"Gonna lose this 17-16 aren't we," texted a friend and fellow Penn State alum during the middle of Virginia's final offensive drive of the game. Slowly but surely, I think all in the PSU community are beginning to realize the type of season it's going to be.
Virginia rallied to defeat Penn State 17-16 on Saturday afternoon. A full game recap and box score can be found here.
Virginia beats Penn State 17-16: The big story
It's easy to beat up on PSU kicker Sam Ficken, who had nothing short of a disastrous afternoon. Ficken missed four of five field goal attempts, including what would have been a game-winner as the clock expired. He also had an extra point blocked. While Ficken was largely responsible for 13 points being left on the field, he was hardly the only or even the main reason Penn State lost this game.
For the second weekend in a row, we learned that this Penn State team is simply not good enough to fail to take advantage of just about every opportunity and then go on to win games. They scored zero points off of three turnovers, and then the Nittany Lions settled for three points after recovering a fumble at the Virginia 17-yard line. There's also the time management issues that again plagued the Penn State offense.
In short, this was a team loss. Placing all of the blame on Ficken is like blaming the fourth car in a 20-vehicle pileup for you being stuck on the highway for an hour. Everybody on that team, including head coach Bill O'Brien, has to do better if Penn State is going to win a single "big game" this season.
Virginia beats Penn State 17-16: Warrior
I'll be blunt here: If you, a Penn State fan, still aren't on Team McGloin, than maybe this PSU Football thing just isn't for you. McGloin was as heroic as a college athlete can be while on the field on Saturday, twice coming back from an injury to his throwing arm that could easily sideline any quarterback. An under-100 percent McGloin connected with Allen Robinson for a 30-yard touchdown pass that gave Penn State the lead early in the fourth quarter, and he led the Nittany Lions down the field with the clock running down, putting Penn State in field goal range with only seconds left to play. The stats may not verify the following statement, but I believe it to be true nonetheless: This was McGloin's biggest day as a starting QB at Penn State.
Virginia beats Penn State 17-16: Play before the play
Some fans and casual observers posting on Twitter questioned and even ridiculed Penn State taking a knee and thus losing a couple of yards before Ficken was sent out to attempt his fifth and final field goal of the day, a kick that he sailed well wide of the right upright. The thought was that Penn State had more than enough time to run a play with a timeout in-hand, and that the Nittany Lions needed to gain at least a few more yards to make for an easier kick.
While I understand the logic, the kneel-down is truly the only play you can run in that situation. Way too much, such as a fumble, interception, sack or any other mistake caused by a young player panicking in a stressful situation, is possible in that scenario. Ficken didn't miss the kick because McGloin lost three yards on the final offensive play of the game. He missed the kick because the snap was low, the ground was a bit wet and he hooked the ball. That's it.
Virginia beats Penn State 17-16: Conclusion
"Finish." It was the mantra of the 2011 New York Giants, and it now must become the mantra of the Nittany Lions. Penn State thoroughly outplayed Virginia throughout both halves, but the inability of the Nittany Lions to finish out drives while in the red zone and finish off the hosts has landed them at 0-2 for the first time in over a decade. Nobody said it was going to be easy, Penn State supporters.
Keep your heads up.