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Penn State Shows Fight and Resolve in a Hard Fought Win Vs. Formerly Unbeaten Northwestern

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HAND THE BALL TO THE OFFICIAL:

Psu-vs-nw_medium

via adsportsdisorder.com

The last time Penn State played Northwestern, I was alone in a Mexican hotel room watching the game on a mini-laptop as my wife enjoyed her Beef Wellington. The couple we were on vacation with thought I was crazy, but my wife knew going into our marriage that I would never miss Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions play on Saturday. With a new coach, new staff, and a bunch of guys deciding to leave the program, one wondered whether the Northwestern game would carry the same feel. If this game was any indication, we have our answer.

Anyhow, I am trying a new style to the blog this week. It is in the mold of a stream of consciousness style commentary on what I observed throughout the game. Plenty of sarcasm and humor is embedded, but the most important thing I am looking to do is provide analysis for the courageous young men that stuck it out for Penn State. Enjoy.

THOUGHTS THROUGHOUT THE GAME

  • The only thing worse than Bob Griese calling a game is Brian Griese calling a game. Actually Pam Ward is unquestionably the worst, but the brass at ESPN decided to relegate her to the WNBA for the time being after years of torturing whatever team drew the short stick to play on ESPN2. Nevertheless, Brian Griese is hard to listen to. Do you remember when he was the cover boy of fantasy magazines in the early 90's as the heir to John Elway in Denver? Yeah, that didn't pan out. Within the first few minutes of the game he informed the viewers that the "Y" tight end in Bill O'Brien's system is a blocker that doesn't typically catch the ball. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Rob Gronkowski the "Y" in New England? Good call, Brian.
  • Bill Belton hit the open field in the first drive of the game on an impressive run. Belton was initially committed to W. Virginia and I thought to myself, "Can you imagine him at West Virginia this year with all those weapons?" By the end of the game, I started imagining him playing for Penn State, because outside of the first series, Belton hardly played. Still don't know what happened, if anything.
  • It's 4th and 9 on Penn State's first drive just on their side of the field and they're already starting in with this "We go for it on every 4th down on our side of the field" thing. I tried that out a couple times in Madden when I was 13, but it didn't work out so well. A false start got Coach O'brien to punt and Northwestern was pinned inside the 2 yard line where the defense handled their business.
  • 3 and out in NW's first drive. Gerald Hodges set the tone with a monster hit.
  • There were several dropped passes early today, including a dropped TD by Kyle Carter that led to a field goal. Yes, an actual field goal from Valparaiso native Sam Ficken. Somewhere, Robby Hummel is proud. Penn State 3, Northwestern 0.
  • By the second drive, Zach Zwinak was in. In the second quarter he finished a drive off with a 1 yard rushing TD where he handed the ball to the official. I can co-exist with names on the back of the jerseys on a temporary basis, but if one of these guys does the aforementioned Gronkowski spike, I'm livid. Act like you've been there, or you may end up looking like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbN0WNCkTY8 Penn State 10, Northwestern 0.
  • Mike Mauti was the National Defensive Player of the Week, but the linebacker that is playing the best football right now is Gerald Hodges... He has deflected multiple passes and he just threw Kain Colter like a Cabbage Patch Kid.
  • Wrangler: Real. Annoying. Commercials. Seriously, the U-cut? Brett Favre sporting a pair of jeans does not inspire me to run out to Kohl's to pony up $25 to sport a pair of Wranglers (No, for the last time, I don't want to open up a Kohl's charge, madam). I doubt Nike experienced a jump in the sales of the faded pink golf hat Favre was wearing for every interview a few years ago. Hey Brett, take off your hat off when you are indoors. Joe Paterno taught me that.
  • Jesse Della Valle muffed a fair catch giving NW the ball inside the 20. Regardless of the last play, I love this kid and the way he plays the game... another walk-on giving his all.
  • Vernin Mark is 150 pounds and good. He slides in for a TD on a pitch. Penn State 10, Northwestern 7.
  • Every time McGloin throws one of those quick screen passes I think of Robert Bolden's identical type pass that got picked by the Illinois D-End for a score. That was one of the worst games I have ever had to suffer through.
  • Daniel Jones, the nickel corner for Northwestern, is a player. It's got to be his name.
  • This defense is legit, and the linebackers are as solid as ever. Hodges and Mauti will be contributing for some lucky teams on Sundays for sure.
  • Pat Fitzgerald was fired up on the sideline in the second quarter. The last time I saw him that fired up I was watching him play linebacker at Northwestern in a hospital guest room with my Uncle Mark in 1996. True Story.
  • It's hard for me to think that Pat Fitzgerald was appointed coach at Northwestern at the age of 31. Personally, at 29, I'm happy with coaching 8th grade basketball and J.V. baseball. This guy was a D-1 head coach in the Big Ten at essentially the same age as I am now. Impressive. Fitzgerald is all class.
  • One of the more lackluster pass interference calls you'll see was just called on Stephon Morris. From the replays shown, he never touched the receiver that I can see. Griese speculated he may have interfered earlier in the route. How did I know he would say that?
  • Fitzgerald's enthusiasm and a putrid call substantially helped out the Wildcats. Tony Jones caught a difficult pass from Trevor Siemian to put NW on top before the half. Penn State 10, Northwestern 14.
  • In the 1st drive of the second half, it was all Zach Zwinak. He single-handedly took PSU down the field touching the ball 6 straight times via the run and pass to set up a Matt McGloin to Allen Robinson TD putting Penn State back on top. That's Robinson's sixth receiving TD which leads the Big Ten. The formation he scored out of looked a formation you would get on Georgia Tech's NCAA Football 2002 playbook. Somewhere George O'Leary is tipping his cap (perhaps of the weathered pink style). Penn State 17, Northwestern 14.
  • Random Thought... I've been excited about three more years of Kyle Carter. I think it may be 2 more years if he continues on his current path. Nothing makes me smile more than undervalued recruits producing at a big time level when message board posters bashed them merely because of their offer sheet. Take that, LionKing25.
  • Kain Colter and Northwestern provide a counter-punch as Northwestern scores from 10 yards out. After a 3 and out from Penn State, Vernin Mark returns a punt 75 yards for a score. As I've been told by a few gentlemen that have gazed upon my lovely wife, Alex Butterworth "outkicked his coverage." Just like that, Penn State 17, Northwestern 27.
  • I'm seeing visions of Michael Robinson to Isaac Smolko on a 4th and 15 deep in Penn State territory to surpass insurmountable odds at Northwestern... Visions of Zack Mills coming off the bench cold in a situation where some had little faith...
  • This Big Ten commercial sickens me. The incredible moment between Tamba Hali and Coach Paterno should not have been removed from this commercial in my humble opinion. I know this may not be a popular opinion, now you know I don't care.
  • Penn State puts together an 18 play TD drive. On 4th down, Allen Robinson snags a 6 yard TD grab from Matt McGloin. They get the 2 point conversion on a run from Michael Zordich. Penn State 25, Northwestern 28.
  • Malcolm Willis goes down along with an official. He stays down by himself as the Northwestern trainer played Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman with the injured official's knee. Willis stays down unattended before the Penn State staff arrives. Hope the official is okay, glad to see Willis walk off.
  • Defense steps up big to force a Northwestern 3 and out. Can't say enough about this defense.
  • The genius announcers lament that Matt McGloin didn't really play until the end of last season? Fellas, try reading your notes or at least a program. Mr. Griese also tells us that Allen Robinson "hasn't really got going." His stat line at the time was 8 catches for 79 yards and 2 TD's.
  • On the 22 yard line, down 3 points with less than 5 minutes to go in the game, Penn State goes for it on 4th and 2 rather than attempt a field goal to tie the game. Wow. They convert. How often can they continue to go on 4th down? Do you know what it takes to sell real estate? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FWfKoc-MKM
  • McGloin rushes for his 5th rushing TD this season. I did not see that coming, nor did you. He has been running sneaks frequently on 3rd/4th and short. McGloin has some guts and is showing some serious leadership. Penn State 32, Northwestern 28.
  • After Penn State receives the ball back, Mike Zordich puts together two very impressive runs to put the Nittany Lions up... Penn State 39, Northwestern 28.
  • And that is your ball game.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • This defense is solid. I miss Scrap on the sidelines, but having Johnson and Vanderlinden over there is a bit relieving.
  • The offense was impressive today- the running game in particular. Penn State stuck with the run even when they were down double digits. Sound familiar? Zach Zwinak seems to have a large role running the ball if today's game is any indication of things to come. Zwinack is a hoss who will make a cut and get north and south with power. I'm looking forward to seeing Belton and Zordich contribute as well.
  • Coach O'Brien's philosophy with the offense is intriguing. He treats 3rd down like 2nd down on the plus side of the field. The guy runs on 3rd and long to set up the 4th down pass. That's either guts or lunacy. I'll go with the former rather than the latter.
  • I like Sam Ficken (Kicker) and am rooting for this guy all the way and believe he can turn it around and contribute. I also like economics and believe the competition is a good thing. Is there not a kid on campus that played high school soccer or at least FIFA Soccer on his Playstation? As Ficken kicked his field goal from 21 yards out, O'Brien had a look on his face as if someone in close proximity crop-dusted the sideline near his vicinity. He looked like my cousin's toddler ripping a three day old scab off his knee. I can only hope this gets resolved, because Penn State needs someone to kick field goals.
  • Enjoyed it... send me your comments below. As I'm finishing up my Master's degree, coaching 2 sports, teaching with everything I have, and trying to be a good husband, I can't guarantee this column will always be this elaborate. However, I'll do my best from here on out.

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