Looking forward to yesterday’s Purdue game, I wrote that no one seemed to know what to make of it — least of all, me. That seemed to be borne out in fact.
”You’ve got to earn it on the practice field.” —Bill O’Brien, on Bill Belton’s apparent benchification
The one thing I got right as the Nittany Lions (6-3, 4-1 Big Ten) pummeled the Purdue Boilermakers (3-6, 0-5) was that we’d see all three Purdue quarterbacks. The final score was 34-9 but by all rights, it shouldn’t have been that close.
The stats look deceptively even, with only two key areas decidedly in Penn State’s favor. PSU had the decisive edge in rushing yards (185 to 87) while Purdue committed the only turnover, and it wasn’t an apple one.
The Lions, though, gave up their opening quarter cherry. They had heretofore not been scored upon in the first quarter this year. Blame it on crappy special teams play once again. One of Purdue’s Akeems made a short field of it by returning the opening kickoff 47 yards to near midfield. From there, Quarterback #1 for the Day, Robert Marve drove his team down to the three yard-line, where Penn State’s defense made its stand, stalling the drive. Purdue had to settle for an ugly 21-yard Sam McCartney field goal that clanked off the left upright and somehow made it through.
That was the last we heard from Purdue until the final minute of the game. After an unsuccessful fourth down try by Penn State, the Boilermakers took over at the Nittany Lion 49 with 48 seconds remaining on the clock. By that time, Caleb TerBush was the quarterback and Penn State had lots of clean, white jerseys in the game. A pivotal pass interference call on Da’Quan Davis put the ball once again on the PSU three yard-line. TerBush was able to find Antavian Edison in the end zone for the TD.
An embarrassingly scrawny announced crowd of around 40,000 body snatched faithful braved the morning’s sleet and afternoon’s cold to watch the latest debacle on Purdue’s tragic year of failures.
Highlights for Penn State have to include a decent, 22-36, 321 yard day for Matthew McGloin, including two touchdowns and no picks. His primary target was Brandon Moseby-Felder, with six receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Zach Zwinak pounded out 134 yards, with Mike Zordich adding another 33.
Where the hell was Bill Belton? He was conspicuous by his absence. One lousy play this week, after starting at tailback and kick returner last week. What’s up? Looks like he’s in the O’Brien doghouse, a newly emerging feature of the newly emerging head coach. “You’ve got to earn it on the practice field,” said O’Brien. “I thought Zwinak earned the start. I was up front with Bill about that. I like Billy. I think Billy’s going to be a starter again at some point, because he’s going to fight and he’s going to compete. But I went with Zwinak and Zordich today.”
It is of maximal importance for this turkey to note that Mr. Sam Ficken, he who had been kicked at practice and who was semi-lame with a sore quadriceps, was perfect on the day, making two field goals and four extra points.
The game was costly for Penn State, with injuries to Curtis Dukes, Jordan Hill, and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. Hill’s injury looked the worst, a knee sprain, but a team spokesman said that there was no ligament damage. We’ll know more by Monday, Bill O’Brien promised. Dukes suffered a concussion on the opening kickoff. Obeng’s injury is a recurring right shoulder issue that he’s been battling throughout the season.
The Simmering Undercurrent of Discontent award goes to roommates Matt McGloin and Matt Stankiewitch. A delay of game penalty blew the whistle on a play but Stankiewitch snapped the ball to McGloin, who returned it in disgust — by boinking it of the big guy’s helmet, which obviously pissed him off. Apparently, there was some chippiness going on between the two, which didn’t help. “He said it was an accident and that he was sorry, so I forgave him pretty quickly,” said Stankiewitch. “I was going to go after him and give him a piece of my mind. He apologized quickly.”
The Turkey will be back later in the week to preview the home game against Big Red. I’ll have to reprise my corn shrine from the Iowa game.