NCAA's own site:
Due to Penn State University’s continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity, the NCAA Executive Committee is gradually restoring football scholarships the university lost because of sanctions more than a year ago. These changes were endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors and based on the recommendation of George Mitchell, the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor for Penn State and former U.S. Senator.

We can bicker all we want about whether Penn State ever stopped ensuring athletic integrity, but this is still a crucial step in making the football program competitive again.  We can worry about semantics later.  The following graphic shows the restoration:

Penn State scholarships gradually restored

Year Initial Total
2014-15 20 75
2015-16 25 80
2016-17 25 85
2017-18 25 85

The Consent Decree was also amended.

We still need to address the Bowl/Post-Season Ban, but this is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Flash Mobbed

No one will confuse the Kent State Flashes of Kent, OH for an Ohio State, any other Top 25 team, or even a Purdue for that matter (although the Flashes might have a fightin' chance in that one) but that didn't matter to a rain-drenched "crowd of 92,371" Penn State fans who braved the elements to watch the final tune-up game before the Big Ten season.  Penn State prevailed 34-0, in case you haven't checked the scores yet.

Rain not withstanding, it was a wonderful day for football.  The only thing worse than rain is cold rain, so at least we had that going for us.  But it did put a damper on the Blue Out, as fans brought out their red, orange, and camo rain gear.  I was actually surprised at the attendance, even though it was the lowest of the year.  In fact, I had watched part of the Georgia Tech-UNC game, where it was also raining, and the stands were really empty for that one--looked like an average Pitt game on a nice day, if you know what I mean.  So PSU isn't the only school seeing more fans dressed as empty seats in this day and age of economic pressures, high def TVs, and for the lack of a better word, social disintegration.  I mean, when you see a group of five or six people standing around texting on their phones and not interacting with each other, is it any wonder they would choose the comfort of their living room over real social interaction at a football game.  They probably don't get enough bars inside the stadium!

Speaking of bars . . . that reminds me about drinking.  Ok, Mr. Fan--and you know who you are.  You downed your case of Natty Light or Genny--the last one tasted the best, because quite frankly, whatever you were drinking was awful, and at least at the end, your taste buds were too buzzed to notice what the hell you were chugging past them anyway.  Now, you stumble your way to the Port-a-John (an absolute wonder of modern creation deserving of a Nobel Prize if ever there was one).  I can understand where the ambience gets the better of you.  You're best bet is to hold your breath and whiz before you need to inhale again.  But the beer has you out of breath.  You gag.  What can you do?  I understand your dilemma.  I am sympathetic.  What I cannot fathom is why you can't hit the hole with your hurl.  Why do you need to spray the walls and floor?  The hole is not that small.  I'm sure in your drunken state you could screw your girlfriend without missing the hole--this has to be easier.  Oh?  That wasn't your girlfriend?  I stand corrected.  Anyway, thank you very much for sharing with the rest of us.  Congratulations!  You have made an unpleasant bathroom experience just that much more unpleasant.

Ditto for the diarrhea on the seat and floor.  Your mom would be proud.  Moving on . . .which when taken in the context with our Board of Trustees, does seem appropriate for this discussion of crap.

Kent State did their best to keep to the script of scoring first against Penn State this season, but unfortunately, their best wasn't good enough, slicing a thirty yard field goal wide and into the rough.  After getting pounded by the Knight's blend of quarterback perfection and southern speed last week, the Lion's D rose to the occasion and held the Flashes scoreless.  KSU had only 56 yards rushing and 190 total yards in the game.  Kent State became the first team to have a poorer third down conversion percentage than we had.  And despite our up-tempo offense, we managed to win time of possession on the clock.

Akeel Lynch continues to impress me, but Zwinak had a solid day and notched three touchdowns in short yardage situations.  Ficken is Kickin' good!  He nailed a 54 yarder in the closing minutes of the game.  This is tied for the fourth longest-kick in school history with Herb Menhardt in 1979.  The three kicks that were longer were all 55 yarders by Chris Bahr.  Kick it again, Sam!  (he barely missed a 58 yarder last week.)

All in all, Penn State beat an opponent they should have beaten.  The game was never really in doubt.  We still had a slow start, and only led 7-0 after the first, and 14-0 at the half.  The weather was almost surely a factor, and let's be brutally honest here, it's tough to get excited about Kent State.  No offense, flashes.  Hackenberg had perhaps his worst outing of the year, with an INT into double coverage and a lot of just poorly thrown balls.  He lost control of the ball and fumbled again, which was at least recovered by PSU.  I'll blame it on the weather.  I'm okay with that.  He's still a freshman, and this probably won't be the last time he plays in the rain.  But if we make mistakes like that against a team like THEM, we may end up on the Akron or UConn side of the scoreboard.  And let's face it--THEM, Wisconsin and Nebraska are all very winnable games at this point.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSUsports:



KENTPSU
FIRST DOWNS...................927
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............24-5653-287
PASSING YDS (NET).............134176
Passes Att-Comp-Int...........36-17-136-13-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS.....60-19089-463
Fumble Returns-Yards..........0-00-0
Punt Returns-Yards............1-02-4
Kickoff Returns-Yards.........7-1441-15
Interception Returns-Yards....1--41-2
Punts (Number-Avg)............10-46.55-39.8
Fumbles-Lost..................2-02-0
Penalties-Yards...............8-793-28
Possession Time...............27:1632:44
Third-Down Conversions........3 of 157 of 18
Fourth-Down Conversions.......0 of 02 of 3
Red-Zone Scores-Chances.......0-15-5
Sacks By: Number-Yards........2-163-15

We improved on third down, against arguably weak competition, but don't forget, this percentage was not good against EMU.  So there is some improvement.  (If you are too lazy to look back, we were 1-10 on third downs against EMU.)   Neither team lost a fumble this week although both teams tried twice.  We exchanged INTs.  We're pretty darn good once we get into the red zone, something that Penn State has struggled with the past decade before O'Brien came. 

INTANGIBLES:

If Kent only had a brain--Oh wait!  They DO!
The Blue Band did not march.  Really?  The field can stand 300 lb behemoths in cleats, but not a 150 lb (soaking wet) trumpet player in spats?  That field was in immaculate condition.  I could rant about this more, but I already ranted about other crap above.

Penn State won the toss and elected to receive.  Three and out with an illegal procedure penalty thrown in.  Not exactly what we had in mind.  Shock and awe became shucks and aww.

Holy Touching You Touching Me Batman!  THEY PLAYED SWEET CAROLINE!  Bom.  Bom.  Bom.  So good!  So good!  So good!  I was wondering if there was a hostage situation up in the press box!  Seriously, Neil Diamond didn't write the song about child abuse.  Fans singing the song aren't supporting child abuse.  Anyone who links the two is narrow-minded and quite possibly mentally unstable enough to be dangerous.  Even those that hate the song should be happy to see a shift in this politically correct crap that has drowned Penn State from the beginning.  It's only a small step, but at least it's a step forward and not back.

The crowd was listed at over 92,000 (wink, wink.)  The energy level was significantly less compared to last week.  And this week, I had six tickets I couldn't give away.  But don't worry, I've already had plenty of requests for the next game.  I just shake my head.  How can you call yourself a fan if you only go to the "big" games???

THE B1G PICTURE:

The scores are 59-3, 43-24, 24-21, 59-20, 45-28, 41-10, 17-13, 35-21, and 76-0.  Thank you Les Nessman!

76 Buckeyes led the B1G parade.  The Bucks pummeled Florida A and Florida M.  They could have pummeled a few more Florida letters.  The Hawks are coming alive after a typically slow start, beating Western Michigan 59-3.  Nebraska took out last week's frustrating loss to UCLA in a 59-20 thrashing of South Dakota State.  Minnesota is 4-0 after a 43-24 victory over a pesky San Jose State team.  Northwestern beat Maine 35-21.  THEM survived a scare for the second straight week against an "inferior" opponent, beating UConn 24-21 with a fourth quarter field goal.  Don't worry, though, they'll come to Beaver Stadium playing like conquering heroes and chumpions of the west.  (That is not misspelled.)

In the only game between conference teams, Wisconsin bested Purdue 41-10, which adds nothing to one's resumè.

In the losers category, the Spartans fought the Irish and the Irish won, 17-13.  The Hoosiers faced Missouri, and Mizzou won 45-28.  Purdue lost to Wisconsin as already duly noted.

Illinois didn't play, and as I predicted, no one cared.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  For Duke:  Putting the FU back in FUN, Pitt scored 58 points . . .just enough to edge Duke who scored 55.  All those points and they didn't cover the spread of 4.
2.  Boise State--lost 41-40 to Fresno State.  Nice defenses.  See also #1.
3.  West By-God Virginia--blanked by the Terps 37 to aught.
4.  Arkansas--Bielema loses to Rutgers 28-24.  Boo hoo, Bret.
5.  Michigan State--any loss to ND is worthy of tears.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Bye Week next week.

Both Indiana and Penn State have bye weeks.  Isn't that convenient?

The Hoosiers are 2-2 and the un-BILL-ievers are worried that PSU can't keep up with the high powered Indiana offense that scored a whopping 28 points against Mizzou.  Anyone can put up 70 on Indiana State, well, except Purdue. 

The Hoosier offense is ranked behind Wisconsin in the Big Ten right now.  PSU is ranked 6th.  But defensively, in the Big Ten, PSU is ranked 4th, while Indiana is ranked 10th.

I'll start worrying if we fall three scores behind.

GO STATE!  BEAT HOOSIERS!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

March For Truth

Read about the event here.

Weekly Game Guide: Golden Flush Edition

Penn State is a 20 point favorite over the Golden Flushes of Kent State.  Coming off an 11-3 season with a heartbreaking bowl loss to Arkansas State, KSU has struggled.  Their only win is a 17-10 decision over Liberty. 

Now it's not like Penn State has come out of the gate running, but this should be a game to work on some of the things we need to work on.  Hackenberg should have another nice outing stat-wise, but look for some back-up time for Ferguson.

We pause now for a tirade.  This is kind of like a rant but has more syllables.  The Citizens Bank Button for this week reads FLASH LIGHTS OUT.  Seriously?  Is this the best we can do?  Someone asked me today what the button meant.  I DON'T REALLY KNOW.  We're playing Kent State.  They are the flashes.  Hence . . .

Is it a reference to a flashlight?  Turning it off?

We're going to play lights out?  Against the flash?

Are we flashing lights--sending out an S.O.S.?

Over the years, there have been a number of old standbys . . .

TURN THE TIDE.

SUBDUE PURDUE

QUIET THE 'NOIS

et cetera.

There have even been some creative ones . . .

NO GREECE LIGHTNING

DRIVING MICH CRAZY (playing on Driving Miss Daisy)

MICHIGAN IMPOSSIBLE (Playing on Mission Impossible)

SLEEPLESS IN ANN ARBOR (Sleepless in Seattle--not sure what it has to do with football, but I assume they were supposed to be losing sleep worrying about playing Penn State.  Yeah, that's the ticket.  It also appears that playing THEM elicits movie references.)

I'm just a bit disappointed in this week's button.  Oh, well.  I'm sure Citizen's Bank won't lose any sleep . . . in Ann Arbor, Seattle, or Beaver Stadium.

When you have to explain the joke, it's probably not that funny.  CLEAN!  QUEEN--to make it funny!  When you have to explain the button . . .time to get a new slogan.

Tonight, Clemson is currently leading the Wolfpack, 20-7 going to the fourth quarter.

In the Big Ten:

Iowa (17 points) takes on Western Michigan.  GO HAWKS!

Minnesota (off) takes on San Jose State.  GO GOPHERS!

Michigan State travels to South Bend to fight the Irish (7).  GO SPARTY!

Illinois doesn't play.  Will anyone notice?

THEM (18) travels to UConn.  GO Huskies!

The Cornhuskers try to recover against South Dakota State.  GO HUSKERS!

Missouri (5) head to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers.  GO HOOSIERS!

In the first match-up of two Big Ten teams this season, Wisconsin (23.5) hosts Purdue.  I have to admit that rooting against Wisconsin ain't as much fun now that Bielema is gone.  ON WISCONSIN!

Northwestern hosts Maine.  Remember the Maine?  Not so much.  GO CATS!

Ohio State hosts Florida A and M.  Nothing but pain there.

Maryland (5) plays West Virginia at M&T Stadium.  Don't ask me.  I have no idea where that is.  GO TWERPS!

Rutgers (off) hosts Arkansas.  GO KNIGHTS!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

UCF: Ultimate Cage Football

It was the Ultimate Cage Fight between two unbeatens.  And for three hours, it was a back and forth offensive slug fest.  The Knights jumped out to the early lead, but the Lions roared back to even the score.  But for the third straight week of the season, the Nittany Lion offense just couldn't keep focus in the first half, and they fell behind 21-7 before the half time bell rang and the scoreboard showed a 21-10 advantage to the visiting Knights of Orlando.

Penn State squandered a great opportunity to build momentum going into the second half, when Malcolm Willis intercepted a Bortles pass and gave PSU possession of the ball on their own 21 yard line.  Unfortunately, there was only 1:17 on the clock, but a field goal here, and knowing the Lions would have the ball first in the second half, Penn State could cut the lead to a score or even take the lead on these two possessions.

But on a second down play, Hackenberg took an ill-advised sack instead of getting rid of the ball.  (Insert your comment about freshman mistakes here, but even their senior signal caller threw a pass away late when he should have kept the clock rolling, so those things happen.) The clock kept winding down, and without any time outs, Penn State had to spike the ball, leaving fourth and two and a 59 yard field goal attempt.  Ficken did his best, but came up short.  Had Penn State been able to actually run a play on third down instead of spiking the ball, everything might have been different.  On the other hand, we might have fumbled, lost yards, or thrown an INT.  But just another 5 or 6 yards would have kept Ficken perfect on the year, and Penn State down by 8 at the half.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. 

Penn State never stopped fighting back, and despite giving up 507 yards to the Golden Knights, they were down only ten in the fourth quarter when Zach Zwinak had the ball stripped and lost the only fumble of the day.  Not to make the young man feels worse than he already does, but the turn over was critical.  There was 5:43 left on the clock, and PSU had driven the ball inside the UCF thirty.

And the Nittany Lion defense rose to the occasion for the second time that day, forcing a punt that went awry for the Knights and should have sealed their doom.  The snap sailed over the punters head toward the end zone, but he managed to scramble away and boot a short shank out of bounds. 

Penn State finally capitalized on the misplay with a TD that pulled them within a field goal.  O'Brien opted to pooch kick or some such strategy, eschewing the on-sides kick with only 2:51 left on the clock.  But the kick rolled the whole way to the end zone and was downed for a touchback.  With only one time out left, Penn State had to keep the Knights from a first down.

And they failed.  Bout over.  Win to UCF.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSUsports:


UCF PSU
FIRST DOWNS...................20 24
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............38-219 35-193
PASSING YDS (NET).............288 262
Passes Att-Comp-Int...........27-20-1 29-21-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS.....65-507 64-455
Fumble Returns-Yards..........0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............0-0 1-15
Kickoff Returns-Yards.........5-115 7-162
Interception Returns-Yards....0-0 1-0
Punts (Number-Avg)............2-17.0 2-34.5
Fumbles-Lost..................1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards...............6-62 5-33
Possession Time...............32:37 27:23
Third-Down Conversions........7 of 12 2 of 8
Fourth-Down Conversions.......0 of 1 1 of 2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances.......4-4 4-4
Sacks By: Number-Yards........1-10 0-0

Penn State doubled the number of third down conversions on the season, going 2 for 8.  UCF won time of possession, largely on the fact that they kept the chains moving on third down by converting 7 of 12.

Otherwise, the stats are pretty similar.  They outgained us, but not by an insurmountable amount.  Both teams had a turn over. 

Perhaps the key stat of the game is NO SACKS by the PSU D.  I'm not even sure we ever hurried him, let alone touched him.  It did not even appear as if we were trying to put any pressure--stunts/blitzes--on Bortles, who frequently had time to sign autographs in the pocket, if he were so Johnny Football inclined to do so.

To place blame in this game is a misguided pursuit.  No one play really changed the complexion of the game.  But if we have to over analyze things, I would have to question the defensive coaching decision to not pressure the QB.  I have felt to this point that the coaching staff has been really good at making half time adjustments, but I felt we should have made a choice to become more aggressive in the second half--to take some chances to get back in the game and stop the Knights.  But hind sight is 20/20 and such a change could have given up more big plays.  Who knows?

In the final analysis, it was an exciting game to the end.  After the game, the guy who parks next to me asked whether I'd like to sit through a 6-4 loss or a 34-31 loss.  I take the latter.  Pretty loss beats ugly loss any day.  And I really felt like this team was going to pull it out.  I never felt that against Iowa.  Even Kirk Ferentz didn't believe we could pull it out as he intentionally took the safety to seal that game.

And there will be better (K)nights for both of these teams this year.

INTANGIBLES:

The crowd was listed at 92,855 but sounded as loud as I've ever heard for a non-conference, non-marquee game.  We just couldn't convert that support and emotion into plays on the field.

The Drum Major stuck both flips.

UCF won the toss and took the ball first.  They never looked back.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

A week after the Irish and THEM battled in the Boring Bowl, Purdue, who barely edged Indiana State, took the Irish all the way, losing 31-24.  Akron almost upset the wolvereenies, coming up a couple yards short and losing 28-24. 

It was a wild finish, but one that would be outdone by Wisconsin.  The Badgers, down by two, could have kicked a winning field goal, but in a bizarre play, the quarterback didn't take a knee--a phantom kneel according to ESPN (I didn't stay up to watch the game!) and time ran out.

The Spartans defeated Youngstown State 55-17.  Minnesota beat Western Illinois 29-12.  The Illini lost to Washington at Soldier Field, 34-24.  Indiana rebounded from the loss to Navy with a 42-10 victory over Bowling Green.  Northwestern continued to roll, defeating Western Michigan 38-17, and the Buckeyes with a back-up QB beat Cal 52-34.

And the Huskers, leading 21-3, allowed 38 unanswered points to fall 41-21 to UCLA.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Texas A and M--Tide rolls 49-42.  Revenge is a bitch. 
2.  Temple Owls--lost to Fordham 30-29.
3.  Texas--lost second straight, falling to Ole Miss 44-23.  Who gets fired this week?
4.  Florida International--fell 34-13 to Bethune-Cookman.  Don't ask me.  I assume it's a school.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Kent State comes to Beaver Stadium next Saturday for a 3:30 game.

After going 11-3 last season, capped by a loss to Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl, KSU opened the 2013 season with a 17-10 win over Liberty, but then went on to lose back to back games against Bowling Green (41-22) and LSU (45-13.)

GO STATE!  BEAT FLASHES!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Weekly Game Day: O'Leary, O'Brien, O My! Edition

Penn State clings to about a five point favorite by the odds makers, when the Orlando Golden
Knights of UCF invade Beaver Stadium this Saturday at 6pm.

This will be an interesting test for a 2-0 Nittany Lion squad that has not really been challenged yet.  But this is still not the Knights of Columbus or the wolvereenies of Ann Arbor either.  This is a very winnable game.

Statistically, here are how the two teams match up (from the NCAA website):


 UCF PSU    
3rd Down Conversion Pct 24 123    
3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense 54 16    
4th Down Conversion Pct.   1    
4th Down Conversion Pct. Defense 70      
Fewest Penalties Per Game 11 30    
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 10 29    
First Downs Defense 20 11 20 11
First Downs Offense 67 67 67 67
Fumbles Lost 1 106    
Fumbles Recovered 22 56    
Kickoff Return Defense 57 100    
Kickoff Returns 100 55    
Net Punting 58 96    
Pass Sacks Allowed 90 110    
Passes Had Intercepted 1 95    
Passes Intercepted 65 36    
Passing Offense 42 24    
Passing Yards Allowed 13 24    
Passing Yards Per Completion 9 45    
Punt Return defense 38 83    
Punt Returns 30 22    
Red Zone Defense 5 75    
Red Zone Offense 44 1    
Rushing Defense 16 8 16 8
Rushing Offense 68 73 68 73
Scoring Defense 4 20 4 20
Scoring Offense 38 53 38 53
Tackles for Loss Allowed 88 63    
Team Pass Sacks 67 34    
Team Passing Efficiency 11 36    
Team Passing Efficiency Defense 45 16    
Team Tackles for Loss 15 39    
Time of Possession 40 58    
Total Defense 7 10 7 10
Total Offense 59 45 59 45
Turnover Margin 20 113    
Turnovers Gained 54 54    
Turnovers Lost 1 113    
Winning Percentage 1 1    
         
Averages 35.00 49.77 34.88 35.88

As we can see, the Golden Knights have a decided edge in overall statistics, 35.92 to 51.08 for the average NCAA ranking in all these categories.

But wait just a minute.  Total Defense is about even.  PSU has a slight edge in Total Offense, and even better in passing offense.  We suck really bad in just about any turnover category, but we are ranked right there with UCF in turnovers gained.  Our third down percentage is dead last.  L-O-U-S-Y.  Yet, we score points and win games, so does that stat really matter?

If you look just at the major offensive and defensive stats, and pretty much ignore special teams, penalties and turnovers, you can see the two teams are pretty evenly matched.

It is pretty clear that PSU has to stop turning the ball over, and improve on third down conversions.  Do those two things, and throw in home field advantage, and PSU wins this in a nail biter. 

USA Today ranked all 125 teams preseason, with PSU at 37.  UCF was 42.  Both are 2-0.

You can't coach turnovers.  What will happen will happen.  But I think PSU will turn that around.  Special teams struggled early last season, and got better as the season went on.  I still worry about Ficken, but the young man has done nothing to suggest he can't get the job done.  Punting is always an adventure, but I will be surprised if the outcome of this game turns on a single punt or two.

Many people don't remember how often Michael Robinson turned the ball over during the early games of the 2005 season.  He practiced with a football covered in silk to try and train himself to hang onto the ball better.  And he did.  In the Ohio State game, it was the Buckeye fumble that sealed the game for Penn State.  Now this is not 2005.  UCF is not Ohio State, and Hackenberg is not Michael Robinson.  But my point is that teams that are turning the ball over, frequently correct that problem for no rhyme or reason.  Some continue to fumble things away.

I think Penn State wins and beats the spread.  That and a call to Geico can save you 15% on your car insurance.

In the Big Ten this week:

Minnesota takes on Western Illinois (NL.)  GO GOPHERS!

Illinois will play Washington at Soldier Field.  Washington is a 9.5 point favorite.  GO HUSKIES!

Nebraska is a 4.5 point favorite over UCLA at home.  GO HUSKERS!

Iowa is a 2.5 point favorite over cross state rival Iowa State.  GO HAWKS!

Indiana hosts Bowling Green and is favored by 2.5.  GO HOOSIERS!

Akron (37 point dogs) travels to the Big OutHouse to take on THEM.  Whatever.

The Buckeyes actual leave Columbus in September to play Cal.  (NL due to the status of Braxton.)  GO CAL!

The Spartans warm-up against Youngstown State, in prep for the Irish next week.  GO SPARTY!

Speaking of the Irish, they are favored over Purdue by 20.5.  GO BOILERS!

Northwestern is a 31 point favorite over Western Michigan.  GO CATS!

And Wisconsin travels to the desert to play ASU.  The Sun Devils are favored by 5.5.  I can see that happening.  GO DEVILS!

Maryland is a touchdown favorite over UConn.  GO TERPS!

Buttgers will mop up EMU, favored by 27.5 over our most recent opponent.  GO SCARLET KNIGHTS!

And in the GAME OF THE WEEK . . .

Johnny Football will host the Alabama Crimson Tide who are favored by 7.5.  Odds give a 30% chance that Johnny signs autographs during the game.  ROLL TIDE ROLL!

Facing off With Bill O'Brien


From a BWI poster.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

WARNING:  This is a rant.  If that is not your thing, please scroll down to the next entry, or try another web site.  Perhaps this one that shows every plane that is currently flying.  Or this one which shows a random cat picture and plays a random song.  Or you can find out if your computer is on or off at this site.

The stadium experience has certainly changed over the years.  Of course, what hasn't changed over the years?  Have these changes been positive?

I like the Jumbo-Tron picture.  That's a plus.

But how about showing more scores continuously on the scroll bar under each of the upper decks?  Yeah, I know we have to sell some Berks Hot Dogs and the like to pay the bills, but can't we run a crawl like ESPN and most sports networks do continuously?  You already have us here.  In the seats.  Who cares if we're interested in how well Sacramento State is doing against Podunk U?  Shows us the scores!

I don't like the nearly continuous stream of background music that won't stay in the background.  It's like we're living in a movie soundtrack.  Every play, emotion or pause has to be highlighted with a sound clip.  This is not a plus.

Now I fully understand that the University is trying (or maybe not) to cater to the students and the "younger" crowd.  And if you are in that category, I'm sorry that I don't understand your constant need for external auditory stimulation.  In case you haven't noticed, and you probably haven't if it isn't posted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Vine, but those of us that are more bald fat wrinkled mature don't walk around with ear buds in our ears 24/7.

I liked Sweet Caroline. I'm sorry, but BOM BOM BOM I do.  I liked the crowd singing and the guy on the video screen swaying and directing with his arms.  Oh, like you don't have a guilty pleasure!

I like Zombie Nation.  I like some of the music played to pump up the crowd.

I just don't need it continuously.  Even when the stadium announcer was talking, the music was trying to overcome his voice.  It's not that I need to hear him announce that it is third down (when it was really fourth down, although you can't be sure because YOU CAN'T ACTUALLY HEAR HIM!), because I can see the scoreboard through my early cataracts and I can even see the marker on the sideline.  But why do we have to play music while he's talking?  Maybe he should just stop.

When you watch a game on TV at home, there isn't a constant soundtrack.  Do you blare your stereo while watching the game?  If you do, WHY? 

This year, the University has been sending me emails to choose a song for the Blue Band to play during the game from a pre-arranged list.  Okay.  That's nice, I suppose.  For 60 seconds, we have control over what is played.  Woo Hoo!  (Did we even hear a woo hoo! last week after a big play?)  The other 3 and a half hours we are deafened by noise that makes waterboarding seem humane.

No Sweet Caroline!  BOM BOM BOM!


And what is with the new bag policy?  I can't bring my stadium cushion with the pocket that holds a poncho and my game program into the game?  It has a Penn State logo on it (someone paid for a license the cost of which was passed on to me) and yet Penn State won't allow it in their stadium?  Because of security?  Give me a break!

Raise your hands . . . who feels more secure at the game knowing that little old ladies have to keep their pills and extra depends in a clear plastic bag?  Like you couldn't bring a handgun or some C4 explosives in your pocket?  I'm sorry.  It doesn't make me feel safer, and in fact, it annoys the living shit out of me.  When did I start living in Russia?  If you feel you have to infringe on my rights to be safe, then stay at home and watch it on TV.  I guess I could do that too, but then my rant wouldn't be much of a rant.  I'd be waving the white flag alongside Rodney Erickson.

The University appears, at a time when stadium attendance across the nation in general is declining, to be trying to turn fans away; to discourage people from coming.  Fancy videos and pleas by O'Brien to fill the stadium aren't going to bring people to watch Penn State beat EMU 45-7.  There is no fan loyalty anymore because the University threw loyalty out the window like a baby with the bathwater when it adopted the STEP program.

I'm sorry Mr. Fan who has sat on the 50-yard line for half a century at ticket face value.  You now owe us $600.  Per year.  And oh, by the way, you still have to buy the ticket.  What did they think would happen to their fan base when they treated people like that?

Our marketing gurus apparently think loud music and obnoxious stadium policies are more attractive than making the fan happy.

There has been a steady erosion of the stadium experience over the years.  No re-entry after half-time.  Brilliant!  No alcohol at the tailgates during the games.  Brilliant!  No bags!  No silence!  No fun!  No soup for us!

I had five extra tickets this past weekend that I couldn't GIVE AWAY for free.  Apparently the stadium experience just doesn't beat an HDTV and the comforts of home, where you can control the sound and take a bag in the house if you want to because this is America dammit!

As an aside, I can't fathom not being able to give away a ticket.  Had someone called me Sunday morning and said they had an extra ticket to the Steeler game, I would have been there.  (I'm glad I wasn't after the way they played, but that's another rant altogether!)  Seriously?  I would go to a game with appendicitis if I had the chance at a free seat.  I have skipped weddings and numerous family functions over the years to be at Penn State games.  I don't understand how any plans are so set in stone you couldn't be there.  Okay--if you are on a beach in Hawaii, then I'll forgive you for declining.  But you wanted to get some yard work done?  You have to visit your niece?  That's about as transparent as the girl who turns you down for a date Saturday night because she has to wash her hair!

And maybe that is the big problem.  The stadium experience isn't attractive.  Why wash your hair and get all dolled up for that?

I'm not arguing to worm hole our way back to the seventies with ONLY the band playing and no replay or entertainment whatsoever.  But I think it needs to be done in moderation.  If you want to have alumni/ticket holders vote, let's ask some real questions . . .

Do we want all this security bullshit?

Do we want to be able to re-enter the stadium at halftime with a hand stamp and ticket stub?

Do we want to have bottled beer at tailgates?

Do we want to bring our own stadium cushions WITH or WITHOUT pockets?

And then, change your policy accordingly.

Until then, I guess we have to just be happy picking a song.  Unless it's Sweet Caroline.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lynch Mob

On a perfect, sunny September afternoon, the Nittany Lions struggled against themselves in the first quarter, and only led 17-7 at the half.  The defense pitched a shut-out, but the scoreboard was marred by an unearned TD when true Freshman Christian Hackenberg let the ball slip through his fingers on an unforced fumble error which gave the Eagles their only points of the day.

The offense eventually produced 574 yards, but sputtered early in the game.  Hackenberg made an early mistake, throwing into double coverage that killed a promising drive with an INT.  But the kid bounced back, maintained his composure, and went on to set a record for a freshman quarterback at Penn State.

Lynch debuted in the second quarter, and immediately showed the crowd that he was the "real deal."  He sealed the real deal in the second half with a dominate performance and 108 total yards on the day, joining fellow running back Belton who also made a buck eight for the game, thanks largely to a highlight reel run up the middle for 51 yards and a score in the fourth quarter.

Lynch's performance was fitting, given that his #22 was retired in honor of Penn State's only Heisman Trophy Winner, John Cappalletti.  In a locker room address to the team, Cappalletti told Lynch to keep wearing the number . . . but he has to give it back to him at the end of the season!



So let's look at the big picture.  It was only EMU--a team ranked near the bottom of the FBS schools.  And while we struggled offensively early on, that is to be expected to some degree given the level of excitement about the opponent (pretty low compared to Syracuse last week I would think) and a freshman quarterback who is bound to make mistakes.  The Lions were only 1-10 on third downs this week (2 for 26 on the season!) but it didn't keep them from rolling up the yardage and scoring points. 

Statistics are just damned lies!  Here's the one that counts:  Penn State is 2-0 on the season with what looks like a lot of potential on offense and a defense that shut out an opponent.  And while Syracuse lost to Northwestern 48-27, Penn State held the Orangemen to 17 points, and you have to wonder if the close loss last week emotionally drained Syracuse a bit which contributed to the larger margin of loss this week.  Now we're really reading tea leaves here!  My Magic Eight Ball tells me to MOVE ON.  Where have I heard that before????

Sam Ficken has set a school record by successfully kicking his 14th consecutive field goal in a streak that started last year after an abysmal start.

I will address some other gameday issues in a separate post (the music and the new ban on bags.)

BY THE NUMBERS:

From the GoPSUSports site:

EMUPSU
FIRST DOWNS...................1125
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............35-6139-251
PASSING YDS (NET).............122323
Passes Att-Comp-Int...........28-18-035-25-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS.....63-18374-574
Fumble Returns-Yards..........1-110-0
Punt Returns-Yards............2-203-43
Kickoff Returns-Yards.........5-1112-44
Interception Returns-Yards....1-100-0
Punts (Number-Avg)............11-41.95-41.4
Fumbles-Lost..................2-02-1
Penalties-Yards...............2-85-46
Possession Time...............31:4328:17
Third-Down Conversions........3 of 161 of 10
Fourth-Down Conversions.......0 of 12 of 2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances.......0-04-4
Sacks By: Number-Yards........4-353-21

EMU had a slight edge in time of possession, which obviously didn't make a damned bit of difference.  But in the first quarter, they actually had the ball for 10 and a half minutes.  This was a combination of our own offensive inconsistency early on (PSU did not get a first down until the clock was below 4 minutes and we were already down 7 on the scoreboard!)  I also felt the Eagles were doing really well on first down plays, which put our defense at a disadvantage. 

But be that as it may, the defense allowed no points, held a second opponent to under 100 yards rushing, and held EMU to 3 of 16 on third down conversions.  EMU punted 11 times!

INTANGIBLES:

The Drum major stuck both flips.

Cappalletti's number 22 was retired at halftime in a ceremony that featured the 1973 undefeated squad, now celebrating their 40th anniversary of that milestone.

Bill O'Brien is 10-4 as head coach.

The Lions are 3-0 over EMU.  I don't give an Emmert's ass about vacated crap.  I was at both those previous games and we WON.  You can draw your own asterisk here if that's the kind of person you are.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

THEM held on to defeat the Irish 41-30 in the match-up of the week.  However, the real surprise was Illinois taking out Cincinnati 45-17.  Couple this with a Purdue "win" over Indiana State 20-14 (Indiana beat Indiana State 73-35 last week) and we can safely conclude that Purdue is not very good.  Add to that the fact that the Hoosiers Cinderella season was shattered early when Navy sank the Battleship Indiana, 35-41, making the Hoosiers the lone losers this past weekend.

Wisconsin rolled out the barrel all over Tennessee Tech, 48-0, and have won 93-0 in the first two cupcake games.  The Buckeyes got a fright as Toni Braxton went out with a knee, but the Columbus Titans beat the crap out of San Diego State 42-7.  The Gophers are 2-0 with a win over New Mexico State 44-21.  The Huskers shucked Southern Miss 56-13 and Michigan State hung on to beat the South Florida Bulls 21-6.

Future members Maryland and Rutgers both posted wins with the Terps beating Old Dominion 47-10 and Buttgers bouncing back with a 38-0 win over Norfolk State.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  USC--lost to WSU 10-7. 
2.  Texas lost to BYU 40-21.
3.  Florida lost to Miami 21-16.
4.  West Virginia--almost beat Oklahoma but came up short 16-7.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Beaver Stadium becomes the site of a UCF Cage Fight next week at 6pm.

The magic number for UCF is 38.

They beat Akron 38-7 and Florida International Airport 38-0.

I don't think they will score 38 this week.

GO STATE!  BEAT KNIGHTS!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Weekly Game Guide: Lesser of Two Evils Edition

Week two of the college football season brings us another slate of must see or die trying to see football games.

Purdue won the rock-paper-scissors battle for the chance to get a win over Indiana State.  Last week the Hoosiers destroyed the Sycamores 73-35.  Purdue lost to Cincinnati 42-7, presumably caught looking ahead to Indiana State.  We'll throw the Boilers a bone here . . . GO PURDUE!

Speaking of Indiana, the mighty Hoosiers are going to try and prove week one wasn't a fluke.  They are favored by about two touchdowns over Navy.  I'd pick the Hoosiers to win, but that might make it look like I care.  And I don't.

The big, bad Badgers who beat UMass 45-0, will turn their football power against the incredibly unlucky Tennessee Tech.  Maybe they'll be looking ahead to Arizona State, but I don't think there's much hope that Wisconsin will lose this game.  And it would make our conference look bad. :(   So On Wisconsin!

After squeaking by Wyoming 37-34, Nebraska will take on Southern Miss.  The Huskers were favored by 31 in the opening line.  That doesn't say much for Southern Miss.  GO HUSKERS!

Illinois managed to beat Southern Illinois last week, but they will face Cincinnati this week.  That's two Big Ten teams in a row for the Bearcats.  Who do they think they are?  Notre Dame?  The Bearcats are a 7.5 point favorite over the Illini.  After their little recruiting fiasco on the Penn State campus last year, I'd be fine if Illinois lost every game they play.  GO BEARCATS!

I'm sorry, would that be bad for the Big Ten?  :)

Minnesota is favored by 15 against New Mexico State.  At New Mexico State.  Can you imagine PSU playing a game AT Mexico State?  Ay! Caramba!  But gophers are kinda cute, so we'll root for the little varmints.  This week.

Iowa will take on Missouri . . . wait for it . . . State.  Good chance to win here chickenhawks.  Just don't let that loss to a directional Illinois team get in your feathered heads. 

The Spartans will host the Bulls of South Florida.  Sparty is a 24.5 point fave.  I can go green.  And white.  GO MSU!

The Buckeyes will entertain San Diego State in Columbus this weekend.  'Entertain' as in beat the senseless pulp out of them.  The Columbus Pro Team is favored by 28.5 points.  I can't root for the Buckeyes.  I don't let friends root for the Buckeyes. 

Northwestern faces a familiar foe as Syracuse travels to Evanston for a night game.  Pat Fitzgerald apparently made the claim this week--TWICE--that Syracuse should have and could have beaten Penn State.  Oh really!  Scott Shafer for Syracuse apparently agreed.  Isn't that special?  Well Pat, I think Syracuse can and will beat your team.  GO ORANGE!

In all honesty, Fitzgerald is probably just playing up the other team and using that statement to warn his team about how good Syracuse might be, as in 'good enough to almost beat Penn State.'  But that's not what he said.  See, he could have said they were almost good enough to beat PSU, but he chose to say--TWICE--that Syracuse should have beaten Penn State.  Scoreboard buddy.  Look at the scoreboard.

Future Big Ten Brethren Rutgers and Maryland will face Norfolk State and Old Dominion respectively.  Yawwwwwn.  GO RUTGERS.  GO TERPS.  After all, it will look better for the Big Ten, right?  ;)

Which brings us to the "marquee" match-up of the week.  THEM vs. Notre Lame.  A stress-inducing three and a half hours if ever there was.  I can't stand either team.  I don't want either one to win.  There's no chance of a tie.  It's like watching two of your kids drowning, but you can save only one.  Even when one wins, there is pain.

I simply can't risk Notre Dame going to a BCS Bowl that they don't deserve again.  If you want to play in a BCS Bowl with the Big Boys, you should damn well be in a BCS conference like the Big Boys.  Tradition didn't mean anything when you terminated your series with THEM, but I thank you, so that we will be spared this match-up in the future.  And while the Irish still have to navigate a schedule with Oklahoma, USC, and Stanford, we as a nation simply cannot chance the Irish going undefeated again.  Beat them now.  Beat them badly.  GO WOLVERINES!

I can't believe I just typed that.  I have to go sterilize my keyboard now.

Monday, September 2, 2013

EM-Who?

Penn State opens the home season at Beaver Stadium against the Emus of Eagle University.  Um, strike that.  Reverse it.  The Eagles of EMU.

I haven't seen an official line yet, and am too damned lazy to look one up, but I suspect we will be favored.  And we all know how accurate those odds ratings are.  Good grief, what odds maker had a stroke and made Pitt only a 10 point underdog???

According to USA Today Sports, EMU is ranked 117th out of 125 teams.  Very impressive indeed.
Eastern Michigan has created some separation between itself and conference rivals like Massachusetts and Akron, though the Eagles remain football fields removed from being mentioned in the same breath as Mid-American Conference frontrunners like Toledo, Northern Illinois and Ohio. At the very least, EMU can continue to hover between two and four wins and remain one step above the bottom rung of the MAC's ladder – which is fine, and certainly familiar ground for a program now more than 25 years removed from its last postseason appearance.
And by the way, Ohio got pasted by Louisville on Sunday.  So if EMU is football fields removed from them, I don't see Saturday being a problem.  Of course, I didn't see Ohio being a problem last year, so maybe I need my glasses checked.  Any one know a good eye doctor?

Thomas Bieszk of The Eastern Echo -cho, -cho, -cho, writes about EMU's victory over Howard (Cosell?  Schnellenberger?  Hughes?  Stern?) this past weekend.
The first half started off slow, as each team drove the ball to midfield only to have the drives stall. . .  The Eagles followed that with a touchdown drive of their own, capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass from Benz to junior wide receiver Demarius Reed. The extra point was blocked and the Eagles went into halftime with a 13-10 lead. 

The start of the second half was frustrating to say the least. Howard opened up the half with an 80-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard catch and run by sophomore wide receiver Jonathan Booker for the score and the recapture of the lead. The play was an eight-yard out route, but a couple missed tackles opened up the long run afterwards.
Do you think ARob might make them miss a few tackles?    Our game versus Syracuse started out slow . . .I think it was 6-3 at the half and I was beginning to wonder if someone was going to intentionally take a safety to secure the win!

An EMU football blogger (yes!  I Know!  AN EMU football blog actually exists!) writes about their moral victory . . .
Remember when I told you that the  closest Howard had ever come to a Division I-A/FBS school was 23 points?

I almost wanted to just end this recap there. If there is such a thing as a moral victory, then there also must be such a thing as a moral loss, and if so, this was surely one.

It was almost worse, though; it was almost an actual loss. With EMU trailing 17-13 midway through the third quarter, I suggested to a friend that a loss to Howard should result in an immediate firing.  Moments later, the Bison scored again, taking a double-digit lead and I was ready for the entire coaching staff to lose their jobs on the spot. Let’s face it, if they had proven unable to coach the team to a win over Howard, they probably wouldn’t have been able to find any other wins on the schedule this year either; the Bison are expected to be far and away the worst team the Eagles will face this fall.

Fortunately, EMU came back with 21 unanswered points to turn an 11-point deficit into a 10-point win. Plus, I’m not the one making that decision anyway, and let’s face it, that’s probably a good thing too.

Looking at that score, looking at how the Eagles fell behind, I have to say that it’s hard to see this year ending any better than 4-8, and 1-11 is not unimaginable.
There were actually a number of vocal Penn State posters expressing concern about how close our game was, but keep in mind folks, PSU turned the ball over FOUR times, went 1-16 on third down conversions with a freshman quarterback, and gained less than 60 yards rushing . . . AND STILL WON THE GAME against an opponent that actually went to and WON a bowl game last year, thrashing West Virginia 38-14 in the Pinstrip Bowl (intentionally misspelled.)  Oh wait, is that the same WVU that almost tanked to William and Mary?  Whatever.  Syracuse was bowling and Howard was, well, whatever Howard was doing.  And I don't think we even want to go there.

The EMU blogger notes that the Eagle's running game never really got going (good luck against us) and their defense is very young and still learning. 

All kidding aside, I do expect EMU to come out fighting.  After all, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  This ain't the NCAA of 1982.  Eastern Washington's and Appalachian State's can win.  They can haz cheezeburgers!  Even Western Kentucky taught Kentucky a thing or two about football this past weekend.

So on any given day . . .but this Saturday is not a given day.  Not in Happy Valley.  The Eagles will be grounded.

And in other news, Ficken and Hackenberg were named Big Ten Players of the Week.

GO STATE!  BEAT EMU!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Siege of Syracuse

The Siege of Syracuse by the Romans in 214 BC took two years.  Yesterday, the Nittany Lions besieged Syracuse in three and a half hours before a partisan crowd of 61,202.  It was a war in the trenches, with the Orange stacking the line and daring true freshman Quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, to beat them through the air.  And Hackenberg did not disappoint in his debut.


Syracuse had the Claw of mathematician Archimedes . . .
Penn State had the heart of John Urschel


While the rookie signal caller had two interceptions, he also threw for two touchdowns, went 22-31 for 278 yards, and gave Penn State it's first real deep threat since, well, probably Clark is the closest in 2008-9.  And I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest Hack was more accurate in those throws already as a freshman, which will put him way ahead of the curve at this point.  And his second interception was by a defensive end that dropped back into linebacker coverage.  Are you kidding me?

And while the paucity of points, especially in the first half is concerning, the score does not accurately reflect the dominance of Penn State over a Syracuse team that I will now admit is better than I thought.  The alleged "fumble" by Allan Robinson resulted in a flip-flop of field position when the Lions seemed to be clicking on offense and had gotten to the Syracuse 27.  Fortunately, the defense held and Syracuse missed the potential tying field goal at that point.  It's a good thing they didn't review the kick or they probably would have given Syracuse 3 points after further review.

In fact, I think the defense played a heck of a game.  Don't forget, that on top of the depth issues, injuries, sanctions, and the like, the defense has a new coordinator on the headset, Ted Roof having left for Ga Tech. 

I fully expected our offense to be more prolific than it was, and our defense to be more porous.  The final result was a satisfying mix, as both units, injuries not withstanding, will improve and benefit from this close game.  I don't imagine Wisconsin's head coach learned a whole lot about his team in a 45-0 win over UMass.  UMass should be thankful that Bielema wasn't still on the sideline, or that figure might have approached 70.  But I digress.

While the Nittany Lion rushing game managed only a paltry 57 yards, the Syracuse running game didn't do a whole lot better, gaining just 71 yards on the day.   Our rushing game started slow last year, and I think the potential is still there.  And as I said above, the Syracuse game plan was pretty obvious--stack the line and stop the run.  They succeeded, but that is not necessarily a poor reflection on our offensive line.  Even veteran lines have trouble opening holes when the opponent stacks the box against the run.

It is also quite evident that the Penn State offense is a different (and better) beast with ARob in the game.  For whatever reason, O'Brien sat him on the bench for the first half.  But then his first two touches in the second half keyed a two play scoring drive.

Unfortunately, the Orange weren't going to be squeezed so easily, answering back with a two play scoring drive that kept the PSU margin at 3.


In the end, the officiating sucked.  We didn't cover the spread.  Despite the offensive ballyhoo and hype of Hackenberg, it was still a defensive play that won the day.  Joe Paterno must be smiling.  Fergusen didn't look as comfortable in the game in his lone series, and he fumbled.  It's too small a data set to draw any conclusions from that. 

But I was also a little concerned about the late game play calling.  I liked the aggressive fourth down call on the first drive.  But then the last possession looked like Paterno has somehow come back from the dead and called running plays which not only didn't gain any yardage, but didn't even bleed much time off the clock.  I'm not sure why O'Brien suddenly became so conservative--maybe it was the two picks by Hack and a tired offensive line on a hot humid day that caused him to lean more to the conservative side.  It worked and we still won, but it was more of a nail biter than I would have liked it to have been.

I also want to throw in, and here is as good a point as any, but I don't think we are seeing the full Hackenberg package yet.  The fourth down play aside, the tight ends were not dramatically involved in the offense as I would have expected.  Lehman and James had two catches apiece and Carter none.

I think we will see the tight ends used more as the season goes on.  Brenneman was in the game on special teams.  I am very glad we have three more games before the conference schedule to fine tune this offensive machine.  Hackenberg looks to be the real deal.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From the GoPSUsports site:

PSUSU
FIRST DOWNS...................1411
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............38-57 37-71
PASSING YDS (NET).............296189
Passes Att-Comp-Int...........32-23-237-16-2
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS.....70-35374-260
Fumble Returns-Yards..........0-01-46
Punt Returns-Yards............3-442-16
Kickoff Returns-Yards.........3-662-70
Interception Returns-Yards....2-42-52
Punts (Number-Avg)............7-39.07-42.1
Fumbles-Lost..................2-21-1
Penalties-Yards...............4-208-70
Possession Time...............30:4529:15
Third-Down Conversions........1 of 166 of 20
Fourth-Down Conversions.......2 of 20 of 2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances.......2-23-3
Sacks By: Number-Yards........2-173-22

Penn State was perfect in fourth down conversions, but abysmal in third down plays.  The lack of a running game and not wanting to put too much pressure on Hackenberg were probably contributing factors.

Penn State outgained the Orange by about a 100, and time of possession was about equal, with a minute edge to the Lions.

The punting game is still meh, but hang me up and paint me surprised, but I was impressed with Ficken.  Three field goals including a 46-yarder (he didn't make one over 40 last year!) is more than I would have expected.  I still got queasy when he trotted out on the field, but he sure did knock 'em through.  One of the kicks was low and ugly, but the snap was high, I think.  Overall, give that guy a gold star.  He also put most of his kicks deep with no returns which is also a great plus.

INTANGIBLES:

O'Brien won his first season opener. 

Christian Hackenberg became the second freshman to start a season at Penn State at quarterback since 1910.

Syracuse won the toss and deferred.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

The 2nd. ranked Buckeyes rolled over Buffalo 40-20.  Wisconsin badgered UMass 45-0.  In the battles of the Great Lakes State, THEM beat Central Michigan 59-9 and the Spartans defeated Western Michigan 26-13.  Northwestern beat Cal 44-30.  Indiana crushed Indiana State 73-35, and Minnesota gnawed on UNLV for a 51-23 final score.  The Huskers survived against Wyoming, winning 37-34, and Illinois managed a win against Southern Illinois, 42-34.

Losers include Iowa (there's a surprise!) losing to Northern Illinois 30-27 and Purdue being steamrolled by Cincy 42-7.

Future Big Ten members Maryland and Rutgers did thus:  The Terps beat Florida International Airport 43-10 while Buttgers lost a wild one 52-51 against Fresno State.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  For Texas A and M--what a disgrace.  Johnny Football mocked signing an autograph--which was not flagged, but than was later penalized for taunting in the only half of football he played.  The Aggies won big, but at what price?

2.  For Elon--blasted 70-0 by the Rambling Wreck of Georgia Tech.

3.  For K-state--shocked in Manhattan by North Dakota State.

4.  For the Beavers--Oregon State lost to Eastern Washington 49-46, the first time a FCS school beat a ranked FBS school since James Madison took out Va Tech in 2010.

5.  For Georgia--lost a close battle to Clemson in a match-up of Top Ten teams.

6.  For Frank Beamer--did anyone get the license plate of that Elephant?

LOOKING AHEAD:


Penn State opens the season at home against Eastern Michigan next Saturday at high noon.

EMU won its first game against Howard (the duck?) 34-24.  Penn state won their last meeting 34-6 in 2011 . . . Joes were the days, boys.

I look to see both quarterbacks getting playing time again, with Hack starting.  We will probably try tuning up the running game some more, but I think O'Brien is still a pass first kind of guy so we'll see some more ARob highlights.

GO STATE!  BEAT EMU!