Sunday, August 31, 2014

Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue

The Old.

The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.  I saw several pundits predicting a close game between PSU and UCF--even going so far as to say the difference could come down to a field goal.  Freaking psychotics psychics!

My first thought--God I hope it doesn't come down to a Sam Ficken field goal.

I know it was James Franklin on the sideline, but seeing what happened on the field--a clearly better team missing and wasting opportunities, letting an under-matched opponent hang around to take advantage of mistakes and penalties, and then depending on a last second field goal to pull out a win in a game that you led for all but 1:13 on the clock--made me think JOE PATERNO.  Somewhere, he is smiling at the old school outcome of this Croke Park Classic.

I know it gets old--Penn State fans bitching about the refs and bad calls, but for the love of God, can you stop giving us so much fodder to chew on????  And the worst part?  This wasn't even a crew of inept Big Ten refs.  Offensive PI?  Give me a break.  You know it's bad when even the inept and anti-PSU biased announcers don't think there was a penalty.  Granted, the roughing the kicker penalty was probably a gift for PSU, but YOU KNOW that call goes either way, and I personally think it was a make-up call for the unsportsmanlike conduct on the kick-off.  Yeah, mouthing off after your helmet was torn off was definitely in poor taste and a bad decision, but a 15-yarder?  How about a warning, officer?

"That ain't holdin.  I just giving you a big ole hug.  I love you man!"

The New.

James Franklin's debut was not illustrious or overly impressive, but we must temper our criticism against the back-drop.  It was the first game of the season.  Mistakes will be made.  He seemed to mismanage the time clock at the ends of both halves, but the final result was still a win.  And while the gaffe at the end of the first half didn't cost us any points, you would like to believe that had we been playing Ohio State or Michigan State, that he would have chosen to punt.  But given that UCF was offensively inept (at that point), and he had a chance to put some more points on the board, I don't know that his decision was actually a bad one.  Could have been.  Wasn't in the final analysis.

None of Franklin's bad choices were as bad as O'Leary's decision to start de novo with DiNovo at quarterback.  Thank God for that!  It was a tale of two different halves, as Holman came in and almost stole this game away from Christian Hackenberg.

Speaking of Hack, he notched a new PSU record with 454 yards, going 32 for 47 on the day.  Part of this was due to the lack of a running game.  But defense was supposed to be a strength of this UCF team, with most of the D back from last year and almost the entire secondary intact.  Our offensive line looked shaky in the early going, but seemed to get better as the game progressed.  Hack was a little gimpy late in the game, and hopefully those are just minor growing pains.

We seemed to have some trouble maintaining footing.  I blame this on Spider retiring.  Not sure who replaced him, but that dude has some work cut out for him.

The Lions won the Dan Rooney Trophy . . . a new piece of hardware to add to our collection, and much nicer than the hideous Land Grant Monstrosity that will up for grabs at the end of the season.

The Borrowed.

Thank you Dublin for allowing us to desecrate your hallowed "football" sod with our American form of soccer.  I liked the use of pitchforks to replace our divots.

The Blue.

Although they sported the away game white unis, the BLUE and WHITE prevailed in a 26-24 thriller that was much closer than it should have been.  Penn State really dominated the first half, but had only a 7 point lead to show for it.  Poor refereeing, players tripping on divots, and turnovers seemed to keep the knights in the game.  Holman sparked their offense in the second half, and that may also hint to the lack of depth we have due to sanctions.  This game could have been a disaster had we played in the heat and humidity of Orlando.

James Franklin sported a blue ball cap on and off, early in the game.  I've never seen a picture of him wearing a hat on the sidelines, but come November, he may need that.

The PSU website has this quote:
"There was only a minute or so left in the game, and I looked across the sideline and there wasn't doubt in anybody's eye. Everybody believed. They believed in Hack. They believed in Ficken," Franklin said.
I have to admit I teared up when he kicked that final field goal.  Way to go, Sam!


  Team Statistics  

 Team Totals  PSU  UCF 
FIRST DOWNS  24  11 
   Passing  14 
   Rushing Attempts  28  29 
   Average Per Rush  2.0  0.8 
   Rushing Touchdowns 
   Yards Gained Rushing  86  51 
   Yards Lost Rushing  29  27 
   Completions-Attempts-Int  32-47-2  12-22-0 
   Average Per Attempt  9.7  10.1 
   Average Per Completion  14.2  18.5 
   Passing Touchdowns 
   Total offense plays  75  51 
   Average Gain Per Play  6.8  4.8 
Fumbles: Number-Lost  1-1  1-1 
Penalties: Number-Yards  9-90  8-47 
PUNTS-YARDS  1-41  4-185 
   Average Yards Per Punt  41.0  46.2 
   Net Yards Per Punt  21.0  44.0 
   Inside 20 
   50+ Yards 
   Fair catch 
KICKOFFS-YARDS  6-366  5-306 
   Average Yards Per Kickoff  61.0  61.2 
   Net Yards Per Kickoff  33.2  35.4 
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD  2-9-0  0-0-0 
   Average Per Return  4.5  0.0 
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD  5-129-0  5-142-0 
   Average Per Return  25.8  28.4 
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD  0-0-0  2-0-0 
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD  0-0-0  0-0-0 
Miscellaneous Yards 
Possession Time  34:07  25:53 
   1st Quarter  9:49  5:11 
   2nd Quarter  8:02  6:58 
   3rd Quarter  8:04  6:56 
   4th Quarter  8:12  6:48 
Third-Down Conversions  10 of 18  5 of 13 
Fourth-Down Conversions  1 of 2  1 of 2 
Red-Zone Scores-Chances  5-5  4-5 
   Touchdowns  1-5  3-5 
   Field goals  4-5  1-5 
Sacks By: Number-Yards  2-17  2-17 
PAT Kicks  2-2  3-3 
Field Goals  4-4  1-1 
Points off turnovers  9 

As you can see, PSU clearly dominated the stats, more than doubling the total yardage of the Knights, winning time of possession by 9 minutes, and better third down conversion percentages.  What kept the Knights in the game was the 9 points off turnovers, and the two INTs.  Both teams exchanged fumbles.

Neither team did well in the first half, and the Knights had under 100 yards total in the first half, with most of their production and points coming after the switch to Holman.


The crowd of 53,304 was heavily in favor of the Nittany Lions--I heard by as much as 7-1 or more.

James Franklin is 1-0 as coach at Penn State, 25-15 overall.

Penn State won the toss and deferred.

"I'm not so fast, you know!"


Rutgers came from behind to defeat Washington State 41-38.

Indiana defeated Indiana State 28-10.

Purdue overwhelmed Western Michigan 43-34.

THEM managed to win and avoid pulling a second Appalachian State, defeating the Mountaineers 52-14.  So take that!

The Buckeyes were down to the midshipmen 7-6 at the half, but managed to pull away with a 34-17 win.

Illinois beat Youngstown State 28-17.

The Hawkeyes beat Northern Hawkeyes 31-23.

The Maryland Twerps dominated James Madison (and a couple of other old presidents) 52-7.

Meanwhile the Cornhuskers stormed the beaches of Florida Atlantic 55-7.

The Spartans spanked Jacksonville State 45-7.

Minnesota beat Eastern Illinois 42-20.

The Wildcats lost to Cal 31-24.

Wisconsin, not wanting Northwestern to be the only loser, fell apart against LSU, losing 28-24 after a 17 point rally by the Tigers.


1.  South Carolina--#9 taken to the woodshed by the Texas Aggies, even without Johnny Football.
2.  Delaware--lost to Pitt 62-0.  Maybe Pitt can schedule Rhode Island and Alaska too!
3.  Vanderbilt--lost 37-7 to Temple.  I do feel bad.  Just not THAT bad.
4.  Clemson--bitten by the Bulldogs 45-21.
5.  Okie State--Cowpokes come up 6 short against #1 F$U.


The Akron Zips come to Beaver Stadium next week for a NOON kick-off.  The Zips pasted Howard 41-0 this past weekend.

The Lions opened around an 18 point favorite but that line has already dropped a few points depending on which betting service you look at, but I imagine will stay somewhere just north of a two score margin.

The Zips were ranked preseason by USA Today at #94.

Did you know that Terry Bowden is their coach?  I did not know that!  Unfortunately for him, he ain't in Auburn anymore.

This should be another good day for Hack, and perhaps a chance for his back-up to get some reps.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Dublin or Nothing

With the college football season already started, and Penn State's first game of the James Franklin Era literally hours away from kick-off, I realized that I have not officially prognosticated in public.

My emotions swing from 5-7 to 11-1.  There was that one moment when I toyed with the idea of predicting a 12-0 season (which flashed through my mind when I read that Braxton Miller was out for the season), but I am officially going to settle on 10-2.

Don't ask me why.  Don't ask me which two games I think we will lose.

There is no more merit in my forecast than any weatherman out there right now.

But with kick-off nearing in Dublin at Croke Park, I will predict a victory for the blue and white over George O'Leary's Golden Knights.

And here are my reasons, in no particular order.

1.  Lee Corso picked UCF to wax Penn State.
2.  No Bortles.
3.  James Franklin.
4.  Christian Hackenberg.
5.  Come on people, it's UCF.  Sure they went 12-1 last season, but this ain't Florida State.  I think people are underestimating how important Bortles was to the offense, and are over-estimating what kind of defense the Knights will have this year.
6.  James Franklin
7.  Clucko the Chicken picks Penn State.
8.  Five of six Harrisburg writers pick UCF
9.  James Franklin  Seriously.  This man is a dynamo.  And he brings with him a complete staff that he has already worked with and developed chemistry with.  THIS IS CRUCIAL.  This is not Bill O'Brien parachuting into a war zone with a rag tag team of old friends assembled at the last minute.  This is a well oiled machine that managed to post back to back 9 win seasons at Vanderbilt, a school that had not had a 9 win season since 1915.
10. George O'Leary, undefeated ND head coach, who will be toasted to no end at every pub in the country and pickled in free drinks by the time kick-off rolls around.
11.  Because WE ARE . . .


Saturday, August 23, 2014


Apparently, Penn State Athletics has decided not to continue the tradition of TAILGREAT at the Bryce Jordan Center.  This was a pre-game pep rally of sorts featuring the Blue Band and cheerleaders at the BJC before each home game. According to WJAC:
"We [were] notified that the Tailgreat would be no more due to some budgetary concerns," Blue Band director Richard Bundy said. It was the plug being pulled on Penn State Blue Band's Tailgreat show, a free pep rally before every home game. "I think it was an event that was rather unique in the way it was presented so we are working on trying to see how that will affect our game day activities for the Blue Band," Bundy said.
I think the BOT notified the Blue Band by a note delivered by a messenger in the dark of night.
A statement from Penn State Assistant Athletic Director for Football Communications Jeff Nelson said Tailgreat wasn't giving the Blue Band enough exposure. "We did not feel that Tailgreat was accomplishing the level of interaction among our more than 100,000 fans and exposure for the Blue Band that is deserved," Nelson said.
Onward State provides more specific speculation on the costs . . .
A Blue Band source tells us that the reason for this cut given by the Athletic Department was primarily financial. Tailgreat costs approximately $70,000 to put on each year, most of which goes to BJC staffing and rental, and the Athletic Department decided that this cost was too great. This comes just days after the Athletic Department purchased more than 800 iPads for student athletes, which, even conservatively at $300 each (much less than retail), still runs more than three times what Tailgreat cost. The source also indicated that the Athletic Department says it’s working on a “new event” for the Blue Band to participate in during the pregame hours.
Opponents of cancelling the tradition cite the ability of band parents to see their son or daughter perform when they might not be able to afford the cost of a Penn State football ticket.  Others liked being able to hear the band's halftime show, which they might not be able to do as well or as clearly inside the stadium. 

What I found interesting in the whole bit was the allegation that the price tag was a problem.  Granted, $70,000 looks like a huge figure (and considering what we are now paying our head coach, the sanction costs, and those darn iPads it is certainly not a negligible amount) but that works out to $10,000 or less per game depending on whether there are 7 or 8 home games in a season.

 And weren't there corporate sponsors at one time???

 A little googling found me this excerpt from a book about the Blue Band, A Century of Pride and Precision, where on page 169 it talks about this "new tradition" in 1996.  The book notes that the event was a joint project sponsored by AT and T, Wal-Mart, the Alumni Association, and the Nittany Lion Club.  The original TailGreat charged an admission fee that was dropped in it's second year to promote better attendance.

 I would think Penn State, even in this sanction-era, should be able to find a half-dozen or so sponsors to pony up $8000-$10,000 to keep the show going if they wanted to.  Which makes me wonder if they don't want to.

 I have to be honest here.  I've never been to a TAILGREAT.  Talked about going to it.  Thought about going to it.  Had it on my Penn State Bucket List, so to speak.  Alas, I will never have that chance, barring a change of heart by the athletic department.

 Maybe attendance and interest has waned in recent years.  Maybe they will come up with a new tradition that is even better.  Maybe no one will even notice.

 Have you ever been to a TailGreat?  How do you feel about losing this gameday event?

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Game Will Love You Back

Maybe THIS is why I'm really looking forward to this season!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Life (and football) Goes On

I want to apologize to my faithful legion of readers, small group of readers, some guy in Quincy, MA who actually reads this blog, for the paucity of posts this summer.  I posted a guest column a few weeks ago, but I have not actually posted since May!

In my defense, my dad passed away on July 27th. after suffering multiple strokes.  I have not felt like blogging much.  You can read about my amazing golf ball story on my other blog.

My dad won't be attending games with me for the first time in my life.  He has missed a few games the past couple of years for various reasons.  He pretty much gave up the 8pm games since 2005.  But I always knew he COULD go.  There was a game against Michigan State back in the mid-1990's when we had travel plans to go to Disney.  My dad and I went to the game anyway.  We had to leave before the game was over to make our flight out of University Park Airport.  My daughter asked my wife what would happen if I didn't make it to the airport in time.  She answered, "We're going without him."  When she asked my mom what would happen if Pap Pap didn't make it, my mom replied, "We're going without him."  We did make it.  Barely.

And while I know he will be there in spirit, any son who has lost their dad will tell you it is not the same.

Yet, I find myself looking forward to this season starting.  Perhaps it is the anticipation of James Franklin and the opportunity to see what he can do with this team that many have written off as the "worst year of the sanctions."

Or perhaps it is this article about James Franklin leading Penn State back to glory.
Brick by brick. This is how one of the nation’s premier college football powers will be resurrected. It won’t happen today or tomorrow or even next year, but it will happen. It’s only a matter of time before a small, power-packed foundation grows into something more. You see a family, 16 grown men functioning as a unit. And it’s not just these men. It’s the wives and children who have celebrated the highs and lows in football and in life, at schools and at barbecues. You see this same family expanding, embracing open wounds with open arms, listening to those who have endured unspeakable change before worrying about more pressing football matters. You see a staff that was crafted to work in this very location. It’s as if this group were constructed for this purpose and this purpose alone, and the geographic familiarity is already paying dividends. You see a quarterback with a golden arm, an enormous Band-Aid at a time when it’s needed most. And you see why, eventually, this will all be so much bigger than it is now. You can’t help but admire the bricks being laid, one strategically placed block at a time.
Perhaps it is the news that Braxton Miller will be out for the season.  As if we needed any more of an advantage over those Buckeyes ;)!

Perhaps it is the news that the Holier-Than-Everyone-Else Notre Dame is investigating 4 football players for academic fraud.  Slightly amusing.  Probably deserved.  But after the glass house built by the media and Jerry Sandusky, it's really tough to pick up a stone right now.  But maybe I'll have some fun with this later.

Perhaps it is Penn State's 6th ranked recruiting class (according to Rivals) which beats the nearest Big Ten competitor by 10 slots.  If Franklin can coach half as good as he can recruit . . .

Perhaps it's the report that an Icelandic Volcano could threaten the travel plans for the match-up in Ireland against UCF.  I blame this on Joel Myers.  It's weather related--volcanic ash or some sort of excuse.

Or maybe it's this copy of a letter supposedly written by Peggy Bauer Glaser to Dr. Barron:
Whereas in 2012 the NCAA, based on the flawed Freeh report, criticized Joe Paterno and others for not investigating the allegations of Sandusky's sexual abuse of a child, now the NCAA is saying that no members of athletics should attempt to direct or intervene in a sexual abuse investigation. So now, they have concluded that Joe Paterno was correct in reporting the allegation and then stepping aside. If you will read my letter from 2012, that is exactly what Joe Paterno should have done--and what he did.  So Joe Paterno was fired for doing what he should have done from an HR policy position and from the ultimate position of the NCAA. 
Whereas in 2012 the NCAA, based on the flawed Freeh report, criticized Joe Paterno and others for allegedly covering up Sandusky's abuse, the Pennsylvania state prosecutor Frank Fina addressed the question of whether or not there was any evidence of the involvement of Joe Paterno in a cover up and he replied that no such evidence was found.So Joe Paterno was fired even though there was no evidence of a cover-up. 
Now is the time to formally recognize Joe Paterno. Recognition can be achieved by such actions as: return the statue, name the stadium field Paterno Field, seek the rightful return the 409 record built by success with honor, seek to overturn the sanctions, adopt a culture of standing up for the University, and let the alumni community know the University also believes in success with honor.  Do the honorable thing. . .
Not going to hold my breath on this, lest I turn bluer than I already am.

I don't know what it is, but I am really looking forward to this season!

What think you????