Final thoughts on Penn State-Wisconsin
Well, that wasn't a bad way for Penn State to end the season. There's so much to talk about after this one - let's dig in right away...
7-5 vs. 6-6: There is a difference. Players and coach Bill O'Brien didn't want to admit as much going into the game - probably because there was a chance they'd lose - but they spoke freely about it afterwards.
I wouldn’t say it changes our pesrepcitve," offensive guard John Urschel said. "It really solidifies our season as a solid winning football season. There’s a huge difference between 7-5 and 6-6."
Linebacker Glenn Carson went as far as to say this win helps soothe some of the bad losses. In the end, there were still some painful losses - Indiana and Ohio State primarily. But O'Brien said he thinks the program is "in pretty good shape right now." It's not hard to agree, partially because of the next point....
The youth rose up: All season long, many of Penn State's less-experienced performers had disappointed. Obviously that wasn't the case with Jordan Lucas or Adam Breneman or Christian Hackenberg but other guys getting some of their first big experiences in college football had. Trevor Williams to name one. The cornerback had barely played the last four games but was cast into action because of a foot injury to Adrian Amos. He played solid defense in the second half and had an interception. Other notable young players from Saturday included linebacker Brandon Bell, who forced an interception by C.J. Olaniyan, and Austin Johnson, a defensive end who finished with four tackles. Malik Golden also started at safety in place of Malcolm Willis in the second half.
It is just one game, but if those guys can improve, Penn State's future is much brighter. The Nittany Lions do after all have Lucas, Hackenberg and Breneman.
Going long: Hackenberg had three pass plays that were longer than 50 yards - one to Breneman, one to Geno Lewis and one to Allen Robinson. Wisconsin had not given up plays of this length all year. Hackenberg credited his receivers with making the right plays. What it looked like, though, was a combination of factors. Hackenberg was at his best, the playcalls were just right and yes the receivers made some nice moves. Here's what O'Brien had to say about going long:
"My theory is if you throw ten deep balls sodnw the field… if you hit three or four of them that’s big. That’s like a guy batting .400 in baseball."
Vegas, baby: You can read my game story when it posts later tonight or tomorrow for more about this. But anyways, the players really seemed to care that they were cast as such massive underdogs. Truthfully, the line did seem a bit large at 24 points. Ohio State was only favored by 10 against Penn State this year, and Chris Adamski of the Tribune-Review did some research earlier this week and found that it was the biggest point total Penn State had been an underdog for since at least 1985 and probably since ever. Again, O'Brien:
"I can tell you flat out they took offense to the fact they were 24 point underdogs and that nobody even in State College thought they could win the game, except the kids in that locker room and the coaches in that locker room. So I think the kids took it personally. You take those things personally. That’s just the way it is. That’s just football."
I'll have more thoughts about this game and more about this season on Sunday and Monday. Until then....