There was no tension about whether or not we would win yesterday’s game. Despite the fact that Eastern Illinois is a good team in its division, it’s a simple fact that they would have had to play a perfect game to beat Penn State. That wasn’t likely to happen. We simply have more depth of talent.
Besides, playing before a crowd of somewhere between 90-100,000 people is a bit intimidating when your own stadium has only 10,000 seats. Even though our crowd wasn’t especially intimidating by our normal standards. We were relatively subdued –dare I say bored? –when it came to the competition on the field.
The game was about money for both teams: a $450,000 payout for Eastern Illinois if they showed up at Beaver Stadium, and a few million dollars for Penn State in ticket and concession revenues for scheduling an extra home game.
How sad. It wasn’t destined to be a competitive game from the moment the game was scheduled. A lot of people stayed home as a result. As of Saturday morning, there were 1749 tickets for sale for this game on the Nittany Lion Ticket Exchange. Even 50-yard line seats were available at face value plus a processing fee and not sold. At a face value of $55 apiece, that’s about $96,000 worth of unused tickets – lost value to the season ticket holders who had already paid for those tickets!
The fans who did come to the game today were expecting a “laugher”, and Penn State did indeed deliver. We scored 38 first half points. For the sixth time this season, Penn State’s defense didn’t allow a touchdown in the first half. Our second string was deployed in the middle of the third quarter, and we wound up winning 52-3.
It looked like Eastern Illinois would in fact be the first team this season to score a touchdown in the first half against our defense. Eastern Illinois was driving and in touchdown territory, but a fumble by Eastern Illinois on the 9-yard line resulted in Navarro Bowman’s 91-yard return for a touchdown. It was a pleasant surprise and loads of fun to watch that return. It was clearly the highlight of the game.
This game was an offensive clinic against a team that appeared to have no defense. We achieved 553 yards of offense – 285 rushing, 268 passing. Our defense was awesome. They held Eastern Illinois to one field goal.
Another good part of the game was the fact that Kevin Newsome, our backup freshman quarterback, had the opportunity to do more than mop-up duty. He showed some explosiveness in his ability to run, and he ran for a touchdown. But he also fumbled twice. Not good! Luckily the fumbles were recovered by Penn State, and we hope he learned a lesson about holding on to the ball. He needs more game experience and needs to improve. Today’s game helped Newsome and other second string talent gain some valuable playing experience.
In the meantime, the Penn State Blue Band went “over the top” in their half-time performance yesterday. It was one of the best performances we’ve ever seen them produce, a musical review of themes from various classic movies. Very creative touches, whether they were the “Touch of Blue” majorettes in bat costumes for the “Batman” tribute, or Blue Sapphire P.J. Maierhofer doing a “Rocky” routine with the Nittany Lion. The band formations related to “Star Roars” and “Superman” were superb. Kudos to them! We loved every moment of it.
Following that outstanding musical revue, there was the Parade of Champions – reminding us all that Penn State Athletics is not just about football. Other team sports are extremely competitive, and it was nice to take a moment to celebrate their achievements.
It’s football that helps to pay the bills so that these athletes can compete in non-revenue producing sports. The Parade of Champions perhaps was intended to serve as a subtle reminder to the audience that extra games like this one – the extra few millions gained by playing teams like Eastern Illinois - matter in funding the 28 other Penn State sports, only one of which is revenue-producing (men's basketball).
But I doubt that anyone really made that connection or got that message.