I apologize for the tardiness of this post mortem. I have been dealing with a persistent case of pneumonia. If you’ve been there, you know how energy waxes and wanes. It has mostly waned for me. Nevertheless, I managed to stay awake for the PSU-Indiana game last Saturday, which was also my birthday (celebrated at Mike’s Garage with some candles and bad singing). Helluva present this illness was!
The game was held at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, home of the NFL Washington Redskins. The Hoosiers had accepted a $3 million payout to move what was originally a home game right into Penn State’s backyard. Thus, for the Nittany Lions, it was a home away from home game.
After a week of Urinegate and self-flagellation over the Ohio State loss, both the Penn State players and their fans were ready to take it easy. Fans laid back into Couch Potato Two Mode, while players — well, they played video games and hoped that a hangover wouldn’t prevent them from making the bus to the airport. Somehow, in the end, with a couple of breaks, this group of underachievers who thought they could almost literally mail it in for this game managed to win 41-24.
This was a game that everybody had been writing off as an almost automatic Penn State win since the beginning of the season. Even in the deepest depths of despair following the Homecoming loss to Illinois, Penn State fans continued to count this one as a win, “OMG OMG, we’ll beat Indiana and lose the rest!!!” Somehow, that brash assumption must have sunk into everyone’s motivator muscle group that no real exertion would needed and sweat would be measured in picoliters.
As you know by now, four defensive players were late, and Paterno punished them by not playing them in the first half. Of course, the defense played pretty well without them and it wasn’t until they entered the game in the second half that the defense started looking bad again.
Repeating the Ohio State script for a while, the Lions looked good in the first quarter, finishing their second touchdown drive at the start of the second. From that point on, they began to get scary. Sphincterization, missed tackles, the usual… it was all present in the second quarter. PSU went into the locker room barely hanging onto a 17-14 lead.
With renewed vigor in the second half (NOT!), the Lions allowed the Hoosiers to come back and tie them at 24-24 with 6:15 left in the third quarter. Collin Wagner missed a subsequent 44 yard field goal attempt, and the natives in Mike’s Garage grew restless.
I counseled them to have faith. Penn State would win this game. Well, that’s not exactly how I said it. My statement was, “Don’t worry. Penn State will win because Indiana has figured out how to lose every close game this year, usually with some kind of spectacular screw-up.”
We didn’t have to wait long for my prophesy to be played out on the field. After the failed field goal by Collin Wagner, Indiana stalled at their own 32 and punted on fourth down. Andrew Daily made a spectacular block on the punt, which James Van Fleet scooped up and took to the house, resulting in a 31-24 lead with 3:35 remaining.
That was the turning point, and although there were a couple of scares, Penn State was able to hang on through the fourth quarter and win 41-24.
So, we get back to this issue of team leadership and team discipline. I understand how players will occasionally show up late for practice, but four guys showing up late for the bus to the airport? There’s no reasonable excuse for that. Neither is there any excuse getting hauled in for disorderly conduct on the morning of travel to a big game (in this case Ohio State), as was done by Sean Stanley (who has been in trouble more than this once this football season). If going out and having a good time has taken precedence over playing their asses off on the field, they should be gone. Furthermore, these are the incidents we’ve actually heard about. There are undoubtedly more, probably minor infractions, that we’ll never know about. All I’m saying is that if many on this team hadn’t given up prior to the Ohio State game, they’re sure as hell showing signs of doing so afterward.
So, the offense was pretty good against a defense that is destined to make opponents’ offenses look good. I don’t regard this as a major accomplishment. Silas Redd came in after sitting out his requisite one quarter doghouse time for his getting caught taking a leak on the Agricultural Engineering building. He wound up running for 50 yards on 9 carries and Royster, who really didn’t look too effective, had 48 on 16 carries. A new rushing weapon, Derek Moye performed a couple of successful end-around experiments. With the injury to Doug Klopacz, the offensive line was reassembled with Wisniewski in the middle, and it seemed to do as well as, if not better than, the original unit. McGloin had a career day, going 22-31 with 315 yards and two touchdowns.
This victory means a couple of things. First, poor Indiana (4-7, 0-7) has not won a single Big Ten game this year. Second, as Penn State (7-4, 4-3) was supposed to win this game easily, especially in view of Wisconsin taking apart the Hoosiers the prior week by the ridiculous score of 83-20, but they let Indiana hang around for practically the whole game. WTF? These guys still don’t know how to smell blood and make the appropriate kill moves. With one more game coming against one of the Big Ten front-runners, this does not portend well.
I hope to be back on Wednesday with a preview of the Moo U. game. The Spartans haven’t won in Beaver Stadium since Penn State joined the Big Ten (0-8), which means that they prefer to leave the abhorrent Land Grant Trophy in the All-Sports Museum rather than taking the eyesore back to East Lansing. However, this year they appear to have their best chance to get off the Beaver Stadium Schneid, so let’s hope that the Nittany Lions can focus on football instead of public urination and contemptuous tardiness.