Penn State 45, Moo U. 12
The mighty #7 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten) defeated the struggling Michigan State Spartans (3-9, 1-8), better known as Moo U., to recapture the crappy Land Grant Trophy. The final score was 45-12. More importantly, the Nittany Lions will be playing in the Big Ten Championship.
I thought I would be right for a change about this one. I said that Michigan State was better than their crappy record, and that Penn State would be in for a battle — which they were, for the first half. I predicted a low-scoring, defense-oriented game, and that’s what we got —for the first half. In fact, Artificially Sweetened had curled up on the sofa for a nap, and I was getting drowsy.
What’s the deal?
The first half was indeed soporific. The big highlight occurred when PSU fans got the word that Ohio State had beaten Michigan in two overtimes in Columbus, which meant that the Moo U. game would mean more than the ugly Land Grant Trophy for Penn State and its fans. A win here would clinch the Big Ten East and give them the right to play Wisconsin for the conference championship in Indianapolis next week. So, why, when we saw shots of the St. Joe Stadium at Beaver stands, did we note a veritable plethora of empty seats?
Disinterest? A crucial game like this? Oy, vey. One explanation for the anemic crowd was that the students were home for Thanksgiving break. (Can I say “Thanksgiving?” It’s kind of a Christian holiday because the pilgrims were Christians and their Native American guests of honor were practitioners of some damn kind of pagan shamanism, so don’t we have to sanitize the whole thing of religion completely? Oh, yeah. Trump won, so we don’t have to do that anymore. But I digress.) I noted lots of empty seats in non-student sections, too. The weather was decent. So, what’s the deal?
Sleepy First Half
I had a bad feeling as Moo U. drew first and second blood in the first quarter. Fortunately, the Penn State defense stiffened up each time the Spartans threatened, holding them to field goals. Michael Geiger kicked a 28-yarder and a 36-yarder, while the Nittany Lions sputtered on offense.
In the second quarter, Tyler Davis kicked a 35-yard three-pointer for PSU, to which Moo U. replied with another field goal. On the next possession, Trace McSorley took his Lions on a ten play, 77 yard drive to paydirt, with the coup de grace being administered by superstud runner Saquon Barkley.
Moo U. responded with a fourteen play, 72 yard drive culminating in a field goal to make the score Moo U. 12, Penn State 10. And that’s the way the half would end. Michigan State scored on all four of its possessions in the first half.
Second Half Team
Defensively, the Nittany Lions would have none of that score-on-every-drive bullshit from the Spartans in the second half, so they shut out Moo U. Meanwhile, the PSU offense scored 35 points to win this thang going away.
Brandon Bell was by far the most studly prolific defender of the day, with three solo tackles and fifteen assists for a total of eighteen, including a TFL. Manny Bowens had four tackles and five assists plus a sack.
Now why, I ask, can they not play that way for sixty minutes?
Oh, yeah, some will say it is the strategic plan. James Franklin and company are smarter than I am, no doubt. Well, at least in the football sense they are. Perhaps there’s something brilliant in this Second Half Team crap. Time will tell. (That’s the equivalent to the parental noncommittal statement, “We’ll see.”).
Stopping the Run Provides Opportunities
One thing appeared very clear to me in this game. Moo U., as expected, did everything they could to stop Saquon Barkley, who wound up with just 14 net yards rushing on 12 carries. Trace McSorley could add only 13 yards on 10 carries. The Spartans sold out on run defense, and didn’t have enough talent in the defensive secondary to keep up with Penn State’s speedy and capable receiving corps.
The PSU receivers are universally critiqued as not gaining sufficient separation from defenders to make plays, but everything was clicking for them in this game. They consistently beat the Moo U. secondary. Chris Godwin led all receivers with five receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Former Hands of Stone candidate tight end Mike Gesicki had two great reception for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Trace McSorley was relieved by Tommy Stevens before the final possession of the game. McSorley left with one of his best stat lines ever, completing seventeen of twenty-three passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns. He was right on the money with his passes, the kind of NFL accuracy we never saw from the Hackmeister.
Let me give an uncharacteristic shout-out to the cobbled together offensive line of Penn State. You guys rock!
Not a Third-Down Team
Right. When the only effective offense is completing long passes, you obviously don’t have much of a short game. You don’t hold onto the ball long enough to give your defense a rest, either. Moo U. dominated time of possession 34:24 to 25:36, and had 26 first downs to PSU’s 18. Of course, you know what I’m going to harp on next. Penn State was a putrid four for ten in third down conversions. This is a bit above their average, though. I am cautiously optimistic about the potential trend here.
The Post-Season is upon Us
Isn’t it great that Penn State has had such an astonishingly great run this year? Yeah, we know now that an angel is firmly perched on James Franklin’s shoulder, but I’m glad they’re giving us a good ride. First, we’ll have the Big Ten Championship, and then, a decent non-toilet bowl. This will be a fun winter.
Regardless of how the boys do against Wisconsin and beyond, they deserve our respect and admiration. They’ve come a long damn way.
I’ll be back with a look at the Wisconsin game early in the week. In the meanwhile, it is time to reprise this.