Moo U vs. PSU: a waning rivalry

On Saturday, the almost ranked Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) will host the #10 Spartans of Michigan State (10-1, 6-1) in the clash for the ugliest trophy in all of football: The Land Grant Trophy. The Spartans are coming off a 35-31 win over lowly Purdue, while the Lions had a little trouble dispatching Indiana, 41-24.

Before we get to comments on the game itself, let’s once again focus on trashing the ridiculous Land Grant Trophy, as I do every year. Why not? It’s such a worthlessly vulnerable thing.

The concept is good enough, albeit a bit contrived. Penn State and Michigan State were, in fact, the first two land grant institutions. When Penn State joined the Big Ten, it seemed to be a natural that it establish a new year-end rivalry game to replace the Pitt game. As head coach George Perles of Michigan State was an instrumental figure in recruiting Penn State, and because all the other rivalries in the Big Ten were well established, Penn State vs. Michigan State would be a suitable annual game.

Enter this year’s plans for league expansion starting in 2011. Moo U. does not appear on Penn State’s schedule in either 2011 or 2012. Instead, the year-end game for both of those years is Wisconsin. Maybe they can play for a gigantic cheese ball in the shape of Joe Paterno’s head, replete with glasses, nose, and all, or perhaps Bucky Badger riding reverse cowgirl on the Nittany Lion. In any case, it looks like the Penn State vs. Michigan State season-end rivalry is headed for the scrap heap, as we believe the Land Grant Trophy should be.

Back in 2008, I said:

Land Grant Trophy

Another manufactured “intangible” is both teams’ presumed blood thirst for possession of the Land Grant Trophy (pictured above). I mean, look at that ugly mutha. Whoever heard of a trophy with bric-a-brac shelves? Do you think either university actually enjoys having that piece of shit in its trophy case without a sheet draped over it? Hell, if I were playing and my team were to win that scatographically hideous mélange of a mute testament to design by committee, I’d run the other way when it came time to carry the massive, mahogany mounted, misconceived monstrosity across the field. Yea, verily. I hate that junk.

Someone ought to blow it up as a Halloween prank one of these years and be done with it. So much for that “intangible,” but I digress. Sorry, I got carried away; it’s an annual, apoplectic phenomenon.

(At first, I thought that the white Nittany Lion replica on one of the shelves was a telephone. Wow! Imagine that! A trophy with its own telephone!)

A Pittsburgh sports writer once opined that this abominable trophy looked like a Rubik’s Cube that had been in the mouth of a Rottweiler for a week or so. ‘Nuf said. It is definitely, beyond any shadow of a doubt, fugly!

I do believe that a suitable retirement ceremony is essential to honor this wonderful piece of woodwork, with all its shelves, medallions, bowling trophies, warning signs, and school symbols. I have an idea that I hope the combined athletic departments of Penn State and Michigan State will consider.

At halftime of this year’s rivalry swan song game, they set the alleged trophy on a pedestal in the middle of the field. A former Penn State player, Lavon Chisley, is introduced to the friendly home crowd. Waving and smiling at his fans, the former Nittany Lion defensive end saunters up to the reviled so-called trophy and slashes feverishly at it with a knife. After a couple of minutes of this, the prison guards grab him, shackle him, and lead him off with the crowd cheering his efforts. The next introduction is former Michigan State star Plaxico Burress, who is presently serving time for discharging and criminal possession of a firearm. (Being a Moo U. educated putz, he shot himself right in the leg.) As the Penn State partisan crowd boos loudly, Plax grimaces and mutters, “Cap yo ass, bitch!”, then pulls his pistol (using that dumbass sideways gangta grip, of course) and pumps a clip into the purported trophy, which is now looking like it’s been through the bombing of Berlin. But wait, that’s not all!

For the finale, two mystery guests in Penn State football uniforms arrive. Before the P.A. announcer can introduce them, the crowd begins to roar as their jersey numbers are revealed: 25 and 90. The announcer continues, “…please welcome Nittany Lions stars Silas Redd and Sean Stanley!” As the crescendo builds, the two march in lockstep to the remains of the former parody of a trophy and slowly drop their pants. The Blue Band strikes up “Here Comes the Rain Again” and over 108,000 cameras flash throughout the stands of Beaver Stadium like twinkling stars as Redd and Stanley direct powerful streams of last night’s Four Loko at the trophy that once was, our surrogates performing a symbolic act that we all once felt was necessary. And the steaming, stinking pile of rubble is carted off the field to the tune of “Hit the Road, Jack!”

But I guess I’m dreaming. Maybe it can be dropped from the plane between State College and East Lansing.

As you probably know by now, Joe Paterno has stated that he will coach again in 2011. Many thought that the Moo U. vs. PSU game would be his swan song, too. He concedes that the administration has something to say about it but he is convinced that they will see it his way. After this disappointing season, no doubt old Joe would like another go at finishing on top of his game. Next year’s schedule will bring Nebraska and a Big Ten championship game, a home rematch with Alabama, and home revenge matches with Iowa and Illinois, to boot. Furthermore, the Big Ten might schedule another game like the Northwestern vs. Illinois game in some screwy venue in which the rules have to be changed to accommodate the eccentricity of the field. I’m thinking perhaps moving Indiana’s game to the infield at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a few million bucks a year. But I digress.

Back to this game, I’m exceeding the number of column inches allotted to me by my editor (me) and I just made an executive decision to split this post into two parts, one today and one tomorrow. I’ll do background in this one and actual game comments in tomorrow’s. I don’t want to give you too much to swallow at one time. (Some U.S. Americans don’t have maps (such as), and some don’t have attention spans, either.)

Here’s a meaningless factoid: Michigan State has never won at Beaver Stadium since Penn State joined the Big Ten. They’re 0-8 in games played at Beaver Stadium since 1993. Wow. Is it the Curse of the Bambino or something? Nahhhh, it probably just means that they don’t want to take that god forsaken trophy back with them to stain their trophy case for another year. All frivolousness aside, the stat means nothing, zip, zilch, bupkis. One thing we’ve noted in Moo U’s favor is that they were once as bad as Indiana at closing out tight games, but they now seem to have that well under control.

So, really, does it mean anything at all that Michigan State last beat Penn State in Beaver Stadium in 1965? This Turkey was there, and I can remember how the Spartans dominated. There was this big-ass defensive end, 6’7″ 265 (listed) #95 Bubba Smith (more recently a pseudo movie star in Police Academy), who rode roughshod over the poor Nittany Lions. I remember him literally playing in the PSU backfield all day, as the #2 Spartans cruised to a 23-0 victory over Rip Engle’s Lions. Moo U. wound up sharing the national championship with Alabama that year and winning it outright the following year.

Did Moo U. head coach Duffy Daugherty think at that time that he would not live to see the next Spartans win in Beaver Stadium? Probably not. He died in 1987.

At this point, however, Michigan State’s star is on the rise while Penn State’s is falling. Can Moo U. do this year what it could not accomplish a single time in the past eight games at Beaver Stadium? The gamblers seem to think so. The line on this game opened up favoring PSU by two points, but as money has rolled in, it now favors MSU by two.

We’ll be back tomorrow with Part Deux of this split Beaver Stadium game notes and prognostication thingie. For those of you who scroll right to the bottom to get my prediction, go back to the top and read this thing! LOL … CYA TM


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