Game Day Observations: Temple
It was a chilly Big Ten noon game in the middle of the season, which is about as inauspicious as a gameday experience can be. Nonetheless, save for one half of miserable football, it was actually…fun. Watching Penn State play was fun for the first time in awhile, with the postseason and state pride on the line.
I’ll keep this brief; it was Temple after all. Here are your game day observations:
- Any list that includes Penn State’s student section as the best is just not being honest. It has high ceiling, perhaps — for the one or two games a year when its at full capacity, the student section may absolutely be the best in the country — but more often than not, it’s just abysmal. Students showing up in large numbers for 1-2 games a year is hardly worthy of praise. I’ve been sitting in the student section since high school (before the new draconian security measures) and, at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I can say that from at least 2008-2011, the student section was almost always at or near full capacity. If there are any teams in Penn State history that deserve the support of the community, it should be these last three. Here was the scene five minutes before kickoff (the lower bowl would fill up a bit more in the first quarter, but never close to completely):
- I know the Beaver Stadium sound guy has a thankless job. He also happens to be a good guy. But, holy shit, if I have to hear that “make some no-ISE” clip in that whiny, aggravating voice, I may just leave (well, not really…Penn State football has a monopoly on my life). “WE DEM BOYZ” after every good play is equally frustrating. I’d almost rather listen to Beyoncé or whatever other new garbage people like to listen to these days.
- It was military appreciation day at Beaver Stadium, which meant a cool display near the S-Zone. Some kids around me who couldn’t tell what was going on were flipping out for a good 10 minutes mistakenly thinking that Temple cherry shirts were being passed around. Anyway…
- It’s depressing to think about how many games Penn State would have won this year with a healthy offensive line and another year of Garry Gilliam. Who could’ve seen 254 rushing yards coming? It’s probably no coincidence Miles Dieffenbach finally made his full return. With a satisfactory ground game like we saw on Saturday, how many games does Penn State win this year? 9? 10? More? It’s both frustrating to think about and reassuring for the future.
- It’s also becoming increasingly clear that the team’s success is coming despite Christian Hackenberg. Finally, John Donovan called a somewhat respectable game for his standards. Finally, Hackenberg had time to throw. And yet, the struggles continued. An uninspiring 12 for 26 performance for 112 yards with 2 interceptions against an American Conference team ought to be reason for concern. The occasional flash of brilliance is almost always followed by a mistake, a mopey jog off the field, and (if circumstances allow it) a Ficken field goal. After 10 games, the excuses ring hollow.
- On the other hand, this defense is really something special. Mike Hull and Anthony Zettel are so much fun. The only touchdown given up on Saturday came on one instance of blown coverage. Five interceptions and a total shutdown of the Owls’ running game made Bob Shoop’s unit a joy to watch. Seriously, we’re watching one of the best defensive units in the country week in and week out. This would be a 3-win team with last year’s defense.
- And hell, at this point I’m perfectly comfortable overlooking the flaws of this team and accepting our bowl bid, hopefully anywhere but New York City. Not even the most optimistic among us could have predicted this outcome. When you think about it, the unexpected success, big or small, is the best part of being fan. So I’ll buy my ticket for some December game with an unsightly sponsor — technically unimportant but yet totally meaningful in the context of this Penn State story — and I’ll enjoy it. I’ll think back to the darkness and uncertainty of November 2011 or July 2012 or any of the other bullshit that’s happened in-between and, dammit, I’ll enjoy it.