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.

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?)

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.

White Girls Can Root.

Last week I read an interesting article on the declining interest of white people when it comes to the NBA.

In the article, Buzz Bissinger writes, “I also make a habit of asking every white sports fan I know whether they watch the NBA. In virtually every instance, they say they once watched the game but no longer do. When I ask them if it has anything to do with the racial composition, they do their best to look indignant. But my guess is they felt very differently about the game when Larry Bird and John Stockton were playing.”

I found this wildly intriguing. It’s true that viewership of the NBA is down and many complain that the NBA All-Star shenanigans aren’t what they once were, but on Saturday night, three white girls (myself and two roommates) hunkered down on a couch in Brooklyn, set our table with snacks and beer, and watched (and “ohhhh!”-ed at) most of the All-Star Game challenges, and returned the next night for the game.

Two of us even voted during the Slam Dunk contest (Blake Griffin jumped over a car. I mean, come on.).

Sick.

One other roommate was returning from a trip home to Pennsylvania, and when she arrived she found us lit up with the basketball festivities, shouting at the three-point shooting contest. She entered with her parents and grandmother. I thought her dad might weigh in on the competition, but it was her grandma who offered a comment on the shooting prowess of whoever was running around beyond the arc at the time. And as her mother walked by with groceries for our refrigerator, she paused to watch a struggling contestant.

“He’s not squaring his shoulders.”

I nearly died. It was perfect.

So, I don’t discount the numbers or research when it comes to the alleged dwindling interest in the sport on the whole, but this year the All-Stars put on a show. And we were very appreciative.

Made of Steel.

On Sunday night, I watched the Pittsburgh Steelers capture their eighth AFC Championship. I was at a pub with about ten other Black&Gold supporters, squashed between two gaggles of Jets fans. The bar itself had several inflated Jets players outside, and a Jets flag swayed in the frosty wind from an upstairs window. We were the minority, but we were more than okay with it.

Black and yellow.

Our server, another Pittsburgh native and high school friend of a few of us in the group, stole one of the several Terrible Towels we had displayed and at the ready on the table in order to go swing it around the kitchen where the cooks grumbled. We were nervous for the state of our food but chuckled in support.

To quote something I read this morning, “Pittsburgh has won more Super Bowl titles (six), more AFC Championship Games (eight) and played in (fifteen) and hosted more (eleven) conference championship games than any other AFC or NFC team.”

Damn.

I want to state plainly that those who say the New England Patriots are the dynasty of this era (the 1970s Steelers being the dynasty of old) might be mistaken. Yes, the Patriots won their three Super Bowls in a span of four years (the second team to do so, the other being Dallas), two of those Lombardy trophies coming in back to back (wins in 2001, 2003 and 2004), but they capped a perfect regular season in 2007 with a loss in the game that mattered (falling to the New York Giants 17-14). In both 2009 and 2010, New England was the #1 seed in the AFC and yet they lost in early playoff rounds (falling in the Wild Card to Baltimore in ’09 and losing to the Jets in Divisional Playoffs this year). Dynasty? More like Dynasty of Almost.

Please don’t be confused – I am not arguing that the present-day Steelers are worthy of the title of dynasty. They still have a lot to prove. The Steelers failed to even make the playoffs in 2006 and 2009, the seasons following their two most recent Super Bowl wins. Dynasty just isn’t a word to throw around lightly.

But should Pittsburgh win its seventh Super Bowl on February 6, 2011, it would be unprecedented in the sport of football. That doesn’t make them the “new” dynasty, but it does set the franchise apart.

Hines Ward following AFC Championship win over the Jets.

As any yinzer (read: Pittsburgher) would say, Go Stillers.

HBO, I always like what you’re doing.

Sick.

Last night, HBO Sports’ 24/7 Penguins Capitals premiered, providing an unbridled look at two teams headed for a Winter Classic battle at Heinz Field on January 1, 2011. The ingredients : HBO, hockey, specifically Pittsburgh hockey (oh and the Washington Capitals), a heated rivalry – I feel like I don’t need any other lead-in info aside from that. This is a dream come true for me, not just because this show puts my favorite professional sports team in the spotlight, but because HBO brings everything they do to a different level. The cinematography is gorgeous – the city scenes from Pittsburgh were breathtaking, and the ones highlighting our nation’s capital weren’t too shabby either.
Money.

Hockey is a unique beast. It is a sport that requires its participants to go to battle several times a week at the same intensity the National Football League reserves for just one game every seven days. Hockey players are rarely divas – just watch a few in-game interviews. They speak in technical terms, they care about the game above all, and they care about winning – as a team. The NHL as a league gets only a fraction of the media attention its professional sport counterparts in the NFL, NBA, and MLB receive. And that’s why I think this series is a perfect opportunity for viewers to get a peek at the inner workings of this mystical sport. Who better to serve up the story than the premium cable powerhouses at HBO?

HBO, I always like what you’re doing.

Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

Old School flavor.

There are several Steelers bars in NYC, but sometimes Black&Gold pride pops up in places unaccounted for on the internet. I was walking along 2nd Ave. in the Upper East Side about a month ago when I caught the above blow-up football player.

I truly, deeply enjoy running into Yinzers or finding Pittsburgh anything around New York City. Sometimes, I can’t help but shout ‘GO STILLERS’ when I see a jersey or prominently-displayed logo. Though it’s not unbelievable that there is Pittsburgh pride living and breathing (and drinking beer) in NYC, I think I might need to start taking more (stalker-like) photos of these displaced Pittsburgh fans and amassing my collection here for you all to enjoy.

NYC Pens Fans Meet-Up group at Foley's.

Oddly enough, I’m thinking about watching the movie ‘Mysteries of Pittsburgh’ tonight, which I’ve heard has little or nothing to do with Pittsburgh. The mysteries continue.