Penn State 23, Rutgers 7
The resurgent Penn State Nittany Lions (2-5) extended their winning streak to two by defeating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-5) 23-7 on a crappy day in Piscataway at SHI (where’s the T?) Stadium. This dominating effort was the Lions’ fourteenth straight win over Rutgers. Hey, they invented football thousands of years ago. And Al Gore invented the internet back then, too. But I digress.
In a game most of us penciled in as a bye week in our pre-season assessment, both offensive and defensive lines proved they were up to the task. Why couldn’t they have played like this against Indiana or Ohio State, you ask? Have they finally gotten their “superior talent” act together? Of did Rutgers merely burst their own bubble, reverting to the crappy Scarlet Knights we all know and love?
The crappy Rutgers we know and love?
Rutgers had certainly exceeded expectations to this point in this pseudo-season, even with only two wins. Greg Schiano, nine years after his last head coaching stint at Rutgers, seemed to have his team well motivated and playing hard — until Saturday. The Nittany Lions came to town and destroyed them with a Nor’easter brewing: a foul loss to match the foul weather.
Penn State reverted to fundamental, grind-it-out football of the St. Joe variety. Run it up the gut! Pound them mercilessly into submission! Put them in a hole and don’t let them out! The Lions rushed 57 times for 248 yards while their trusty defense held the Knights to 83 yards rushing and just 205 total yards. PSU led time of possession 36:47 to 23:13 and dominated first downs 23-12. Yep, a good old fashioned butt kicking wrought upon the Rutgers we know and love, avenging last year’s awful first half.
I suppose some will once again question James Franklin’s play calling decisions and clock management, especially given the abysmal red zone performance (again). The same old plays ran repeatedly. However, it was a win, so I won’t be overly critical, especially because suddenly, over the last two games, the team appears to have “found itself”, playing like they want to be there — like they care about winning.
Yeah, I know. Michigan and Rutgers. Two laggards. But it’s a start, a springboard to a couple of potential victories over Moo U. and Illinois or Purdue. It might be enough to give us hope for some normalcy next year. Given the topsy-turvy season and its convoluted rules, a trip to a bowl destination might be possible with a 4-5 record, but I think the team would be best advised to reject any such invitation.
Yeah, I know, Joe. A bowl bid entitles them to engage in additional practice sessions. However, the NIttany Lions have done a fantastic job of sticking with the team when they could have opted out. Given all the distractions, shouldn’t they be rewarded with an opportunity to spend time with loved ones instead of a meaningless bowl trip? Because football starved fans want to see another game? Because Sandy Barbour’s athletic program coffers might get a boost?
Let’s Keep the Abominable Land Grant Trophy!
With this convincing victory, the upsurging Nittany Lions have shown that they are worthy of escaping the bargain basement of the Big Ten East. A win over Moo U. next weekend would put them at 3-5 and leave at least two two-loss teams beneath them in the standings. (If they play, Michigan will surely lose to tOSU). Way to claw your way back, Lions! OK, I’m a bit overexuberant after wins over the dregs of the East, but I’ll take irrational euphoria for now. Who the hell can figure out this strange football season, anyway?
Moo U. has no offense — Rocky Lombardi looks more like a surfer than a quarterback — but their defense ain’t half bad. Well, unless they’re playing tOSU. With our own long time defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Sr. coaching the Schmuckeyes due to Ryan Day’s Covid-19 positivity, the Spartans lost 52-12 on Saturday. Moo U. didn’t score until the clean jerseys started appearing in the second half. They “held” the Schmucks to 521 total yards. However, we all know that tOSU by far has more offensive firepower by far than any other Big Ten team.
So once more unto the breach and the Nittany Lions can leave this season with their heads held high.
I’ll be back with a further look at Moo U. and even a picture of the abominable Land Grant Trophy for which it will be played.