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Lion In Wait: Penn State Versus Minnesota

Lion In Wait is Onward State’s football column for Penn State conference games.  Published Friday at 5 P.M. late when the power goes out because of unusually early snowstorms before games featuring Big Ten opponents, LIW emphasizes the game from a fan perspective.

FootblogMinnesotaPrankTo me, something didn’t seem right about the “attack” on the Lion Shrine by anonymous Minnesota fans this week. The pictures spread across the internet, getting a mention on our site as well as the Opinion pages’ bloglines in the Daily Collegian. People were downright pissed in the comments on our Facebook page. How could we let these fans get this moral victory?

My answer – it’s not real.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to have a spark to what is largely an uninspiring home schedule (with the exceptions of Iowa and Ohio State), but it just doesn’t make sense.

Call me a cynic, but if you’re a Minnesota fan – are you really going to think draping the Lion Shrine in a sheet is worth the trouble? According to Google Maps, it is a fifteen hour drive between University Park and Minneapolis. Are you really going to make that trip on a Tuesday just to take a few pictures of something that can be reversed in 45 seconds? Maybe if it were Ohio State or Michigan – I mean, our fan bases hate each other – but Minnesota? When’s the last time you heard about how much someone hates Golden Gopher fans?

And about the pictures – aren’t they a little convenient? Guarding the Lion Shrine has been a tradition since Sue Paterno doused the statue in orange paint for 1966’s homecoming game against Syracuse. Since then, we make a big deal out of how students will go out of their way to protect the landmark during the weekend as a tribute. Assuming that somehow the Lion Ambassadors dropped the ball and let two incredibly overachieving Golden Gopher superfans compromise the statue, would these guys take their sweet time with so many pictures? Look at the Collegian’s Footblog twitpic feed.

I could be wrong. But I’d be willing to bet this is the device of a homecoming publicity committee rather than bona fide vandals.

History Lesson

The Collegian’s Footblog (two links in one post – lucky you!) has a nice rundown of the Golden Gopher’s trophy fetish. Penn State gets to fight for the Governor’s Victory Bell, which it has won six times out of the ten game series history.

The Nittany Lions and the Gophers haven’t clashed on the gridiron for the past two seasons, but Penn State did snake away a 27-26 overtime win from Minnesota in Minneapolis for their 2006 meeting.

Public Enemy Number One

Eric Decker – Wide Receiver #7

Though Minnesota’s offense ranks last in the Big Ten, that doesn’t mean the Golden Gophers are completely devoid of talent on that side of the ball. Decker is third in the country in receiving yards with 689 and will look to build on that production against a Penn State secondary that hasn’t earned too much respect.

The X-Factor

Knowledge Timmons/A.J. Wallace

Both cornerbacks, who have been splitting time at the position for the season, are banged up but probable for Saturday’s game. The fact that Joe Paterno said that he rotates the two because they have different strengths signifies that neither is considered a complete player at this juncture – troubling when they’ll be matched up against arguably the best wideout in the conference. If either of these players can overcome injuries to prove that they’ve been underestimated, it will do a great deal in reestablishing Penn State’s defense as elite.

Tips For The Game

1) Free Shuttles! The snowstorm that caught pretty much everyone off guard has screwed up parking by making all grass parking lots unusable. That means there’s going to be a considerable amount of tailgate refugees taking advantage of the shuttles to the stadium. I’m pretty sure they won’t be verifying if you were displaced from grass lot parking, so if you see a free shuttle, take it! Think of it as reparations for the two dollar fee they usually charge.

2) Hand Warmers! When you’ve been out in the wet and cold stands for a few hours, these things are so valuable they could function as currency. It’s like cigarettes in prison. I’ve never seen someone exchange hand warmers for the ownership of a person during a game, but let’s just say it wouldn’t surprise me.

3) It’s probably going to be a buyer’s market for tickets. Something tells me that it’s going to be a lot harder to walk around with tickets held over your head in slushy conditions. Tough break for those looking to scalp last-minute.

Prediction

According to ESPN’s game preview, the spread is set at 18. Eighteen.

Penn State 34, Minnesota 14. I don’t doubt the ability of the Nittany Lions to pull out a win for the Homecoming crowd, especially when the offensive line seems to be making progress. As with the Illinois Illini, look for Penn State to take a significant lead that will be slightly cut by garbage-time production by Decker and co. in the fourth quarter.

About the Author

Mark

Mark McColey is a Senior majoring in Advertising and Labor-Employment relations. Among his loves are Penn State Football, The Steelers, The Penguins, The Simpsons, Tina Fey, and Arrested Development.

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