Game Day Observations: Michigan
Words just don’t seem adequate enough. I stopped taking notes midway through the first quarter because I didn’t want to miss anything. That’s the type of atmosphere this game held for four quarters and four overtimes — I truly believed that if I looked down at my phone for even a few seconds to jot down a note, I’d miss seeing something special. It was the best game at Beaver Stadium that this generation of Penn State students have ever and likely will ever experience, and it just didn’t seem right to burden myself with that avoidable chore.
As the risk of sounding cliche, here are my observations from Penn State’s thrilling upset over Michigan.
- I’ve attended most of the big games over the last decade: Joe’s 300, 400 and 409 win; 2005 Ohio State; and 2002 Nebraska, just to name a few. Only the Ohio State game in 2005, when we sprinted out of the dark ages in the first true White House game ever, comes close to what I witnessed on Saturday, and this time we had no bowl game to play for. It was intense and amazing and emotionally draining and any other number of adjectives you want to use. I still don’t think I can digest it. I don’t know that I ever will.
- Penn State hasn’t gotten a lot of breaks in the last couple years, or in the last decade for that matter, aside from 2005. I sat there with my head in my hands during the 2008 Rose Bowl loss to USC while I was still in high school. I agonized in Dallas during the 2011 Ticket City Bowl that we were overqualified for and yet so outmatched as Houston blew our doors in. It was an all too familiar buildup on Saturday. A ranked team expected to win big under the lights in Beaver Stadium. I had endured these games before, and despite the intimidating atmospheres White Outs always bring, Penn State always found a way to lose these games. But not on Saturday. I waited a long time for Penn State to knock off a team like this when no one thought they could, and man does it feel good.
- I sat front row in the “Nittanyville President’s Group” for the first time, which was an incredible experience. I don’t often do Nittanyville — in fact, I prefer to sit 20 or 30 rows up so I can see the plays unfold better — but for this game, with all the recruits and action on the sidelines, it was completely worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to hug a large, sweaty man than I was when Jordan Lucas jumped up right in front of me after the game.
- It seems like that 44-24 Indiana loss was so long ago, doesn’t it? Hard to believe it was only last weekend when Penn State was embarrassed by Indiana in front of a 30 percent full Memorial Stadium in Bloomington. I’m okay with never bringing that one up again.
- Penn State oversold the student section by 4,000 seats I’m told. Private security was brought in to guard the student section to the point where ushers were required to mark tickets with a sharpie for a reason unbeknownst to me or anyone around me. Although 1,100 students were displaced to the upper deck, there was still a large empty area at kickoff. Good job, good effort on that planning I guess, but at least THON gets some money now.
- The “We Are” chant in the first half had to have lasted more than four minutes. It was incredible. The volume stayed the same throughout the entire thing. Here’s a quick video of that. I’m not sure when it will stop giving me chills but I don’t think I want it to.
- On the other hand, the student section is consistently off when singing the Alma mater or any other participatory chant. Specifically, half of the student section is too anxious to belt the “May no act of ours bring shame” line that it can’t wait for the Blue Band to finish the last note. It sounds horrible from where I’m at and it was never a problem before the last couple years. I don’t know the solution, but the absence of Football Eve and Dr. Bundy teaching the pre-game show to students is certainly a contributing factor.
- The White Out went off without a hitch. There’s always the worry that it will rain and people will fail to bring white ponchos/rain gear. This one went off without a hitch, as you can see in this video.
- Allen Robinson’s catch will be played in Penn State highlight reels for the rest of time. Only Gregg Garrity’s 1983 Sugar Bowl catch might make more appearances. And that’s just fine with me. This incredible photo was taken by our own Bobby Chen.
- If Christian Hackenberg progresses like a normal college quarterback will, he’s going to have a special career. If Christian Hackenberg progresses like a quarterback under Bill O’Brien normally will, he’s going to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the nation sooner rather than later. He made some bad mistakes — that first Jarrod Wilson interception comes to mind — and he often threw behind receivers and looked lost in the admittedly almost non-existent pocket, but all that can be taught. The poise required for that final drive is something that you can’t teach. Imagine Rob Bolden trying to march down the field against Michigan with 50 seconds left. Yeah.
- Even more remarkable is that we did most of it without our “power” running back in Zach Zwinak. It’s understandable why O’Brien took him out, as his fumble should have cost Penn State the game. Bill Belton is very good, but the sooner Zwinak gets his act together, the better.
- I cringe every time Penn State is 4th and short because of O’Brien’s punting philosophy. There is absolutely no justification to go for it on 4th and 1 on your own half of the field (in this case the 34-yard line) in the first quarter. Luckily for Penn State, it only cost it three points, but it just doesn’t make any sense. I know our punting game isn’t the greatest, but we can’t make this call. I did like the fourth down call in quadruple overtime, considering a field goal would have put Penn State back in first possession, which is a huge disadvantage in college overtime.
- It has only been one weekend, and I can already tell this “Penn State Lives Here” campaign is going to be nauseating. The various videos shown on the scoreboard during the game for the campaign were your typical Penn State research lab shots with elevator music that we have all come to know and hate.
- My favorite part of Homecoming every year is the Alumni Blue Band. They’re amazing. I wish they would’ve come for a lower stakes game so I could focus on listening, but I enjoyed what I did hear.
- The referee made 107,000 enemies rather quickly after that Adrian Amos phantom pass interference call in the fourth quarter. It was to the point where the refs would make a call in favor of Penn State and still get booed. Had Penn State lost, those guys might’ve needed an escort off the field.
- As much as I give Penn State credit for the win, I don’t think Brady Hoke or Michigan called a particularly great game. Devin Gardner only attempted 28 passes against our maligned secondary. The group was never really tested. It was a peculiar game plan, but you won’t see me complaining.
- I don’t even know how to explain the end of the game. I don’t think anybody does, although Devon Edwards at Black Shoe Diaries does the best I’ve seen at conveying the emotions and the spirit of those final minutes. “I’ll never forget it for as long as I live.”
That’s it for this week! See you in two weeks in Columbus, which is always a fun place for visiting fans…
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