Wisconsin 45, Penn State 7: The Road To Nowhere

 

CONSPIRACAHH.  Okay, the officiating.  Yes, it was bad.  Could there have been more holding calls against Wisconsin?  Sure.  Was the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against McGloin awful?  Unbelievably so, yes.  He spiked the ball for his own safety when a play was blown dead for a false start.  Not with any malice or emotion, really, just getting rid of the ball so he wouldn't be killed by an oncoming defensive lineman who failed to hear the false start whistle.  Still, come on, people.  Be above it.  Your team lost by 38 points.  Fight it out here, if you must.

Completeness.  Really, Penn State got away with playing close games against a bunch of one-handed teams.  None of them had the balance and skill of Wisconsin.  Matching up against the Badgers at Camp Randall was a venture requiring multiple lucky breaks, Penn State maxing out its potential, and Wisconsin somehow showing up flat.  Safe to say, none of this happened.  Penn State was a half-notch above flat for the entire contest, and benefited only from an egregiously blown coverage in Wisconsin's secondary.  The Nittany Lions' front seven was driven downfield all evening by Wisconsin's offensive line.  Russell Wilson was maniacally efficient.  When he wasn't throwing darts to his receivers, he was nimbly dancing through tackles for ten-plus yard scrambles.  Resistance, difficult as it may have been to discern, was futile.

It Was A Team Effort.  It's senseless to dance on the grave of an offense that only scored on a badly blown coverage and did squadouche the rest of the day.  So let's make this short.  It was our own version of Yakety Sax out there.  McGloin threw a stupefying interception that handed Wisconsin the ball at midfield, after they had already seized first quarter momentum.  Silas Redd fumbled after colliding with an offensive lineman.  Mike Zordich coughed up a pop-up kickoff return.  Everything went against Penn State.  They were not helped, and did not help themselves. At Camp Randall, against a team that good, it's bound to be an avalanche.

On The Bright Side!  Apparently, the Wisconsin fans derisively chanted "Jer-ry" at Penn State throughout the second half.  Because child molestation is hilarious.

Again, Let It Be Said.  This team had little business going 9-3.  They spent three quarters of the season embroiled in a quarterback controversy and essentially had no offense to speak of against any worthwhile defenses.  They barely beat Temple and Indiana, as you'll recall.  Yet, they persevered and finished in a tie for the Pig Division title with Wisconsin.  Not too shabby.  Don't know what it says about the rest of the Big Ten, but let's try to remember that this team somehow overachieved in spite of everything.  And I mean everything.

Yet, Forgettable.  It'll be near impossible for this season to be remembered five or ten years from now for anything other than the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Joe Paterno's firing.  What was this season's defining moment on the field?  Perhaps the fans at Beaver Stadium rushing to get behind the goal posts prior to Illinois' game-tying field goal attempt.  Maybe the ground-and-pounding of Iowa, which helped erase years of frustration against our best frienemies.  We love these stupid teams and sports because they create memories for us to build little chunks of our lives around.  Here's the most obvious thing I've ever written: good memories were hard to find in 2011.  We won't look back on it fondly.

Houston, Hello!  Bowl projections are flying about.  CBS' Jerry Palm has Penn State in something called the Meineke Car Car Bowl of Texas against Texas A&M at noon on New Year's Eve.  None of this will be settled until after the various conference championship games next weekend, but if Penn State is staring at a mass-snubbing by the bowl cartel, at least your former BSD admin will get a home game out of it.

Finally, The Road To Nowhere.  With Tom Bradley and his remaining staff unlikely to be retained, our eyes turn toward the coaching search.  Vanderbilt's James Franklin is reportedly signing an extension to stay in Nashville, while Al Golden signed an extension to stay in Miami until 2020.  Without the Sandusky scandal, finding someone to replace Joe Paterno would have been tricky, but not impossible.  Now?  Kind of impossible.  It's hard to tell what direction Dave Joyner might be looking, because he's said practically nothing about the opening other than "everyone is welcome to apply", as if this is a job fair.  In reality?  It's kind of a job fair.  There's very little ground when it comes to evaluating the Penn State job right now -- it's either 31 flavors of toxic, or a hell of an opportunity, depending on the beholder.  Anyone who wants to be considered should be considered at this point.

Mississippi State's Dan Mullen has been bandied about as a candidate.  Curiously, so has Mark Richt.  Mullen at least has some Pennsylvania ties.  He was born outside of Philly, played at Ursinus, and...well, that's it.  Certainly, Mullen realizes that trying to win in the SEC while recruiting players to Starkville is an endeavor with a limited shelf life.  Mississippi State is essentially the SEC's Purdue.  Only so much that can be done there, and I'm mildly intrigued.  Richt?  Sure, he's perpetually on the verge of being fired at Georgia, but his potential availability is about the only thing linking him to PSU at this juncture. 

Hard to imagine who else might even be in play.  John Hufnagel?  Harvard's Tim Murphy?  Does Charlie Strong get a call?

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