Saturday, December 3, 2011

Penn State at Wisconsin: Ugh!

Apologies to all who have been wondering what happened to me.  People have been wondering why I didn't post my usual Sunday night blog.  Basically, I had decided to leave my computer home when we traveled to Wisconsin on Thanksgiving weekend. 

Instead I brought with me 67 papers to grade, and on that weekend and the next couple of days after we finally returned home, that took priority.  It is, after all, the end of the semester.  I have usually used Thanksgiving week to catch up on grading.

But with an away game at Ohio State the weekend before, and then another away game at Wisconsin, I didn't get as much done in-between as I had hoped.

Even as I write this, I should be grading.  But right now I'm watching Wisconsin play Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game.  The score right now is 21-7 in favor of Wisconsin, at the beginning of the second quarter.  Wow.  Oops, it's now 21-14.

In any case, it was hard adjusting to this new schedule of traveling on Thanksgiving weekend.  We haven't done that in quite a while. 

The problem was that we left out of Harrisburg.  We spent Thanksgiving night in Harrisburg.  We flew to Madison on Friday at 8 a.m., and didn't return to Harrisburg until 9 p.m. on Sunday night.

So rather than drive home on Sunday, a two hour drive in the dark, we stayed another night in Harrisburg and didn't return home until Monday.  Straight to classes for me.  No computer, no time, no blog.  It's hell to get old.  Sorry!

Besides, who wanted to talk about that game?  I certainly didn't.  It was ugly.  There was really nothing to say.  Except "Ugh!".

Whenever you turn over the ball four times, and give up 24 points as a result of those turnovers, it's a long shot to win the game.  We had one lucky long pass for a touchdown as a result of a Wisconsin defensive breakdown and that was it.  We got whooped.  An old-fashioned beating.

We sat through four quarters in that relentless rain - not quite a mist, not quite a downpour - but just enough to get us good and wet.  Our rain gear did hold, but barely.

Thankfully it was at least reasonably warm, that is, in the low fifties.  Had it been in the low forties, it would have been even more miserable.

We stuck it out, sitting in the stands, but we questioned our sanity in doing so.  If you wish to look at the photos on my blog, even those were limited.  It was, after all, raining throughout the game.  I didn't want to ruin my electronics for the sake of a few scoreboard photos.

However, I did capture that last scoreboard, the 45-7 victory.  Wondering all the while why I bothered.

We usually love going to Madison, Wisconsin.  It's just a fun town, and Wisconsin fans have always been good to us, have always expressed to us their admiration for Joe Paterno.   We consider Camp Randall Stadium to be our third favorite college football venue, behind Beaver Stadium and Bryant-Denny Stadium.

We have our favorite places, particularly the Avenue Bar and Grill on East Washington, known for the "best fish fry in Madison".   We have had some great interactions with Wisconsin fans there, enjoyed their enthusiasm and the great banter about Joe Paterno and Penn State.

In fact, last time we were there, in 2008, Wisconsin had such a bad team that several folks wearing red confessed to us that they truly wanted Joe Paterno to win.  We won big, 48-7, a very satisfying and fun win.  And we went to the Avenue Bar after that game and were welcomed and congratulated very sincerely.  Two years prior to that, in 2006, Joe Paterno was injured on the sidelines.  Wisconsin fans at the Avenue Bar expressed their grief and concern about him after the game.

This time we went to the Avenue Bar for lunch, wearing our Penn State apparel.  The fish fry as usual was outstanding.  The people not quite as gregarious or outwardly friendly.  We did get a few stares but no greetings.  To be fair, the place was not busy and there weren't a lot of beers flowing at that time of day.

At the hotel and elsewhere, I can't tell you how many times I was asked if I had a son who played on the team.  As if that was the only reason I would travel to see this game!

"No, I'm just a big fan, " I would declare.  "Oh, that's nice."

Okay, so what else can I talk about to avoid talking about that game?  How about the Farmer's Market, a Madison tradition, that is normally held at the State Capitol but was moved to the Convention Center right next to our hotel?

I had always wanted to go, and now there was no excuse.  With a 2:30 p.m. CST start there was plenty of time.  So I wandered over there on Saturday morning and bought some, not cheese curds, although I did try them.  I think that's an acquired taste that I haven't quite acquired.  I much prefer their ten-year-old aged cheddar, and bought some to take home along with some delicious Swiss cheese. Yum.

Or the next day, after that miserable game, we had a tour of one of the strangest places I have ever been to, a tourist attraction called "House on the Rock", about an hour's trip from Madison in the middle of the country.

Or maybe I should mention the tour of the Wisconsin State Capitol, at which I learned that a badger is not only a mascot for the University of Wisconsin, but also the state animal or something.  There were gold gilt statues of badgers all over the place, on top of just about every door frame.

These tours passed the time until we returned home late Sunday afternoon.  Worth doing, but not much fun after such a huge loss.

People have asked me several times how well was I treated by Wisconsin fans.  Mostly very well.  There were several Badger fans at the Penn State alumni tailgate, and the school went out of their way to be welcoming to Penn Staters.

I had a chance to talk to a couple of fun students who were part of a welcoming group called "Rolling Out the Red Carpet". I do appreciate their effort to be there and greet us.

I had a conversation with a vendor at the Farmer's Market who told me that he had the ability to get suite tickets for one game each season and had chosen this weekend because he thought he might see Joe Paterno's last regular season game.  He had great respect for Joe Paterno.

He was very disappointed, and I could empathize.

As for the bowl game or current rumors about coaching, my wishlist is as follows:

A trip to Tempe, Arizona for the bowl.  We have family in Arizona that we would love to spend Christmas with.  Most people I know would prefer Florida.   But Arizona is more compelling for us.  We will also accept Texas as a destination. 

My view is that any bowl accomplishes the objectives of giving these Penn State student-athletes a reward for a good year and also some more practice to get ready for next year.  It is always nice when the destination is warm.

As for head coach, I firmly believe that Tom Bradley deserves a chance. I'm impressed with what I've seen so far, and am confident that he would know how to achieve stability in this very unstable situation.

That's all for now!  Thanks for the read and for your patience.  Oh and yeah, go Badgers!  With 10:20 left in the first half, it's Michigan State 22, Wisconsin 21.

Would that our Penn State team could have been that competitive.  But they weren't.


  1. Don't even know what to say about this game. Just completely overmatched. I wish the offense wouldn't have provided false hope at the beginning.

    It's upsetting because I know for a fact that under normal circumstances we would have played for the BIG Ten title. We would have beaten Nebraska and wouldn't have had to worry about Wisky. But it is what it is.

    Upset but not surprised that we fell so far down in the bowl pecking order. At least we got a decent matchup--but it's on a monday afternoon on ESPNU..what a joke.

    Thank you mainstream media for jumping to conclusions and ruining a shot at a Big Ten title and a respectable Bowl game. I hope to God that things turn around and Joe Pa and the football program are completely vindicated. If so, ESPN will burn for this. Sick to my stomach but still proud of this team.

    Go State--Beat the Cougars

  2. At least that Monday afternoon will be a holiday for most people.

    Agree with you that there's a story (or maybe several) yet to be told. Hang in there.

    Yes, proud of these players.