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131929684 New Era Begins At Penn State

By: Bill Campbell

In any other time the deactivation of DeSean Jackson, if only for one game, would have been big news. But much larger headlines were coming from the hills of Mount Nittany and being written by even bigger football names like Sandusky and McCreary and Bradley and many others all centering around one of the all-time biggest football names, Joe Paterno, who has not been charged with any violation. But all of the alleged activity seemed to have occurred during his long reign at Happy Valley, about which we have hardly heard the last.

The story was not quite a week old when still another man claimed that he, too, had been a victim of abuse by former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, at the Penn State football facility. The man, now an adult, did what others should have done: he contacted the police department after seeing media accounts of Sandusky’s arrest. The alleged victim is now in his 20s. He says that he knew Sandusky through the Second Mile charity, which Sandusky founded. He says he never told his parents or the authorities about the alleged encounters. He is the ninth victim to be identified while Sandusky remains free on $100,000 unsecured bond.

While this story may continue ad infinitum, and more names may yet appear, by the ending of the first week there wasn’t much left to do but play the game against Nebraska — a decision, incidentally, with which many disagreed.

Game Day appeared to be a strange day at Beaver Stadium, a day on which many fans or players or coaches or cheerleaders did not know how to act. The football game itself reflected the indecision on the part of both teams. The game was won by three points by Nebraska. Each team had 21 first downs. There were nine penalties in the game, six on Nebraska and the times of possession were almost exactly the same. It was the beginning of a new football era for Penn State, and the ending of that will live long in memory and probably be best forgotten.

There was a cartoon in a Sunday Philadelphia newspaper depicting a man in a comfortable easy chair in front of a big TV set watching a football game. His wife appeared suddenly on the scene and commented, “I thought you gave up on the Eagles.” And the football fan replied, “I did. I’m just trying to get my mind off Penn State.” And so we shall until later developments.

Giving up on the Eagles would have been quite understandable, based on their recent pathetic performance against the Arizona Cardinals.

It really began on Saturday morning when DeSean Jackson missed a special team meeting. He did appear for a Sunday team walk-through, but missing the meeting justified Coach Reid’s suspension and displayed openly the disagreement, contract-wise, that has developed between the Eagles and Jackson. No one with even the slightest knowledge of football has ever questioned Jackson’s talent, but questions about his maturity, or lack of same, have been ever-present.

The Cardinals came into the Linc with a 2-6 record, with John Skelton, a second year back-up quarterback filling in for Kevin Kolb. And with their brilliant receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, posed the only real, serious threat. But the Eagles’ usual downfall in the fourth period cost the Birds another game.

Quarterback Michael Vick, supposedly the leader, failed again with 16 completions on 34 passes, including two interceptions. He has now thrown 18 interceptions in his last 16 games, during which the Eagles have gone 7-9, failing in the fourth period in five of those games. Difficult as it might be to believe, Vick was outplayed in this game by Skelton. He not only did not have DeSean Jackson. but Jeremy Maclin missed a lot of time with injuries.

With both receivers out, it was expected that the running game with LeSean McCoy would be featured. McCoy, the leading rusher in the NFL at the time, had for whatever reason just 14 carries in the game for 81 yards, catching only three passes for 12 yards. When the Eagles led 14-7 in the fourth period, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called four straight passes.

The Eagles are 1 and 4 at home this season. They have lost 7 of their last 9 at the Linc. And now Vick has two broken ribs and Maclin a separated shoulder.

Coach Reid, however, seems content with both the offensive and defensive play-calling and the coaches who are doing it.

So where do we go from here?

The week did produce some positive things: Mark Howe, son of Gordie Howe, entered the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Howe’s and Brett and Bobby Hull are the only father-son combinations in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Howe becomes the fourth former Flyer inducted, joining Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and Bill Barber.

LSU and Oklahoma State remained atop the college football polls. TCU stunned Boise State, 36-35, by going for 2 with a pass on a two-point conversion attempt and doing it successfully.

And Harry Perretta, Villanova’s ladies’ basketball coach, won his 600th game.

The Phillies made some moves, first by raising some ticket prices even after 200 and some consecutive sell-outs, and by not signing Ryan Madson after a fine season. Madson doesn’t work here anymore. The Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon as a closer. So the next difference of opinion around here will involve baseball. From all reports, they could have saved $5 million by signing Madson. The figure for Papelbon is reported to be $50 million.

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