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53 Random Thoughts on Indiana

Random musings on the weekend that was against the Hoosiers

Heather Weikel - Black Shoe Diaries

On Saturday afternoon, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Indiana Hoosiers engaged in a contest of American football at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. After a protracted battle, the Nittany Lions emerged victorious, 34-27. I have several thoughts, which are set forth randomly below:

  1. Well thank goodness this game ended as it did, because I was really disinterested in going through the same paces we went through in both 2017 and 2018 after the Michigan State games.
  2. I have to admit, I’m having a hard time figuring out Penn State fans these days. Maybe I just don’t understand college football in 2019.
  3. Specifically, I’m not clear as to why every loss in the James Franklin era creates an existential crisis that requires us to deliver our #hottaek analysis of the “state of the program.”
  4. (yes, the misspelling above was intentional)
  5. Two weeks ago, on the strength of dominant performances against bad teams and good wins against ranked teams in Michigan and Iowa, the Nittany Lions were ranked 4th in the country.
  6. On November 9, in the 9th game of the year, undefeated Penn State went to TCF Bank Stadium in Minnesota and took on undefeated Minnesota. At the time, Minnesota was the 17th ranked team in the country.
  7. And on November 9, Penn State got beat.
  8. That’s it. There’s nothing much else to say.
  9. I could tell you all about how Minnesota was a team of destiny, how this was the biggest game in TCF Bank Stadium history and the biggest game the Golden Gophers have played in the last 60 years. And all of that is true.
  10. I could tell you that Sean Clifford threw three interceptions, including two early that invigorated a capacity crowd. I could tell you that Tanner Morgan looked like a superstar and his wide receivers looked dominant. And all of that is true.
  11. I could tell you that a questionable offensive pass interference call against Penn State with less than 2 minutes left was the defining moment of that game, and that Penn State was likely to score from the 2 yard line absent that call. And all of that is true.
  12. We can nitpick that loss until we’re blue in the face, but the simple truth is that Penn State got beat by another good football team.
  13. Penn State’s probably a better football team than the 2019 Golden Gophers, but on November 9, they got beat. Plain and simple.
  14. Yes, sometimes it’s just that easy. And yet, here we were last week, talking about the state of the program and wondering whether there was some inexorable flaw.
  15. The truth is, virtually nothing was different after the Minnesota game than before, except the win-loss record. Iowa and Michigan are still good wins, and it turns out Pitt might be one, too. Ohio State is still the most important game on the schedule, and, of course, Rutgers is still...well...Rutgers.
  16. That’s not to say I wasn’t disappointed to see the Nittany Lions fall to Minnesota. I certainly was. Most pundits have pegged this Penn State team as “a year early,” but winning a national title (or even making the playoff) is hard. It’s not enough to be good - things just have to break your way.
  17. Penn State may theoretically be “better” in 2020 than they were this year, but who knows what challenges next season brings? Penn State was 8-0 and in pole position before they took that trip to Minneapolis, and now it requires lots of dominoes to fall just right in order to get back into contention.
  18. So it goes. It’s disappointing to lose to Minnesota. Worse, though, would have been writing this piece after consecutive losses.
  19. Especially since a loss to Indiana probably would have required some analysis about the state of the program, and an explanation as to why this team can’t recover from heartbreaking losses ever.
  20. “What does that say about this team’s mental state?”
  21. “What does that say about James Franklin?”
  22. “Is this the return of Late Game James?”
  23. “Is James Franklin a good coach?”
  24. Yada..
  25. ...Yada...
  26. ...Yada.
  27. I don’t know why those questions are being asked about a team that is 9-1 and ranked 8th in the country. I’d like for Penn State to win every game by 30 points. That’s great, but the only place that happens is in Dynasty Mode on NCAA ‘15. Or if you’re Alabama for the last decade, which, frankly, might basically be the same thing.
  28. Having expectations is good. Demanding perfection is a worthless endeavor for a fan. Play hard. Deal with adversity. Survive and advance.
  29. For the record, now that we’ve already beaten them, I’m rooting for #9Windiana. As I’ve said before, Indiana football is the equivalent of Penn State basketball in the Big Ten. So God willing, Indiana will win 9 games and Penn State will go to the Dance.
  30. Hey, a guy can dream, right?
  31. “Hey, did you know Peyton Ramsey was named after Peyton Manning?” is the “Evan Royster played lacrosse” of Indiana football.
  32. It’s hard to believe that Tom Allen selected Michael Penix, Jr. over Ramsey as the starting quarterback, or that Indiana might have been better off. Ramsey played well last week and seems to have played well all season long.
  33. Also interesting - there’s a world in which Tommy Stevens was the quarterback on the other side of this game. College football is bizarre, isn’t it?
  34. I don’t know what’s going on with the secondary, but there’s far too much talent back there for opposing teams to take advantage of them in this way. I’m not unrealistic - I know that guys go out and make plays, and I know you have to give credit to the other team. But there’s a valid argument to be made that the secondary is under performing when competent quarterbacks are continuously having career days against you.
  35. The chunk pass plays on the first two Indiana touchdown drives were frustrating, but you could make credible arguments to excuse them. Maybe it was a hangover from the Minnesota game, maybe it was the noon start, or maybe it was just a blown play with someone out of position.
  36. Either way, the defense tightened up after those early scores and played well in the second and third quarters. But that last big pass to Ty Fryfogle on 4th and 6 that put Indiana in position to score with 25 seconds left? That’s the one that drove me crazy.
  37. After struggling early, Penn State was in position to pull away from a quality opponent through much of the second half. Instead, they just kept allowing Indiana to make plays to keep it close enough to be uncomfortable.
  38. Nice to see the defense stand up at the goal line and force the field goal attempt. And yes, it was unlikely that Indiana would recover an onside kick, and even if they did, it was even more unlikely that they convert to tie the game at 34 in 100 seconds. But why are we even in that position?
  39. I know some coaches love this stuff because it gives them something to be critical about, even in victory. But I have to imagine that Brent Pry was losing his mind over that last drive.
  40. I’m so impressed with Journey Brown. I never expected him to be the guy who would contribute like this, and yet he looks like the most complete back of the four.
  41. Will Levis as the new Noah Cain? Putting Levis out there with the game on the line was aggressive and unusual. Not sure I love it, but he is terrifying huge for short yardage and it seemed to be effective.
  42. Sean Clifford had an interesting game. On one hand, his passing stats left something to be desired. On the other hand, he came up huge on the ground and basically put the team on his back.
  43. Pat Freiermuth bowled over that defender on the final drive like he was a video game tight end. But he’s not the best in the country? Sure...
  44. Devyn Ford’s carries were perfectly acceptable, but his best play was the block he threw on the long Clifford touchdown run.
  45. Maybe Ricky Slade’s best position is in the slot?
  46. I’m proud of the way this team responded. It wasn’t perfect, but Indiana is a legitimately solid football team that is having its best season in years. Penn State picked itself up, dusted itself off, then put the game away on 18 play, 75 yard drive that ate over 9 minutes of clock. When was the last time you can say that happened?
  47. Ohio State may very well be the best team in the country, but they aren’t untouchable.
  48. Play hard.
  49. Deal with adversity.
  50. Survive and advance.
  51. Let the chips fall where they may.
  52. On to Columbus.
  53. We are...