Game Day Observations: Indiana
Don’t take this the wrong way: Bloomington is underrated as far as Big Ten towns go, with some of the best beer bars I’ve experienced in my football travels. Memorial Stadium, on the other hand, is exactly as depressing as you might expect it to be, both literally and figuratively in the shadows of basketball’s Assembly Hall across the street. The cold and the rain and the offense probably didn’t help my impression.
Anyway, let’s get to it:
- Like I mentioned, I always enjoy the trip to Bloomington. It’s probably average among the 14 Big Ten towns, but that’s still better than most places. There are enough local watering holes to keep you busy for the entire stay and remind you of State College. Nick’s English Hut is right downtown on Kilroy Street and reminds me of the Skeller, except with better beer and half the crowd (here’s a great piece on its history). You’ll never have a problem getting a table at any bar or restaurant in town, even on game day, which was a refreshing circumstance.
- Memorial Stadium, on the other hand, has the worst atmosphere in the Big Ten except for maybe Purdue or Illinois. It’s really just a depressing place to watch a game. Announced attendance was 42,683 but I would be shocked if it was more than 12,000. There’s really just nothing notable about any of it. The student section, at its peak, was probably about 400 strong — and they were all gone by halftime. The place was so quiet you could hear the coaches and players scream, which resulted in more than one family moving their young children to higher seats. Cheerleaders come into the stands to lead chants, but it just ends up in awkward silence. One student came up to me at the bar after the game and said, “Nice [Penn State] jacket, but I hope you guys lose today!”
- And here was the tailgating lot 2 hours before kickoff.
- If our stadium announcer was as annoying as Indiana’s, I’d probably have a tough time going to games too. Every announcement is accompanied by a clearly fake grizzly voice. The “first down….HOOSIERS!!!!” was a bit much. Try less, Indiana.
- Dave Witvoet was the ref, and it turns out there might not be a conspiracy against Penn State after all (Indiana seemed to get flagged for most of the ticky-tack calls Witvoet and his crew are famous for). This unsportsmanlike call was peak Witvoet…and it didn’t even include the whole dialogue: “We have two unsportsmanlike fouls. Number 9 on the defense…and…the offensive. Penalties offset. It’s 2nd down. I mean 3rd down.”
Big Ten refs, everybody. https://t.co/V0clTLt8Ey
— Onward State (@OnwardState) November 8, 2014
- At least three fans came up to me before the game and asked us to “take it easy on them.” I assured them they didn’t know what they were about to watch — and I was right. Our offense is seemingly a lost cause. Christian Hackenberg has regressed more than anyone could have predicted (an Indiana fan next to me, who didn’t know Hackenberg’s story, asked why we wouldn’t put in another quarterback), and we’ve reached the point where we can’t just blame the offensive line for his ineptitude and mopiness. Wide receivers drop what seems like one in four balls. We call screens on third and long. Without Bill Belton turning on the burners for the most improbable play of the season, Penn State probably loses 7-6. Also, turn your volume up — I have no idea what the Big Ten announcers are doing here.
— Onward State (@OnwardState) November 8, 2014
- On the other hand, this defense is stuff of legend. Here’s how Indiana fared on each possession, per the Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, punt, interception, turnover on downs. Of course, Indiana is on its third quarterback, but that’s still pretty incredible.
- And, really, what more is there to say about this Penn State team? There’s nothing more to learn, nothing more to hope for, no leader to emerge. Take care of business against Illinois and Temple, pray for a Florida or San Francisco bowl instead of New York or Detroit, and take advantage of the 20 extra bowl practices so we can parlay the extra time into success next season. When that success finally comes, we’ll all be better for watching that game on Saturday.
- I’m far from an X’s and O’s football expert, but one thing I notice this year more than any other is Penn State’s playclock management. Maybe I’ll spend some time rewatching games, but it seems like Penn State lines up on the ball with 10-15 seconds left every time after a long huddle. By the time everyone is set and Hackenberg does his thing, the ball is often snapped with 2-4 seconds left. Penn State had to use several timeouts on Saturday because of playclock mismanagement. Everything seems slow and mopey — it’s almost like no one is even checking the clock. This seems like something that should be fixed at this point in the season, but what do I know?
- Blue Band director Richard Bundy continued his season of accolades, accepting a granite plaque from the Indiana Marching Hundred at halftime. He got as loud of an applause as 10,000 people could give.
- The Indiana equivalent of the Lionettes are called the Redsteppers. They performed a strange “howdy-doody” type cowboy bit with the band, which made me appreciate the Lionettes even more. Between the heel clicking and that weird straddle dance move where you stay in one place, push your knuckles toward the ground while kicking your legs out to the side over and over again, it made even Indiana fans uncomfortable.
- Among the many Memorial Stadium scoreboard gimmicks, in what can only be an attempt to replicate a minor league baseball game, included a “name that song” feature where a song played and the student-athlete on screen had to identify it. This week, the song was “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. Not one Hoosier student-athlete could identify the song. Indiana dads in the stands seemed nonplussed.
- Anyway, that’s enough ragging on the Indiana football environment for one post. Penn State is one game closer to a December vacation, and after the last seven weeks, I’m more than okay with that. Now, let’s figure out a way to not lose to Temple.