Game 550: Penn State Nittany Lions sleep walk through Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 35-6
State College, PA – After three consecutive weeks played by Penn State in games critical to put them into position to vie for the 2017 College Football Championship series – beating Michigan handily in front of a record crowd before losing late at Ohio State by one and then to Michigan State by three on the last play at East Lansing – our Game 550 resulted in the Lions sleep walking over B1G foe Rutgers (4-6, 3-4) despite a final score of 35-6. The Lions spotted the Knights two FGs early into the second period to trail 6-0. As my season ticket-holding neighbor seated in front of me said at about that point, “Somebody should tell them this is Rutgers.” They must have heard her.
Two years later, Game 550 already
For Collegefootballfan.com, this contest became our Game 550 of all time. Though we hosted two busloads of friends, fans, and well-wishers at that November 21, 2015 celebration held at West Point where Army hosted this same Rutgers program to celebrate Game 500, Vince Gallo who attended that grand occasion joined me as GGA for this mile marker (Game 600 is a couple of years away). Today, he attended his first game ever at Beaver Stadium, home of the Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2). What impressed Vince most was how just about every Penn State fan dressed in the school colors of navy blue and white adorned with some form of a Penn State logo. He mentioned that he was happy to wear his Centenary (NJ) College ball cap which with the same colors helped him fit in somewhat. Next time, he said, he’ll buy a Penn State ball cap.
Gotta have some Harte
After Andrew Harte’s second field goal of the day gave Rutgers a 6-0 lead early in Q2, the Lion offense woke up after starting a drive from the 35 since the RU kick drifted out of bounds. After two long passes by QB McSorley (16 for 21, 214 yards, two TDs; 13 rushes for 44 yards, one TD) moved the Lions to the Scarlet Knights 15, he faked the handoff to RB Saquon Barkley who drew several Knights’ tacklers his way and McSorley swerved and dodged several remaining defenders up the middle for a 20-yard TD run. PSU took the lead right then and there to never look back again. The Lion defense bounced out of its early trance and forced Rutgers after that to punt seven straight times following three -and-outs. Late in the second, McSorely’s 22-yard touchdown pass into the end zone to WR DaeSean Hamilton gave PSU a 14-6 lead heading into halftime of Game 550.
Veterans’ Day tributes on display
At halftime, The Penn State Blue Band and its Alumni band in town for their annual Homecoming festivities paid tributes to veterans of all our Armed Forces on this Veteran’s Day. Before the game, Vince and I had perfect views of the pre-game flyover as we walked toward Beaver Stadium having hit major traffic delays on the way in. As a matter of fact, we watched the three F/A 18 Hornet strike fighters practice over Happy Valley several times from our car. State College requires early arrivals for noon kickoffs when 107,531 fans basically arrive en masse before the early start. Some early morning changes to our original plans set us back, but to Vince’s point, despite our late arrival into our seats late in Q1, we didn’t miss a thing.
Penn State takes off…
Kicking off to start Q3 of Game 550, Penn State forced a fumble from returner Janarion Grant. However, the Lions could not capitalize. A sack of McSorley by CB Dacoven Bailey set back the Nittany Lions into punt formation at the RU 36. Rutgers punted back three plays later. Barkley, the key the Knights determined to stop offensively, carried 14 times for only 35 yards. However, he finished off this series with a one-yard TD run for a 21-6 lead. The big play on this drive was McSorely’s pass to WR DaeSean Hamilton in the right flat who pitched it to Barkley coming around the right side to get in to the one. The visitors from The Birthplace of College football lined up to punt after its next thee plays, but their fake run through the middle by TE Jerome Washington resulted in a two-yard loss with the Lions taking back over on Rutgers 46. Barkley ended the drive with a four-yard run to give the Lions a 28-6 lead into the remaining period.
On a drive starting from its 38 in the final period, PSU scored on a 16-yard pass play to TE Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, NJ) to finalize the score, 35-6, with 6:52 left. The Lion’s second team defense came in off the cold benches (Kickoff temp at 26 degrees) to take over, and RU’s first team offense drove down to the PSU five before a sack and an incomplete pass put PSU into the victory formation to eat up the remaining 1:01 left. The Happy Valley fans rejoiced with relief as the sun started to descend after Game 550. They didn’t display the exuberance we had all hoped for after the Michigan last time we were all there together for a huge celebration.
Regular season winding down 🙁
Next up for PSU will be Nebraska (4-6, 3-4) at home for Senior Day festivities. We plan to follow the Lions the following week to see them battle with Maryland in College Park the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Rutgers stays on the road heading to Indiana who sports the same 4-6 overall record, but who has struggled to only 1-6 in the B1G. Both programs are seeking two more wins in their final weeks of this season to become bowl eligible. The Scarlet Knights will host Michigan State the week after they play the Hoosiers.
We add a new rivalry
We at Collegefootballfan.com head west all the way to Las Angeles for our first opportunity to go to the LA Memorial Coliseum to see the No. 12 Trojans of USC (9-2, 7-1) take on their cross-town rivals, the Bruins of UCLA (5-5, 3-4) for their 86th meeting. The game won’t mean anything more than pride as the Trojans have clinched the bid to represent the Pac-12 South for the conference championship, and the Bruins look for the opportunity to knock them off with an upset. We’ll be seeing two outstanding QBs in USC’s Sam Darnold and in UCLA’s Josh Rosen. We look forward to adding this rivalry to many others attended during our historical past, i.e. Army-Navy, Alabama-Auburn, Pitt-Penn State, Ohio State-Michigan, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State, Harvard-Yale, Lafayette-Lehigh (the longest), and Rutgers-Princeton (the first) to name a few. The LA Coliseum will be the 140th venue we’ve attended to attend a college football game.
Points After Tailgating
WR Juwan Johnson led the Lions in receiving with five catches for 78 yards while LB Jason Cabinda led the Lions with 11 tackles. Johnson hails from Glassboro, NJ and Cabinda played for Hunterdon Central HS in Flemington, NJ.
RU’s Janarion Grant was seen limping late in the game. The Lions kicked to him on every kickoff to the deep left corner of the end zone. One time the ball sailed out of bounds for a penalty to start RU from the 35. Another time, Grant looked to get around PSU’s left flank until a long gain was thwarted from behind after 29 yards as he almost broke free. He is returning from a leg injury suffered last season. The Lion strategy paid off holding him to only 82 yards on four returns, but look for him to be an exciting return man if he makes it to the pro level.
For CFF.com, this was our 105th Penn State game today with many thanks to our great PSU alum and friend, John Massimilla, who couldn’t make it today as he was under the weather as they say. It was a rarity to be there without him. John has seen many more PSU games than us as we roam the country “to see ’em all”. Another landmark for us today was PSU’s 80th win that we attended. As for Rutgers, we saw them fall for the 38th time. They tied Army now for the most losses in the annals of our history.