Remember the title of my pre-game post? To refresh your memory, it was Trap Games Are for Sissies. So, what happened on Saturday could have produced a really disgusting article from me here today, as the #12 Nittany Lions (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) did indeed look like sphincterized sissies for three quarters until they redeemed themselves in the fourth quarter, eventually licking unranked Northwestern (5-4, 2-3 Big Ten) 34-13.
They came out with their heads somewhere else — entombed, perhaps, in a warm, dark, redolent intrapersonal space with a Vise Grip for a sphincter — as they allowed the Wildcats to dink their way down the field to a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. The touchdown scored by Northwestern represented only the second time a TD has been scored on Penn State in the first half this season — not coincidentally, the second in back-to-back road games in which the Lions suffered a slow start.
Then, something fortunate happened to the Nitty Kitties, albeit not of their own doing. NWU quarterback Mike Kafka, who with the help of his hurry-up, no huddle offense, was impressing this Turkey by hitting receivers in voids in the Nittany Lions’ vaunted BBDB soft pass defense, pulled up lame, grabbing his hamstring on one play and heading to the bench for the rest of the game after the succeeding play. Later, Wildcat sources confirmed that the injury was to Kafka’s lower leg, not the hamstring.
This game kicked off at 4:30, not noon, Eastern Time, so the guys didn’t even have the early kickoff excuse to fall back on as an explanation for their lameness in the first three quarters. I don’t want to take credit away from Kafka and head coach Pat Fitzgerald, though. I’m just sayin…
Who knows what would have happened had Kafka stayed in the game instead of being replaced by young sophomore Dan Persa at that point. Kafka had performed brilliantly, completing 14 of 18 passes for 128 yards, as his allegro molto rhythm had the PSU defense on its heels, attempting to extract their heads from the aforementioned warm place. Kafka also hurt Penn State with his legs, as he rushed 8 times for 42 yards and a touchdown. Persa was 14-23 for 115 yards for the rest of the game after relieving Kafka. He was also effective on the ground, gaining 42 yards on 14 carries with a long run of 25. He admitted that he was in over his head — it takes lots of real game experience to be able to think as quickly as Pat Fitzgerald’s bang-bang offense demands.
Penn State was able to add a touchdown on a 2-yard Daryll Clark scramble after Clark moved the ball down the field using mostly sideline routes to Derek Moye and Graham Zug. A pass interference call put the ball on the Northwestern 15, after which Clark hit freshman Curtis Drake, who was forced out of bounds on the 2, setting up DC’s score.
Northwestern closed out the half with a 45-yard Stefan Demos field goal, after an earlier, 37-yard effort had been blocked. The Wildcats took a three-point lead into the locker room.