Take that, NCAA! I’m preserving the mascot you banned in 2005, because when you yanked the plug on the big chief, college football lost part of its soul. This Turkey is here to protect the aforementioned soul of college football from the politically correct wanker yankers of the NCAA.
The Fighting Illini (who are still allowed to be fighters, yet cannot have their warrior leader) could have used some more horses and some tomahawks on Saturday. Illinois (1-3, 0-2 Big Ten) had been highly regarded before their season started with a loss to Missouri, but things have gone downhill for them ever since. On Saturday, while playing in front of nearly 63,000 orange-clad fans on their newly remodeled home field, they lost once again, this time to our beloved #15 Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten), 35-17.
PSU finally had a game that highlighted the rushing offense while making the heretofore incompetent offensive line look competent. Each of the three running backs, Evan Royster, Stephfon Green, and Brent Carter scored a touchdown; Royster and Green each had over 100 yards. The long run of the day was 52 yards, by Green. The two quarterbacks got into the mix, too, with Daryll Clark running 7 times for 83 yards and two touchdowns, with a long run of 51 yards, while Kevin Newsome ran only once, for 16 yards. Overall, the Nittany Lions ate up 338 yards and scored all five touchdowns on the ground, impressively averaging 8.5 yards per carry. Well done, runners and sleeping giants of the o-line! Moreover, kudos to the much-maligned coaches, who apparently spotted something in the Illinois-OSU tape that led them to believe that they could tear up the middle of Illinois zone scheme.
Passing took a back seat to the resurgent running game, given that the Lions were actually moving the ball against little resistance on the ground. Nevertheless, Clark snapped out of his Iowa doldrums with a 17-25, 175-yard passing performance, spreading the ball around to six different receivers. Derek Moye was the leading receiver with 4 catches for 57 yards. There were no interceptions.
The Penn State defense was able to squeeze the Juice most of the day. Illini QB Juice Williams was 20-36 with one touchdown and one interception. The Illini briefly showed life in the second quarter with the Lions having only a single touchdown on the scoreboard, when Williams hit star receiver Arrelious Benn deep in the middle of the field for a 49 yard completion to the Penn State 8 yard-line. The BBDB defense B’ed but it didn’t B, forcing Ron Zook’s boys to kick a field goal. Both teams went into the locker room feeling that a victory was within reach, the score being 7-3 Penn State. This Turkey, having predicted a close, low scoring game, was congratulating himself on getting it right. However, I had some cooking to do, while apparently, something was cooking in the Penn State locker room.
After the intermission, the first drive sputtered, ending with a fumble, but otherwise, Penn State so dominated the third quarter that the Illinois offense had the ball for less than three minutes. Penn State’s mastery of the game resulted in a single score in the third period, but the second long drive ended with a touchdown early in the final stanza. The Nittany Lions then scored two more touchdowns, after which they let the Illini have a couple of garbage-time scores.
Joe Paterno was pleased with his team’s performance, although he stated that “we still have a lot of things to work on.” Meanwhile, Ron Zook was not happy. In fact, he has decided to make wholesale changes in the team’s composition going forward, as his own ass is on the line. Those changes will begin with the benching of senior quarterback Juice Williams. Junior Eddie McGee will be taking over for Williams in this coming week’s game against Moo U.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction. This is a lot of thought and what-if, what-if, what-if. But the bottom line is we’re in a part of our schedule now where we’ve got to go play,” said Zook.
Now, they’ve got to play? Oh, so they weren’t playing when the Lions beat them? OMG, does that mean Zook is saying that they handed the win to PSU??? WTF???
(I wasn’t being serious with that last paragraph, by the way. It’s just part of an ongoing series of veiled references designed to make Iowa fans feel better about their win.)
Here in The Cave, a sparse crowd sloshed away the game with Black Box wine and Thai beef salad. We were graced by the company of Artificially Sweetened, who, being a UI alumna, is the official source of Illinois wisdom in the group. Today, her lecture centered upon “The Bean”, a giant polished stainless steel jelly bean in Chicago’s Millenium Park that is also known as Cloud Gate. It weighs about 100 tons. I understand that former governor Milorad “Rod” Blagojevich, commonly known as “Blago,” was once overheard offering to make someone eat The Bean if they didn’t come up with a decent enough payoff, and Oprah Winfrey once ordered a bowl full of them because she was pretty doggone hungry on a cold and gray Chicago morn. President Barack Obama once gave one of his overblown speeches right there by the bean, and the whole audience went and bought out the entire supply of Beano at the nearby Walgreens. These are famous Chicago people. But I digress. Oh, one more thing: recently appointed senator Roland Burris placed the blame for the Illini loss squarely on the shoulders of former president George W. Bush. That has nothing to do with The Bean, but everything to do with Illinois politics and certainly brings us back to the PSU-Illinois game.
So, what of the Turkey’s prediction? Well, I said that the Lions wouldn’t beat the spread and that the game would be close and low-scoring. I blew that prediction big time. So, I’m 4-1 overall and 3-2 versus the spread at this point. At least, I think so. I’m too tired to look it up. Who cares, anyway?
One of the things I thought would happen in this game almost did happen. I thought Arrelious Benn would get behind the defense and score on a long pass play. As I mentioned above, he got down to the 8. However, he wasn’t able to get ungetrakt (that’s German sportswriterese for “on track”) returning kickoffs, getting the ball only once for 33 yards. I thought he would break one. My bad.
Nittany Lion punter Jeremy Boone received Big Ten Player of the Week honors for his performance in this game. He kicked only four punts for an amazing average of 49.5 yards, including a booming 66-yarder. He also nailed two inside the 20, one of them at the one yard-line. Congratulations to Jeremy, who is the solidest (and sometimes the only) player on our deservedly much maligned special teams, who this week fortunately gave up “only” 125 yards on six kickoff returns. Collin Wagner was a perfect scoring machine, going 0-0 on field goals, but hitting five of five extra points.
I’m comfortable with Penn State’s present ranking at #14 in the AP poll. The ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, in which Penn State is #12 and Iowa is #14, has me befuddled.
There is every reason to be optimistic about Penn State’s chances with the Eastern Illinois Panthers, who come to Beaver Stadium Saturday. I’ll be back later this week with some notes on that game, which certainly is the last of the almost certain wins of the season.