Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Best, Worst, and Most Memorable Moments of the 2009 Season

I thought that now would be a good time to look back at the 2009 season and reflect on some of those moments that defined the season. So here’s my list of the best, worst, and most memorable moments we encountered at Penn State games and in our travels back and forth to away games.

Best Moments:

1. The 4th Quarter at Northwestern: We were tied 13-13 at the start of the 4th quarter, and we were lucky that Mike Kafka, their talented quarterback, was injured. Three fourth quarter quick strike touchdowns by our offense defined that game. The 34-13 score was much closer than it appeared.
2. Winning at The Big House: Okay, Michigan wasn’t a great team this year. But the stadium was packed and noisier than ever due to the new grandstands on either side. We finally got the Big House monkey off our back. Two consecutive wins against Michigan were very satisfying.
3. Michigan State: The Ambience and the Third Quarter: Unseasonably warm weather for November 21 made the tailgating scene especially vibrant. The third quarter of the game. We were tied 7-7 at the half. During the third quarter both the offense and defense poured it on and Penn State scored 28 points! A great deal of fun to watch.
4. The Shutout Against Minnesota: A very good defensive game against a team with a winning record. A very satisfying win. The first clue we had that Penn State would be a good team this year. Minnesota was able to muster only 7 first downs in the entire game. They were held to only 138 net yards. And the weather – the freak October snowstorm and unseasonable cold – could have wreaked havoc. But it didn’t. A very solid performance.
5. The Temple Game: Picture-perfect weather, a commanding win against a team that continues to improve in the MAC conference. Treating some new friends to a game at Beaver Stadium was fun. We always hope the best for Temple. If they continue to improve under Coach Al Golden’s leadership perhaps some day this rivalry will be truly competitive. OK, I hope not…
6. The Akron Game: Mainly because it was the first game of the season. Mild weather, great tailgating, many reunions at tailgates and in the stands as we greet each other after not seeing one another for several months.
7. The Tailgating at the Ohio State game: Mild sunny weather for early November, a sense of anticipation, the Big Ten championship stakes, good-natured banter with Penn State and Ohio State fans before and after the game. You couldn’t beat the atmosphere at Beaver Stadium before the game that day. The best of the season. Even the students were in the stands on time.
8. The Capital One Bowl: An ugly win in ugly weather against a Top 25 very good SEC team.
9. Realizing that on five road trips, we brought home five wins!!! First time that happened since 1994.
10. Hearing the crowd chant “Dar-ryl Cla-rk” as we all exited the Capital One Bowl. He finally got the recognition he deserved.

Worst Moments:
1. Losing to Iowa: For the second year in a row, a loss that shouldn’t have been a loss. Kirk Ferentz seems to have Penn State’s number. The miserable rain didn’t help either!
2. Losing to Ohio State: Penn State got beat. Pure and simple. Ohio State was simply better than us. Didn’t feel quite as bad as Iowa but still tough.
3. The first half of the Indiana game: The emptiest student section of the season, for Senior Day. Penn State throws two interceptions and loses two fumbles in the first half. We were lucky to be tied 10-10 at the half. Penn State finally finds some rhythm with 6:50 remaining in the 3rd quarter, but it was a very sloppy game, and the final score of 31-20 didn’t make us very happy. Too many mistakes for a November game. Although a win’s a win.
4. Traveling to Illinois: Our wonderful airline schedule, changed with no notification to us, involved an 8 hour layover at Detroit on the way to Champaign, and a 5 hour layover on the way home. We were able to change our flights to Detroit to “only” a 3-hour delay, but a mechanical made for another two hours’ wait before we finally boarded the flight to Champaign. We could do nothing about the return trip. We were feeling under the weather that week and almost didn’t go. The airline travel didn’t help our spirits. But at least we brought home a win.
5. The Eastern Illinois game: Nothing good to say about playing a team that’s so under-matched against Penn State. Except perhaps for the best half-time band performance of the season.
6. The excuses my students gave every Monday for why they weren’t in the stands on time on Saturdays.
7. The Harrisburg Patriot-News Leak of the “STEP” Plan: Couldn’t believe that Penn State wouldn’t immediately release the plan to calm all the rumors that were circulating.

Most Memorable Moments:
1. The bus trip after the Minnesota game: In a miserable rainstorm, we waited patiently for a shuttle bus to take us back to the Lowe’s shopping center near our house. But all the shuttle buses were destined elsewhere. So a Penn State guard finally commandeers a shuttle bus destined to the airport and changes the route. It turns out the bus driver doesn’t know the way. Passengers have to guide her to all the stops. We managed to keep our good spirits throughout the ordeal of the freakiest October snowstorm on record.
2. When I was feeling “under the weather” before the Illinois game, and considering staying home, my new boss told me “You can’t miss that game. It’s what you live for!” And then he and another colleague offered to cover my Monday classes if I needed a day to rest and recover. Illinois was my 100th game in a row!
3. The fun conversations while waiting for the Champaign flight with the preacher, the grad student and the frat guy (see October blog post). Preacher Happy Leman was the proud father of Cory Leman, who played linebacker for Eastern Illinois. Gave us a reason to want to watch that game.
4. After the Michigan game, crossing the border into Windsor Canada for a night at Caesar’s Windsor. When we tried to return to the United States the next day, being pulled aside and interrogated by customs officials because there’s a Carolyn Todd listed in the NCIS database as wanted by the U.S. government for a serious crime. Being told this would happen to me whenever I left the country until the “other” Carolyn Todd is caught.
5. An $80 somewhat wild cab ride from Disney World to the Ballroom at Church Street Station to attend a free Presidents’ Reception for the Capital One Bowl. Less expensive than renting a car, though, at holiday prices in Orlando. An outstanding performance by Penn State's Musical Theater majors made it worthwhile.
6. Meeting Gershon and his wife Ronnie at the Capital One bowl. My #1 blog commenter and supporter has now become a friend!
7. Sitting in the van before the Capital One Bowl taking pictures of the torrential rain on our windshield.
8. Interacting with all of you who have commented on my posts! It’s been fun – thank you! Penn State fans are the best!

Overall, it was a very satisfying season. Congratulations to the Penn State football team and especially to our seniors for making this a good season. Thanks for all the great memories and to all my readers for giving me a reason to continue writing about our experiences!

We will miss all of our seniors who brought us so many memorable games and bowl trips over the past 4-5 years…and Navarro Bowman, who just announced that he is entering the NFL draft. That was expected, and I can’t blame him for forgoing his senior year and pursuing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while he’s healthy enough to capitalize on it.

I will continue to post, although perhaps not as frequently, during the off-season. There’s always plenty to write about! Stay tuned…

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