Random musings on the weekend that was in State College
On Saturday, fans finally returned to Beaver Stadium to watch the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Ball State Cardinals engage in a contest of American football in State College, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions emerged victorious, 44-13. I have several thoughts, which are set forth randomly below.
4. Remember last week when I spoke about how I missed Akron?
5. This is exactly what I was talking about. A lovely early-fall Saturday, perfect weather, a beer in hand, and a 3:30 start that doesn’t require anyone to get out of bed and to a tailgate lot too early.
6. This…this is perfect.
7. College football without fans isn’t college football, and everyone seems to have realized that. It was nice to get some version of the sport in 2020, but it lacked the pageantry and mystique that all college football games have. Without the crowds and the noise and the bands and the students, college football (even good college football) is basically an NFL preseason practice scrimmage, featuring less precise and talented players.
8. With the crowds and the noise and the bands and the students, college football is College Football.
9. And it turns out that 105,323 people thought so too. And unlike most paid attendance numbers, Beaver Stadium looked like it held exactly that many, to the number.
10. This post is difficult to write this week. There were neither incredible feats of overwhelming athleticism, nor record breaking statistical performance. In fact, that stat lines here look downright unassuming.
11. Sean Clifford – 230 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions. 66 yards rushing, 1 touchdown.
12. Noah Cain – 3.5 yards per carry, 1 touchdown.
13. Jahan Dotson – 5 catches, 65 yards, 1 touchdown.
14. These three were Saturday’s statistical leaders in each major offensive category.
15. Against a MAC team, though? This is good?
16. Yes, because it turns out everyone did their jobs so capably that a good mid-major was entirely outclassed by the end of the first quarter.
17. Clifford, for instance, completed over 72 percent of his passes. When was the last time we saw that? For yet another week, he made no mistakes and continued to drive the offense downfield without forcing passes into coverage.
18. Cain led all rushers in carries and yardage, but Keyvone Lee was right on his tail with 68 yards, including a stint in the first series of the third quarter where he ran for four consecutive first downs – 11 yard, 12 yards, 12 yards, and 11 yards.
19. The passing game involved completions to 10 different receivers, including a solid game by Parker Washington (6 for 54 yards) and Theo Johnson’s first touchdown. Three running backs hauled in passes, including Cain (3 for 30 yards), Lee (1 wheel route for 24 yards), and Devyn Ford (1 for 6 yards).
20. Lots of fans winced at the throw that Clifford rifled to Cam Sullivan-Brown for a first down, but I loved it. That was a frozen rope put exactly where it should have been in coverage.
21. Lost in the midst of the two high profile quarterback recruits coming in was Ta’Quan Roberson, but that was a pretty pass on the run for a touchdown that he threw in the 4th quarter. I don’t want to see a lot of him this year, but that’s only because of what doing so might entail. I did like that he looked like a guy who had been in the program for a while and could handle some snaps if necessary.
22. The early defense was outstanding and was the real difference in this game. Two consecutive 3 and outs to start the game, including forcing a 26 second possession? That’s a confident squad putting a stranglehold on the game from the jump.
23. By the third quarter, this game was boring. In early season contests, we should all embrace the boring.
24. Outstanding one-handed pick six from Jesse Luketa. Looked even better than this…
25. For what it’s worth, I didn’t even realize what Ball State’s mascot was until I looked at the box score in preparation for this game.
26. Ball State is a quality football team for their level. Penn State did what a really good team at its level is supposed to do.
27. Everyone talked about this as a “trap game.” A “let down, look ahead Saturday” for the Nittany Lions. Ball State tried to throw a wrench in Penn State’s grand plans.
29. Penn State dodged the wrench.
30. On to Auburn.
31. Wear white.
32. We are…