Yep, your Turkey screwed up with his disbelieving prediction of a Penn State loss in the annual rivalry game with Ohio State. Brutus ran out of batteries (Right, Chrysanne? Right.) while Penn State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) hung on for the win over OSU (6-5, 3-4), 20-14. This was the first momentous win of the post-Joe Paterno era.
Sorry for my lateness. Aside from it being perilously close to Thanksgiving, which is a very sad day for my foul fowl family, I’ve got other excuses. Having attained my birthday wish of spending a lazy day with Artificially Sweetened on Sunday, I deferred this post until this morning, which rapidly became afternoon courtesy of 1,001 crises. So, this is what retirement is all about! I guess that the time was more structured when I was working, which led to more focused times of relaxation in writing Turkeyesque drivel. Besides, Penguins fans, it’s only three hours away from Sidney Crosby’s first game since New Years, to which I’m looking forward with bated anticipation.
Anthony Fera has once again earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance in the Ohio State game with three out of four punts downed inside the 20 and two for two on field goal attempts made. Hats off to Mr. Fera! You know that it had to be a hotly contested game if it came down to punts and field goals.
As if the scandals at both institutions of higher learning and football were not sufficient distractions for the players in this contest, which we dubbed The Cereal Bowl, rumors were flying about Urban Meyer having accepted the open coaching position for the Buckeyes. However, by sundown, he vociferously denied the rumor that he had been offered the job, and twice as vociferously denied that he had accepted it. Nevertheless, where there’s smoke, there’s fire and the ESPN “according to sources” rumor suggested Meyer and OSU had at least had some discussions about it. Hard to keep a lid on things like that.
A Penn State win on Saturday coupled with a Wisconsin loss to Illinois would have slid the Nittany Lions right into the Leaders Division champions’ berth in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis on December 3. Half of that happened, but Wisconsin failed to cooperate, which means that this Saturday’s game with Wisconsin is for all the marbles. Whoever wins goes to the conference championship to face the Legends Division winner, which will be Michigan State. Although Michigan can equal Moo U’s record with a win over OSU and a Moo U. loss to Northwestern, the Spartans beat the Wolverines midway through the season.
“I challenged the guys on the team to show a lot of character and resolve, which they did.” —Tom Bradley
This game is also a milestone in that it is only the third time in the past 40 years that Penn State has won in the Horseshoe. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Ohio State started freshman quarterbacks in each of their losses in 1978 (Schlichter), 2008 (Pryor), and 2011 (Miller).
While I screwed up the win/lose result, I nevertheless gave you the correct gambling play: take Penn State plus seven and take the under. Send me a tip for the correct call there.
The reasons for my predictions were obvious: both teams had capable defenses combined with suspect offenses. However, I thought that the return of DeVier Posey would be an edge in favor of Ohio States offense. Even if he was only used as a decoy, he had to be accounted for, meaning someone would be open. Fortunately, other receivers turned stone-handed, and freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, having leaned heavily on the option run all year, was not noted for his passing ability. He wound up 7-17 for 83 yards and one touchdown passing, along with 105 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown rushing. Posey led all receivers with four catches for a total of 66 yards.
Matt McGloin didn’t have a great day throwing against Ohio State’s defense, roughly equaling Miller’s performance with the major exception of trading an interception for a touchdown. He was 10-18 for 88 yards passing, and a big, fat zero yards rushing.
With passing taking a backseat to rushing, this was a game to make ol’ Joe Paterno and the late Woody Hayes happy — vintage 1975 Big Ten football. Three yards and a cloud of dust. Defense, defense, defense.
Penn State had 33 more rushing yards than Ohio State, 239 against 206. Stephfon Green wound up with 93 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. Silas Redd, who had no contact in practice all week due to a sore shoulder, still managed to ring up 63 yards on six carries, with a long run of 42 yards. Six other players accounted for the rest of the yardage, including Curtis Drake with 50 yards on three carries.
What was truly amazingly great — and a relief from the boring, plodding Paternoesque game — were the wildcat play calls involving direct snaps to Curtis Drake (who Paterno had been using sparingly due to a broken leg) and freshman Bill Belton, who Paterno wouldn’t have even bothered playing because of his class standing and the old man’s policy about “waiting their turn.” Not only were the wildcat plays flamboyant and fun to watch, but also they were effective against the Buckeyes’ defense.
What was not great at all was a return to the arrogant, stubborn Paternoesque game calling that took place in the third quarter with Ohio state still within a touchdown. On first and goal from the one yard line due to a holding penalty on Ohio State, the Penn State offensive brain trust decided on four runs up the middle, two fullback dives by Zordich, one attempted sneak by McGloin, and finally, a quick opener that closed very rapidly on Silas Redd for a turnover on downs. To come away with no points on that possession — even though they weren’t ultimately necessary, represented a travesty of coaching with roots deeply stuck in the Paterno era. Starting with the Alabama game for the national championship in 1979, we’ve all seen enough of this stubborn crap to be sick of it and hope that it’s behind us. Of course, Ohio State didn’t score for the rest of the game, so it can be written off to trusting the defense to keep the opponent in check, but one touchdown would have been all that was required to make the coaches look like damn fools.
As it turned out, all of the scoring took place in the first half before the defenses took over in the second. Penn State drew first blood on its first possession marching 80 yards in five plays with help from a pass interference call on Travis Howard, capping it off with a Stephfon Green 39 yard run. On the Nittany Lions’ next possession, they stalled at the OSU 26 and kicked a field goal.
The Buckeyes came back with a touchdown from Braxton Miller on a 24 yard run in the first few seconds of the second quarter, after getting a break on a face mask penalty by Glenn Carson, reducing Penn State’s margin to a field goal.
On the next series, the Lions turned Silas Redd loose and were rewarded by his 42 yard run up the middle to the OSU 36. McGloin completed a pass to Derek Moye for another 20 yards and Bill Belton did his wildcat thing for another first down at the Ohio State 4. A handoff to Stephfon Green was all that was required from there. Penn State 17, Ohio State 7.
After a Buckeye three-and-out, McGloin threw an interception to Orhian Johnson from the Penn State 36, to where Johnson returned it. OSU drove down to the Penn State 7 and scored on a pass from Miller to Jake Stoneburner. Ohio State was once again within a field goal.
Subsequent to the kickoff, Penn State played the possession game, letting Brandon Beachum, Curtis Drake, Stephfon Green, and Brandon Beachum take turns rushing, Drake’s 38 yard run from the wildcat being the showpiece. A delay of game penalty interrupted the Lions’ momentum and made zbeard yell “C’mon, boys!”. They stalled at the Buckeyes’ 29. Anthony Fera’s 46 yard field goal was good with no time left in the half, and that was all she wrote. Penn State 20, Ohio State 14.
Then, in The Cave, it was time for our halftime steaks and Caesar salad. Both Jackstand and zbeard had brought desserts because of a snafu probably caused by me. When one of them mentioned the pie, Artificially Sweetened said, “We’re not having pie.” Then, this Turkey correctly guessed that she had bought me a birthday cake. It was not just any birthday cake, but a Carvel ice cream cake. Yummo! She served my second portion with an extra ampoule of insulin.
After the food was served, we settled back for a tense second half of watching the PSU defense win the game for the offense, which had turned ineffectual. Ohio State’s defense had cracked down, too, as was evidenced by the totally ridiculous fourth down stop of Silas Redd (ridiculous because Penn State should have kicked a field goal in that situation). I said so. zbeard countered with, “No more of this field goal crap!” while Jackstand and Artificially Sweetened were deeply engaged in a discussion about Louis Pasteur.
Speaking of zbeard, it turned out that he was wrong about the time of possession. It was virtually even between the two teams. Turnovers weren’t, though, as Ohio State fumbled away the ball twice, compared with Penn State’s lone interception. The two give-ups were on two consecutive third quarter series’ — one I’ve already described that ended with a turnover on downs after four stubborn up-the-gut runs and the other one that did no damage, either, as Penn State helped out the Buckeyes with a three and out.
The game was attended by an announced crowd of 105,493.
Both AS and zbeard passed out after the game. AS slept through a Penguins game — the whole damn game — and zbeard woke up in a state of post-coma confusion, wanting to know if there were Giant Eagle supermarkets in the Orlando area. I had to tell him that the TV channel the Penguins were on was a local Pittsburgh cable channel.
This was a very good, confidence building win that is indicative of the strong defensive, positive turnover ratio game that Penn State can play. One more game to go against the more dangerous Wisconsin, whose offense cannot be described as “suspect” at all, given the number of points they’ve put up this year. Against Michigan State’s staunch defense, they scored 31 in a losing effort. They also scored 29 when they lost to Ohio State. It will be a very interesting game to say the least, and I’ll be back later in the week to give you my take on it.