I think post mortem is a exceptionally apt term to use here, inasmuch as USC completely sucked the life blood out of the Nittany Lions in their 38-24 Rose Bowl (presented by Citi) victory. The Trojans essentially fired the fatal shots in a 24-point second quarter, but to its credit, this Penn State clung to life until the final gun. While they were ineffectual for most of the game—a long stretch between their first-quarter touchdown and the fourth quarter, in which they scored a miraculous 17 points—they never gave up. In defeat, there is that to be proud of.
Would they have won if they had played the entire game as they did the fourth quarter? I think not. USC’s defense, although proud of its second half points-allowed record, reacted quite humanly to sitting on an insurmountable lead. They weren’t exactly sitting on their duffs, but having watched them for three quarters, one got the idea that they knew they had the game in hand and, in the unlikely event that things got close, they would clamp down again. With no hyperbole intended, this Turkey believes that this particular USC defense could play the New York Giants and still look good.
So, all the defensive writing about anti-Penn State, anti-Big Ten sentiment out there was for naught. You didn’t find any of that stuff here. I’m too old and cynical to subscribe to the philosophies engendered by younger generations in this country, which is to say that I believe it is quite fine to admit that one has deficits. Recognizing them is the only way to fix them. Come on, you folks who sat there in stunned disbelief watching the Nittany Lions be taken apart! The evidence was out there all laid out for you, yet you clung to the straws given to you by those Penn State/Big Ten apologist writers in the same way as you did when you actually believed your teachers in our screwed up version of an educational system when they gave you an A you didn’t really deserve. You better shape up and start learning to recognize your weaknesses, folks. You can’t do anything about them by denying them. If you hide behind stupid statistical comparisons that have absolutely no validity, you’ll continually be disappointed.
So, stop watching Dora the Explora, and start reading War and Peace.
Speaking of grades, you won’t find any of those stupid, formulaic “Grading Penn State’s Performance” things here. You can easily find that stuff elsewhere if you want to confirm what you saw for yourself while watching the game and just want to see your own thoughts captured in someone else’s words. Everybody does them. Monkey see, monkey do. I curse the first sports writer who came up with that concept. Like the game ending Gatorade salute, it’s getting a bit old and boring.
To pervert Shakespeare, I come to praise Caesar, not to bury him.
I don’t want stupid grades and other hackneyed devices to cloud one particular issue, one that I mentioned in the first paragraph above, one that I will reiterate repeatedly and redundantly. I want you to be proud of our guys, who stood tall until the very end. While they knew they were beaten and outclassed, they never gave up. They had a helluva year and I don’t want to hear anyone apologizing for anything. There is nothing to be sorry about with respect to this group of overachievers. They went much farther than we ever thought they could—that anyone ever thought they could, even the perennially hyperoptimistic Phil Grosz. They did not roll over.
We could pick apart their performance, bit by bit, but who wants to? We knew about the weaknesses coming into this game, even if a lot of us chose to deny them. The Penn State defensive secondary was of particular concern to this Turkey, as was the defense’s basic ability to cope with the multi-pronged running and passing attack of USC. Those things should have been obvious to all of us, and it should have come as no surprise that USC took advantage of them. We knew that the offense has had lapses when it didn’t take care of the ball, and we knews that Penn State would have to avoid turnovers to stay in this game. They didn’t. The only surprising bit of ineptitude was the plethora of game-changing penalties. This was something they had not done all season. Nevertheless, it serves no purpose to pick apart this game. The better team won.
Penn State did not give up. They did not roll over. They did not hang their heads. They were merely beaten by a better team, and there’s no shame in that.
Did you notice how Craig James changed his tune once the prescribed pre-game hype period ended? As I mentioned in my pre-game article, it seemed clear to me that Disney/ESPN/ABC was hyping the hell out of this game by attempting to dispel the preconceived notion that Penn State couldn’t carry USC’s proverbial jock strap. All their so-called analysts seemed to have been scripted to grasp at some pretty flimsy straws in support of Penn State’s chances. Even the chronic Penn State hater, Craig James, who has held a grudge against the Nittany Lions since 1983 and who a couple of years ago referred to Joe Paterno as an “old fart” on a national broadcast, was speaking glowingly of PSU’s chances. At halftime, that all went out the window and James was singing the praises of USC. Not that USC didn’t deserve them, but the contrast made it even clearer that James and his colleagues had been given the order to play up Penn State’s viability during the hype-fest period.
I don’t want to hear any whining that things would have been different if Evan Royster hadn’t been hurt in the first quarter. It wouldn’t have changed anything significantly. You damn well know it, so don’t torture yourself with “what-ifs”.
I know that this is painful, but how about rooting for Ohio State against Texas? I don’t think they’ll win, but it would serve the Big Ten well to have two wins out of seven bowls this year. psurule4 makes a good comment about the Big Ten’s poor bowl performance:
Finally, before we bash the Big Ten — let’s imagine they don’t get two teams in the BCS bowls and everyone shifts down. PSU loses the Rose Bowl — but does Georgia beat Ohio St — I don’t think so. Does Michigan St. beat South Carolina — I think so. Does Iowa then beat whoever it plays in those terrible ridiculous second rate bowls– yes. Does that leave Minn. Wisc. more evenly matched — yes. Basically, it changes the whole dynamic.
Food for thought in that, folks. The Big Ten is in a down cycle bowlwise, but could it be a victim of its own BCS overreach?
Another reader, Eggman, offered the following:
On the bright side, we start the 2009 season with a well cleaned clock.
Well, folks, that’s a wrap on another season. The Nittany Lions will live to fight another day. They can stand tall and be proud of a 11-2 season that a few months ago nobody thought was possible. Please give them credit for that overachievement, which they sorely deserve. They don’t have to apologize to anybody.