Sunday, October 7, 2012

Penn State Football: The 2012 Mascots at Mid-Season

There is a tradition in my home each football season.  On our fireplace mantel in our family room, the mascots of all the teams that Penn State plays are lined up in the order that we play them.

At the beginning of a season, the mascots are all standing or sitting.  But as we play each game, the only mascots that remain standing are the teams that win.  The rest of the mascots are turned face up and on their backs.

So here, at the halfway point in Penn State's season, is how the mascots appear on our mantel.  I will update this every once in a while throughout the season, and this will appear as one of the pages in the header.

The Ohio Bobcat and the Virginia Cavalier remain standing.  Penn State lost to Ohio 14-24 and to Virginia 16-17 due to a heart-breaking missed field goal at the end of the game.  

The Navy Goat and the Temple Owl are on their backs.  The Navy Midshipmen were soundly defeated by Penn State 34-7 in the first team win under Coach Bill O'Brien's tenure as head football coach at Penn State.  Penn State proved to be too much for the Temple Owls as well, winning that battle 24-13.

When we first started playing Illinois, Chief Illiniwek was still around, and I was looking for a mascot to represent him.  I was told, "The Chief is not a mascot; he is a spirit."  So the best I could find was this bear that has Illinois insignia on his paws and on a bow-tie around his neck.  All that to explain why I'm showing an Illinois bear on his back!  The Chief is no longer a symbol of Illinois, thanks to the NCAA determining that Chief Illiniwek is insulting to Native American cultures.  There has been no effort to promote a new mascot at that school.  In any case, it felt very good to beat Illinois 35-7, a new fierce rival, thanks also to the NCAA. 

The Homecoming battle against an undefeated and very good Northwestern team will become a legendary come-from-behind win in Penn State football history.  The team scored 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat Northwestern 39-28.   So now the Northwestern Wildcat is on his back!

What's next?

October 13 will be a bye week, giving the Nittany Lions two weeks to prepare for a trip to Iowa City to play the Iowa Hawkeyes on October 20.  Then, there will be the classic 6 p.m. White-Out game October 27 at home against division rivals Ohio State Buckeyes under the direction of its new head coach Urban Meyer.   Judging from last night's very solid drubbing of Nebraska, Ohio State will be Penn State's toughest test.

Much of Penn State's fate this year (and possibly in future years) will rest on how well Penn State plays against these two teams. 

Then, Penn State goes on the road, twice in a row.  To play the Purdue Boilermakers on November 3 and then the Nebraska Cornhuskers on November 10.

Finally, Penn State plays the Indiana Hoosiers at home on November 17.  The Hoosier is another mascot that I couldn't find at Indiana, so I settled for "Big Red", the dog.  And the Wisconsin Badgers will roll into Beaver Stadium for the final game of this year on November 24. 

My predictions?  Penn State is becoming a very good offensive and defensive football team, and we see improvements each week.  It was very significant that Penn State was able to muster a come-from-behind win against Northwestern.  The mark of a good football team is that they can face adversity and find a way to win.

But Penn State has to show marked improvements in its special teams over the next two weeks.  They can't expect to get 5-6 in fourth down conversions every game and they can't expect to win in tight games without a solid kicking game.  We simply can't afford the costly special teams mistakes made on Saturday that gave up two cheap touchdowns to Northwestern:  a muffed punt, and then the longest punt of the season by Alex Butterworth that out-punted the special teams coverage.

On a positive note, kicker Sam Ficken didn't make a mistake on Saturday.  He made all the extra points and kicked one field goal.  Alex Butterworth also made some good plays, including pinning Northwestern on the one-yard line on one of his punts.

If Coach O'Brien can figure out how to solve the special teams issues, then Penn State has a chance to have a very good season.

1 comment: