Beyond Seattle: Was Penn State trying to lose Rose Bowl?

While I was watching the Rose Bowl yesterday, I couldn’t help but yell at the TV:

“Are you guys even trying to win this game?”

Of course, I wouldn’t normally cheer for a non-Pac 10 team in a bowl game, assuming one of the teams playing in the bowl was from the Pac-10. However, when it comes down to money, all allegiances are off.

I had a good chunk of money riding on the Nittany Lions +10.5. That means all they had to lose by was 10 or less to the Men of Troy. The line was strong–or at least I thought it was. After all the talk of how this was going to be a defensive struggle I was predicting a final score of 17-10 in USC’s favor. Unfortunately USC was just faster on both sides of the ball and I could sense the confusion in Penn State’s secondary (I blame the coaching) which ultimately led to their downfall. For some reason I left the TV on after the 24-point clobbering Penn State took in the 2nd quarter. The look on the face of the fans wearing white told the entire story:

That’s just an awkward pleat in the khakis. Trust me, this guy does not have a boner.

24 points! That’s an insurmountable lead! Maybe if I smell my hands things will get better!

The Penn State faithful may not have smelled victory in those hands, but with the second half came new hope. USC’s first drive of the half resulted in a C.J. Gable fumble and Penn State took over. Things look promising when the Nittany Lions actually began moving the ball on their possession.

Unfortunately, hope quickly ended with a serious of questionable decisions that brought the Lions to their knees.

Questionable call #1

4th and 7 with Penn State at USC’s 36 with 6 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. Sure, a punt here might net you 16 yards. But was a 54 yarder out of range for Kevin Kelly who owns the Penn State school record with a field goal from 53 yards out? To me, a field goal from this distance is less of a risk than a dump off play that nets you 10 yards less than a punt would have. Of course, a field goal also doesn’t make much sense here, until you compare it with…

Questionable call #2

After giving the ball back to USC on QC#1 where the only open player I saw was Jordan Norwood (poor coaching again) USC runs some more time off the clock but amazingly Penn State’s defense stops them. We start the 4th quarter with the teams exchanging touchdowns and the margin is still 24 points. Penn State now has the ball in the red zone with 8 minutes left, 4th and 2 at USC’s 7 yard line. Can someone tell me why they go for it on QC#1 but bring the kicker out this time? They can’t QB sneak it 2 yards for the first down? Or run the same play in QC#1 which netted them 6 yards? What are the coaches thinking here? You’re down by 24 points within 7 yards of getting 6 of those back and they go for 3? Imagining their thought process makes me sick: “Well we’re going to need the the points sooner or later.” Yes, you will. But first you have to get 21 points, then hold USC’s offense which has been cutting you apart to zero points and then your three points actually makes sense.

It was almost as if they were doing some favor to the senior kicker, getting him out there for a field goal for his last game. I think a big fat “W” in the Rose Bowl would count more to him when he looks back on his storied kicking career at Penn State than a pointless 25-yarder.

Questionable Call #3

I can feel the momentum shifting. USC goes 3 and out after the field goal, Penn State scores another touchdown. Margin down to 14. Penn state gets the ball back again after another USC three-and-out with three minutes to go and suddenly QC#2 isn’t looking like such a terrible move. Unfortunately on the first play from scrimmage Daryll Clark gets popped and throws up a duck that gets picked off. First of all, three minutes is enough time to possibly get two scores. Penn State given the same field position had just previously closed the gap with another touchdown in a little over a minute-and-a-half. Sure the odds were long (it would have required a successful onside kick), but did they really need to go for the 25-yard pass play on first down? Aren’t crunch-time drives filled with quick out routes? I have to blame this one on the coaches again because there were TWO Penn State receivers in the middle of the field waiting for that duck, when Clark should have only been looking to the sidelines.

So with that interception the game was basically over. But wait! On fourth down following the interception, USC, unaccustomed to punting late in games, loses 37 yards on a very long snap from their seldom-used long snapper. Penn State recovers the ball at the USC 14-yard line with 45 seconds to go.

Maybe I can still win my bet. All I need is a touchdown…

Four chances. All they do is waste time. And the best part of it? They spike the ball on 3rd down with seconds left to stop the clock and regroup, only to have a delay of game called on them which moved them backwards from the seven-yard line to the 12. Isn’t the whole point of spiking the ball to figure out what you’re doing next in a timely fashion? For some reason I think Penn State was thinking they were down by seven instead of 14 and were playing to tie the game. The next best thing during this “drive” happens when Clark throws up another duck on fourth down to absolutely no one to pad USC’s defensive stats and the game is over.

All I needed was four points.

Penn State could have won this game. They let the game get away from them in the second quarter, then when it seemed like things started going their way the players either made mental mistakes, or the coaches set them up to fail. I’m sure there were plenty more questionable calls during this game, but in the end what matters is what was on the scoreboard…and in turn my wallet.

Not a good way to start the new year for me, but kudos to the Pac-10 for going undefeated in the bowl series this year.

One thought on “Beyond Seattle: Was Penn State trying to lose Rose Bowl?”

  1. Definitely glad that USC won due to Pac-10 minus Oregon pride but I felt the same way on that field goal. Even Brent Musberger said something regarding the fact that kicking that field goal was a favor to the kicker. After he said that I looked at the reaction on the kicker’s face and he seemed less than elated. I think he would’ve liked the “W” too. I still don’t think Penn State could’ve beat USC and I’ve maintained the entire season that I think USC is the best team in the country.

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