MADISON, WISCONSIN, November 4 — I’m not going to write much about this crappy, vapid game, because it was the same old insipid stuff as we’ve seen the rest of this jejune season. The more significant events were outside the sphere of the exhilarating game itself, including Paul Posluszny setting a Penn State record, Joe Paterno taking a hit on the sideline, sustaining a knee injury, and ESPN (hopefully former) commentator Craig James calling Joe an “old fart.”
First, the game. The Nittany Lions (6–4, 4–3 Big Ten) lost it as much as Wisconsin (9–1, 6–1, Big Ten) won it. Squandered opportunities, dropped balls, and weird play calls did us in. The final score was 13–3. The Badgers shut down the Penn State running game, allowing only 36 yards while ringing up 167 of their own. Their balanced attack featured 174 yards passing as well. Time of possession was 37:47 to 22:13 in favor of Wisconsin—just the way they like it. The bright sign, if one is to be taken from this rubble, is that our coaching geniuses are throwing more to the tight end, Andrew Quarless, who had five receptions.
One ball thrown to Quarless caused the event by which most of us will remember this otherwise dull game. Quarless was driven out of bounds right into Joe Paterno, whose left knee visibly buckled in the ensuing plethora of sickening TV replays. Paterno also sustained a cut on his left leg. After it was clear that Joe couldn’t stand unaided, he was taken to the bench, where he was fitted with a brace. Then, he was carted off the field to the locker room. He did not wait for the team, instead flying back to State College for more X-rays and an MRI Sunday or Monday.
Now, let’s back up to the end of the first half. Bret Bielema, savvy young coach of the Badgers, had scored with 29 seconds left in the half and needed to kick off to the Nittany Lions. Aware of the new rule this year that requires the game clock to start as soon as the ball is kicked, Bielema had his team go offside on the kickoff twice in a row, causing 25 seconds to evaporate. Smart move, and it royally pissed off Joe. However, it was a legal play, obviously something not considered when the NCAA Rules Committee met in the off-season. Joe gave the halftime interviewer a brusque send-off as he stormed into the locker room.
Now that this loophole has been exploited, it is likely that there will be “copycat crimes” until the NCAA amends the rule book once again. I doubt that there’ll be any remedies until after the post-season. It would not be fair to change the rules in mid-season. Joe can yell at all the referees he wants to, but this is going to be decided in an oak-paneled ivory tower before the 2007 season begins. in the meanwhile, all is fair in love and war.
At halftime, we shifted to the ESPN College GameDay studio. Desk bound announcer Craig James decided that he really liked Bielema’s originality in calling the deliberate offsides, but in commenting on it his exuberance went a little too far when he referred to Paterno as an “old fart.” Somehow, he must have thought that this immature crap was funny. (I suppose it was funny—to the fourteen year-olds in the audience.) Accordingly, this immature old fart will respond in kind. Craig James, you dick, you are expendable. As a commentator, your role requires that you be unbiased. Vilifying a particular team or its coach is not your editorial prerogative. You couldn’t carry Joe’s jock strap. This Turkey would love to be a fly on the wall at the meeting with your boss on Monday. I hope you wind up being demoted to Pam Ward’s color commentator, serving your probation doing all the North Dakota State home games wearing women’s underwear.
As for good news, with a tackle in the second quarter, linebacker Paul Posluszny became the all-time leading tackler in Penn State school history, surpassing the mark of 343 set by Greg Buttle from 1973-75. “It doesn’t mean much,” Posluszny said. “The game and coach Paterno’s situation are more important.” Once Joe’s knee heals, though, it will mean a lot, for Poz is liable to hold the record for a long, long time.
One blogger pretty much hit the mark with respect to this boring game. Run Up the Score (who puts the Turd in Saturday), in his great Friday article “Let’s Pretend I Care,” said that he’d probably miss this insipid game and go skiing at Copper Mountain, Colorado. Although his score prediction assumed a comparatively worse day for our defense, he hit the mark with his commentary. It was indeed an anesthetic game. So, I hope he had a fulfilling day on the slopes! It was the proper choice.
The Nittany Lions are still bowl eligible, but they’ve gone from a Waterford crystal bowl to an old Ironstone bowl. One more loss and it’ll be the porcelain toilet bowl. In terms of non-sarcastic, non-mythical bowls, by losing this game, Penn State, now with three conference losses, has blown its chance at the Capital One Bowl (there, I said it), and the very best we’ll be able to do is the Outback Bowl in Tampa. This looks pretty solid at the moment—if we can manage to get past Temple and Michigan State, the latter of which is by no means a sure thing. The picture has become a bit clearer now that Iowa has lost to Northwestern, eliminating the Hawkeyes from the Big Ten three-loss logjam, which now consists of Indiana, Penn State, and Purdue. Indiana still has to face Michigan and Purdue still has to play Indiana. Let’s assume that Penn State will beat Temple and Michigan will beat Indiana. If PSU can beat Moo U. in the season finale while Purdue wins out, the Nittany Lions, having beaten Purdue, hold the tie-breaker. In this scenario or if Indiana beats Purdue, Penn State would go to the Outback Bowl. So, hold on tight—this one might well boil down to the last week of the season!
In case you haven’t figured it out, this old fart Turkey is officially worried about the Michigan State game.
OK, let’s wrap this thing up for now. I’ll be back later in the week with a preview of the Temple “game.” Why should I bother? Well, force of habit, I guess.