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47 Random Thoughts on Minnesota

Random musings on the weekend that was in State College

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State Nittany Lions and the Minnesota Golden Gophers engaged in a contest of American football on Saturday afternoon in State College, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions emerged victorious, 29-26. I have many thoughts, which are randomly set forth below:

  1. A few comments that are entirely unrelated to this past weekend’s game. My apologies for those of you who missed this post last week. My family suffered a personal loss last week and I missed the game live. I did find out the score and, admittedly, elected not to watch. I think, given the fact that Michigan beat the holy heck out of us, I made the right call.
  2. I got to “watch” this weekend’s game courtesy of ESPN’s GameTracker, as close friends of ours (one of whom was a Penn Stater) got married on Saturday. Unlike last week, I did make time to watch this game through the magic of BTN2Go.
  3. Knowing the end result in advance likely made this a much easier game to watch and analyze for me. The vibe I’ve gotten from some is that this game was frustrating and sloppy and upsetting. I didn’t see it that way at all.
  4. Instead, I saw an exciting game pitting two relatively evenly matched teams against each other. A game that featured only one turnover, plenty of momentum swings, big plays, a hot crowd, and a free 15 extra minutes of football. I’ll take that any day.
  5. For those of you who are frustrated with this squad, it might help to take a moment and assess where we are in the grand landscape of college football. In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Penn State was college football royalty, on par with modern day Alabama or Ohio State. It’s contemporaries were other major national powers - Alabama, Miami, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
  6. It’s also true that Penn State football, after a few down years, saw something of a renaissance, winning two Big Ten titles and a bunch of bowl games and finishing in the top 10 on three separate occasions.
  7. Then the walls came crashing down, the water breached the dam, and Penn State was left for dead. We’re not hoping for a renaissance. We’re hoping for Lazarus.
  8. Viewing Penn State games through either the initial dominance lens or the renaissance lens is giving you blurred vision.
  9. Unfortunately, context matters. So yes, through the lens of the Ghosts of Penn State Past, Penn State “is supposed to beat Minnesota.” Handily. Particularly in Beaver Stadium.
  10. No, Penn State Present is not supposed to run roughshod over anyone. Not Ohio, not Virginia, not Temple, not Pitt, not Indiana, not Maryland, not Rutgers, and not Minnesota. That was the whole point of July 2012.
  11. That’s not to say Penn State won’t get back to the mountaintop, but it is to say that your expectations need to be lower at this moment in time.
  12. Once you get past the idea that Penn State is supposed to be Alabama because reasons, you start to appreciate games like this one. Games where a young team starts to figure things out, learns how to make big plays, and doesn’t give up on itself.
  13. With respect to the details of the game itself, we really need to start with Tyler Davis. Yes, really.
  14. I’ve pushed the Blake Gillikin narrative as much as anyone, and Joey Julius has been the guy to gain national prominence for his “take no prisoners” attitude. But seriously, all Tyler Davis does is make field goals. ALL OF THEM.
  15. This is the first time in years, dating back into the Paterno Era, that I remember special teams being a legitimate strength. Each of the aforementioned three is vital to the field position game, and John Reid looks ready to take a punt back to the end zone at any given moment.
  16. Based on McSorley’s first half stats, I was surprised to see him complete his first three passes to three different receivers. A nice way to start the game, and good to see everyone involved.
  17. It’s very clear at this point that Saquon Barkley is going to have to break 4 tackles to gain positive yards. Unsurprisingly, opposing defensive coordinators are game planning to stop him. The fact that he still manages to break 20 yard runs is a minor miracle.
  18. Smart move by Minnesota to bring the corners in run support regularly. That seemed to throw Penn State for a loop.
  19. Minnesota’s offense is interesting. I don’t think you can be nervous to face them, but Leidner appears competent (as expected from a 5th year senior), and the two running backs are both very good.
  20. How about a hand for Matt Limegrover? His Minnesota offensive line was pretty solid. I’m looking forward to watching him work his magic over several seasons and seeing the fruits of that labor in State College.
  21. I’m pretty sure that Mike Gesicki was at least a half yard short of the first down on that 4th down conversion. Someone want to disagree?
  22. McSorley looked pretty nimble out there, and appears to be more comfortable in the read option each passing week. With defenses overpursuing Barkley so that he doesn’t posterize them, Trace has room to make things happen on the play action. He did that nicely this week.
  23. The only thing that’s going to take pressure off of Barkley is for McSorley to remain a threat to run while connecting on a few deep passes.
  24. I’m not seeing the validity of the “lack of arm strength” comments. Trace doesn’t have a cannon. Duly noted. He threw quite a few passes in the first half that, although they didn’t connect, were perfectly acceptable long balls. Those passes did connect in the second half.
  25. Honestly, I find it hard to argue arm strength after seeing the long pass to DeAndre Thompkins at the end of the first quarter and the 80-yard touchdown to Irvin Charles.
  26. For the record, I would have gone for it on 4th down inside the 1 yard line. I understand why someone would take an alternate route. In the end, that’s a coaching decision that I don’t find particularly troubling.
  27. Penn State really should have scored at the end of the second quarter. That Barkley run for a loss must have driven people crazy in real time.
  28. Nice work by Marcus Allen against the Gophers, and congrats on being named the Big Ten’s Player of the Week. He’s really come into his own.
  29. Jordan Smith gets a shout out too for a fine effort all game against the Gopher receivers.
  30. It’s hard to believe that we started the year with Brandon Bell, Jason Cabinda, and Nyeem Wartman-White, and now our linebackers are Jake Cooper, Manny Bowen, and Cameron Brown. Let’s be honest, out of the three, only Bowen should be in the rotation, and even then only in spots. Brandon Smith going down with an injury makes a tough situation even worse. But I’m proud of the way these guys played, and every rep they gets puts them in a position to be even more successful over the next two years.
  31. Getting back Grant Haley? Excellent. Losing Christian Campbell? Good Lord.
  32. What’s the story with Malik Golden?
  33. That targeting call on Curtis Cothran was absurd. Late hit maybe, but tossing a kid out for that?
  34. I wish I could say the same for Jaylen Waters, who apparently decided that he wasn’t interested in getting hit by our Mack truck of a kicker. Cheap shot, completely unnecessary. I’m glad to hear that Tracy Claeys is handling it. He seems like a good guy.
  35. How ‘bout that third quarter, eh?
  36. The emergence of Irvin Charles is a very good thing for Penn State. A young wide receiver shows the ability to contribute in a reserve role with a long touchdown and drawing a pass interference call.
  37. So, so happy for Mike Gesicki. Really great to see him play such a key role in the offense.
  38. Apparently McSorley’s gimmick is a baseball swing. Is that better than Matt McGloin’s championship belt?
  39. That last drive. Whoa.
  40. First of all, outstanding catch by Chris Godwin. Laying out to make a big grab to keep the alive.
  41. Star of the drive? Trace McSorley. A 26 yard run on 3rd and 2 with 30 seconds to play? Clutch.
  42. Great decision on the last play before the Davis field goal, too. Glad they took a shot at the end zone. Incomplete, but in a spot where only Godwin could get it.
  43. College overtime puts defenses in an unenviable position. Apparently that didn’t matter to Penn State, who drove Minnesota backwards in the most important stand of the game. Nice work, Evan Schwan.
  44. Saquon Barkley. Never a doubt. Burst through the middle, cut on a dime, break through some arm tackles, and get to the end zone. That’s why he’s so special.
  45. This game reminded me of 2012 Northwestern or 2013 Michigan. Neither of those teams were world beaters either, but they were fun games against conference opponents with a big fight feel.
  46. Very pleased with the progress. Still trending in the right direction. On to Maryland.
  47. We are...