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32 Random Thoughts on Penn State’s Flu Game Win Over Rutgers

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Some chicken soup for the soul

Rutgers v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

On Saturday, the Penn State Nittany Lions hosted the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a contest of American football in State College, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions emerged victorious, 28-0. I have several thoughts, which are set forth randomly below.

1. I expected a Saturday sleepwalk against a team that was hustling for bowl eligibility. From the looks of it, everyone else around here did too.

2. Some of us even picked Rutgers to score 20 points.

3. [Glares in Jared’s general direction]

4. That’s an affront to this defense. Sure, Rutgers could have won. But win by scoring 20 points? In Beaver Stadium?

5. Come on, brother.

6. Still, of all games, this was a pleasant surprise.

7. Not for 35 players who were out, clearly. Certainly not for Sean Clifford, who was filled with IV fluid twice in the span of 12 hours.

8. Listening to Franklin speak after the game about the team’s general health over the last week was remarkable. Evidently, this team was falling apart at the seams with guys falling ill at the drop of a hat.

9. The fact that the defense pitched a shut out and the team looked coherent at all is a real testament to the leadership and the game plan implemented by this coaching staff. No one will remember this game a year or two from now (and rightfully so), but the adversity facing this roster was real and they came out strong on the other side.

10. If only we could’ve seen four quarters of the Mason Stahl Experience.

11. The takeaways from this game are limited, given the circumstances. I found it interesting, though, that this Penn State team played a much more complete game against a more competitive Rutgers squad this year than other points in recent memory.

12. That 2019 game sticks in my head. Sean Clifford was held out for health issues that day and Will Levis started in his place. That team was 10-2 and ranked 10th. Rutgers was 2-10, winless in the Big Ten, and was operating under interim head coach Nunzio Campanile. Final score – 27-6, with Levis throwing for an impressive 81 yards.

13. At best, I expected this game to be similar to that, with a much closer score. Instead, we had emergence of Christian Veilleux.

14. I admit to feeling a bit of panic when I heard the freshman was about to step in. A month and a half ago, Penn State was 4th in the country and Ta’Quan Roberson was subbing in for an injured Sean Clifford. I’m not even sure Veilleux was on the sidelines in Iowa City.

15. This time, I don’t even think Roberson was on the sidelines.

16.

17. The first thing I said when Veilleux showed up was that I thought they should run some basic run plays just to get him used to the speed of the game. Then, two played in, he ran for 14 yards, then threw a screen pass for 15. Clearly, it’s better that I don’t call plays here.

18. I’m not sure how much weight this carries based on the rampant illness, but Rutgers was getting significant pressure up front while Clifford was in the game, and that seemed to dissipate once Veilleux was the one shouldering the load. Any thoughts from the crowd on that?

19. The commentary on whether Penn State would have two more wins if Veilleux had played at Iowa and against Illinois is shortsighted. He’s a freshman who hadn’t played organized football since his junior year of high school. It’s not surprising that he wasn’t ready in early-October. It’s also not surprising that even if he were practicing well, that putting him out there in Kinnick Stadium against one of the country’s best defenses was putting the cart before the horse.

20. One of Penn State’s long-tenured defensive coaches used to tell a great story about Paul Posluszny. Poz was one of the greatest to ever suit up and he was excelling in practice as a young player. Then he got smashed by a pulling guard in practice and it took him weeks to get back to form.

21. Maybe Penn State beats Iowa and Illinois with Christian Veilleux. Or maybe waiting until you’re sure he’s ready is a better scenario. We’ll never know so it’s not worth worrying about.

22. There were a couple of odd balls thrown out there – the Tyler Warren high point comes to mind – but overall, he looked comfortable in the pocket with a strong arm and a calm demeanor. If nothing else, it gave everyone something to look forward to.

23. We still need a good Canadian nickname for him.

24. Keyvone Lee carried the ball 89 times in 2020, and has carried it 89 times this year. He’s averaging about the same yards per carry (4.7 this year vs. 4.9 last year). It seems like he’s been fairly effective, but this year certainly feels rougher.

25. Watching this defense show how special they are one more time at Beaver Stadium was fantastic. I was especially pleased to see Coziah Izzard and Kalen King both shine. They’re going to be a big part of this defense going forward.

26. Seeing Jonathan Sutherland get his moment with an interception was great. Seeing him do it at linebacker was just another weird bit of trivia from Saturday.

27. I honestly can’t figure out how Malick Meiga got so open and I’m not sure that he knows either. There wasn’t a defender within 10 yards of him, and Rutgers is actually capable of playing some defense.

28. Greg Schiano’s a really good coach and I thoroughly enjoyed those photos of him as a grad assistant and an assistant coach from the early-90s. If he can find a quarterback, they’ll have a chance at regular bowl eligibility moving forward.

29. Better them than Maryland or Indiana.

30. I hope someone got these guys some chicken soup. On to Sparty.

31. Happy Thanksgiving, BSD!

32. We are…