It was not pretty. I almost died seven different times. There’s a good chance that I’ll need to see my cardiologist tonight. But none of it matters because Penn State is leaving Madison with a victory.
The first half, in a word, was ugly. Neither Penn State nor Wisconsin could generate points, sending us into the break with a B1G-centric 0-0 score. The Nittany Lions in particular looked dreadful offensively, only mustering up one first down through the first 30 minutes. Who was to blame? Everyone. Everyone was to blame. The offensive line struggled. Clifford looked so-so at best. Mike Yurcich made some uninspiring calls. Other than not turning the ball over, the Penn State offense did nothing positive.
Because of that, the Penn State defense was put on the field time after time, playing 21 minutes and 48 seconds in the first half. Somehow, someway though, Brent Pry’s defense bent but it didn’t break. Thanks to an Arnold Ebiketie field goal block and a Nick Tarburton fumble recovery, the Nittany Lions held strong, preserving the 0-0 tie for Penn State.
Things opened up a bit in the second half — specifically for the previously anemic Penn State offense. I don’t know what Yurcich and Clifford did at halftime, but they need to keep doing that. Yurcich was dialing up picture-perfect plays. Clifford, for the first time in a while, seemingly was playing with confidence. The duo led Penn State to three scoring drives in the second half, eking out 16 tough-to-come-by points. While the first half struggles shouldn’t be forgotten, it certainly seemed like a corner was turned offensive over the last half of the game.
The MVP of the day though: it’s the defense. Pick a player. Arnold Ebiketie and PJ Mustipher played like All-Americans. Jesse Luketa flashed at his new standup defensive end position. Ellis Brooks was around the ball all day. Joey Porter Jr and Tariq Castro-Fields were strong in coverage. And Jaquan Brisker, while battling injuries, just kept getting up. Gutsy. Tough, Gritty. Whatever word you want to use, that’s what he was today.
And really, that’s what can be said for this entire team and performance. Like I said, it was not pretty. They had to work to get 16 points. The defense found itself in the red zone too many times. But once again: right now, it does not matter. Penn State is 1-0. They went into Madison, and beat the No. 12 ranked Wisconsin Badgers.
Savor that, Penn State fans. After last season’s start to the season, we should know more than anyone just how sweet this 1-0 start is. The good news? The blocks have been set for a true turnaround season in Happy Valley.