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Notes From A Car: Michigan-Penn State

Oct 15, 2006 – 4:50 PM
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Brian Cook

Brian Cook %BloggerTitle%



Typed during the somewhat delirious drive home from State College.


OMG Defensive line
. Now that's like holy goddamn hell. Without the benefit of statistics I can only estimate, but I think various Penn State quarterbacks from Morelli to Rudy were sacked 2,402 times. Approximately. Not only that, but Michigan hit two Penn State quarterbacks so hard they decommitted and went to Pitt. Blah blah blah about never wanting to see a kid injured applies, but it's impossible to deny the visceral Serengeti thrill of watching lions (little-l lions) tearing down an antelope, then settling in to feed.

Worst game of the year from the offense by far. Procedure penalties, false starts, inaccurate passing, and a couple killer drops. It's hard to tell whether or not the difficulties with the rushing game and the passing game were good play from Penn State or blocking screwups without UFR. It's probably some of both. Substitution note: Johnny Sears got a series in the third quarter. Chris Graham saw meaningful playing time including the first series of the game. The team, from Henne on down, seemed rattled by the noisy environment in the first quarter, in contrast to the assassin shit they pulled in South Bend. Perhaps random variance, but somewhat unsettling going into Columbus.

Hart had 100 yards? Really?


It will be interesting
to see BWI blame this one on the refs, considering they had drives extended with a ridiculous late hit call and an even more egregious pass interference on a ball thrown five yards past the receiver. The latter was especially critical, as Michigan was rolling and would have gotten the ball back with great field position to end the half with its boot poised over the Lions' neck.

I was not a fan of the playcalling early, when Penn State defense lined up daring Michigan to throw and throw deep and we plowed ahead a la Wisconsin. When we loosened up an threw the ball, movement and points, but I think we threw away some opportunities early. Conversely, no problem with the conservative calls late. Having established that our defense was murdering them and possessing a two score lead, grinding and punting wins the game, as it did. That damn screen (twice) ruined what was otherwise an utterly dominant defensive performance.

The postgame call-in show is remarkable. Two PSU alums, including Chafie Fields, and the radio host keep repeating things like "it's Michigan and Ohio State" when callers wonder what happened to the PSU program. When questioned about quarterback development, they say Michigan's the place to be. They said something along the lines of "This isn't beating up on Temple and Maryland, this is Big Ten football." They sound like irritating Michigan fans on message boards. The comedown from "we are going to DOMINATE the Big Ten" to "WE ARE.... ESSENTIALLY WISCONSIN" is steep, harsh... and complete.

Beaver Stadium is an impressive edifice, but the Penn State road experience was somewhat disappointing. While there were no statues bearing EYE LASERS OF LASER DOOM a la Michigan State, much of the between-action hijinks were more suited for a minor league hockey game than one of the most tradition-rich programs in college football. Let me count the ways:
  • The canned lion roar, which I expected, but still gives off a uniquely chintzy aura.
  • The band hardly plays. Like at all. When Penn State gets a big play, "Zombie Nation" plays over the loudspeakers. Thanks, but this isn't an NHL playoff game. The only thing I can remember the band playing was something from the White Stripes. I, of course, screamed "That's from Detroit."
  • The big PSU entrance comes to the strains of Gary Glitter's "Hey" song. Yerk.
  • There's a NOISE!!! meter.
  • Sometime late in the game, a local weatherman came on the video board dressed in a Penn State jersey and a did a schticky weather report.
  • There was a Men In Black themed dance routine featuring the mascot.
I ended up disappointed, especially because the vaunted noise level didn't deliver. It was loud, but it didn't blow me away. Maybe that's acoustics.

Plus points for the student section, which was full an hour before the game, and their majorette, who was twirling a baton that was on frickin' fire, then two batons that were on frickin' fire, then THREE batons that were on FRICKIN' FIRE. Even the knife guy who comes back for every homecoming can't compete with that.

Having trashed the in-stadium experience, let me say that the environment outside was outstanding. People were adversarial but friendly – the occasional "fuck Michigan" from a passing student was more than balanced by friendly players. There was booing and calls for me to cut my hair "hippie", but the same people offered me nummy chocolate-covered pretzels. They managed to be great, passionate fans without giving off the creepy Stepford vibe Notre Dame fans often do.

Disclaimer: I did not run across many students, except one guy who saw my attire as I was leaving the bathroom and said "Michigan fan!" and offered a high five. I was confused until he explained that he went to Pitt, was only here because his girlfriend went to PSU, and secretly wanted Michigan to win.
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