The Turkey has recovered from his late night watching a pretty amazing Orange Bowl. This column will not be my typical game report. For one thing, I could not do this game justice in 25,000 words, much less the space I have available here. The game stats are available elsewhere for those who demand a more formal retrospective. However, I suspect that anyone who reads this column has either seen the game or read any number of good recaps of it. Thus, I will devote the column to random observations and thoughts about the 2006 Orange Bowl (which, by the way, Penn State won 26–23 in three overtimes).
- Isn’t it ironic that a missed field goal once again screwed Bobby “Wide Right” Bowden out of a win in a big game?
- One of the Turkey’s keys to winning this game stated that Tony Hunt must run for at least 50 yards. Unfortunately, after a three yard pass reception in the first offensive series, Hunt injured his ankle and had to sit out the rest of the game. Austin Scott stepped in and had the best game of his Penn State career: 110 yards on 26 carries.
- The game reminded this Turkey of the first Ali-Frazier fight, in which both fighters dragged themselves into the fifteenth round with significant injuries, having given it all they had for the first fourteen rounds. Both teams showed similar heart after many Nittany Lions and Seminoles suffered injuries through the game.
- Paul Posluszny injured his knee while trying to vault FSU running back Lorenzo Booker. It looked serious, but I’ve as yet seen no reports. Poz was seriously considering entering the NFL draft in April, but if the injury is severe enough it could put a crimp in the plan. Thinking selfishly, if his rehab requires several months, perhaps he’ll be back with us next season.
- Another Nittany Turkey key to the game was taking care of the ball. Unfortunately, the Lions didn’t get the message. A fumbled snap between E.Z. Smith and Michael Robinson on the four yard-line cost them a scoring opportunity which easily could have cost them the game. Otherwise, PSU and FSU traded interceptions.
- The third Nittany Turkey key to the game was to keep applying pressure to young FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford. The Penn State defense did a very good job in this area.
- For those of you who still think that Florida State was an unworthy opponent, what do you think now?
- A couple of my worries about this game involved special teams and Florida State’s speed on both sides of the ball. Another involved the size of their receivers. While that size never had a chance to be exploited, the other two worries proved to be valid.
- So far this year, not a single BCS bowl game has been a crappy, lopsided, blowout game. This Turkey fully expected the Sugar Bowl to be a blowout in Georgia’s favor, considering West Virginia a duck trying to fly with swans. This was a serious “misunderestimation.” All the BCS bowls thus far have been hard fought, evenly matched battles. Let us all hope that the [still somewhat mythical] national championship game in the Rose Bowl is similarly entertaining.
- Joe Paterno was feisty, curmudgeonly, and cranky for a whole couple of weeks leading up to this Orange Bowl. He literally blew his cork when an ABC camera crew entered the tunnel where the Penn State team was waiting to take the field. Joe charged them, waving his arms and yelling, “GitOUTTAheah!”
- Joe made it clear several times that he has warm feelings for the Orange Bowl Committee and its staff, but he thinks the BCS and its people are a royal pain in the ass.
- Penn State’s receivers heretofore had not seen a defensive secondary this fast. I didn’t say “good,” just “fast.”
- One of The Nittany Turkey’s fears about this game was the performance of Penn State special teams. In a close game, special team superiority can be enough to win the game, and it almost did for Florida State. Aside from Willie Reid’s 87-yard punt return (the longest in Orange Bowl history), Florida State could count on their return men for good field position just about every time they handled the ball, negating good punts and kickoffs. FSU averaged 35.5 yards on kickoff returns and 25.7 yards on punt returns. This is not the first time this year that PSU has been burned on returns.
- Another special team deficiency, one that I’ve harped on all year but one that we’ll be losing after this season, is Calvin Lowrey’s ineptness as a punt returner. His best return of the night was negated by no less than three penalty flags, two of which were illegal blocks in the back by Penn State. If that’s what it takes to spring Lowrey for a gain, something is wrong. Most of the time, he fair catches the ball, even though there is room for a run. However, for the two he actually ran back, he wound up gaining a total of five yards.
- Kickoff returns were a little better, with Rodney Kinlaw and Justin King conspiring to average 15.7 yards.
- Kevin Kelly got the game ball after missing two field goals, one at the end of regulation that would have won it and avoided the overtime. I hope no one was cursing the kid. A freshman, who just a year ago was kicking high school field goals, was playing in the biggest game of his life in front of 77,774 raving lunatics in the stadium and tens of millions more on national television. How many of us can handle that kind of pressure at 18 years of age? Ultimately, he hit one to put the cap on the game. He deserves the game ball.
- What a wonderful performance by an offensive line that many of us thought would be mediocre this season! How many calls did vaunted FSU All-America nose guard Brodrick Bunkley get? He was all but invisible.
- What’s this about Robinson overruling the second-down fake field goal called by Paterno? In his final act for this time, Robinson shows that he is as good a leader as Penn State has ever had. His decision proved correct when Kevin Kelly drove the ball through the uprights for the win.
- If you had to look for one player to be MVP, Willie Reid was a good choice with 235 all-purpose yards. Without him, FSU would have been out of it after Austin Scott’s touchdown. On the Penn State side, it was a consummate team effort, but Robinson’s understated leadership certainly deserved MVP consideration.
- Justin King looked like much less of a Wunderkind that he did during the season. It will be interesting to see how he is used next year. I suspect he’ll be playing mostly defense.
This game was a treat that we’ll savor for a long time. Most of these guys will be gone next year and we’ll have to bear with a developing bunch of rookies. Let’s wait a while to concern ourselves with next year and just enjoy this year’s accomplishments a little bit longer.
I dont know if this was one ofthe best bowl games I have ever seen, or one of the worst. It was sloppy, ridden with penalties, and it went too late for us working peeps living on the east coast. I have gotten no more than 4 hours of sleep each of the last three nights. At the end of the day, it was exciting, frustrating, painful and exilerating. What else do you ask for in a bowl game?
Nice write-up…Final score was 26-23 though 🙂
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks for catching my error, TC. I’ve corrected it.
The Nittany Turkey says
It was a dog fight, but I’m thankful that Penn State came out on the winning end. I’m also thankful that I didn’t have to sit there for what turned out to be nearly five hours listening to that annoying war chant. At home, I can turn off the damn sound!
I am with U on that Turk.
That is great except it was Jason Ganter the holder who ultimately called off the fake FG at the end, not Michael Robinson.
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks for the correction, Rich.
Michael did not call the fake. Joe called the fake. Michael argued that the kick was the right play.
I’m happy to see that we’re getting cranked up for the forthcoming season.