Lions and Hoosiers, Oh My.

Woof. What a sloppy game. Penn State snuck away with a (somewhat pitiful) 16-10 victory over Indiana in the the Big Ten opener for both teams. Despite starting 1-0 in the Big Ten Leaders Division with another strong defensive showing, Penn State made it clear (again) that the offense is going to struggle (with mediocrity) to put points on the board. For most of the first half, this game was painful to watch. Neither team had anything to speak of in terms of offensive rhythm – it was 3-3 at the half – and turnovers kept things ugly throughout. Penn State gave the ball up three times, including a Rob Bolden tip-turned-interception at the Indiana 1 and a Silas Redd fumble at the Indiana 2. Indiana had two turnovers of their own.

Matt McGloin again looked sharper than Bolden (not a high bar) and was 10 of 22 for 204 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and no sacks. McGloin’s TD was one of the lone scoring highlights from the game, connecting with Derek Moye on a long ball early in the third quarter. Moye hauled in six on the day for 158 yards and the TD, and despite the fumble, Redd rushed for 129 yards on 29 carries.

Next week, Penn State hosts Iowa in what will sure to be a tougher challenge than Indiana. Squeaking by is not going to work for long, especially in Big Ten play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:
– Speaking of tough Big Ten play, #8 Nebraska was welcomed to the Big Ten with an ass-kicking from #7 Wisconsin. The Badgers looked like the Big Ten team to beat after the 48-17 win.
-#3 Alabama stays undefeated after a test from #12 Florida, beating the Gators 38-10.
-In a turnover-laden game of their own, Auburn ended #10 South Carolina’s streak, defeating the Gamecocks 16-13.
-#13 Clemson continues to roll, taking down #11 Virginia Tech 23-3.
-#18 Arkansas bounced back from their loss last week to Alabama, edging #14 Texas A&M 42-38.

Attention Sports Citizens.

I want to give a shout out to a new site dedicated to a side of sports fandom oft overlooked, Sports Fan Manifesto. The site is run by my friend and former colleague, Tom Semioli, and I’m excited to see what stories and topics for rampant discussion Tom brings to light. I’m even more excited to put in my two cents (I’m… opinionated).

From the Mission Statement:
Greetings fellow sports fans! Sports Fan Manifesto is a forum created to discuss, debate, and disseminate the civic issues which affect sports fans from coast to coast. The goal here is to engage sports fans of conscious in a open, honest and respectful dialogue which confronts the serious issues of our times, ranging from the use of our hard earned tax dollars to build stadiums to team owners imposing ideologies which may or may not be in the public’s best interest: religion, politics, jingoism, militarism. We also intend to praise and call attention to those in sports who have exemplified social, moral, and civic responsibility.

Let’s not be simply be “sports fans” – let’s evolve together as “sports citizens!”

Haggard Weekend Recap.

Whoa, it’s Wednesday. I was not on my game (my game is updating/grumbling about teams of my choosing) this weekend, so I’m going to make this quick. Everything is old news.

Penn State beat Eastern Michigan soundly, 34-6, with Joe Paterno back on the sidelines for the first half of play. The two-headed QB attack put points on the board, but Matt McGloin outshined starter Rob Bolden, going 14-17 for 220 yards and 3 TDs. Bolden finished 7-13 for 115 yards, 1 funky interception that only went about one foot out of his hand, bounced back into his chest and was then rebounded, and tossed a screen to Devon Smith that extended into a 71-yard TD pass.

The offense relied more on the pass and it seemed to work (for the first week so far – there were giggles during the halftime report that PSU had finally scored a receiving TD), but the defense tacked on a dominating performance, and they seem to be the consistent side of the ball for the Nittany Lions, who enter Big Ten play this weekend against Indiana.

Other notable games:
-Gameday was in Morgantown, but it wasn’t pretty for the #16 Mountaineers. They fell to #2 LSU 47-21
-#7 Oklahoma State edged #8 Texas A&M 30-29 with just a little help from QB Brandon Weeden’s school-record of 438 yards passing.
-Last week Clemson took down the defending national champs, this week they were ranked (#21) and slipped by #11 Florida State (still smarting from that Oklahoma loss) 35-30, giving the Tigers their first 4-0 start since 2007.
-#3 Alabama is still looking very strong, handling #14 Arkansas 38-14.

Blue and White and Cherry.

sigh.

Penn State somehow beat Temple today, 14-10. Temple led for most of the game; it was 10-7 Temple until a 1-yard TD run by PSU fullback Michael Zordich with just under three minutes to play. If what I wrote doesn’t make this immediately clear, the Nittany Lion offense continues to struggle mightily.

Penn State’s two-prong mess of a quarterback situation is still in effect. Matt McGloin looked slightly better than he did against Alabama (not a real high bar set for him that game), but Rob Bolden has better goods – it just doesn’t seem like the receivers can perform for him. At any rate, neither is getting (or deserves to get) enough reps to really settle into the rhythm of being the offensive leader. And this problem isn’t going to resolve itself, so it does not bode well for future conference games against much better defenses than that of the Temple Owls.

Aside from the offense, the Special Teams put on an absolutely offensive show. Two missed field goals. One blocked (and therefore missed) field goal. One blocked punt. I really have nothing else to say. Other than I miss Kevin Kelly.

The one positive thing I can say about the game is that the defense is looking fairly stout this season. Typical, grinding Penn State defensive play is almost expected of the Lions, but it’s a nice thing to see (when so many other things are going wrong). But for as much as the defense can do, the offense still has to put points on the board, and one of the kickers needs to figure out how to get the damn ball through the uprights because field goals count too.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:
-Watching unranked Clemson snap #21 Auburn’s 17-game win streak was fun. Seemingly everyone on the Clemson football team has braids. Clemson wins 38-24.

Flowing braids.

-#10 South Carolina grabbed another sloppy win, edging a surprising Navy 24-21. Navy was driving in the last minutes of the game but an interception rained on that parade.
-Notre Dame stomped on #15 Michigan State for its first win, 31-13. Turnovers abounded for both teams, but Michigan State gave it up more when it counted.
-In the battle of the scandal-ridden, Miami trounced #17 Ohio State 24-6. Miami’s QB Jacory Harris was back after his one game suspension as part of the NCAA sanctions connected to the Nevin Shapiro case. He had two touchdowns but also two interceptions and a fumble.
-In Saturday night’s prime time event, #1 Oklahoma beat #5 Florida State 23-13. The Seminoles offense was shaky (although go check out the late-game 56-yard TD pass by back-up Clint Trickett on third-and-28 that tied the game at 13), but the defense kept Florida State in it for most of the game. Oklahoma’s Landry Jones had an up and down night (18-27 for 199 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions in a LOUD Florida State stadium), but he connected with Kenny Stills for a tie-breaking TD in the fourth quarter, and Oklahoma’s D held on.

Open Face.

Congratulations to Samantha Stosur and Novak Djokovic on their 2011 US Open wins. Both had to take down favorites in Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal (respectively), and both did so deftly. I had tickets to the Open on Wednesday, September 7, but alas, Mother Nature is a bitch (sometimes… please let me have lots of fall. Thanks!).

So close.. but so misty. It was not raining.

The US Open employs giants to update their on-site brackets.

The mopey walk back to the 7.

But enough about non-action. Here’s a collection of some of the best faces at the Open, courtesy of usopen.org.

Queen Latifah's face is pretty sweet, but check out the woman on the left...

Stosur looking quizzical.

Not an Open face but Serena's typical yelling-at-an-Open-official stance...

There she is.

Grumble.

Ahhhhh! In a good way.

On 9/11.

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (and now living in NYC), I’d like to share a project I was part of – the making of a series of 9/11 Memorial PSAs with Robert De Niro. On a series of days, inside and outdoors, in the gloom and the sunshine, we worked with people touched by the tragedy 10 years ago and visually captured the new memorial opening to honor those lost that day.

jib.

...

...

Blue and White and Red.

As I expected, Penn State’s dual quarterback attack (mismanaged plan) proved to be ineffective and inefficient in the Nittany Lions’ 28-11 loss to Alabama. At this point, it’s hard to say who is leading the QB battle between Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin. The two combined for a (whopping) total of 144 yards (completing 12-39 together), although for his part in that stat line, McGloin completed just 1 of 10 for no yards. Bolden did throw an interception, but he also suffered several key drops and eventually led a late scoring drive to avoid another touchdown-less loss to Alabama (see 24-3 2010 loss @ Alabama). One of the most frustrating things to watch in regards to a QB battle is that neither candidate seemed to be granted the chance to gain any momentum or settle into an offensive rhythm. There were a few series in which Bolden looked decent, more settled and closer to a real leader, but he was yanked the next series in favor of McGloin, who frankly could not do much of anything.

It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure.

As far as the other games I called out as intriguing, Ohio State eeked out a 27-22 win in the final minute of their game against Toledo, and Michigan took it even closer to the wire, scoring in the last second to nab a 35-31 victory over Notre Dame. Auburn also succeeded in the final seconds of their match-up, stopping Mississippi State at the goal line on the final play of the game (final score 41-34). South Carolina was victorious at Georgia (45-42) with the help of sloppy Bulldogs turnovers-turned-Gamecock-touchdowns.

Blue and White.

Time to get rowdy about college football. It’s BACK, in full-swing in my world this weekend with Alabama visiting my alma mater, Penn State (I do not count last week’s throttling of Indiana State as a real game for PSU). Just a little bit nervous about this one, but the one true thing going for the Nittany Lions is that this game is in Happy Valley, and home field advantage makes a notable difference in State College, PA. The quarterback indecision at Penn State is problematic, though, as the Crimson Tide looks to have another strong season atop the rankings.

I am off to join my fellow alumni in NYC at a Penn State bar, where I can be nostalgic about the not-so-far-away past (I miss Michael Robinson and the terrifying Posluszny/Hali duo in Blue and White uniforms) and yell at a plethora of bright TVs.

Other notable games to watch for today:
-Toledo at 15 Ohio State (Toledo currently leading OSU 15-14 with a little under five minutes until halftime)
-16 Mississippi St. at Auburn (Currently tied 14-14 at the beginning of the 2nd quarter)
-12 South Carolina at Georgia (4:30 PM kick-off of SEC play for the Gamecocks who had a sloppy win last week… and they’re headed to hostile territory)
-Notre Dame at Michigan (8 PM kick-off. ND offense vs. Michigan Defense.. what kind of game can Tommy Rees put together for the Irish?)

Not Very Laborious.

Whoops.. In about an hour, it will not be Labor Day any longer, but I’m sending out a well-wish. My Labor Day was NOT laborious. It involved indulging in a Bob Evans breakfast (and visiting the location at which I worked in 2005 and subsequently quit via letter, never to return to the blue-haired hotspot again… until today) and outlet shopping (the second best kind.. since the first is the solitude-friendly/shame-free online shopping). Oh and a plane ride. But the flight was on time and only moderately bumpy.

Hope Labor Day was lazy as hell for all of you.

Try to Remember, Forget.

Today I found out Pat Summitt, Tennessee Lady Vols Basketball Coach and current all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, has early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

This made me incredibly sad. I wrote about her prowess in a previous blog post, almost a year ago to date. She has always fascinated me – a woman at the top of the heap of the NCAA coaching roster, championed for her tenacity and fire at the helm of the Lady Vols program. She was offered the chance to become the Men’s Basketball coach and turned it down, calling it a “lateral move.”

Before I stepped foot on a court competitively (I played purely recreationally until trying out and making the team my freshman year in high school), I used to dream of playing at Tennessee, purely because of Coach Summitt. Sure, she scared the shit out of me, but that was part of the appeal. I respected her, and I felt like she could make anyone a winner – you just had to listen to Summitt.

To borrow from the USA Today article I linked to, “Summitt, 59, will continue to coach, and that’s the part of Tuesday’s shocking news that makes it seem as if she is staring down her disease with the same icy glare she made famous while winning eight national championships, 1,071 games and the respect of a nation that didn’t pay much attention to women’s sports in the days when she was growing up.”

“Summitt learned of her diagnosis at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Jenkins wrote that Summitt almost punched the first doctor who told her. When a second advised her to retire immediately, Summitt said, ‘Do you know who you’re dealing with?'”

She’s hardcore, and always will be.