Laser Focus: Awards, Firings, and Faux Pas

Football season is over for the Nittany Lions. Duh. Well, we had a helluva year, one that we’ll keep in our minds and our hearts forever. Exceeding all expectations, our courageous warriors played their asses off “for the glory” — Penn State pride in defiance of the ridiculously draconian obstacles forced into their path by the megalomaniacs of the NCAA and the Big Ten. This turkey hopes that the winning mentality can persevere through the next five tough years.

I’m not going to sit here and write one of those season retrospective pieces you see everywhere you turn. However, I do want to add some postscripts, recognizing some individual and team accomplishments. Writing about it extends the season for a turkey.

The B1G individual awards are named for distinguished former players. For an example that hits close to home, the Kwalick-Clark Award for tight end of the year is named after Ted Kwalick, who played tight end for Penn State long before the bright idea of joining the Big Ten ever entered anyone’s mind, and Dallas Clark of Iowa from more recent times. This year, two Penn State players received individual awards. The Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year award, named for Wisconsin’s Pat Richter and Michigan’s Desmond Howard, went to Allen Robinson, while the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year award, named for Illinois’ Dick Butkus and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, went to Mike Mauti.

Both Big Ten coaches and media wonks on the Big Ten beat get to select All-Conference teams. The coaches accorded first team honors to Allen Robinson, Matt Stankiewitch, John Urschel (a tie with Spencer Long of Nebraska), Jordan Hill, and Mike Mauti; and second team honors to Gerald Hodges, while the media dorks selected Allen Robinson, Kyle Carter, Jordan Hill, and Mike Mauti for first team, and Matt Stankiewitch, John Urschel, and Gerald Hodges for second team. The coaches gave honorable mention to Adrian Amos, Deion Barnes, Kyle Carter, Mike Farrell, Matt McGloin, and Stephon Morris, while the dicks mentioned Adrian Amos, Deion Barnes, Mike Farrell, Matt McGloin, Stephon Morris, Sean Stanley, and Zach Zwinak. Finally, the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award Honorees included Jordan Hill.

A few of you expected Matt McGloin to make first team, but with Taylor Martinez and Braxton Miller in the conference, that wasn’t about to happen. The coaches favored Martinez, while the pseudo-experts liked Miller. However, another possible award might be in the offing for the feisty Scrantonian (Scrantonite sounds too much like a local variety of anthracite). The Burlsworth Trophy is presented to the nation’s top college football player who began his career as a walk-on. (Hey, wait a minute! We don’t call them walk-ons anymore. They’re run-ons in the approved athletospeak of the Bill O’Brien Era.) The Springdale Rotary Club presents the award and fans can vote via the AT&T Fan Vote at the Burlsworth website. I implore you to vote early and vote often, in order to properly recognize McGloin’s contribution this year. Penn State’s got numbers — let’s use them!

The trophy itself has a bronze likeness of what appears to be a chunky bronze lineman mounted on a polished burled wood base. Hmmm, perhaps it should have been the Burlwood trophy. In any case, it will look great on McGloin’s desk as he embarks on his career in his chosen field of telecommunications.

Sam Ficken
Sam Ficken – Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week

And, speaking of unlikely honors, or honors we would have thought to be impossible two or three weeks ago, Sam Ficken was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week because of his clutch performance in the Wisconsin game. He also gets our Nittany Turkey Special Teams Nose of the Year award and is a strong contender for the Jimmy Durante All-Time Schnozzola Award. Additionally, Jordan Hill was selected as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

Finally, coach Bill O’Brien earned the Big Ten Pottymouth of the Week award for his emotional response about his players after the Wisconsin game, which might very well replace Joe Paterno’s 1995 midfield exchange with Doug Graber as our favorite pottymouth moment. No sphincter control at all there for the proud coach in front of ESPN mikes. What a bunch of fuckers, man! Good work, Coach!


Following its overtime victory over Wisconsin, Penn State has been named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl’s National Team of the Week, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America. This is the Nittany Lions’ third such honor, the previous two being bestowed upon the team after victories over Ohio State in 2005 and 2008.


Football is one thing and babe-ball is quite another. Number One Penn State’s Women’s Volleyball team is right up there’ with the best of the best. Congratulations to them for another terrific season (29-2, 19-1 Big Ten), and for the postseason Big Ten awards they snagged. To wit, junior Ariel Scott was named Big Ten Player of the Year, Micha Hancock grabbed Big Ten Setter of the Year, Megan Courtney was Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and good old head coach Russ Rose was tabbed as Big Ten Coach of the Year for the eleventh time, and the fifth time in the past six years.

They ought to have an award for that thing they do after each point is played, where they huddle up and grab each others’ asses, but I’m not aware of one.

Ariel Scott, Micha Hancock, Katie Slay, and Deja McClendon were selected to the All-Big Ten Team. Scott and McClendon were unanimously selected by Big Ten coaches. Megan Courtney’s selection to the Big Ten All-Freshman team was also unanimous. Kristin Carpenter was Penn State’s Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree.

There are no post-season sanctions for the volleyball team, although Emmert and Triponey probably had a late-night session to figure out how to stack the cards against these perennial winners. OK, JUST KIDDING!! The Nittany Lionesses will indeed play in the post-season, starting this Friday night, November 30 at Rec Hall. They’ve earned the number one seed and will play Binghamton in the first round. If they advance, which they damn well better, they’ll get the winner of the Yale vs Bowling Green game, which also will be played at Rec Hall.

Good luck, Lionesses! You make us proud!


 The annual spate of head coach firings proceeds apace. After ‘Bama decimated Iron Bowl rival Auburn 49-0, and in the wake of news that the NCAA will investigate Auburn assistant coaches for alleged recruiting violations, the War Eagle has carried off head coach Gene Chizik to that great aerie in the sky. Never able to leave a good story alone, the ONION has recognized Chizik’s Firing in its insouciant, humorous style, with a photo and a headline: “Gene Chizik Fired Just Two Years Before Auburn’s National Title Stripped Away.” I thought you Penn State folks would appreciate the sardonic humor.

Also headlined in the ONION: “Longstanding Rutgers-Iowa Rivalry to Be Reignited in Big Ten Conference.”


Holy David Jones, Batman! Speaking of premature, wild-ass, irresponsible speculation, Bleacher Report this morning was already mulling over who would replace Bill O’Brien if he were to bolt to the NFL. Talk about a cheap-ass non-story! Yeah, I know — if they’re right about him leaving, they’ll be able to point back at their “prescient” article and say, “I told you so.” But who the hell even wants to think about that now? Can’t we just enjoy the fine season, of which Bill O’Brien was a great facilitator?


Five more years! Ex-Nittany Lion Navorro Bowman has been rewarded by the San Francisco 49ers with a five-year extension to his contract. Way to go, Navorro!


  1. Lizzie says

    And what is the now roasted for Thanksgiving Turkey going to blog about now? No hockey, no College ball. The bets are on.

    • says

      And the political season is over, too, although there’s still a lot of work to be done to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” I guess we’ll have to see where the winds of journalistic fate waft this turkey.


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