I have previously called other games, games earlier this season and games from years before, sloppy, ugly, painful to watch. That was only because I did not have this one as a frame of reference. If those other games were messy affairs, this was the sloppiest, the ugliest, the puntingest, even, at times, the stupidest. The least logical. By the second quarter, this game transcended football to become performance art. To call this football is to call Too Many Cooks a credits sequence: Technically true, but only by the slimmest of margins.
A personal note: I was watching this on my computer, via the BTN2go website. The site refused to let me log in until midway through the first quarter. The feed cut out about every five minutes, and both coming into and out of every commercial break. Perhaps the machines have gained sentience, and the first emotion they've chosen to display is empathy.
During his postgame interview on the Big Ten Network, James Franklin repeated called this the prettiest win he's ever seen. I'm not sure if it was lampshading or straight-up trolling, but it needed to be said, if only to relieve the tension. By then, we were able to laugh it off.
It makes very little sense that Tevin Coleman, who came into this game a darkhorse Heisman trophy candidate and the consensus best-player-you've-never-heard-of, would be outrushed by Bill Belton, and, until the fourth quarter, by Zander Diamont. It makes very little sense that Penn State would have, on the same series, three separate first-and-goal opportunities, but somehow more that they'd walk away from that with no points. It makes little sense that Zander Diamont would twice elude the grasp of Mike Hull in the backfield, and slightly more that Mark Murphy's bubble-screen-interception-touchdown would only be the first Hackenberg's thrown this year, despite the predictability of a play-call practically begging for it.
It makes not a lick of sense that this 2014 Penn State team--a team that, coming into the game, ranked 122nd in the country in rushing--would set a new Nittany Lion record for the longest touchdown run in program history. It makes even less that the over/under for this matchup was set at 45.
Then again, it makes perfect sense that Bob Shoop's defense would pitch a shutout against an Indiana offense that has been unable to move the ball since Zander Diamont ascended to the starting role. At this point, it's not surprising that Christian Hackenberg completed 41% of his passes for no touchdowns and two interceptions--though, to be fair, one was off the hands of Bill Belton and not entirely his fault. The completion percentage, though, belies no such caveat.
That a nosediving Penn State team beat a torpedoing Indiana team isn't particularly shocking, either, and from the beginning, we knew this would be the exact sort of punt-filled afternoon it turned out to be. Not everything was entirely illogical, and that may be the worst part: games like this are the norm, now, and we have to hope that we can avoid out-sucking Temple and Illinois in what are certain to be low-scoring, turnover-filled, defensive "battles" only in the sense that the offenses sometimes need help sabotaging themselves. Given that Indiana came in to this game as the second-to-worst team in the Big Ten in both scoring and total defense, it's clear that John Donovan--and, yes, Christian Hackenberg--have taken it upon them to carry most of the weight themselves. They're increasingly fortunate, week to week, that the genius of Bob Shoop, and the play of his defense, in all facets, has cancelled their ineptitude out almost exactly.
But hey, the losing streak is over, and we're just one game away from bowl eligibility. Detroit awaits, fellas.
Oh! Miles Dieffenbach came back, also. Maybe if Donovan Smith can recover from his concussion before the end of the year, we'll have an offensive line that's only bad and not incomprehensibly terrible!