On Saturday afternoon, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Michigan State Spartans engaged in a contest of American football at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State emerged victorious, 39-24. I have several thoughts, which are set forth randomly below:
1. It was a beautiful day for football in Happy Valley. A good day to tailgate, hang out in the stadium, and enjoy the pregame festivities celebrating this senior class…
2. But it’s 2020, so this game, of course, took place in December in front of virtually no people, fully accompanied by piped in crowd noise and family videos replacing actual families.
3. I’ll just never get used to the look of an empty football stadium for a nationally televised game that actually counts for something.
4. Sometimes I wonder how much the lack of atmosphere (home or away) affects this team. Moreover, whether it has a greater affect on this team than others. For years, Beaver Stadium has been known for the energy emanating out of the student section and on to the field. Games aren’t played in a vacuum, and you have to assume that energy gives a real assist to these guys.
5. Take, for example, that initial interception from Jaquan Brisker. That’s a moment when the Beaver Stadium crowd normally explodes. Instead, Brisker’s pick is met with practice cheers.
6. That fumble was a total fluke, but even giving it back, the defense held up. When that happens, the crowd is amped. Instead…virtual silence.
7. The first possession was exactly what I was talking about last week. 12 plays, 65 yards, 5-plus minutes.
8. Field goal.
9. Better a field goal than nothing, I suppose.
10. But it’s another 12-play drive where Penn State looked like stars for 9 plays, but a holding penalty cost them a touchdown.
11. Expecting perfection from 18-22 year olds is certainly an offensive philosophy.
12. Lots of comparisons of Keyvone Lee to Tony Hunt, and rewatching some Hunt highlights shows that’s a reasonable comp. Lee seems like he has a little more wiggle, though. I don’t think Tony could have stretched that play outside that eventually got called back for the Will Fries hold.
13. A lot of Tony Hunt with a little bit of Evan Royster, maybe.
14. I wouldn’t mind if we figured out a way to throw in some Curtis Enis, but that’s probably asking for too much.
15. I know the score at halftime seemed to indicate a terrible first half, but really what we saw was a terrible 2nd quarter.
16. And really what we saw was Payton Thorne turning into Peyton Manning
17. I mean, come on. Do we have to do the thing where mediocre quarterbacks look like Hall of Famers for lengthy stretches almost every week?
18. The offensive possession at the end of the half nearly made me shut the game off. Penn State gets the ball back with 1:26 left in the half and the announcers suggest that the Nittany Lions need to run a 2-minute offense.
19. I’m sorry, what? A 2-minute offense?
20. See Thought #7, above.
21. That they were able to collect themselves at halftime, come back out and win by 15 points is a good reminder of why I wait a few days to put this together.
22. Perspective is valuable. Screaming about Sean Clifford being terrible after a drive where he misses receivers isn’t doing anyone any favors.
23. It’s also just statistically wrong. He was inaccurate on that drive. He also completed 63% of his passes, had over 200 yards passing, and threw two touchdowns.
24. Finally seeing Will Levis passing for the first time since Iowa was nice. Seeing the pass down the middle hang in the air precariously and nearly intercepted was…less nice.
25. You need to do it, though. Otherwise, Levis is basically a less versatile Tommy Stevens.
26. Is this the equivalent of inexplicable Paterno-era end-arounds to average wide receivers?
27. “Brendan Perretta the ball carrier…loss of 6.”
28. That Parker Washington touchdown reminded me a lot of a particular play from the good ol’ days.
29. Play design there was great, too. The fake screen with the wheel route over top. Sparty never had a chance there.
30. Shaka Toney’s family looks like a good time and when this pandemic is all over, I’d happily hang out with them to watch him take down opposing quarterbacks in the NFL.
31. So nice to see Shane Simmons have a great game. I remember the Aaron Maybin comparisons during his recruitment and always waiting for him to break out.
32. This probably was not the career he envisioned, but seeing him succeed was a real joy. I hope he gets the chance to do it again two more times.
33. Like Shane’s career, this season obviously has not gone as planned. But the more I watch this team, the more I appreciate what James Franklin has put together.
34. There are a million reasons to pack this season up in a box, stick it in the attic, and forget it ever existed. There are a million reasons why these players should just want to head home for the winter.
35. Plenty of FBS teams have done that already.
36. That this team still wants to play together two more times tells me a lot about the culture built into the program and the feeling among the players.
37. One blown call against Indiana makes this team 4-4 right now.
38. Beyond that, I wonder if this team would have had the same collapses against Maryland and Nebraska had they not fallen flat on their face to open the season.
39. Illinois is not the matchup that we wanted (thanks as always, B1G), but I’m looking forward to Saturday. Football Saturdays are always better than non-football Saturdays.
40. On to Illinois.
41. We are…