Second Half Conspiracy!

No one ever wants to listen to the rambling ruminations of a crusty old fart who never played the game, so I’ll bore you with them anyway. You can get astute analysis of football machinations elsewhere, in legitimate media and serious Penn State football blogs that “break down” anything and everything, but here, you get something unique: my bullshit. The more I spew, the less I get in return, but I really do want to hear from you. I liken this joint to a neighborhood bar, where you can bloviate about football as much as you want, and everyone is an expert on everything. The main thing is that everyone’s opinion counts.

Far be it from this turkey to claim expertise in any subject other than how to piss off his girlfriend without even trying. You all know the game better than I do. What I do have is opinions — and you know what they say about them.

At this stage of the season, and after what happened at Lincoln, opinions are going to be flying around and gaining traction, so bandying them about could wind up being more important — and perhaps, more entertaining —  than “breaking down” football games as if I was enlightening the vast unwashed. I’m truly in a strange mood tonight, and since no one else wants to listen to me, I feel obliged to harangue you all out there in cyberspace, as I cast a controversial lure out into the miasma to see what will bite.

Most likely, the bite will come from Anopheles, and I’ll get malaria.

“I just feel terrible that we lost this game. But we lost to a great football team, a very well-coached football team. We’ve got to get back to work on Monday.” —Bill O’Brien

Was Nebraska really the better team out there on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, where the #16 Cornhuskers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) beat the Nittany Lions (6-4, 4-2) 32-23? For the first half, they most likely weren’t, as Penn State took a 20-6 halftime lead into the locker room. On the other hand, in spite of a controversial call that went against Penn State, I have to say that unlike the Nittany Lions, Nebraska showed up in the second half when they had to, outscoring the Lions 26-3. Nebraska has made a habit of coming from behind to overcome double-digit leads and win games this year. Because I get caught up in some things that bother me, I’ll probably spend more column-inches castigating Matt McGloin for his post-game comments than I use for actual game commentary. But I digress.

Nebraska will probably wind up playing Wisconsin to see who goes to the Rose Bowl.

The aforementioned controversy arose out of a call that denied Matt Lehman a touchdown when he reached out with the ball to “break the plane” of the goal line in the fourth quarter. The ball was knocked out of his hands. Nebraska recovered the fumble, and upon video review, the call on the field that the ball came out before breaking the plane stood, denying Penn State the touchdown.

Nittany Lions head coach Bill O’Brien felt that the ball had crossed the plane. So did most TV viewers after ESPN/ABC showed the play from 98 different angles, 145 different times. However, the rule states that there must be indisputable visual evidence to overturn a call. It was close, but I suppose not close enough to merit being overturned, at least in the minds of the officials who reviewed it. (If you crave a spookily nefarious opinion on the conspiracy aspects of this call, read what David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News had to say about it.)

First of all, Lehman made a dumb-ass, overenthusiastic, rookie mistake trying to extend the ball out there. That’s just a boneheaded thing to do on second down. You get in if you can, but protect the damn ball! Penn State, down 27-23 at the time, had two more plays to get the six from point-blank range, had Lehman been tackled short of the goal line. Duh! I know that kids make mistakes in the heat of combat, but geez! With almost nine minutes left in the game, Penn State could have had the lead and it would have been a different game from then on out.

O’Brien’s take was similar. “They just didn’t feel like they could reverse it,” he said. “He tried to reach it out. You can’t do that. He was just reaching it out. Good kid trying to make a play.”

After the game, referee John O’Neill said in a statement, “The ruling on the field was a fumble short of the goal line. It went to replay and the replay official said the play stood based on the views he had. It’s ultimately his decision.”

Pelini said it helped that the officials initially ruled it a fumble.

“You got to have indisputable evidence to overrule it,” he said. “Something that bang-bang, usually it ends up going however they rule it on the field. We were kind of fortunate.”

Devon Edwards wrote in Black Shoes Diary:

Thankfully, I don’t expect we’ll see too many Penn State players express their frustrations publicly, as did their Spartan counterparts a week ago. They’re better than that, and Penn State is better than that, and Bill O’Brien wouldn’t stand for it. But that’s what fans and bloggers like us are for: to pout and shout, and throw a tantrum, because just like Michigan State a week ago, these Nittany Lions were screwed out of a win they deserved.

Alas, Edwards was wrong. As bad a taste as such a questionable call left in our mouths, feisty quarterback Matt McGloin decided to make it worse with his post-game grousing.

“We’re not going to get that call here. We’re not going to get that call ever, actually, against any team. It doesn’t matter who the refs are. It’s us against the world and we’re not going to get those calls in these types of games.”

Oh, yeah, McGloin? Well, this is just about as bush league as Lehman’s ball extension, only worse. A player accusing officials of bias? Hell, in the NFL, you’d be fined, suspended, or dismissed for doing that. Players can whine about official calls amongst themselves and the coaches behind closed doors, but not in an open forum for the media, as you did.  Schmuck, you are representing the University, one that has been accused of having a football over everything institutional philosophy, ferchrissakes! Although I can understand your feelings about the game, and your frustration relating to this call, it was an impertinent comment in an inappropriate forum. You need to learn how to keep your great big fucking mouth shut.

I hope O’Brien gives him the full twisteroo for that one.

One reporter asked McGloin if he was saying what everyone was thinking he was saying. McGloin responded, “Write what you think.”

It is for the fans and the media to speculate on the conjectures that might have been where McGloin was going with his accusations — conjectures that Big Ten officials are deliberately biased against Penn State. If there are specific incidents needing to be addressed, the Conference has a vehicle for reviewing such claims. They have to come from the athletic department, not from the damn loose cannon quarterback.

Perhaps McGloin was also upset about how the game went in general for him and his team.  It was replete with frustrating moments, including a proper intentional grounding call in the end zone for a safety, about which McGloin threw an infantile tantrum on the field, an interception, three sacks, and two balls fumbled away inside the ten yard-line, one by Lehman as mentioned above and the other by Zwinach.

When you’re playing a good team, McGloin, it ain’t easy. No one is going to hand you the yards. You have to work hard for them. Maybe, you and your teammates just didn’t quite work hard enough. Exasperating, I know. So near and yet so far! There’s a lesson in life for ya, boy: nothin’ good comes easy.

All in all, playing the second half as they did, the Lions would lose that game 10 times out of nine. Take your lumps and move on.  Whining to anyone who will listen does not show “balls” or leadership; it is a classless, unmanly act.

So, shut the hell up, Sally McGloin! I like your progress on the field; now you have to get your arrogant head out of your ass.

Leave the grousing to the legions of Penn State fans who feel there has been a Big Ten conspiracy against the Nittany Lions from the time they entered the conference.  I’m not happy with them, either. Along with others who hopped on the conspiracy bandwagon this year in the wave of post-Sandusky paranoia, they pick on every field call that is questionable, decrying it a purposeful act again Penn State, while ignoring the bad calls made against opponents. Hell, people still remember two seconds being added to the clock in 2005 at Lloyd Carr’s request, which was just enough for Michigan to come back and win. They never stop to think about the fact that Zemaitis should have been able to cover Manningham in the end zone. It was all the refs’ fault, the result of a conspiracy between the traditional Big Ten powers and the refs to make us feel unwelcome in the conference. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!

Really, though, I don’t mind it so much when the fans do it. It’s good barroom “expert” discussion fodder. However, when players do it, they’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Word.

I think Stephon Morris got it right when he said, “We put ourselves in that situation. We could have gotten some more third-down stops. We could have stopped Martinez, and we could have stopped the run. You can’t leave the game in the referees’ hands, and we know that.”

Morris doesn’t have his head up his ass. He understands how the game was really lost. He acted like a true warrior, gracious in defeat, going on to state it more succinctly.

“They just made more plays than we did, kind of like the thing with the Ohio State game. The losses that we had, it’s all about the second half.”

The second half — that’s the conspiracy here. What gives?

Instead of pissing and moaning about bad calls, we should be spending some time on the biggest conundrum of the season: What the hell is up with this coming out flat in the second half shit?!?! We showed in the first half of this and other games that we could play even up with and even superior to serious opponents. What the hell happens at halftime to cause the defense to appear to be out of gas and the offense to appear out of sync? Is this just me adding two and two to get five, or is there something going on that is correctable? It doesn’t make sense to me.

That, along with three critical turnovers,  not one lousy questionable call, lost the game for Penn State.

On the bright side, beleaguered place kicker Sam Ficken was a perfect 3-3, with a long field goal of 38 yards; on the dark side, the Lions had to settle for those three field goals instead of touchdowns. Also on the special teams’ bright side, Alex Butterworth averaged 47.7 yards punting.

Nebraska dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for over 34 minutes, which directly relates to their 267 yards rushing. They were 9-18 in third-down conversions. Otherwise, the stats were pretty even. LOL.

I’m really done with this game. The best part of it was the noodle pudding I made for the attendees at The Cave. That sure was mighty fine.

Now, we have two home games to wrap up the season. I’ll be back later in the week with more of my drivel about the forthcoming Indiana game.



  1. says

    the only way i would cry conspiracy is if dick honig was up in the replay booth.

    the turk is right: getting thoroughly outplayed in the second half killed this team. it is becoming a disturbing trend. complain all you want about the calls (or how OL are allowed to tackle our DL), but they just look dazed in the second half of all their losses this year.

    but still, this team is still an order of magnitude better than i thought they would be.

    o, and whiskey plus psu football does not sit well.

    • says

      Sorry about the hangover, Drozz, but take a tip from an old guy — the better quality the booze, the less miserable the hangover. So shelve the rotgut and go for the top shelf. It is well worth the money.

      Of course, if this turns out to be an old husband’s tale, don’t send me the bill.

      I’m really perplexed about the second half issues. I can understand to some extent how the defense can be a bit ragged after having being run all over the field by the likes of Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah for 30 minutes, but what’s up with the offense? That’s O’Brien’s area of expertise. He took the job as head coach and appointed himself offensive coordinator as well, so it’s on him to diagnose and fix the problem.

      McGloin’s self-discipline might be part of the problem. He has tended to be shaken by things going wrong on the field. He needs to take his lumps and move on. The temper tantrum was all telling. No matter how much others whine about bad calls, he’s got to remain above all that. Stephon Morris and John Urshchel acted like men after the game, not wearing their frustration on their sleeves; McGloin acted like a spoiled kid.

      I’m pleased with McGloin’s technical progress. He’s just got to get his head together.

      I am certainly happy with a 6-4 record with a couple of games left. That’s so much better than I thought it would be!

      The next two games will be interesting. Indiana isn’t a complete pussy this year — indeed, they’ve scored a lot of points on some good defenses. I hope there’s no second-half letdown with them. Wisconsin, though, put the big hurt on them, with Montee Ball just shy of 200 yards, his sidekick James White adding 161, and freshman RB Mel Gordon adding 96. Um, 564 yards rushing total. LMAO!

      This old turkey could use a blowout like that 62-14 one against the Hoosiers, too. It’s good for the soul.

      But I fear a second-half letdown against the BadgerBadgerBadgers after the defense is subjected to Montee Ball for the first half.

      First things first.


  2. Joe says

    I was always taught two things when I played football:

    a) Never let a team hang around to get a chance to pull a rabbit out of their ass at the end of a game for the win and

    b) Never put yourself in a position where a referee’s call can affect the outcome of the game.

    I’m not a conspiracy buff, but I do believe the B1G has perhaps the worst officiating crews in college football. Look at the (ahem) pass interference call called against MSU in their game against Nebraska last week, check out the Meechigan-NW game this weekend-probably three to five calls that were head scratchers. Maybe Herr Delaney should spend some of those big bucks he gets from TV and send his zebras to school.

    No I won’t say this cost us the game-too much time left even if it was overruled and called a TD to definitely say PS would have held that lead. What cost us this game was not being able to hold a 14 point lead in the second half by not being able to stop Martinez and Abdullah and having an offense that went stone cold.

    I also won’t criticize Lehman for extending the ball, first year playing on the big stage and trying to make something happen I guess, nor will I criticize McGloin for his post game comments, even though some have been gnawing on his leg like a dog on a bone for his post-game “twits”.

    I will say from every source I’ve read and heard, it was a TD and there should have been no qualms about the replay booth overturning a non-TD call to a TD.

    Let me take you back to last season-MSU vs Wisconsin. Anyone remember the final play? If not here’s the refresher:

    On the final play of the game, with the ball on the Wisconsin 44-yard line, Kirk Cousins dropped back and threw up a Hail Mary. A Wisconsin player tried to bat the ball down, but he mistimed his jump. As a result, the ball bounced off of an MSU receiver and landed right in the arms of Keith Nichol. He caught the ball at what seemed like the one-inch line, and after a battle between Nichol and Wisconsin defenders, the referees ruled Nichol was down short of the goal line. The play was reviewed, however, and the referees overturned the call and ruled Nichol did break the plane. Translation: Touchdown MSU. Ball game MSU.

    Was that play any easier to interpret that the play in the PS game? I think not. So wow-there is precedent for overturning the field call and ruling a TD was scored. Must have been the two officials in the booth during that game who actually felt replay should be used for what it was intended-to get the call on the field right!

    You also need to recall that replay in the B1G started because one Joseph Vincent Paterno got tired of getting jammed with lousy on field calls during several B1G games.

    So chew on McGloin and Lehman for 20 year old emotions and mistakes, hack away at BoB for his 3rd quarter collapses, but don’t let these officials use a lame excuse of that’s what was called on the field, so unless the CIA produces an overwhelming satellite image to show the play, we’re going to take the easy way out and not rock the boat.

    Oh and the intentional grounding-not so. McGloin was 2-3 yards outside of the tackle (as seen from the opposite end zone camera view) and threw the ball in the vicinity of Zordich (there was almost an identical play in the Bears-Texans game last night that was not ruled IG even though the ball was a good 5-9 yards behind the receiver). Also the referee did not throw the yellow handkerchief (he is supposed to make this call), it was a line judge or head linesman who was in the flat and not in a position to see if McGloin was in or out of the tackle box.

    And I’ll put the sideline interference (the first call is supposed to be a warning, not a penalty) in the same box as the defensive holding call on the punt in the OSU game.

    You’re right, the second half cost the Lions a win, but officiating in the B1G has always and still does suck-for everyone!

    • says

      All good, valid points. Big Ten officiating does suck and it does seem to affect PSU more negatively than positively. However, I’m not now, nor will I ever, buy into conspiracy theories. I just wish they didn’t suck so badly.

      Something has to be done about the second half ineptitude. Nebraska came out wanting the win. As Morris said, they could have stopped Martinez, but they didn’t. Similar second halves have plagued Penn State in several losses this year, and almost bit the Lions in the win over Northwestern (who always seems to want to give us the win in the fourth quarter). I’m more intent on getting that problem fixed than I am on whining about bad calls.

      If we don’t get it squared away before the Wisconsin game, we’re going to have a very bad taste in all of our mouths going into the nonexistent post-season.


  3. BigAl says

    You’re right that McGloin should not have said what he said. If I were in his position, I would not have talked to the press. And, if BOB had forced him to, my answer to any question about the zebras would have been “no comment.” Playing on a team doesn’t mean you have to lie or spouting platitudes.

    I think he’s right in one regard. The replay official deliberately screwed Penn State, but he might be wrong about the reason. (Kind of like the so called “Sandusky coverup” itself – we know that the 4 stooges failed to report Sandusky but nobody knows their motivation for doing it.”

    IMO the B1G front office wanted a Nebraska – Wisconsin championship game and any team that might have prevented that from happening was going to get screwed by the referees.

    I don’t think the bad call decided the game anyway. Even if the touchdown had counted, Penn State would have only had a 3 point lead with about 9 minutes to play. And the way State’s defense was playing, I think Nebraska would have had enough time to score two more touchdowns if needed to win.

    • says

      I’m with you with regard to the impact on the game’s outcome of the blown call. Penn State was playing poorly, Nebraska wanted the win, and they played like it.

      You bring up an interesting possibility about the B1G management wanting a Neb-Wis championship game. This, to me, is reminiscent of claims that the NBA officials are told to manipulate calls during the playoffs to influence the finals matchup. Phoenix vs. Charlotte = bad; Boston vs. L.A. = good. Now go blow some calls, boys! I’m not sure it actually works that way, but it often looks that way, and in sports, as in politics, perception means a lot to the barroom experts.

      So, flash back to the OSU game and the phantom defensive holding call that many of the whiners think cost PSU the game. What would the officials have had in mind when they blew that one so blatantly? Or was that one just pure incompetence?

      The intrigue is fascinating, if at times hard to buy into. Making the political connection again, the timing of Petraeus’ outing of his extramarital affair seems to have happened at a rather interesting time, just before his scheduled testimony, suggesting an interesting range of possibilities: 1) the administration wanted to suppress his testimony and felt it could hang his affair over him (in which case, he made the next chess move, neutralizing that threat and so, will testify), 2) it worked and, no longer being the CIA director, he won’t testify, or 3) there is much more covert shit going on behind the scenes. Now, this, as opposed to football, is some conspiracy shit I can sink my teeth into.

      Anyhow, Indiana isn’t the pushover they’ve been in prior years, even if Wisky did rush for 564 yards against them in the 62-14 blowout. I’d hate to see a second-half letdown against a feisty, overachieving bunch of Hoosiers give us big trouble.


  4. Joe says

    Part of me says there is a gentleman’s agreement to direct who plays in the championship game, but the other part of me says it would really be hard to keep the orchestration of a desirable championship game pairing quiet; too many people involved who may not be totally on board with the preferred selections and might find it hard to keep their mouths shut. (Although having that many people involved didn’t stop people from claiming there was a “cover up” in another situation we are all too familiar with!)

    I only watch bits and pieces of other B1G games (there is usually a better game on from another conference especially this season), but from what I’ve read and the bits I’ve seen via highlights, there appears to be a fairly equal distribution of dumb calls throughout each weekend within the B1G, but I don’t know if there is favoritism exhibited consistently to one team over another over the course of a season, although Nebraska seemed to be the direct beneficiary in their games against MSU & PS!

    No, after following the B1G since PS was admitted reluctantly by most of the other schools, I’m just under the belief that the officiating is incompetent for the most part. I’ve noticed that the officiating crews are not the same as past years-retirements, refs moving to other conferences, regular job related conflicts, who knows, but it seems to me I don’t see the same faces I did in the previous seasons. There were always one or two “good crews” that got the big games and the rest were distributed to the remaining games in descending order of the games cachet and the officials “talent”.

    Although I will admit that there was more of a love fest for Nebraska when they were admitted to the conference than there ever was for PS and I also wonder that with Osborne retiring as AD is this some attempt at a parting gift from the league (’94 redux?)

    I agree the second half malaise has to be corrected or we may be looking at a 6-6 season. I’ve wondered that because they are playing at such an emotionally high level in the first half, does the halftime break cause the adrenaline “high” to wear off? From experience, I know that when it happens, you do tend to feel exhausted. I also think that the staff may not be cohesive enough yet to figure out adjustments to the other teams second half adjustments on the fly or maybe they aren’t making any since they’ve carried a lead at the end of the first half in each game.

    It’s a shame that the last two games of the season will occur during Thanksgiving break, so I’m expecting that the Beav will have some empty seats especially for the Wisconsin game coming the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

    For what these guys have collectively done this year, they deserve to have 100K+ in the seats for these last two games.

    • says

      They do deserve it and I hope they get it, although I have my doubts. Maybe if the weather holds up. However, jaded Penn State fans are repelled by four loss seasons, and when was the weather ever good in State College on Thanksgiving weekend?

      O’Brien in his press conference today said the second-half malaise was nothing to worry about. I beg to differ.


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