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Postseason Roundtable

Mike Pettigano

Did you really think that there would be no more roundtables since Penn State's season is over? This is Black Shoe Diaries where we can, and will, talk about Penn State football 24/7. On to the questions!

Looking back at the 2012 season, what was the one moment that really stands out in your mind?

Nick: The moment in a season of redemption would probably have to be Sam Ficken kicking what would be the game winning field goal against Wisconsin. After being the target of so much vitriol following the Virginia game, to turn his season around and close out the year perfectly fit this team so well.

Ben: Smoke billowed out of the BBQ. I practiced raising and lowering an ice cold frosty in one hand while I watched the opening drive of Bill O'Brien's first career game as Lions head coach against Ohio. The squad won the toss and went on offense - intriguing. Then they moved the ball down the field behind 3 successive first downs, all on passes - surprising. And when they stalled with a 4th and 1 at the Ohio 48 yard line, O'Brien didn't hesitate for a single second. The crowd started to shout 'GOOOO!!!' but they quickly stopped because the offense was already back in the huddle. To top it all off, O'Brien chose Matt McGloin to throw an 8-yard strike to Shawney Kersey for another first down. A pass. On 4th down. At mid-field. On the first drive of the game. After winning the toss and taking the ball. What in the hell's goin' on around here?

Dan: Mike Hull's fumble return for a TD in the Navy game. That moment was maybe the first big play that this defense made that we knew it was capable of making on the season, especially after the dreadful second half performances the two weeks prior. That game began a streak of Penn State defensive players winning the player of the week award for three of four weeks and was the game that turned the entire season around.

Cari: I should probably pick a positive moment, right? Because so much of this season was positive, and exceeded most expectations that I and so many others had after the first game.

But, like the good little Penn Stater I am with my overactive persecution complex, the moment that really stands out is still the no-call at the Nebraska game.

You guys know the call, so I'm not going to hash it out. I'm sure I'm not alone in being still pissed off. After the game, when we couldn't come back after that horrible shitty no good very bad call, I fielded messages and texts from fellow pissed off Penn Staters. We were all dejected and felt horrible for our team, who had worked so hard to have victory snatched from their grasp.

The one positive I can take from it, though, is the reaction the team had the rest of the way--many other teams could've folded, curled up in a ball or rolled over and played dead the last two games of the season. But this team, these men, didn't, and came out on fire the next week versus Indiana, then overcame further adversity with the loss of their undoubted leader and an OMGTDRECORDHOLDER the week after in defeating the Badgers on senior day.

Jared: The 2012 season was littered with storybook moments, but something subtle from the Wisconsin exemplified this year's Nittany Lions squad. Early in the third quarter, yet another questionable call was levied against Penn State. O'Brien decided he wasn't going to take it anymore, and really let the ref have it. I mean, just-about-to-come-to-blows, Paterno in his younger days kind of letting him have it. The team took notice, and started hooting and hollering on the sideline right behind their fearless leader. Something special happens when a coach loses it to defend his team, and this was no exception. I smiled and thought that this was going to be a turning point, and by God was it ever.

Bill O'Brien was recently named AT&T Coach of the Year. In your unbiased opinion, would you vote for BO'B or one of the other strong candidates?

Nick: O'Brien or Urban Meyer - O'Brien overcame so much more, but Meyer finished with an unblemished record, so I think there is a strong case for either guy.

Ben: BO'B gets my vote easily. No coach has ever had to recruit his own players through training camp and during the season. How stupid was that? Lump in all of the distractions from the scandal, the initial grumbling from stakeholders, and the pressure to replace a legend while maintaining traditions and, of course, win with a roster that most figured would land at 5-7 before transfers....has any coach ever faced as much crap to plow through? But BO'B gets my vote because in spite of all of those obstacles, he appears to have ignored them all, done everything his way, and still has the fanbase loving him. Pretty awesome fit.

Dan: I would vote for O'Brien just because everyone expected him to fail coming into this season. People knew that Urban Meyer was coming into the season with a stacked deck. Brian Kelly definitely merits consideration, but with everything surrounding Penn State, you really can't go wrong in naming O'Brien COTY.

Cari: I can't say my opinion is unbiased, but I can say that many other biased people (biased towards other teams, of course) have told me how much they respect BOB and how they feel he deserves to be named coach of the year. So, we'll go with them over my obvious bias, and say yes, I would vote for him and he deserves it.

Jared: There were many, many deserving candidates this year, and it probably depended on if any of them coached your favorite team. O'Brien did some amazing things, as did Bill Snyder, Brian Kelly, Urban Meyer, Mike Riley and Darell Hazell. However, I'd have to go with O'Brien for two reasons- most people wrote off Penn State before the season started, predicting two or three wins during the entire season. Secondly, O'Brien is the only coach in the history of college football that had to suddenly deal with an entire roster of free agents just weeks before the season started. Holding a team together in those circumstances leaves little question about who did the most impressive coaching job this year.

Which relatively unheralded player do you think is most ready to take it to the next level in 2013?

Nick: Nyeem Wartman - I liked the little we got to see of him and he's got great opportunity to become a key playmaker next year despite coming off the injury.

Ben: Miles Dieffenbach could be a really great guard. He saw a ton of snaps in 2012, and played well. He's physically well suited to play in a mostly zone-based scheme, with very good feet. One thing's for certain - he loves to cut when he's backside. He's got to love it, because he does it so well. And perhaps best of all, he's got a little bit of the mean streak on the field - a staple of all of the greatest Penn State guards through the years. Charlie Fisher can vouch for it (hopefully I'm not the only one who remembers that).

Dan: Da'Quan Davis will play a huge part in the secondary in 2013. We didn't hear his name many times this year, but that's probably a good thing when talking about players in the defensive backfield.

Cari: There are two players that I hope and/or expect will have breakout years next year. One is John Urschel, whom I think will anchor the line in the absence of Matt Stankiewitch and Mike Farrell--plus, I just flat-out love and respect that man.

The second player I'm expecting to have a great 2013 is Brandon Moseby-Felder. By the end of the year, defenses knew who Allen Robinson was, and 2013 no doubt will find that to be true in every game from start to finish. But while defenses will key on Robinson, this leaves Moseby-Felder to be relatively less-defended, and will give him an opportunity to be another great wideout option for whomever the quarterback will be. I can't wait to see how the others in the WR corps step up if and when Robinson is taken out of the equation to the best of our opponents' ability.

Jared: Anthony Zettel was buried on the depth chart behind some impressive defensive lineman during his redshirt freshman year, but all he did was make plays whenever he saw the playing field. With the departure of Jordan Hill and James Terry, Zettel has a great shot at starting next to DaQuan Jones if he remains at defensive tackle. Increased playing time, plus another offseason with Fitz and LJ Sr. should equate to Zettel becoming the next great defensive lineman to come out of Penn State.

Which senior will you miss watching play for Penn State the most?

Nick: Gerald Hodges was overlooked because of Mauti, but he consistently brought the lumber when delivering hits and made plays all over the field. His attitude off the field, particularly in the wake of sanctions was pitch perfect too. He wasn't front and center, but he's everything you love to see.

Ben: All of them. I'll miss Yancich on special teams. Jordan Hill kicking the hell out of the entire Wisconsin interior line. Gerald Hodges making a big play. Stank fighting some fat d-tackle to the whistle. Little Stephon Morris tackling on the edge like he weighs 250 lbs. And, of course, McGloin rolling right and hop-dive-sliding into the end zone, and popping up with a discount double check.

Dan: I think without question, I'll miss Michael Mauti the most. Watching him play took me back to watching replays of the defensive performances of the '83 Sugar Bowl and the '87 Fiesta Bowl. He was a Penn State linebacker through and through and I hope someone will take up that mantra of being tough-nosed and leaving it all on the field next year.

Cari: The obvious answer for this, for me at least, is Mike Mauti.

But I'm going to polarizingly go with Matt McGloin. McGloin exceeded any and all expectations I had for him this year, and while he pissed many people off (including me in previous years), he completely upped his game in 2012, and was the epitome of the scrappy underdog that we, as a football team, envisioned ourselves as this season. He wasn't afraid to say how he felt, especially after the horribleness of the Nebraska game, and was a bit too cocky. He wasn't the leader most wanted for the team this year, but he definitely was the leader that the offense needed for much of it.
Plus, he looked pretty handsome in those Burlsworth ceremony pics.

Jared: Like Ben said, all of them. I could write 2,000 word essays on each departing senior, and just may do that if it's a slow offseason. However, Michael Zordich holds a special place in my heart. He seemed to be a throwback to the leather helmet era, and always found ways to provide a spark. Think about all the times he had a devastating special teams hit, a bone-crushing block that set up a big gain from the tailback, or a tough run in a short yardage situation where the offense sorely needed it. He was always brimming with passion for the game, and will be greatly missed.

Are you excited about any of the bowl games? Have you "adopted" a team to follow closely during bowl season?

Nick: I'm very excited by the Oregon/Kansas State Fiesta Bowl and always root for the service academies. Northern Illinois bringing the hot #MACtion to the BCS is an automatic favorite too.

Ben: Nope. I could not care less. You should all be watching the Southern Scuffle January 1st and 2nd, anyhow. There'll be some really great wrestling.

Dan: I'm excited for the national title game because of my upbringing as a Notre Dame fan. Other than that, my top 5:

1. Orange Bowl: FSU vs. Northern Illinois
2. Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
3. Pinstripe Bowl: Syracuse vs. West Virginia
4. Fiesta Bowl: K-State vs. Oregon
5. BBVA Compass Bowl: Pitt v... HAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.

Cari: The non-PSU team I've adopted this year was Iowa, as my trip to the state, and Iowa City, was full of awesome, and amazing people that I met and am still in touch with.

Alas, our beatdown of the Hawkeyes completely destroyed their season; they didn't win another game and will be sitting at home during bowl season.

So, I'm going to pick the somewhat trendy team to root hard for this year: Northern Illinois. The sound of the "tomahawk chop" playing every five seconds still haunts me after the in-person extra time at the Orange Bowl in 2006, and I'd like nothing more than for all they myriad number of haterz (looking at you, Herbie!) to eat their words as the Huskies take down a Florida State team that is living up somewhat to preseason expectations for the first time in a decade.

Jared: I'm bitter as anyone about the bowl sanctions and the idiotic fact that a sixteen-team tournament works just fine for every other level of college football outside of the FBS. However, I'm a college football junkie so I'll still be watching plenty of bowl games. At some point during the season, I "adopted" the KSUs- Kent State and Kansas State. I'm a Kent State alum who now resides on the faculty, so I'm pretty damn excited the Golden Flashes will be going to their first bowl game of my lifetime. Bill Snyder really reminds me of another coach that I always admired, and I had high hopes they would be playing for an improbable national title. Still, Kansas State and Oregon should make for an interesting match-up and I think the Wildcats are much more capable of defeating the Ducks than anyone is willing to give them credit for.

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