The throes and woes of PSU football
    We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    We judge of man's wisdom by his hope. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

    He that lives upon hope will die fasting. -- Benjamin Franklin
It's not very much of surprise that this weekend's Penn State - Iowa contest ended up making ESPN's bottom ten list; the final score was Iowa 6, PSU 4.

Yes, that's correct. Two field goals versus two safeties. I watched most of the game, and I can tell you it wasn't as frustrating as it sounds. It was more. Our offensive was terrible; twice we were 1st and Goal and could not score a single point. One 25-yard field goal missed wide right and an interception on the 1-yard line will do that. To the shock of the company in my room that afternoon, I actually flailed to my knees screaming "NO!!!" when we just barely missed blocking a punt, knowing that we had just missesd our best scoring opportunity.

Towards the end of the game, probably 8 or 9 minutes left, Iowa was faced with a 4th and 7 from the PSU 30. Instead of attempting the 47-yard field goal to go up 9-4, they elected to punt. This was probably the most insulting point of the day, as Iowa no doubt knew it was more valuable to put us in bad field position than to get more points, knowing our offensive couldn't possibly move the ball 50 yards. Well, 90, really, because our kicker couldn't make a 25-yarder.

But there was hope. Penn State's defense has played great all season, and this time was no different. Against a team that had racked up 33 vs. Ohio State (I should say the dreaded and now dreadful Buckeyes), we held them to a mere pittance. They could not run, they could not pass. Late in the game (immediately following the aforementioned goalline interception), the Hawkeyes had the ball on their own 9, with 3rd and 11; I declared that it "wasn't so much 3rd and 11, but 3rd and GOAL for our defense." Our defense and special teams were our best scorers that day, and I think Iowa was actually relieved to give the ball back to our feckless offense.

Our defense has held opponents to 14.5 points/game this year, which should be enough to win games. It certainly is enough to keep hope alive every game, as we are in it until the bitter end every time. (Except once -- at Wisconsin, losing 16-3, but I'm proud to have held the 8-0 Badgers to their lowest Big Ten total this year, in their house. This only demonstrates our defensive prowess more.) However, defeats become all that more crushing when you hope to the bitter end.

Why put up with the bitter defeats? Why not point and blame and yell for Paterno's head? Any change is good change, right? Well, I think this team is an inspiring group our guys, and I like that we are in every game. I think that we fight it out and take it on the nose and are still going to get up and play our guts out next time. And if that isn't enough, maybe there's this:
    In the end, the story of Penn State’s homecoming game with Iowa was not one of victory and defeat but of the class and dignity displayed by young men who are really too young to possess so much wisdom.

    After giving up more turnovers than points earned, after hearing their own homecoming crowd boo them, after watching the offense squander golden opportunities, after watching steady Robbie Gould miss two kicks, it was time for the Nittany Lions to let the finger pointing begin.

    Everyone knew it would happen. The media served up the questions and waited for a melee to begin. And waited. And waited.

    Because Penn State’s roster is jammed with kids who continually demonstrate uncommon class in tough situations and withstand the natural temptation to make excuses, they’ll be waiting forever to hear the Lions blaming one another. Maybe it is the effect of the Penn State way, maybe it is good parenting, or maybe these guys just truly believe in one another – still.
I'm proud of these kids, and proud of our alma mater, and proud of what JoePa is instilling in these guys. Class, dignity, and maybe, just maybe, a victory next week. I hope.

BONUS DETAIL: Incidentally, the only thing that kept my sanity after that game was my paraphrasing of an old Pavement song. I turned bitter misery into whimsical victory by taking their song "Two States"(from the classic Slanted and Enchanted album) and making it about two safeties. Note that I did not leave out the '40 million daggers'. It was either that bit of inspired singsongery, or murdery.

UPDATE: I was looking for some statistics to back up my claim that we had a great defense, but I didn't expect to find an interesting comparison between us and Wisconsin, the 8-0 Big Ten leader (and current #6 in the country):
    Minnesota........... 8 37 33 0 0 8 0 279 34.9
    Purdue.............. 7 31 30 0 0 8 0 240 34.3
    Michigan State...... 7 23 21 1 0 12 0 197 28.1
    Michigan............ 8 27 20 2 0 13 0 225 28.1
    Northwestern........ 7 23 20 0 0 7 0 179 25.6
    Indiana............. 7 21 17 2 0 7 0 168 24.0
    Illinois............ 8 22 20 0 1 8 1 180 22.5
    Iowa................ 7 19 16 0 0 9 0 157 22.4
    Ohio State.......... 7 15 15 0 0 15 0 150 21.4
    Wisconsin........... 8 20 18 0 0 9 2 169 21.1
    Penn State.......... 7 15 14 0 0 3 3 119 17.0

    Wisconsin........... 8 7 5 0 0 7 0 68 8.5
    Penn State.......... 7 10 9 0 0 11 0 102 14.6

    Purdue.............. 7 11 9 0 0 9 0 102 14.6
    Iowa................ 7 13 12 0 0 8 2 118 16.9
    Michigan............ 8 19 19 0 0 4 1 147 18.4
    Ohio State.......... 7 17 15 0 0 7 0 138 19.7
    Minnesota........... 8 19 19 0 0 9 0 160 20.0
    Michigan State...... 7 18 17 0 1 10 0 157 22.4
    Indiana............. 7 25 25 0 0 12 0 211 30.1
    Northwestern........ 7 26 22 1 0 11 0 213 30.4
    Illinois............ 8 33 27 2 0 7 0 250 31.2
That, my friends is the INCH when they say the game is about inches, and how slight the difference can be between being a champion and in last place.

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