I’ll Gladly Eat Crow!
Crow I’ll eat, already! I’ve been wrong all year. I was optimistic at the season’s outset, thinking 8-4 and a victory over Ohio State was possible. I would have been happy with that. For the past few years, we Penn State fans have had to set our sights on a modest target and be disappointed when the actual achievement was even lower. This year, it went the other way. I set some high expectations, and the overachieving Nittany Lions of 2016 smashed through them to achieve even higher heights.
I got a text from a friend after the game. It said, “What do we know about football?”
“Nothing,” I responded.
That’s a fact. Not only I, but the rest of the bullshit artists of the so-called legitimate media, the so-called blogosphere, and so-called Vegas were all wrong about Penn State from the git-go. Vegas set 60-1 odds for PSU to win the Big Ten, and the rest of us, daunted by a 2-2 start that included a blowout loss to Michigan, thought it would be business as usual. Then, an overtime win over Minnesota created a spark that ignited the conflagration that this team became as they burned through the Big Ten.
Now, the Big Ten championship is theirs. It is a new era. This season is a line of demarcation between the flatliners of the recent past and a young team for which the sky is the limit. My single expression of quasi-pessimism is that I hope our Lions aren’t a flash in the pan, like the Iowa Hawkeyes of 2015. I could easily adopt that line of thinking, but I won’t. A victory over USC in the Rose Bowl would further solidify my convictions that this group of guys will go great places.
(As of this time, I don’t know whether Penn State will be going to the Rose Bowl, or the playoffs, or elsewhere. I seriously doubt that it will be the playoffs, because the top four appeared to be set in stone by the CFP committee, and nothing that occurred during championship weekend should negatively impact those four.)
The Championship Game
Anyone who needs me to tell him or her what happened in this game is either incommunicado at the South Pole (where Buzz Aldrin isn’t) or isn’t a Big Ten fan. Trace McSorley deserves a shout-out for his gutsy, gritty, galvanizing performance. Indeed, he was the game’s MVP. On a day when Big Ten Player of the Year Saquon Barkley was somewhat hobbled as well as being targeted by the Wisconsin defense, McSorley’s arm won the game. He sure pulled out his athleticism for all to see at just the right time for such metaphorical exhibitionism.
(If I’m McSorley, I’m pulling out my athleticism more frequently from now on.)
The obligatory details, just for my memory jogging purposes when I read this five years from now, follow.
The #7 Penn State Nittany Lions (11-2, 8-1 Big Ten) defeated the #6 Wisconsin Badgers (10-3, 7-2) to claim the Big Ten Conference Championship, at Lucas Oil Stadium in NativeAmericanapolis, NativeAmericanana. Trailing most of the game, Penn State did its second-half wake-up call, scoring 24 points to Wisconsin’s three after the break. The final tally was 38-31.
Vegas had chalked up the Badgers as three-point favorites, with an over/under of 47. If you had gone with either, you would have lost your shirt.
Barkley did enough
While Barkley was being corralled and held to only 83 yards rushing with one touchdown, he was instrumental in scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a pass reception from McSorley. Barkley had two receptions for 20 yards and a very crucial touchdown.
McSorley had an excellent day, completing 22 of 31 for 384 yards and four touchdowns. His throws were right on the money, and his great receivers earned their salaries a hundred times over. Led by Saeed Blacknall with six receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns, the receiving corps also included a workmanlike performance by DeSean Hamilton (8-118), Chris Godwin (3-33), and tight end Mike Gesicki, who caught three passes for 58 yards and a TD.
Screw-ups didn’t matter — but they could have.
We’ll look past the screwups of the first half — because we can. They don’t matter anymore. Penn State won. However, I must say something. Without hesitation, I can completely look past the turnovers caused by players, but I have to question the coaching decisions. What’s up with going for a fourth down conversion in Penn State territory in the second quarter, and then try it again on the next possession after having made a mild incursion into enemy territory? WTF? Those fall into my MBTB category: More Balls Than Brains.
Shout-out to the staunch defenders of Penn State.
The Penn State defense did not wear out due to the relentless running of Corey Clement, as I had expected them to do. Led by Brandon Bell with 13 tackles, including 10 solos and a sack, and Marcus Allen with 11, they were on their game, although the Badgers’ brutal running game behind a massive offensive line severely tested their fortitude and stamina. Clement had a season-high 164 yards and a touchdown, while his freshman partner Bradrick Shaw carried 15 times for 62 yards.
Wisconsin dominated time of possession, as is their wont.
Now, we wait to see that we’re either in the Rose Bowl with USC, or not. It’s been fun, folks. Anyway you look at what happens from here on, we have good reason to be extremely proud of the accomplishments of the 2016-7 Penn State Nittany Lions.
I’ll be back with a preview of our bowl game, about which I can say one thing at the moment: it won’t be the Toilet Bowl in Kohler, Wisconsin.