By Bill Campbell
Penn State – Michigan
Each weekend seems to produce at least one barn-burner. Over the weekend, the college sports gods produced Penn State-Michigan. Over 100,000 fans in a whiteout at Beaver Stadium had the privilege of watching this one, a classic that took 4 hours, 11 minutes to complete. At the end, the Nittany Lions turned daylight into dusk, beating the Wolverines 43-40 in an unforgettable contest.
The Lions had to go 80 yards in 50 seconds without a timeout left as they made an unlikely bid to achieve a tie at the end of regulation – and they did it. Christian Hackenberg made a one-yard run into the end zone to tie it, 34-34. Then the defense dominated the overtime. Each team had one field goal for the first 3 overtimes and Brendan Gibbons led off the fourth with a 40 yard field goal to give Michigan a 40-37 lead. Penn State, without a first down in overtime to that point, ran 3 plays and had one play left on fourth down and one at the Michigan 16 yard line. An easy field goal would have tied the score. But Penn State coach Bill O’Brien had a win on his mind, not a tie. “The thing is,” said O’Brien in the locker room later, “I thought at that point it was the fourth overtime and I felt it was time for somebody to win the game.” “We could sit and trade field goals back and forth. I thought eventually it was time for somebody to win and I had the opportunity to do it. I just felt like it was time to go for the win.” That’s what he told his team, adding, “We practice two-minute situations every single day. In fact, the one we had at the end of the game, we practiced just the other day. We just needed the line to block really well and they did.” Penn State running back, Bill Belton, scored the winning touchdown for the Lions but Hackenberg’s ability to get the crucial tie in regulation will be the game’s main talking point. The crowd went berserk as the longest game in Penn State football history came to an end. No one who watched in Happy Valley or in front of a television set will forget that finish. Credit must be given to Coach O’Brien who gave up the safe field goal and had his team “go for it”. The coach acknowledged that, if it had gone the other way, he would have been “crucified” by the fans and the press. Lucky for him, his team rose to the challenge and brought home an extraordinary win.
Penn State is now 4-2 overall (1-1 in the Big Ten). The team has a bye week before it faces Ohio State in Columbus on October 26th.
Chip Kelly’s Coaching
Almost everyone in our area is writing or talking about Nick Foles and well they should after the Eagles’ 31-20 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday. The first time I allowed myself to consider that the Birds might win that game came with the Eagles’ holding an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter. They were fourth and one on the Buccaneers’ 17 yard line. Until then, I couldn’t shake off the persistent fear that they would do some stupid thing, make some basic mistake that would allow Tampa Bay to catch up and then win the game. Instead of using the field goal unit, Coach Kelly kept his offense, led by quarterback Nick Foles, on the field for the fourth down. Normally, a field goal would have been the call. Foles appeared to be sacked on the play and a flag was thrown before the play which Kelly had considered and called. He was thinking about drawing Tampa Bay off-sides and it worked out perfectly. The Eagles were going to kick a field goal because Kelly was thinking “two score game” but was hoping to extend the clock. The Eagles took the 5 yard penalty, had a new set of downs and ran 3 more plays while figuring that Tampa Bay would use all of its timeouts. Then they kicked an easy 24-yard field goal. In his post-game comments, Kelly said, “That was the most important thing to us. If you can go up 11 which we did and go up 11 and bleed a little more off the clock, why not do it?” While Nick Foles deserves much praise for a solid game, Kelly does too for his decision-making and time management. The win brought the Birds into a 500 record before a sure-to-be historic Eagles-Cowboys encounter at home on Sunday. Who starts as Eagles quarterback – Vick or Foles? The answer to that question is one everyone will be waiting to hear.
The Upset Chart
A barrage of upsets dotted the college football schedule over most recent weekend. Penn’s head coach Al Bagnoli knew that, if his team was to beat William and Mary, errors had to be kept to a minimum. Instead, the Red and Blue totaled 5 turnovers and lost 27-14. The game was played in near-constant rain in Williamsburg which contributed to the mistakes. Penn fell to 2-2 and the Tribe increased its record to 4-2. The Quakers play Columbia next weekend. Other upsets included Missouri beating the Georgia Bulldogs, 40-26. Wisconsin’s tough defense completely surprised Northwestern, 35-6 in the Big Ten. Texas beat up Oklahoma, 36-20, and Oregon stopped Washington, 45-24. Stanford fell to Utah, 27-21. Clemson upset Boston College, 24-14. South Carolina defeated Arkansas, 52-7. Baylor ran it up over Kansas State, 35-25. Virginia Tech scored 1 19-9 win over Pittsburgh. Jeremy Langford scored 4 touchdowns as Michigan State beat Indiana. Ameer Abdullah ran for 126 yards and a TD as Nebraska defeated Purdue in a rout, 44-7.
Alabama takes on Arkansas next week while Clemson will face Florida State. Stanford will face UCLA at home. Also on the program is Oklahoma-Kansas, Miami. North Carolina, Michigan-Indiana, Northwestern-Minnesota and Virginia tech meets Duke. There surely will be more upsets on the way. We should note that, down in Newark, Delaware, Sean Banner kicked a 42 yard field goal on the last play of the game as the host Blue Hens rallied to beat Albany, 33-30. Delaware has a bye this week and will play Rhode Island up in New England on October 26th.
NFL – Week Six
With 6 down and a bunch to go, here’s the way the NFL is shaping up.
In the much-to-be-desired Eastern Division, the Eagles are tied for first place with the Cowboys at 3-3. The Dallas Cowboys will tell us if the Eagles are some sort of contender next week when the two teams collide. In the South, the New Orleans Saints finally lost a game, bowing to the New England Patriots, 30-29, in a contest between two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. New England continued its great defense by holding the Saints’ star tight end, Jeremy Graham, without a catch for the first time in 46 games. Graham hadn’t been blanked like that since the middle of his rookie season in 2010. Coming off one of his worst games, Tom Brady threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie, Kenbrell Thompkins, with 5 seconds remaining to take the game away from the Saints who had clawed their way back. New Orleans still leads in the Southern Division, 5 and 1. Detroit and Chicago are tied for the lead in the Northern Division at 4-2, and Seattle leads in the NFC West at 5 and 1.
In the American Conference West, the surprise team continues to be Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs who are unbeaten at 6-0, having yielded only 65 points so far this season. New England leads the AFC East (4-2), Cincinnati (4-2) leads the AFC North, and Indianapolis leads the South (4-2). Speaking of the Chiefs, Kansas City grabbed a world record at Arrowhead Stadium when it beat Oakland recently, 24-7. During that game, the sound level reached 137.5 decibels in the closing seconds. Till then, the record stood at 136.6, set at Seattle earlier this season.
Here’s an interesting note: Chuck Pagano is the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. His younger brother, John, is the defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers. They faced each other on Monday night in California where the Chargers won it, 19-9/ Chuck is 7 years older than John. The Colts (4-2 now) were alone in first place in first place in the AFC South. Of course, the Chargers (now 3-3) were playing at home.
On a tragic note, Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson’s 2-year-old son died last week, the victim of child abuse. A man named Joseph Patterson, the 29-year-old boyfriend of the child’s mother, was arrested and charged with aggravated battery of a child. The little boy did not live with Peterson but with his mother in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Peterson, 26, who missed practices last week to get to see his injured son, arrived for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers just 2 hours before it started. In a losing Viking effort, Peterson totaled 62 yards on 10 carries and 21 yards on 3 receptions. After stating his belief by Twitter that his son was in a better place, Peterson was greeted warmly by the Minnesota fans at game time. Our thoughts go out to him and his family.
Looking to the weekend, I’m right there with you counting the hours till kick-off: Sunday, 1:00 p.m., the Eagles meet the Cowboys at the Linc.