Penn State 27, Michigan 17
There will be those who say, “It was just Michigan and Michigan sure as hell sucks this year.” Yeah, well, if you look at all the bloggers and YouTubers calling for Jim Harbaugh’s head, you’ll see there is some truth to that rumor, at least in the minds of dumbass true-Blue fans. Nonetheless, Michigan football is in a bad way, so naturally, the simple solution is get rid of Harbaugh.
All this season, we have been hearing wails for a similar percussive measure for Penn State: the simple solution is to get rid of James Franklin. You can’t fire the team, so fire the coach. Fans are idiots, but they all have opinions, which is what this blog is about. Like assholes, we all have one and mine is particularly shitty.
Losing to 0-5 Penn State is a significant negative stigma up there in the Great Lake State, the tipping point for all-out insurrection and a public lynching for Jim Harbaugh. Adding fuel to the fire, the hapless NFL Detroit Lions announced during our game that they had shitcanned their head coach, Matt Patricia, and general manager, Bob Quinn, which gave disgruntled Michigan fans something to hope for: exile Harbaugh to the House that Matt Millen Demolished and save relocation expenses. But alas, conscience does make cowards of us all.
A win, a very palpable win.
But let not those reflections dampen the joy of a win. As Hamlet said, “…there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come…” (We Klingons love to quote Shakespeare). Yeah, it was lowly Michigan, but it was a win, a very palpable win, and it was now. (Or something like that).
Most importantly, the offense was mostly error-free for a change and the team’s attitude was universally uplifting. Not that there weren’t glaring mistakes elsewhere — PSU’s defense was still missing open-field tackles and special teams… well… they suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked! (Two kickoffs out of bounds and a missed field goal with a trajectory like that of a well-flung boomerang — but they had their bright spots, too, like the fortuitous punt return cough-up by a Wolverine returner).
The offensive line did its job, as reflected by the success of the running game. Penn State wound up with 254 yards on the ground — freshman Keyvone Lee leading the charge with 22 carries for 134 yards in the absence of Devyn Ford who was with his family in the aftermath of a tragic death.
Did freshmen save the day?
In fact, there were freshmen all over the place. Those eager-to-play kids might have given the team the spark they needed to get their attitudes out of their asses. Good move by our beleaguered coaching staff, who also acted engaged to a greater extent than we’ve seen this year.
This time, it was Penn State who came to play, who drew first blood and kept their heads up from start to finish, and it was the Wolverines who looked as if they didn’t want to be there. Sean Clifford, who could have been shell-shocked at this point in a bad year for both Penn State and him, remained stalwart and played a good game behind an effective (for a change) offensive line.
A defining moment.
So, when I asked what will be the memorable defining moment of this game that would be viewed in retrospect like Michigan’s goal-line stand in the 1993 game, it was a similar defensive stop by the Nittany Lions, as if karma had finally redeemed us. Midway through the fourth quarter, with Michigan driving into Penn State territory, the defense held firm on fourth-and-inches, sealing the victory. It was simply a harbinger of hope — an indication that these guys really do want to play.
Phil Grosz of BWI and I are always looking back at teams of 20+ years ago to make favorable comparisons and predict outcomes accordingly. That’s something old guys do to give them some grounding. It’s bullshit, though, because each team is different. Perhaps it is better to be Robert Burns’ mouse — living in the present, not the past or the future. But I digress.
Yeah, I’m still guilty of some negative thinking. “This is where they blow the game,” I thought during that remarkable defensive stand. Michigan will score a TD and will demoralize those guys into letting up with the game on the line. But no. They stopped the drive with the game on the line. While the defense is far from perfect and this season won’t be salvaged, they might have set the tone for some decent competition during the remainder of the year we’ve mostly given up on. And maybe, just maybe, for next year.
On the other hand, it could have been a fluke, and (cue cello) The Dark Years, Phase Two, could have begun with the Indiana loss and might end who knows when. My head once again swims, musing about past and future. There I go again — let’s just enjoy this dose of karma.
Karma has a long way to go as we move forward in this PSU-Michigan rivalry. The next thing we want to avenge is the two seconds the officials gave Lloyd Carr in the 2005 loss.
Not a Sanguinarian.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not becoming a Sanguinarian. This team has many, many problems to solve, problems that won’t come close to resolution this year. Penn State is neither an elite team nor a great team by any conceivable stretch of the imagination: Franklin’s, the Sanguinarians’, or anyone else’s. However, if they keep playing with their heads up (in the air instead of up their asses and if they keep playing with a spark of motivation, I’ll enjoy watching them complete this screwed-up season. Only Rutgers, Moo U., and the Plus One game to watch, and for this foul old fowl, there are now good reasons to view all of them.
Yeah, even though we got a noon start again against Rutgers.
Da Clock, Mutha…
And speaking of heads up the ass, what about that clock management thing at the end of the first half? Wait 15 seconds and then waste a time-out with the ball at the Wolverine 15. Move it down to the 5 and clock it on first down — with 46 seconds left??? Waste a down thusly and wind up kicking a consolation field goal on fourth down. And just who in the freaking hell spikes the ball from the shotgun? Is weed now legal in Michigan? I think so, and I think Franklin and Ciarocca must have been smoking some! Oh, well.
Around the Big Ten
This week’s major upset was not Penn State beating MIchigan. Undefeated #8 Northwestern bowed to Moo U., whose defense is still sound. The Spartans held the Mighty Wildcats to 285 yards, only 63 of which were on the ground, and they forced four turnovers. Rutgers defeated Purdue 37-30. Schiano II’s boys are putting points on the board — they’re up next for PSU. The Ohio State-Illinois and Minnesota-Wisconsin games were cancelled due to Covid-19.
Thing is, will tOSU even qualify for the playoffs, given that they have played only four games thus far? We might well see Indiana and Northwestern battling it out for the Big Ten champeenship and one of them going to the Big Dance. In Cynical Turkey Mode, however, I believe that the CFP will find a way to include the Schmuckeyes regardless of number of games played, unless qualification rules absolutely cannot be bent.
So, the Nittany Lions are no longer winless. Yeah, it was “just Michigan” and it is a ridiculous year, but it is a satisfying win for this turkey. James Franklin noted the difference in atmosphere at Michigan Stadium: “The roads around Michigan Stadium were empty and no one was there to raise their middle finger at us as we made our way inside.” His testimony reflects the oddball tone of this season, but at the very least, the “lose every week” monkey is off our backs. We might be able to enjoy watching the few remaining games.
Think we’ll get a good bowl? OK, OK, now I’m being a jaggoff!
I’ll be back mid-week with some musings about the Rutgers game, which suddenly might be almost worth watching, maybe, perhaps…