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Lion In Wait: Penn State Versus Northwestern

Lion In Wait is Onward State’s football column for Penn State conference games.  Published Friday at 5 P.M. before games featuring Big Ten opponents, LIW emphasizes the game from a fan perspective.

Given the time of the year, I could write about how the Nittany Lions’ trip to Evanston, IL this Saturday is a ‘fright’ to fans that believe its placement between games against Michigan and Ohio State makes it a trap game. That the scariest thing of all this weekend would be a loss to the Northwestern Wildcats, effectively ending any hopes of a BCS bowl.

But I’m not that hack-y of a writer.

However, I realize the holiday allows for some creative license, and there’s plenty of analysis out there on this match up. So instead of diving right into the usual breakdown, I’d like to give those of you who are looking for last-minute costumes some Big Ten-inspired ideas:

1. Ron Zook – Step one: Dress as any character Gary Cole has been in a movie. Step two: Put some baby powder in your hair to make it gray. When you change the hair on one to match the other, the resemblance is uncanny. Step three: Have a friend assure everyone that, despite what people may speculate, you will be around next year.

2. Terrelle Pryor – Step one: Fashion a Buckeyes jersey out of an old t-shirt (I wouldn’t recommend wearing a REAL Pryor Jersey – though if you have one in the first place you’ve got bigger things to worry about) Step two: Get some eye black. Step three: Write “Mike Vick” on it. Step four: Tell anyone dressed as Jason, Freddy Kreuger, or Michael Myers that it’s no big deal, everybody murders people. Step five: Abstain from drawing tears on your face – that’s been done already. I would suggest going with something more current, like constantly turning things over.

3. Rich Rodriguez – Step one: Dress in a windbreaker and headset. Step two: Change costumes three-quarters of the way through the party.

That’s just three of the limitless ideas you can find in our ironically named conference. People can complain all they want about our BCS bowl performance and low-scoring games – we’ll still have plenty of characters worth emulating for Halloween!

History Lesson

Coming off of the first win in the “Big House” in over a decade and anticipating a clash against Ohio State, it’s hard to glorify the series history with the Wildcats. Penn State leads the series 9-3, but few players (if any) on the current roster had experience in the last meeting between the two teams in 2005. Nevertheless, the Collegian ran a story about how that game served as a turning point in that magical Orange Bowl season. Hey, it’s a better storyline than I could come up with.

[As commenter ADRoth points out, the last meeting between the teams was in 2006 – a 33-7 blowout. 2005 marked the last meeting of the two teams away from home, and is probably getting a lot more mention because of it’s dramatic ending – where the Lions went 80 yards in 79 seconds to win the game.]

Public Enemy Number One

Mike Kafka – Quarterback #13

I know that I’ve picked a Quarterback for this segment nearly every week, but Kafka makes a strong case – he’s leading the conference with a whopping 2,902 yards. By comparison, the immaculate-as-of-late Daryll Clark has 1,884. How does one rack up that kind of production in only eight games? Airing it out in come-from-behind victories. Kafka is the genesis of Northwestern’s ability to stay in – and as we saw last week, win – games that looked to be over at the end of the first half. He’s a Senior quarterback that has the potential to challenge the vaunted Lions’ defense late. He’s got an issue with turnovers (his three against Indiana last week helped put them in a hole in the first place), but he can just turn it on in the 4th quarter.

The X-Factor

Jared Odrick – DT #91

I could include the All-American in this section every week. He’s the anchor of the defensive line and always seems to make a highlight play. But he’s important here in the comeback theme, as defenses tend to play prevent after gaining an early lead. Prevent defense involves the majority of players dropping into coverage to defend the pass, taking away from the rush. Odrick’s ability to pressure the passer despite double-teams will come in handy in shutting down the Wildcat offense late.

Tips For The Game

1) Depending on where you live, you might get some Trick-or-Treaters in the middle of the game – the 4:30 kickoff time and tendency for parents with young children to wrap up the process before dark poses the constant threat of interruption. If no one in the house is willing to take the hit, may I suggest the unattended-bowl-outside-the-front-door method? Sure, you run the risk of one little hoodlum taking the motherload, but that’s just an excuse to make a threatening sign. After all, Halloween is supposed to be scary.

2) Fun size candy? Great snack for the game. You don’t get a much better excuse to grossly underestimate the amount of calories you’re inhaling than eating fun size candy on Halloween.

3) If you’ve got a costume party to go to afterward, I would not try to cut corners by wearing your costume during the game. Celebrating a touchdown is a lot more fun when you don’t have to worry about things ripping or falling off.


The spread for this game is set at 17, one point off of the Minnesota game. Should we expect a wide margin of victory? With the way the offense has jelled, I don’t think it’s unreasonable. But Northwestern’s tendency to make amazing comebacks makes you question if this is a game we can ever watch with a relaxed attitude.

Penn State 31
, Northwestern 21. The match-ups are heavily set in Penn State’s favor – especially the Wildcat’s banged-up secondary against the blossoming Nittany Lion offense. However, it would not be wise to to underestimate the “cardiac cats'” ability to make this game interesting in the fourth quarter – especially with all the whispers of “trap game” going around.

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About the Author


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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