Penn State took on #6 Michigan this past weekend, and came up short, falling 21-17.
It marks the third time this season that the Lions have played a top 10 opponent, and are 0-3 against those teams.
But it’s not the losses that sting, though they certainly aren’t very much fun. It’s the fact that in all three games, Penn State was competitive. In all three games, Penn State at one point had a lead. And in all three games, Penn State came up just a little bit short.
Against Iowa, Penn State was up 17-3 in the second quarter, before finally succumbing 23-20.
Against Ohio State, Penn State was up 7-0 in the first, and tied 17-17 in the third, before losing 33-24.
Against Michigan, Penn State was up 3-0 early, then 17-14 in the fourth, before dropping the game 21-17.
As the Brits like to say, “it’s the hope that kills you.”
Penn State is in a weird spot it seems, at least this year. They haven’t been blown out by anyone, but they haven’t really blown anyone out. Yes, they had some bigger scores against Ball State and Villanova, but every single game has felt like they were being methodical, if not plodding, and just going about their business.
Big games against top 10 teams? Competitive affairs, that ultimately come up short.
Medium games against P5 opponents? Competitive affairs, that have a mixed bag of wins and losses.
Not-very-big games against G5 and FCS opponents? Not quite as competitive affairs, but games that still had plays that left you scratching your head.
But it’s the fact that the Lions are sitting at 6-4 right now, and their four losses have come from a combined 18 points, that really leaves one wondering “what if?”
What if Roberson was able to convert a few more first downs, and didn’t give Iowa enough clock to come back?
What if Brisker intercepts the ball in the first overtime against Illinois?
What if any one of the big, dare I say “fluky,” turnovers against Ohio State don’t happen?
What if the Lions turned the last turnover against Michigan into a touchdown instead of settling for a field goal?
Instead, we watched as the Lions played competitive, even football against their top 10 peers, and come up just short. We watched as they gave us hope, only to have it dashed when the clock struck aughts.
It’s the hope that kills you.