The Bronx, New York (December 27) – Penn State Senior PK Sam Ficken booted a 45 -yard FG with 20 seconds left in regulation to tie Boston College, 24-24. In the hard-fought, intense game at the Pinstripe Bowl played at Yankee Stadium in front of 49,012 rabid fans from both schools, he converted his extra point in OT after a ten-yard TD pass to TE Kyle Carter on a fade route to the left side that tied the Eagles to take home the hardware for an exciting 31-30 win. The Eagles scored on the first possession in OT on a 21-yard catch and run, by Dave Dudeck (Hamilton, NJ), but Mike Knoll’s PAT went surprisingly wide right. PSU Soph QB Christian Hackenberg probably got the best pass protection he got all season in the second half to overcome a 21-7 deficit to Boston College (7-6) with 2:12 left in the third period. He finished his day with four TD passes, two in the fourth and the last in the overtime along with 371 yards on a 34 for 50 day to give the Nittany Lions a winning season at 7-6. For CFF.com, it was our first of five post season bowls heading into the end of our own record-setting 2014 season where we plan to have attended 26 NCAA football games.
Both highly-ranked defenses dominated in the first half holding each offense to only one score. PSU drew first blood on a 72-yard scoring pass from Hackenberg to Chris Godwin who shook off one tackler and streaked the distance along the right sideline for a 7-0 lead. PSU attempted an on sides kick but it was caught out of bounds and BC took over on its 48. At the Lions’ 49, Frosh RB Josh Hilliman (Plainfield, NJ; 25 carries 148 yards, 1 TD) ran off right tackle and broke away to the end zone to even the score. The Lions were on the move again to the Eagles’ 21, but Hackenberg mishandled the snap and turned the ball over. Neither team managed any scoring threat for the balance of the first half.
BC started off the second half from its 40 after a 32 yard return by Myles Willis. QB Tyler Murphy, a Florida transfer ( 11 of 19 passing for 97 yards and two TDs; 11 rushes for 105 yards, one TD), finished a scoring drive with a 19-yard pass to Shakim Phillips near the right pylon to take a 14-7 lead for the Eagles. A fumble by Hackenberg and a recovery by BC’s Matt Milano gave the Eagles possession on their 37. At the Penn State 40, Murphy faked the handoff on the option and sped around the left end juking past a defender for a 40-yard touchdown scamper, and BC extended its lead, 21-7. PSU started its next possession from the 37, and the O-line started to show signs of protecting its QB against a very good Boston College defense. As the third period expired, Hackenberg connected with Geno Lewis in the end zone as a defender swatted the ball up, and Lewis snagged it on the way down for an over the shoulder catch for a seven-yard scoring play. The third expired with BC leading, 21-14.
After PSU’s No. 2 rushing defense held BC to a second series of three and outs, they took the ball back on their 45. RB Akeel Lynch (17 carries for 75 yards) raced 35 yards to the Eagle one. An unsportsmanlike call against the o-line put PSU back on the 16. On second and goal, Hackenberg fired the ball into the end zone to DaeSean Hamilton for his third TD pass of the game and the score was knotted, 21-21. BC came out effectively running the ball between Murphy and Hilliman. Penn State’s defense stiffened, and with 2:12 remaining, Mike Knoll put BC back in front, 24-21, with a 20-yard FG. The Lions moved the ball on the ensuing series with five straight completions by Hackenberg to control the clock with one time-out left. Two subsequent runs put them at the 27, and Sam Ficken, who struggled early in his kicking career at Penn State, split the uprights from the 45 to even the score, 24-24, with 20 seconds left to send the game into overtime. His extra point after Kyle’s Carter TD reception sealed the exciting bowl win for the Nittany Lions.
It was a hard fought game played by both teams. It’s a shame the Eagles had to lose it on a missed extra point in OT, but that’s how it ended. We’ve seen others disappointingly settled the same way. In the annals of our history, this was our 481st game. PSU now has a record of 71-22 and is 4-0 in bowl games. BC is now 7-6 overall and is 0-2 in their bowl games we’ve attended.
Next we fly to Nashville for the Music City Bowl on Tuesday between LSU and Notre Dame. We will hook up with our friend Joe Rogers of the College Football Bowl Report to enjoy the game and the Music City.
Extra points: Lively crowd for sure. We met up with long-time Penn State connection John Massimilla and his son-in-law Aaron and other friends (among them Evan Williams) who came out from Chambersburg by bus. We got to tailgate and smoke cigar compliments of John before the game at the bus lot on the corner of 151st and River Ave.
A tribute and a moment of silence were made before the game to the New York Police officers who were assassinated in Brooklyn by a coward last week. I saw some people go out of their way to shake hands with some of the officers on duty at Yankee Stadium during the game to thank them for their service.
Also joining me today as Guest Game Analyst was my 19-year old son Eric on his final day of Christmas leave as he’s now a Petty Officer 3/c in the US Navy. Eric and I did five bowl tours together over the years including Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and to the west coast when he was younger. He’s headed back to go on duty now, but it was great that we got to see such a great game together in the short amount of time we had to spend. Go Navy! We’re all proud of him.
Bowl observations: Navy’s defense confirmed their improvement by holding San Diego State down in their 17-16 win at the Poinsettia Bowl. We had seen them shut down a vaunted Georgia Southern running game earlier and a good Army triple option attack in their 17-10 victory, but they did as well against a potent Aztec attack led by Donnell Pumphrey…How did North Carolina beat Duke and Georgia Tech to go 6-6 to play Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl? RU whipped them like they didn’t belong… Overall, however, most of the bowls have been well played, close games. However, I would prefer to see most to the games played before Christmas discontinued for several reason. One, nobody has the time or interest in travelling so far or spending more money that time of year. Two, I would like to see 6-6 teams eliminated as bowl eligible. Especially if that total includes non-FBS teams. Three, there are too many bowls. Four, let’s go back to distinguishing winners from losers. Five, I would like to see eight teams in the CFP with the opening round played at the stadiums of the top four seeds. Six, bowls should still be rewards for “good”seasons. Seven, everybody gets a trophy. Phooey! Eight, I hate seeing televised football games played in front of so many empty seats. Nine, the games are essentially for filling up ESPN air time so they can sell commercials that we get bombarded with from game to game after game. Ten, how many bowl eligible teams anybody plays or beats is so insignificant now because 78 of 128 teams are in bowl games. That’s no big deal any more.
All five teams we saw this year that have gone on to Bowl games thus far are undefeated. In addition to Penn State, Rutgers, Navy, South Carolina, and Marshall all came up with bowl wins for a 5-0 record. Texas A&M, Auburn, Missouri, Ohio State, and Florida State all have their games coming up. I still don’t understand why the Sunbelt couldn’t let their 9-3 champ Georgia Southern go to a bowl. So what if it was their first season in the Belt? A conference champ is the best team you have to represent your league.
CFP Bowl predictions: With our whirlwind tour of four games in four days coming up this week, we probably won’t update the stories and events of our trip to our games until next weekend. There will be a lot of driving in between games, some partying (mostly before the Music City), some sleeping, and an evening of CFP bowl watching planned on New Year’s Day that will preclude us from getting out the updates of games that we’ll be attending. So before I’m on the road again, here are my predictions for the two semi-final games on January 1:
No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State: As is his habit, Jameis Winston will find a way to overcome Oregon after Marcus Mariota and his flock take an early lead in the Rose Bowl. Winston just figures a way to bring his team back to life to slither back into the game when it’s on the line, and then the Seminoles will be heading to Arlington. They’ll win in a close one to the tune of something like 27-24. Winston and the Noles will do whatever it takes to win their 28th game in a row to go defend their 2013 title.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State: Nick Saban has had over three weeks to dissect QB Cardale Jones after the Buckeyes 59-0 romp over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. He’ll have an effective game plan in place. Ohio State’s defense is no slouch, however, and they will be ready for Blake Sims and Amari Cooper. I’ll give the edge to Saban in this case as his experienced QB should help him get by the Buckeyes. Plus being in the Sugar Bowl will make it like an Alabama home game. The Tide will win, 27-14. We’ll be back in time to predict the outcome of the first CFP to be played on January 12.
Happy New Year!