I was about two minutes of game time away from having a perfect sports weekend, but Penn State Basketball made sure that didn’t happen. The least favorite child of the athletic department blew an 84-76 lead to Seton Hall and eventually lost in overtime. There has been a lot of good to take away from Penn State’s first three games, but the departures of Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins leave the team very shallow in the frontcourt, and that allowed a quality big man like Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili to score 30 points. Meanwhile, John Harrar still struggles with the basic fundamentals of post play, but at least Seth Lundy is looking like a legit superstar.
Penn State has talent. Now it’s up to interim head coach Jim Ferry to figure out how it all works together so we’re not stuck with Myreon Jones taking an insane three-point shot with the game on the line.
Figuring out how it all works together is exactly what the Giants have done under Joe Judge in the past month. They didn’t even need a starting quarterback to beat the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday despite being double-digit underdogs. And it’s not like Colt McCoy was slinging it around like he was back in the Red River Shootout. New York pounded the rock with Wayne Gallman behind an offensive line that has improved since Judge showed Marc Colombo the door.
Gallman carried the Giants to two straight touchdowns in the third quarter that gave them a 14-5 lead. They hung on thanks to a defense that consistently pressured Russell Wilson with a four-man rush. Leonard Williams and company sacked Wilson five times and kept him in the pocket, where it was hard for him to find his talented receiving corps. James Bradberry held DK Metcalf to 80 yards on five catches and Darnay Holmes secured a key interception. Overall, it was the best I’ve seen a Giants defense play since they held the 2007 Patriots to 14 points in Super Bowl XLII.
All of a sudden the NFC East is looking like it did in the late 1980s with the Giants and Washington bludgeoning opponents with their stingy defenses. Both teams are 5-7 after the Football Team dealt Pittsburgh its first loss of the season tonight, and both teams don’t look so appetizing in the first round of the playoffs anymore.
Unexpected wins are always welcome, but the ones you think you should get are the ones you need more. That’s what made Penn State’s win over Rutgers so big. James Franklin needed to establish some sense of normalcy in a campaign that had snowballed wildly out of control, and beating the Knights 23-7 was just the ticket. It wasn’t pretty, but Penn State stuck to the formula that worked against Michigan to grind out a second straight victory.
That formula is good defense + don’t turn the ball over + run the damn ball = victory. It worked even though Sean Clifford snuck in an interception on an errant throw over the middle that Rutgers turned into its only score of the day. For the most part, though, the Nittany Lion offense consisted of Keyvone Lee, Devyn Ford, and Will Levis ripping off big chunks of yardage and keeping the defense well-rested.
It’s great to see Penn State’s defense establish some consistency and smother opponents over the past two weeks, but the passing offense appears to be broken beyond repair with offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca mixing in bubble screens and other safe plays between the usual rushes. Franklin has to take a long look at the quarterback transfer market over the summer, because he can’t go into 2021 without someone to challenge Clifford for the starting job.
Considering what my teams were able to squeeze out of their starting quarterbacks, it was a terrific football weekend. The only thing I would change would be to make Penn State Basketball play on Friday night instead of Sunday night so it doesn’t bring the vibes down.