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Friday, October 29, 2010

Know Your Foe: Penn State 2010

The Michigan football team returns to action on Saturday night with a visit to Penn State. This will be the 16th meeting between the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines, all of them have taken place since Penn State started playing in the Big Ten Conference in 1993. We hold a 10-5 lead in the all-time series and have a 5-2 record at Beaver Stadium. They have won the last two games against us, including last years 35-10 beat down in Michigan Stadium. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN with former Penn State QB Todd Blackledge in the booth as the color analyst.

History: Penn State originally started out as a high school. It was founded in 1855 under the name Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania. The original charter of the school was to teach the scientific methods and improve the business of farming. When the 1862 version of the Land Grant/Morrill Act was passed, the school took the money designated for Pennsylvania and changed the name of the high school to The Agricultural College of Pennsylvania.

Like many of the original Land Grant schools, the internal struggle for the mission of the school spawned controversy. As the curriculum drifted between the purely agricultural and the more profitable classical, public support and enrolled students diminished. By 1875 there were only 64 undergraduates attending classes. Eventually they righted the ship, renamed themselves again to Pennsylvania State College, and grew to the largest non-governmental economic engine in the state of Pennsylvania. The school now annually generates more than $8 billion in direct economic impact to the Commonwealth and supports more than 60,000 total jobs.

Location: The area the school is located is commonly referred to as Happy Valley although, that is not an official name. The main campus is located in State College, Pennsylvania, though the mailing address is actually University Park, Pennsylvania. If you are confused, join the club.

One of my favorite things about Penn State is the ice cream factory on campus called the Berkey Creamery. PSU’s Department of Food Science runs what is the largest university creamery in the United States, using about 4.5 million pounds of milk annually. About half of this milk comes from a 225-cow herd at the University's Dairy Production Research Center. They offer over 100 flavors and sell 750,000 hand-dipped ice cream cones per year.

In 2008, State College was ranked as the second safest metropolitan area in the United States by the CQ Press. They moved up the top spot in 2009. However, don't let that "safe place" stuff fool you if you plan on showing up wearing maize and blue and making a lot of noise on Saturday night. There is no love for the Michigan Wolverines in Happy Valley. A decade long losing streak will make anyone a bit cranky.

Nickname: They call themselves the Nittany Lions. The name is derived from the mountain lions that used to roam around the area for thousands of years. That was before they were all killed by local citizens in the 1880s.

Penn State claims to be the first university to choose a Lion as their mascot. Legend has it one of their baseball players went to a game at Princeton in 1904. He was jealous of the Tiger moniker used by Princeton and somehow convinced everyone to adopt “Lions” in 1907 without a vote or contest. The origin of the word "Nittany" is a little more obscure. The most commonly accepted explanation traces its derivation to Indian words meaning either "single mountain" or "protective barrier against the elements”.

Mascot: In the 1920s, a pair of stuffed mountain lions was placed in the Recreation Building to watch over athletic events. About that same time, the tradition began of having a student dressed in a furry lion costume clown around on the sidelines at football games.

It appears that that costume from the 1940 is still in use today. It looks like it has been on the sidelines longer that Joe Paterno himself. Between you and me, the Penn State Lion costume sucks and is embarrassing for a traditional football power like Penn State. I would rather not have a costumed mascot than have that mangy looking thing running around.

In direct contrast to the middle school quality costumed mascot -- Penn State has an awesome statue in the place they call “Lion Shrine” on campus. The Class of 1940 gave their alma mater $5,430 to pay for the construction of the shrine located between the Recreation Building and Beaver Field. German sculptor Heinze Warnecke carved the lion on site in the summer of 1942, from a thirteen-ton block of limestone.

Colors/Logo/Helmet: Penn State wears blue and white, but that hasn’t always been the case. In 1887 a student committee was appointed to develop color options from which the student body would select the school's official colors. Dark pink and black was the unanimous choice of the student body after considering the color combinations presented by the committee.

The baseball team was the first to sport pink and black. However, the pink faded to white after a couple of weeks and the students then opted for blue, rather than black, and white rather than pink.

As you would expect, Penn State has a very iconic primary logo. This is the second time around for this stylized mountain lion head icon. You may not remember, but it was replaced in 2001 with more modern logo designed by a professional branding company. This change was met with almost universal disdain from fans and alumni and lasted three years before they went back to the old logo.

Penn Staters are as proud of their plain white headgear as we are of our beautiful winged masterpieces. Combined with the plain white pants and white or blue jerseys they wear the most ordinary, and yet at the same time most recognizable, uniforms in all levels of football. Most of the time, Penn State doesn’t even put bowl game patches on their jerseys. But rest assured, they do have that omni-present Nike logo. There really isn’t any history to their helmets, except for a 5 year period (1968-74) where they put numbers on their sides (like Alabama). Just like the new logo, they went back.

Fight Song: Just in case you have not gotten the primary theme of this place, you need to listen to their fight song... Boring. The one interesting aspect about their fight song is how it is presented during a game. Specifically after a touchdown, it is played through once and then slows down and stops. The band then resumes after the extra point is kicked by the team and plays it again.

When they are not playing at a football game, the band will play "New Fight On, State", known simply as "NFOS", which is a shortened version of the song without the slowdown and pause and replay.

Fight on State (GO!)
Fight on State (GO!)
Strike your gait and win, (LET’S GO STATE!)
Victory we predict for thee
We’re ever true to you, dear old White and Blue.
Onward State, (GO!)
Onward State, (GO!)
Roar, Lions, roar: (LET’S GO STATE!)
We’ll hit that line, roll up the score,
Fight on to victory ever more,
Fight on, on, on, on, on, Fight on, on, Penn State! (S-T-A-T-E GO! STATE!)

For most people, the most recognizable sounds coming out of Beaver Stadium is either the amplified toilet flushing sound they call a Lion Roar.

Academics: Academically, Penn State is faced with the same situation as Michigan State. They stand on solid academic ground. Unfortunately for Penn State (and Sparty) the natural comparison with the other major university in the same state is not favorable. The school is currently ranked as the 47th best National University in the US News and World Report rankings.

Football: Any conversation about Penn State football needs to start with Joe Paterno. He has been at the school for over 6 decades, including the last 43 years as head coach. He has delivered two National Championships and has the most victories by any Division I football coach. Paterno has coached won more bowl games and delivered more undefeated seasons than any other coach in college football history. He is one of four active coaches inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

In 1969 Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham contacted Paterno to see if he would be interested in the then vacant Michigan job. Paterno turned down the offer and Michigan went on to hire Bo Schembechler. That same year, Paterno was also offered the Pittsburgh Steelers job before Chuck Noll took over and created an NFL Dynasty.

In 1993, after years of beating cupcakes like Temple, Maryland, and Rutgers -- Joe and the Nittany Lions started to play football in the Big Ten Conference. As you would expect, life got a little tougher for the once dominate Nittany Lions. Since joining the conference, they have won a total of three Big Ten football titles along with setting a new standard for complaining about the officials.

The Penn State football program has had such a history for churning out great linebackers, the school has earned the nickname “Linebacker U.” The great Penn State linebackers looks like a who’s who of college football defensive greats: Jack Ham, LaVar Arrington, Brandon Short, Mark D’Onofrio, Andre Collins, Shane Conlan, Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, and Detroit's favorite Matt Millen.

Other Famous Penn State football players include Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti and Pro Football Hall of Famer Franco Harris. More recently they have produced NFL players like Larry Johnson, Kerry Collins, and Michael Robinson.

Other sports: When most people think Penn State athletics, they think football. But in reality Penn State has one of the most successful overall athletic programs in the country. They have finished in the Top 25 in the NACDA Director's Cup every year since the inception of the program. Sports Illustrated recently ranked their overall athletic program as the 6th best in the nation. They have won 60+ National Championships in sports other than football, including three straight women's volleyball championships (2007, 08, and 09).

Famous alums: The Penn State Alumni Association is the largest dues-paying alumni association in the world. Names that you might recognize: Mark Parker, CEO of Nike, Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, Former Pennsylvania and first Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Steve McCurry, photojournalist who is (most famous for the National Geographic photograph of the "Afgan Girl"; Herman Fisher, co-founder of Fisher-Price toy company; Richard T. James, Inventor of the Slinky; Jef Raskin, human-computer interface expert (best-known for starting the Macintosh project for Apple); John Aniston, soap opera actor and father of actress Jennifer Aniston; ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters; Hugh Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s brother, and Tom Verducci, writer for Sports Illustrated.

Presidents? No. But, Penn State can claim four astronauts including Guion Bluford, the first African American in space.

The Game: The last two season we were terrible and they were pretty good. Add in the fact that after nine straight losses they were extremely motivated to grind us into little bits. This year, the field is a little more balanced.

If there is any team in the Big Ten conference that our defense can match up against, it is this Penn State team. Quite frankly, they are almost as bad on offense as we are on defense. Not to mention, they will likely be playing without their true freshman starting QB.

As crazy as it sounds, all this adds up to a MUST WIN for Rich Rodriguez. I am going out on a limb to say, if Michigan does not win this game, we will have a new coach before 2010 ends. Yep, I said it. It really boils down to win this game, go to bowl, and he will get another season. Lose this game and kiss the future hello.

In the end, Michigan will win because our offense is better than their offense. Denard will run these fools into the dirt.

Michigan 49
Penn State 33


Mikoyan said...

As always pretty awesome stuff. I guess I didn't remember that Penn State spawned Millen....Another reason to hate the bastards.

Andy said...

Penn State fans are all down in the dumps because their freshman QB Bolden is not going to play for them this weekend.

They could roll Joe Paterno himself out there and they would still rack up 500 yards and 30 points against our defense....

BaggyPantsDevil said...

I have to admit I like the Roaring 20's--and sewn together by my grandma--look of the Nittany Lion mascot since it fits with the old school uniforms and the coach. I can picture a much younger Joe Paterno wearing a similar scarf while tooling around in a Studebaker.

I completely agree that this is a must win for Michigan. I saw a bit of the Penn State-Illinois game and immediately thought, 'hey, there's an offense our defense can handle. Sort of.'

Rob Bolden--even while concussed--would likely have had a career day, so he has to be kicking himself that he most likely won't start. Whatever youngster they do happen to put on the field is likely to enjoy his most productive day ever as a quarterback.

whetstonebuck said...


What's a Michigan fan to do?

Root for a win over P.S.U. and prolong this death of a thousand cuts, or wish for a loss and an end to this long national nightmare.

You're in a fix, boys.

Andy said...

Thank you Sir.
May I have another.

whetstonebuck said...

Speaking of coaching controversies, Brian Kelly is on the hot seat. Sad situation there.

bigGexpress said...

"About half of this milk comes from a 225-cow herd "

Wait a minute, they have 225 schrutebags making ice-cream on campus? Thank you Andy, you may have just forced me to lose about 20 lbs. in protest of ice-cream, since I will never eat it again.

bigGexpress said...

Whet, while I appreciate that nd has a great history, I don't feel that their situation is sad(at least to me). Having lived in Indiana for the last 20 years I have seen the unrealistic ideas of irish fans for years and am sick of it. They still never lose and are only screwed. There is not a worse, more unrealistic fan base in the U.S. (notice that I capitalized U.S and left nd and irish lower case, that is purposeful) and that includes the tUOS fan base(at least at lowpoints tUOS fans and currently us UM fans can realize and admit that we just suck). To me, if Kelly can't win in south bend then nd is a lost cause and will truly be irrelevant in my lifetime and I can live with that.

Mikoyan said...

I think the woes of Notre Dame start with the release of Rudy....The football gods are punishing them for that....