We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Penn State sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, baseball or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Monday, Sept. 12. Let’s get started.
A new normal for the Nittany Lions?
By early in the second quarter of Saturday’s Penn State-Pitt game, the two NFL scouts had seen enough. They were sitting on either side of me in the Heinz Field press box, and they had watched as the Panthers, dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage, rolled to a 28-7 lead after 18 minutes had elapsed.
“We’ll be out of here at halftime,” one scout said to the other.
The other guy agreed, and the first scout began working his phone, seeing if he could find a flight earlier than 5:30, their original departure time.
The game was over. And then it wasn’t.
The Lions cut the gap to 42-39 late in the fourth quarter — and well after the scouts left — and might have pulled it out were it not for a dropped pass by wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, one of the most reliable players on the team, followed a few plays later by a game-clinching end-zone interception of Trace McSorley by Pitt’s Ryan Lewis with 1:15 left.
Penn State had never scored so many points in a loss in its history, which dates back to 1890. And as LNP’s Mike Gross noted, this looks like the new normal for this team. If in James Franklin’s first two years the Lions leaned heavily on their defense, it now appears that their offense will score enough to keep them in most games.
And, in reverse, the defense will now allow enough points to keep the opposing team in most games. That unit wasn’t proven to begin with, and now it is banged up and struggling.
Middle linebacker Jason Cabinda, who did not play Saturday, was spotted with a huge wrap on his left wrist. Cornerback Grant Haley, defensive end Evan Schwan, linebacker Brandon Bell and defensive tackle Kevin Givens all left the game later with unspecified injuries.
So get ready for shootouts, Gross writes.
This team appears, two weeks in and in … like almost a photo-negative opposite of the last two. Not clearly better or worse, at this point. But much, much different.
Stay tuned. Looks like this is going to be a wild ride.
What of the future of Penn State-Pitt?
As it stands, the Lions and Panthers are scheduled to play the next three years, through 2019. But given the tenor and competitiveness of Saturday’s game, Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wondered why it can’t continue beyond that.
I just hope Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour took it all in. … Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes has said he wants to play Penn State every year in “perpetuity.” If this day, this crowd, this game didn’t convince Barbour to find a way to put Pitt on the Penn State schedule every season as soon as possible after the series ends again after the 2019 game, shame on her.
James Franklin said last week that Pitt and Penn State’s schedules were “set” through 2025 and 2026. The Lions must play nine Big Ten games per year, leaving three non-conference dates. Auburn will play a home-and-home with PSU in 2021 and 2022, and there is talk that LSU might be a future opponent as well.
But let’s be clear here: The Lions and Panthers need to find a way to make this happen. This obviously means a lot to both teams. The Pitt players said as much, and while the Penn State players have steadfastly avoided using the word “rivalry” to describe this series – remember, the school likes to trumpet the fact that it is “Unrivaled” – the way the Lions fought Saturday would indicate otherwise.
Shots fired by former Penn State players
As noted by ESPN.com’s Josh Moyer, former Nittany Lions Troy Drayton and Allen Robinson did not hesitate to tweet out their criticism of Franklin and his team during Saturday’s game.
First Robinson, who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars:
Penn state look so unprepared
— Allen Robinson (@Thee_AR15) September 10, 2016
Now Drayton, a former tight end for several NFL teams from 1993-2000:
This is embarrassing! I have never seen a PSU team look this bad in a rivalry game!!!!! SMDH!
— Troy Drayton (@TROYDRAYTON84) September 10, 2016
In the interests of fairness, he did tweet out the following after the game, however:
I AM PISS ABOUT HOW WE LOST, BUT I AM PROUD OF THE HEART MY LIONS SHOWED TODAY! PITT EARNED IT TODAY! THATS PENNSYLVANIA FOOTBALL!
— Troy Drayton (@TROYDRAYTON84) September 10, 2016
Maybe this is an inevitable byproduct of the social media age, but this has happened more than once during Franklin’s tenure. Some ex-players took him to task during last year’s season-opening loss to Temple — this week’s opponent, incidentally. Also, former quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge chimed in after last year’s 55-16 loss to Michigan State, calling the Lions’ effort “downright embarrassing.”
Temple gets a Pat on its backs
Pat Croce, the ultimate Philadelphia guy, has worn a lot of hats in his life. He’s been a workout guru, a martial arts enthusiast and, at one point in the early 2000s, president of the Philadelphia 76ers. That often involved mediating disputes between coach Larry Brown and Allen Iverson, but Croce made it work and the Sixers reached the NBA Finals in 2001.
Croce — relentlessly upbeat, eternally optimistic — now runs a pirate museum in St. Augustine, Fla., and owns several bar/restaurants in Key West. His mantra is this: “I feel great,” and one usually doesn’t have a hard time believing him.
That being the case, it should come as no surprise that Croce tweeted out the following on Sunday:
— Pat Croce (@pat_croce) September 11, 2016
That figures to be a hoot, because Croce never does anything halfway. During his time with the Sixers, he would do things like rappel out of the rafters of the team’s home arena, or scale the Walt Whitman Bridge to hang a Sixers banner.
Jeremy Long of the Lebanon Daily News unfurled sequential photos of a one-handed catch by DeAndre Thompkins early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game.
Thompkins, filling in for an injured Saeed Blacknall, picked up 39 yards on this play. Overall, he had three receptions for a team-high 87 yards.
— Jeremy Long (@jeremymlong) September 11, 2016
Around the Land of 10
Speaking of Robinson: He had six catches for 72 yards in Jacksonville’s 27-23 loss to Green Bay on Sunday, as well as an unlikely fumble recovery | Ohio State players offered a touching tribute on the 15th anniversary of 9-11 | Wisconsin defensive end Chikwe Obasih knows more Pokemon than you.