The Nittany Lions sank to 2–4, 0–3 in the wake of their 20–13 loss to the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue’s performance must have impressed the pundits, who have voted them the #5 team in the country. On our side, there is just another loss.
An upset win would have been what this team needed to erase memories of earlier screw-ups and, perhaps, salvage the season in some way. The conditions were right for it; they just couldn’t bring it off.
The home crowd of 108,183, did its part, as instructed by JoePa at the Friday night pep rally. Purdue QB Kyle Orton calls half of his plays at the line of scrimmage, which the noise disrupted. Ace receiver Taylor Stubblefield said that Beaver Stadium was the noisiest place he had ever been.
The Penn State defense played a solid game, holding Purdue to 348 yards, well under their 500+ yard season average. The defense also forced two turnovers, one of which was Orton’s first interception of the year.
On the offensive side of the ball, the mighty Nittany Lions did not make a single turnover, and I am proud of them. Zack Mills was 29–49 in passing, for 293 yards. However, the running game was anemic—only 18 yards on the ground. Third and fourth down conversions were a real problem, at 5–16 and 0–3, respectively.
One fourth down failure could have been the difference in the game. Early in the fourth quarter, down 17–13, the Lions tried to execute a faked field goal from the Purdue six yard line. It fell short.
“We had practiced it all week,” Paterno said. “I thought we had it. Obviously, if it works, it’s a great play. If it doesn’t work, it’s a bummer.”
In this case, it was a bummer.
The team tried hard to get its act together. This turkey saw a significant improvement on both sides of the ball. A lot of guys played their hearts out. Unfortunately, they were not rewarded with a victory, adding yet another close loss to the scrap heap of losses generated during the past three seasons. The loss will do nothing to bolster the flagging, fragile confidence of this year’s Nittany Lions. Paterno seems to be in a quandary.
“We’re Penn State,” Paterno said. “We’re supposed to win those games, and until we do, I’m not gonna be happy. We’re better than we were a week ago, but we weren’t good enough. And I’m tired of not being good enough.”
So are the fans, Joe.
This game was pivotal. A win would have erased memories of earlier failures. It would have raised our overall record to 3–3, and it would have elevated us from the bargain basement of the Big Ten, where we languish with the likes of Indiana and Illinois. The three teams are tied for last place, with identical 2–4, 0–3 records. It will now be extremely difficult, if not completely impossible, to wind up with a winning record this season. Although the Big Ten seems pretty weak this year, the Nittany Lions would have to win four of the remaining five games against Iowa, Ohio State, Northwestern, Indiana, and Michigan State to win up 6–5 and be eligible for the Motor City Bowl. With little incentive to play well, will they?
It is hard to watch this debacle. It was going to be different this year. After last year’s 3–9 season, we had nowhere to go but up. Now, with more than half a season under their belts, the Nittany Lions have only two wins. The worst case scenario at this point would be 2-9, a distinct possibility. Two of the remaining games, Ohio State and Indiana, are away games. The Lions haven’t won on the road since 2002.
It is hard to sit here and write this sort of thing, week after week. I’d love to have the opportunity to be Mr. Sunshine.
The best thing that can be said about this forthcoming weekend is that it is a bye week, and it will be hard to lose.