Nittany Lions score impressive Homecoming win over Terps
What can I say, dear readers? I went into this game with a don’t-give-a-shit-what-happens attitude, something I’ve seen a lot of coming from loyal Penn State fans lately. With no expectations of anything but more of the same, we amassed in Mike’s Garage (all three of us) with wearily wary anticipation of yet another noon start and yet another catatonic first half for the Nittany Lions before a less than capacity Homecoming crowd on a sloppy day at St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver. Ahh, but Terp meat was on the menu.
The aura of mediocrity driven ennui was abruptly lifted, however, when rapidly improving Penn State sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley carried forward his wake-up performance from the second half of the Minnesota game to engineer an energetic opening drive of 84 yards in six plays. It was clear at that point that the Nittany Lions had come to play and were fully awake. Former freshman speedster (now sophomore superstar) Saquon Barkley had his best game yet at just the right time. What could have been a rain-muted, ornery, somnolent crowd at St. Joe was energized from the git-go, lustily cheering their boys on to an ultimate 38-14 victory over the hated, rivalrous Terps.
Wake Me Up!
I guess my anticipation of yet another snoozefest insurmountably anesthetized me, as being fully awake was a problem for this turkey, who recently has had some sleepless nights due to hurricanes and other emotionally draining issues. The fact that I fell asleep several times during the game should not be construed by my couchmates at Mike’s Garage or by my faithful readers as being indicative of a lack of interest in the proceedings at hand. Furthermore, when the proprietor of Mike’s Garage, Jackstand, became ill later, it was not for the usual reason of Penn State playing poorly enough to make us all want to throw up. Must have been something in the Terps soup. But I digress.
In fact, the Nittany Lions have come to life and appear fully awake. Chief alpha Lion James Franklin divulged that the team has been working on getting off the starting blocks quickly, and that was damn well needed. It appears to have worked.
It was all Barkley and McSorley
Even the much maligned offensive line showed signs of life, as they actually helped Saquon Barkley, for a change. The vaunted former freshman speedster had a career day. He would end the day with 202 net yards, including one long run of 45 yards, plus one touchdown. We’ll overlook his one fumble — I have no doubt that the conscientious superstar will be harder on himself than we ever would have a right to be. Barkley is a hard worker, and an occasional error will not change this turkey’s extremely positive feelings about the kid.
Meanwhile, Trace McSorley threw only 19 passes, completing 10 for 152 yards and two touchdowns. He did more damage on the ground with 18 rushes for 81 net yards and one touchdown. This was the McSorley that many of us have been waiting for. His excellent day’s work was completed in the fourth quarter, when Tommy Stevens entered the game in relief with victory assured.
The Nittany Lions had 28 first downs to the Terps’ 11 and they had 524 total yards to Maryland’s 270. Time of possession was 35:00 to 25:00. PSU improved its third-down conversion rate a bit as they converted five of thirteen, while the Terps converted only four of thirteen.
The Defense Did Its Job
As Penn State was doubling up on Maryland in most offensive categories, the depleted PSU defense, which still isn’t tackling well, managed to hold the Terps to 170 net yards rushing and 100 yards passing for 270 total yards. With none of the original starting linebackers able to play, the grit and determination of the young defense was an essential component of the victory over the Twerps. Brandon Smith led with two solo tackles and 12 assists, while Koa Farmer moved to linebacker from safety, recording five total tackles including a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Marcus Allen had his usual good cleanup day, with 7 total tackles. The defense even recorded four sacks, one of which caused a crucial fumble by Maryland Yinzer QB sensation Perry Hills, who had the leave the game with a Penn State induced injury just before the end of the first half.
And it is likely the best possible outcome (although completely not likely) that State held William Likely III to 10 yards on punt returns. The water bug speedster scampered for 76 yards on four kickoff returns. One excellent hit on Likely right in front of the Maryland bench fomented a near riot. Like, good show, guys!
Big Toe Sideshow
The Joey “Big Toe” Julius sideshow continued as yet another would-be special teams anti-hero took a cheap shot at the 5-10, 271 lb kicker and got tossed out of the game for the ignominious act. Terps freshman linebacker Jaylen Waters (6-3, 255 lbs), from the hood in Killleen, TX, was the asshole of the week. I suppose with all the publicity Julius has been getting, he’s being looked upon as the biggest guy in the bar that every asshole has to challenge in order to feel better about not having been issued a brain. The recent articles about Julius’ eating disorder no doubt made him a more attractive target. “Let’s go get the fat guy! Yeah!” Expect more of this as the season progresses.
In other special teams news, Penn State freshman punter Blake Gillikan had a crappy day, including a blocked punt that caused him to hobble off the field, after which he never returned to the game.
It was an even crappier day for arguably the best of the original Five Traffic Cones, Andrew Nelson, who suffered a likely season-ending knee injury and was carted off the field late in the first half. His presence at right tackle will be sorely missed for the rest of the season.
A Crucial Win
With a bye week forthcoming and Ohio State up next, an energizing, dominant win is just what the doctor ordered. Now, the 4-2 Nittany Lions need only two wins for Toilet Bowl eligibility, and with Rutgers and Purdue on the schedule, post-season play is almost in the bag.
Around the Big Ten
As I had predicted, Indiana (3-2, 1-1) gave #2 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0) some trouble, but the young Hoosiers were inextricably discombobulated by the hostile crowd in the Horseshoe, causing them to wind up being squashed 38-17. Were it not for some crucial errors by the Hoosiers, this game would have been much tighter. I think that this is an up-and-coming Indiana team we’ll have to watch closely.
In the laugher of the day, #4 Michigan (6-0, 3-0) scored quickly on hapless Rutgers (2-4, 0-3) on their way to a thorough demolition, 78-0. The Wolverines had only 119 passing yards but they made up for that with 481 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Rutgers had a paltry total of five passing yards and 34 net rushing yards. The Scarlet Knights did not record a first down until midway through the fourth quarter. It should have never gone that far. The Mercy Rule should have been imposed on this game around the end of the first quarter, although about 17 fans stuck around in High Point Stadium until the bitter end, 16 of them clad in maize and blue, watching the Michigan taxi squad score at will on the lanceless Knights.
Elsewhere, formerly highly regarded Iowa (4-2, 2-1) defeated Minnesota (3-2, 0-2) 14-7, while Brigham Young (3-3) defeated rapidly sinking Moo U. (2-3, 1-2), 31-14 in an extraconferentialistic clash. I guess the loss of Narduzzi is being felt. Finally, in the who-the-hell-cares game of the day, Purdue (3-2, 1-1) edged the Illiniweks (1-4, 0-2) 34-31.
So, with respect to our future opponents, stock in Indiana is going up while the market is crashing for Rutgers, Iowa, and Moo U.
I’ll be back sometime with a preview and prediction for the big Ohio State game, assuming I get some sleep and fix my head, not necessarily in that order.