Sports

Indiana win ‘pretty’ only in the eyes of the beholder

Penn State coach James Franklin called last week’s 13-7 win over Indiana “the prettiest win I’ve ever seen in my 20 years.”

No offense, James.

But that game was about as attractive as Honey Boo Boo’s mother in a bikini or an extreme close-up of Rodney Dangerfield.

To remind you, that was 20 punts and 20 points between two teams in what is supposed to be one of the best football conferences in the country.

We’ve heard the CIA is taking the game film (along with the Michigan-Northwestern tape and Rosanne singing the national anthem) to torture al-Qaida detainees. It beats waterboarding.

Well, maybe we’re exaggerating a little (or a lot), but so was Mr. Franklin.

Only a 92-yard burst by Bill Belton provided any semblance of offense against a team that was giving up almost 35 points per game.

That’s “Throw Momma From the Train” ugly no matter how you slice it.

Yes, we know a win is win and that there isn’t a column for style points in the Big Ten standings.

But, you’d like to see some progress toward putting some points on the board.

Your offense has cracked the 20-point mark just once — thanks to double overtime against Ohio State — in five conference games.

Your quarterback opened the season throwing for 774 yards in the first two games, but has averaged about 205 yards per game since. And, Christian Hackenberg has just seven touchdown passes in 347 attempts.

Your team has made 31 trips to the red zone and has come away with 11 touchdowns. And last week, that number was 0-for-3 against the Hoosiers.

Whatever were the new wrinkles you promised, they did not deliver.

The strange thing is you’ve got a defense that continues to improve.

Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, who had the benefit of two extra periods, is the only running back to have crested 100 rushing against a stellar front seven this season.

And the secondary has only seemed to get better since freshman Marcus Allen has become a full-time addition.

That defense has kept you in every game — and that you can truly say is as beautiful as a sunset over Mount Nittany.

We guess that’s keeping the fannies in the seats, though we doubt the students will be up before the second quarter on a Saturday afternoon where you’ll need at least two blankets.

Of course after last week’s debacle, you wouldn’t blame them if they wanted to watch Saturday’s clash from a warm living room or watering hole.

Temple (5-4) comes to Beaver Stadium with the same record and a lot of the same problems as Penn State.

The Owls’ offense has struggled and their defense has carried them — including an upset of then-ranked East Carolina.

Former State College High standout and Penn State player Matt Ruhle has a team that is eerily similar to his alma mater, but with a little less talent and a lot less history on his side.

Penn State is 38-3-1 against the Owls and is favored to extent that margin. Somehow, the Nittany Lions are 111/2-point favorites one week after that “beautiful” 13-point effort in Bloomington.

History was also Penn State’s side against Maryland in the Nittany Lions’ last home game, but the Terps ended an 0-for-20 slide at Beaver Stadium with a 20-19 win.

And to keep away from another debacle like that one, the offense is going to have to warm up on a frigid afternoon and hold onto the ball. Temple’s defense has produced 25 turnovers. Even a defense as good as Penn State’s hasn’t been able to turn back teams on a short field over and over again.

We will agree with Franklin that a win here will seem like Scarlett Johansson on the red carpet.

Not only will it snap a three-game skid at home, a triumph will clinch a bowl bid.

Even if it is a trip to “beautiful” Detroit, Penn State fans will take that.

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