Wow, boys and girls! What a great game to stop a cynical Turkey in his tracks! Other than the first drive, this normally curmudgeonly and foul fowl could find nothing to pick on the entire night—and that includes coaching—as the Nittany Lions thoroughly thrashed, if not trashed, the Wisconsin Badgers 48-7 on their home turf. This morning, we’re seeing a lot of sportswriters’ clichés to describe the Badgers’ denouement; however, none could hold a candle to that which was offered by Artificially Sweetened in a text message to me during the game: “I’m watching the Badger creamation [sic]…”—a very apt description from my neologistical protégé.
I mentioned the coaching in my introductory paragraph. (If you can have a paragraph, can you have a parascope? Is the science of writing inscribing paragraphs called paracology? Enquiring minds want to know, but I digress.) Coaching—the bane of Penn State’s road performance for more years than this Turkey wishes to remember—was superb. Wisconsin’s defensive game plan appeared to anticipate Paterno Sphincter Mode. They did what they could to shut down the run, and they were somewhat effective. Finally showing some confidence in his offense, old Joe countered by opening up the passing game. With as many weapons as this team has, the Badgers never knew what hit them. They were down 17-0 before they could even work up a good cheese fart. It was just total annihilation.
The home crowd was never a factor, quietly sulking for most of the game. At The Cave, home theater of the Nittany Turkey and the Mouse Who Ate Xanax, there were many conjectures about which of the featured Badgers and Badgerettes would or would not get laid last night. Most of the worried looking, morose dweebs were not going to get any. We envisioned them crying in their 3.2 beer all night.
While PSU’s potent offense led by Daryll Clark has been the story all season, there have been doubts about the defense. In this game, the defense performed well, forcing four turnovers and holding Wisconsin to only 14 first downs for the game.
You can read all the detailed stats and play-by-play elsewhere. Suffice to say that the Badgers scored their lone touchdown in the second quarter and never got their heads above water. They could have gone home at halftime and been ahead of the game. Anyhow, by now, you know all about the game, so let’s talk here.
I was wrong about the way I thought this game would progress. I predicted PSU would win 23-20. That was predicated on two notions this Turkey held in his birdbrain. First, I felt that Paterno would put the clamps of conservatism on this important road game, playing “not to lose” instead of playing to win. Second, I felt that the PSU defense was not up to the task of shutting down the Wisconsin offense.
On each of the past two occasions on which the Nittany Lions had traveled to Camp Randall, they put a total of three big points on the scoreboard. Last week, at Purdue, they were able to manage only 20 points against one of the worst defenses known to modern man. Given the typical Paterno game plan, who would have thought that Joe would suddenly develop confidence in his offense and turn them loose? I was cringing all week thinking that Joe was developing a game plan in which the punter was regarded as an offensive weapon. Joe surprised me rather pleasantly, and I’m sure he surprised Brett Bielema, too, only not very pleasantly on his end! So there you have it. A 36 year-old upstart outcoached by an old master who is going on 82.
I thought that the Penn State defense could shut down P. J. Hill, as they have shown they can do in the past. However, selling out to protect the run is not a good thing if the opponents have a passing game. I feared that Wisconsin, especially with Travis Beckum being healthy, would be able to exploit the sell-out. They couldn’t, and the Penn State secondary deserves a lot of credit for making it that way.
Even the kickoffs and kickoff coverage were masterfully executed. Kelly kicked several times into the end zone. His leg seems to be getting stronger as the season progresses. Good coverage kept Bucky hemmed in, cowering in his badger hole much of the day.
The officiating was pretty strange. Not that I thought they particularly implemented bias one way or the other, but some obvious instances of holding that were visible to customers in the cheap nosebleed seats were left unpenalized. Penn State was penalized only once for seven yards, while Wisconsin had eight penalties for 72 yards. So, I’m not bitching. Much.
Paterno has done some bobbing and weaving, to be sure. He sure as hell made us all believe that he would play his typical, constipated road game. Now that the cat is out of the bag, I wonder what is in store for us at the Horseshoe on October 25th! What a game that is setting up to be. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Major nemesis Michigan looms next week.
The bloom is off the Michigan rose this year. Their latest ignominious defeat was at the hands of MAC power Toledo, 13-10. Michigan had heretofore never lost to a MAC team. The Wolverines are quickly becoming irrelevant, although they still could theoretically win the Big Ten title by winning out from here. However, that ain’t likely, as they have yet to play the three conference leaders, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State, each 3-0 in the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin joins the laggards of the Big Ten at 0-3. A decent bowl game is already out of reach for the Badgers, who at the outset of the season were everyone’s choice to be second best in the conference.
While Penn State was burying Wisconsin, them ol’ #11 Gators was busy knocking the snot out of da #4 Bayou Bengals, #17 OK State handled #3 Mizzou, and #5 Texas whipped #1 Oklahoma, creating a shake-up in the Top Five and opening the door for the Nittany Lions to be sucked into the vacuum created by the free fall of Oklahoma, Missouri, and LSU from the unbeaten ranks. #2 Alabama had the week off. So, the polls came out this morning, and Penn State is #3.
OK, look, folks. The polls still don’t mean much at this juncture. Give it another month and they might. In the meanwhile, let’s not put any BCS speculation carts before any on-field performance horses, OK? (Don’t you love dorks who finish their sentences with “OK?” They’re usually receptionists in doctors’ offices. For example, “The doctor has several patients before you [even though you arrived on time] so it will be a little while, OK?” NO, GODDAMNIT! IT’S NOT OK! Usually, you think it but you don’t say it. You know your place. They know you know. They’ve got you by the balls. But I digress.) Anyhow, let’s not get into these crapola bar room discussions that center around whether an undefeated Big Ten team could go to the Still Somewhat Mythical National Championship (SSMNC) game if there were a once defeated Big Twelve or SEC team contending for that slot. ESPN has been beating this one to death for a couple of weeks now. We all know that the Big Twelve and SEC have conference championship games and that 13th game makes it damn difficult for any team in those conferences to get through a season undefeated. SOME of us believe that the competition is stronger in both of those conferences than in the Big Ten. (This Turkey happens to believe that, at least for now.) Anyhow, there is a lot of football to be played yet for PSU, so why waste our time talking about things that might not even be an issue, and if they do become so, there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it, anyway.
Like my digressions? I’m crazy, you know. I once had a girlfriend who uttered the very same line in a matter-of-fact fashion when I took her for a walk on the beach after dinner. “I’m crazy, you know,” she said. She was and still is. It has been five years since I’ve seen her, but once in a while we exchange e-mails. I got one from her last night during the game. It said, “I live in kind of [a] convent now. I am telling you that because I think it will give you a smile.” Get thee to a nunnery! Good old Ophelia. She’s bonkers and so am I. Perhaps I belong in a convent, too. But I digress.
Here’s the deal. I’m going up to Homecoming. I’ll leave on Wednesday afternoon and will be gone for about a week. I might or might not get around to writing a preview of the Michigan game, but I will give it the old college try. If you make it to the game, I’ll be sitting in the club seats, second row from the top, right behind the goal posts. Look for the red wattles and the large beak.
Penn State will go into that game the overwhelming favorites with probably a wider spread than at any time ever in the past against Michigan. Michigan sure looks dreadful at this point, don’t they?
I’m fading out here.