PSU news by
Penn State's student blog

Topics

About

Nittany Lions Learning How to Finish Games

Penn State will head into Saturday’s contest against No. 24 Northwestern riding a three game winning streak, but there are some people who believe it should be a four or even five game winning streak.

This notion is not an unreasonable one. Consider a few numbers for the Nittany Lions so far this season:

  • Scored first in every game this season.
  • Scored on the first or second drive three times.
  • Outscored opponents 49-0 in the first quarter.
  • Outscored opponents 76-9 in the first half.

Those statistics would set up well as a winning recipe, but the second half in the first two games was a much different story as the Nittany Lions were outscored 35-9. The three consecutive wins have seen big improvements as Bill O’Brien’s squad has scored 38 second half points and only surrendered 24.

When thinking about this season so far, I think back to one of my experiences playing sports as a child and an age-old adage that everyone learns at some point throughout life. I was ten years old playing on a local basketball team, and my father was the coach. I was not a great player by any means, but if there were nine players on the team, I was usually in the top five. That meant I would play in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. I assumed it meant I would start the game too, but I rarely did.

Midway through the season, I was confused and decided to ask him about it. His explanation was rather short. “It’s not who starts the game that matters. It’s who finishes,” he said. At the time, I didn’t appreciate it, but I also never forgot it. By no means is it a novel concept, but to an innocent kid, it served as the first abstract sports lesson that could apply to various other situations.

This phrase is without a doubt drilled into the heads of the Nittany Lions after the two frustrating losses. Leave points off the board against a talented MAC team, and all of a sudden, a pass that should have been intercepted results in a momentum swinging touchdown. Fail to deliver the dagger against Virginia on a few 3rd and long opportunities for the defense, and you end up losing to an opponent that was thoroughly dominated.

The Navy game was never in doubt, but against Temple and Illinois, the Nittany Lions closed opponents out when they tried to make things interesting. Against the Owls, they completed a 12 play drive that consumed 7 minutes of the clock to put the game out of reach.

Last Saturday, the Illini briefly woke up in the second half. They got on the board to make the score 21-7 and got a quick stop on defense. The Penn State teams of the first two games might have made things scarier, but not this time. Three and out. Matt McGloin touchdown run. Michael Mauti interception. Zack Zwinak touchdown run. Less than 12 minutes after the Illini touchdown, the score was 35-7. There were still fourteen more minutes of football to play, but the game was over.

Perhaps part of this is due to inferior opponents, but all of a sudden, the Nittany Lions are playing to win in the second half rather than playing not to lose.  The running game is eating up the clock with first down after first down, and the defense is making stops on third down. It is a welcome sight for many that expected this type of killer instinct football from a new regime but was not accustomed to it during the final years of the previous one.

As disappointing as the first two results were for those around the program, the bitter taste will slowly fade away if the Nittany Lions go on a run in the Big Ten.

As they say, it’s not how you start but how you finish.

About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.

Comments

State College Links
More by Drew

McGloin Named NFL Rookie of the Week

The former Penn State record setting quarterback took home Pepsi Rookie of the Week honors following his impressive first NFL start that resulted in a 28-23 win for the Oakland Raiders on the road against the Houston Texans.

Will Adrian Amos Play Some Snaps at Linebacker?

Willis and Carson Talk Differences Between Butler and Roof

Athletics

Big Ten Announces 2018-2019 In-Conference Hoops Matchups

The 2018-2019 season will feature a 20-game in conference schedule for the first time.

From Manager To Walk On: Penn State Softball’s Ashton Mensinger Enjoying Unexpected Opportunity

Penn State Women’s Lacrosse Loses To Maryland 13-8

Penn State Men’s Lacrosse’s Ryan Keenan Selected In MLL Draft

Penn State Baseball Snaps Eleven-Game Losing Streak Against Mount St. Mary’s

Student Life

Homecoming 2018 Logo Revealed

The Homecoming Executive Committee revealed the Homecoming 2018 logo at halftime of the Blue-White game.

Miniature Penn State Tailgate Bus Up For Sale, Tailgate Never Has To End

Creamery ‘Brew And White’ Iced Coffee Now Available

Saquon Barkley Shows Some Skin On SI Cover

The NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 26, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Barkley is expected to be a top-five pick, and he and his most vehement supporters say there’s no reason he won’t go No. 1 overall.

Blue Beats White 21-10 In Penn State’s Spring Scrimmage

Mac Hippenhammer’s two-touchdown performance highlighted a Blue team victory Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

Dry Weather Expected For Blue-White Weekend

Predicted temperatures in the mid-50s and mostly cloudy skies should make for a pleasant (but more importantly, dry) Blue-White Weekend.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Miniature Penn State Tailgate Bus Up For Sale, Tailgate Never Has To End

The bus was purchased at a church and designed to carry 22 children. Now it carries about 30 cases of beer.

Send this to a friend