Penn State

Penn State Football at Purdue: A Damp Cold Day Didn't Dampen Penn State

Self, take note.  Next time the weather calls for 30% chance of rain and mid-40's temperatures, pay attention.  Assume it will feel like 25 degrees.  Because at Ross-Ade stadium it did.  In fact it rained quite hard that morning and on the way to the game.  I was prepared with rain gear and lots of layers plus a wool hat but needed better protection for my feet and hands. 

I hadn't packed my warm toasty waterproof boots nor my Goretex waterproof mittens.  Those would have helped immensely!   I should also know better.  No matter how many games I've been to over the years, that first really cold game of a season always seems like one that I'm not quite prepared for.  The Purdue-Penn State game was the first really cold game of the season.  And I was very fortunate that it didn't rain during the game.  It could have been worse.

Basically my hands and feet were so cold by half-time that I spent the entire half-time in the ladies' room under a heater to warm up.  I missed the Purdue half-time show for Military Appreciation Day, which was very disappointing.  The Purdue band is quite good and entertaining to watch.

The ladies' room heater blasting warm air did the trick.  I was able to tolerate the rest of the time in the stands.  And honestly I didn't want to leave.  I wanted to savor every moment of Penn State's third Big Ten road win.

The game itself was uncomfortable at first.  Purdue scored on its first drive, but was held to a field goal by Penn State's defense.

Penn State's first drive stalled at the fifty yard line, and on 4th and 1 Matt McGloin threw an incomplete pass to Brandon Moseby-Felder.  Not a good start.

In typical fashion my husband Terry was swearing at Bill O'Brien's latest fourth down coaching call.  On the 50-yard line and you're going to go for it on 4th and 1 rather than punt? A punt that could have pinned Purdue deep in its own territory? How stupid!

The call didn't make sense to us, and probably never will.  I was thinking that even if you're going to risk 4th and 1 at that point in the game, why not do the quarterback sneak that has worked so well all season?

Bill O'Brien has warned us numerous times that 4th downs are always a possibility.  It has felt okay when you're around the 30-yard line and worrying about whether a struggling kicker can make a field goal.  But on the 50-yard line?  It's fun when it works, but maddening when it doesn't.

In any case, it turned out that it didn't matter.  Three plays later, Purdue fumbled the ball and Penn State recovered on its own 41-yard line.  Basically a nine-yard gain in field position.  Whew.  Sigh of relief.

Penn State was able to turn that into a field goal, but not a touchdown.  The score was tied 3-3. 

Then, after a five-play drive stalled for Purdue, quarterback Matt McGloin completed a 42-yard pass from the Purdue 48-yard line to wide receiver Brandon Moseby-Felder.   One play later, fullback Michael Zordich ran it in for a touchdown. Two quick plays for seven points.

The first quarter would end with a 10-3 score in favor of Penn State.  But it wasn't pretty. On the next Penn State drive Ricardo Allen of Purdue sacked Matt McGloin for a 10-yard loss that ended the drive.

In the second quarter, Penn State's Michael Mauti was called for kick-catching interference, giving Purdue possession on the 50-yard line.  I turned to Terry and said that I didn't have a good feeling about this game.   Purdue's drive stalled at the 28-yard line and they missed a field goal. 

Penn State tacked on another field goal to make the score 13-3 and then with 1:58 left in the half and starting at the PSU 45, Matt McGloin threw a 31-yard pass completion to Brandon Moseby-Felder.   Matt McGloin rushed for 9 yards, and Michael Zordich for 15 to make the score 20-3.

Purdue could not get a last drive going with 1:15 left on the clock.  The half ended with Purdue quarterback Robert Marve fumbling after a sack by Mike Hull and recovering his own fumble.

And so I started to feel a bit better when I went to the ladies' room to warm up my hands and feet. 

The radio in the ladies' room was giving first half statistics.  The stat that was the most remarkable to me was time of possession.  Purdue possessed the ball for 17:19 during the first half and came away with three points.  Penn State had the ball for 12:41 and came away with twenty points. 

But also, Penn State was called for four penalties totaling 45 yards.  Purdue was called for two penalties totaling 18 yards.  We were beginning to feel that the officials had been directed to favor Purdue.  It is a feeling we have had before in other games this season, and it makes one wonder.

However, we also did not benefit from watching the game on TV where re-runs can help clarify the appropriateness of penalty calls.  Were the penalties just?  I would like to hear your perspective on this in the comments section.

Penn State had overcome a lot in the first half to score twenty points.  In addition, kicker Sam Ficken had been reliable on two field goals and two extra point attempts.

Penn State made the most of its first possession of the third quarter and tacked on another touchdown, using Zach Zwinak's rushing prowess for most of that drive. 

After a Purdue three-and-out, Penn State conducted a seven-play drive and tacked on the fourth touchdown of the game, making the score 34-3.

Kicker Sam Ficken scored ten of those points!

As the sun started to come down, we heard someone behind us yell "Go Clock Go".  It was getting even chillier and the game was over.  The Purdue stands emptied out.  It seemed that only the Purdue band remained, playing its tunes with gusto and drowning out the small Penn State pep band right next to them.

Actually the Purdue band was a lot of fun to watch and listen to.  Penn State's Beaver Stadium seems to rely a bit too much on piped-in music, and Penn State's band doesn't play nearly as much during a game.  Purdue didn't have any piped-in music.  Its band played often and incessantly.

Purdue put together one last drive and scored a touchdown with zero seconds remaining on the clock.  The final was 34-9. 

And so, another victory for Penn State in this most unusual year.  For Matt McGloin, a pretty phenomenal day, achieving a new passing record of 321 yards, two touchdowns on 59% completion.  On defense, Gerald Hodges led the defense with six tackles and two assists, including three tackles for total loss of ten yards.  Sean Stanley achieved the only sack of the day with a loss of thirteen yards.

A great day for them and for the entire team! 

On the way home from the game, I sat next to a Purdue season ticket holder.  He lives in Indianapolis and was on his way to California through Detroit for a business trip.

His resigned reflections were sobering. Essentially when it comes to football, Purdue fans seem to be used to a rough go of it.  Their expectations for bowl games are almost non-existent.  This man told me that f they're lucky, the Music City bowl might be in the cards for a winning season.

Even the Lafayette based media was not very optimistic about Purdue's chances against Penn State, and there were some calls for firing the coach.  I heard three radio broadcasters pronounce before the game that Penn State would win.  The local newspaper also picked Penn State.  Although all these media chose scores that were a lot closer than the 34-9 final.

So while it was a good road win for Penn State, it was also sobering to think about how the Nittany Lions and its fans might evolve if Coach O'Brien can't recruit the right kind of talent.  And Penn State doesn't quite have the basketball reputation that Purdue has - at least not yet - to serve as an alternative source of die-hard passion for Penn State fans.

A lot is riding on Penn State's ability to keep the recruits who have declared so far and to keep the wonderful talent that has emerged this year to create what is now likely to be a winning season against all odds.

Go Penn State!  Beat the Cornhuskers!

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