I’m a little late in penning my Ohio State vs Penn State 2014 football game recap, so this will be anticlimactic, albeit highly opinionated (big surprise!).
I don’t think anyone anticipated the kind of game it would turn out to be! Took me a while to collect my thoughts and prepare to eat some crow — and some eggs, tomatoes, and cheese.
First, I’ll briefly summarize the game details. As you know by now, the Penn State Nittany Lions (4-3, 1-3 B10/14) put up a helluva fight later in the game to overcome a 17-0 deficit to tie the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1, 3-0) 17-17 at the close of the fourth quarter, then wound up losing in two overtimes, 31-24.
You would have been a winner if you had taken the over. None of our crack predictors captured the way the game played out, so no shout-outs this week. We’ll all do better with Maryland on the horizon, I’m pretty sure.*
Let’s get down to eggs, tomatoes, and cheese.
- Egg on my face for saying the PSU defense would fail the first real test of the year. They excelled in this memorable game, shutting down tOSU passing game and even intercepting J. T. Barrett twice, and this, with the injury to Ryan Keiser necessitating his replacement with freshman Marcus Allen. Mike Hull was a madman and so was Anthony Zettel, whose pick-six interception in the third quarter provided the Nittany Lions with their first seven points and turned Big Moe their way. However, the tOSU offensive line dominated the war in the pits most of the first half until the grand awakening of the PSU D occurred. The Buckeyes seemed to be able to run at will. Zeke Elliot wound up with 109 yards on 26 carries, and Barrett had 20 for 75.
- The Penn State running game once again laid an egg with an average of 0.5 yards per carry. The injury to Zach Zwinak on the opening kickoff requiring that he be carted off the field certainly didn’t help, although it arguably got Akeel Lynch more carries, something we had been hoping for. Bill Belton managed to come through with a touchdown run when called upon at a crucial time, so it wasn’t all bad. However, I don’t care if you had Ameer Abdullah back there — behind the incompetent offensive line, the rushing game would still suck. (See tomatoes, below.)
- The punting game. Oy vay. Well, at least Franklin hasn’t put all his eggs in one basket. He pulled Chris Gulla and went with Aussie freshman Danny Pasquariello, but one was as bad as the other. Gulla had four punts for an average of 37.5 yards, while his relief man from Australia had four for 31.5.
- Sam Ficken was a good egg on special teams, kicking three extra points and a 31-yard field goal. To Gulla’s credit, he functioned well as the place kicking holder when pressed into service due to the injury to Ryan Keiser.
- It is my hope that the damn offensive line situation doesn’t literally kill the goose that lays the golden eggs: Christian Hackenberg. I’ll beat on this a lot, because it has me very worried about Hack and his future.
- Rotten eggs to the PSU athletic marketing crew, who must have purchased the crowd’s pom-poms from the cheapest possible source in Southeast Asia. Crepe paper crap was wafting through the air and settling onto the field during the entire second half, looking like someone blew up a flock of sheep on the 50 yard line. I imagine the cleanup has to be interesting, to say the least.
- Christian Hackenberg was a ripe tomato for Joey Bosa and the Buckeye defense, taking five sacks and being continually pressured. His passing was erratic, tentative at times due to what commentators call “footsteps”. The lack of protection provided by the deficient offensive line has to be getting into his head, and it is certainly getting him into the whirlpool in the training room. As more weeks pass without decent protection, he’ll grow more and more shell-shocked. Commentator Todd Blackledge, a guy who has been there himself, confirmed this notion. Nevertheless, pressed into action by an almost nonexistent rushing attack, Hack managed a 224 yard, 31-50 day with one TD and two INTs. Plus, he directed a pretty amazing drive to tie the game that even the boneheaded decision to spike the ball unnecessarily wouldn’t thwart.
- What a tamayta that young receiver DaeSean Hamilton is, with 14 receptions for 126 yards! And we finally got a taste of what Saeed Blacknall could do, with a great touchdown on a perfectly thrown ball from Hack. That was the most memorable of his four receptions, but we can look to the future for some solid performances from this guy. But what about former go-to receiver Geno Lewis? What’s the deal? One reception? He took one helluva hit, though. Splat!
- The offensive line — rotten tomatoes tossed at them again from this crusty old fart. I know you’re tired of this mantra, but that’s the way it is. If you’re forced to play the McCabe Sisters and they give it all they’ve got, then quit yer bitching, right? Wrong, we can always hope for something better than what it is, no matter what the causal factors are, and we all know what they are. I will give credit where credit is due. They held it together pretty well after Donovan Smith was injured and Wendy Laurent had to come in at center. Still, to use the stupidest cliché in all the world of illiterate sports utterances, they are what they are.
- Such a tomato, already, was the “twelfth man” — all 107,895, or at least all but the few in the corner of the north upper deck wearing tomato and gray. They caused more delay of game penalties and time outs with their noise than I can even recall, keeping J. T. Barrett and Urbz on edge. I think they might have even flusterated the officials, who couldn’t seem to communicate very well among themselves (see cheese below). Great kudos to the whited-out crowd, man. Excellent work!
- Such cheesy officiating I’ve never, ever witnessed, especially not in a marquee game and not even in a high school game, already! Even Dick Witvoet’s crew would have done better — I was wishing that they were there instead of these incompetent clowns led by John O’Neill. That verschißene phantom interception was clearly dropped, but whatever angle the replay official was viewing must have obscured that fact. So, why can’t the officials see what the fans in attendance saw on the Jumbotron and what fans watching the telecast saw umpteen times? That damn interception cost Penn State seven points. And isn’t it the officials’ job to watch the clock that the rest of us can see, too? Not calling a delay of game on that field goal attempt might have cost Penn State three points. These zebras really belong in a zoo, not on a football field.
- As bad as the officiating was, I’m not willing to accept the conspiracy theory so frequently advanced by whining Penn State fans when the bad calls go against them. The bad calls that benefit Penn State are quickly forgotten; only the ones that screw us are remembered. It’s cheesy to bitch about conspiracies. Dude! Bring on the black helicopters! At this point in my diatribe it is worthy of note that tOSU right tackle Darryl Baldwin jumped early on the play that ended in Zettel’s pick-six, but illegal procedure was not called. A dead-ball foul would have nullified the play, possibly saving tOSU the seven points. I’m sure many of you saw it, but you conveniently forgot about it when the play that should have been whistled dead resulted in a Penn State touchdown. You secretly knew that PSU got away with something, but mum’s the word! Yeah, right. Come on, man! You’ve got to look at both sides and not ignore the crappy calls that wind up going your way, man!
- An offensive line that has more holes than Swiss cheese continues to be a focal point of this turkey’s concern, not only for the present, but also for the future. How long can Hack’s body and mind continue to take the punishment? How long before he says “screw it!” and transfers? How long before his psyche is permanently affected by the spectre of “footsteps”. It is clear that he is shell-shocked at this point, and five sacks in the tOSU game exacerbated his anguish. He’s a young guy, and a lot is being placed on his shoulders. He’s not going to be able to do it single-handed. He has some great receivers, but he has no time to make reads and get the ball to them. I think it was an understatement when he declared that he was frustrated, but we can’t expect any significant improvement in the offensive line situation this year. Hack will either have to grow increasingly more frustrated while looking toward the far horizon for better years to come, or bail out. We hope he has the patience to stick with it.
All in all, I have to say that I’m encouraged by the defense having passed the test. This defense can win a couple of the remaining games all on its own. Whether the offense can provide enough points is still in doubt.
Artificially Sweetened told me something that I’ve rarely heard from her. She said, “Even though they lost, the game was highly entertaining.” I told her I agreed, even though the first half wasn’t very entertaining.
There are no moral victories, says Franklin, so the only consolation will be that the Buckeyes’ failure to dominate will be noted by the playoff selection committee, as it already has by the now meaningless polls.
Of course, we in The Cave were well lubricated. As you probably know, the Ohio State Buckeyes’ colors are scarlet and gray. Our pre-game toast to our opponent was an invented cocktail called the Scarlet and Gray Pimpernel, made from strawberries (scarlet), black cherry juice, Grey Goose Le Citron (the gray), Dry Vermouth, and balsamic vinegar. The dinner feast was grilled salmon with lemon-butter-rosemary-caper sauce along with a spinach salad with strawberries, pecans, and gorgonzola cheese with a honey-balsamic dressing engineered by this old turkey, and the accompanying Pinot Noir was provided by RD, who also brought a key lime pie to complement the turkey engineered strawberry pudding (scarlet pudding).
I’ll be back with a look forward at the Maryland game. I’m off to read about the tOSU game. (I try to avoid reading others’ commentary before writing mine so as not to cloud my opinions with theirs.)
Please feel free to share your elation, woes, and frustration.
*In my family, “I’m pretty sure” translates to “I have no fucking clue.”