Instant Analysis - Capital One Bowl
Penn State 19 ... Auburn 17
But Daryll Clark deserved the criticism.
Everyone hates to be reminded of the thing that bothers them the most, and the Penn State quarterback was annoyed, always, by everyone who correctly pointed out that he had never won a truly big game. Granted, he had only lost four games as a starter, but he wasn't on the field in the fourth quarter (he got dinged up) in the big win over Ohio State two years ago, threw a bad pick that allowed Iowa to ruin the 2008 Nittany Lion national title hopes, and he lost to Iowa and Ohio State this year playing poorly in both games. But he finally got his big win, and he got it in his final game. For a good guy and a great player, it couldn't have worked out better.
The Penn State defense had a lot to do with it, closing down the mediocre LSU rushing game allowing just 41 yards and a score, and Evan Royster and Stephfon Green ran hard in the muck, but as much as Tim Tebow ever did for the Gators, Clark was able to will his team to the tough win highlighted by the gutty final drive leading to a 21-yard Collin Wagner field goal to finally get the lead.
Clark didn't get the offense in the end zone enough, with the Nittany Lions settling for four field goals, but he threw for 216 yards and a touchdown and ran for 20 more, and he got his win proving that yeah, he actually could come through in the fourth quarter and yeah, he really should go down as one of the greats in Penn State football history.
The mud. The slop. The discolored uniforms. This was a vintage Penn State football game, right up to that final drive for the winning score.
For the longest time, I've listened to fans from Big Ten country whine about how the postseason gives an unfair advantage to warm-weather teams from the South and the West. The blue skies, warm breeze, and fast track had a way of neutralizing those characteristics inherent to most teams from the Midwest, they argue. On this day, however, Mother Nature chose to even the playing field, creating conditions fit for a pig…or, better yet, a Nittany Lion.
That last drive, which culminated in Collin Wagner's fourth chip-shot field goal, was a microcosm of what QB Daryll Clark has meant to the Penn State program over the last couple of years. An NFL hurler? Let the pro scouts sort that out over the next few months. It has no relevance to his value to the Nittany Lions. The consummate leader, he took shot after from the LSU defenders, yet never buckled, completing tough passes in the face of constant pressure and precipitation. No matter what it took, you just knew Clark was going to will this to happen. He's that type of unique player, a confident veteran leader who'll be sorely missed in 2010.
Although it wasn't Happy Valley, Penn State looked right at home in the mess that the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium turned into on Friday. Clark made sure the Lions didn't fritter away the opportunity to turn the meteorological gift into the 24th postseason victory of Joe Paterno's career.
1) Collin Wagner, Most Valuable Player. Yeah, he didn't kick a field goal longer than 26 yards, but in the slop that was the Florida Citrus Bowl field, the Penn State placekicker did well to be perfect on a day when he couldn't afford to slip up… literally or figuratively.
Speaking of the field, if you're going to play two bowl games at the same stadium, allow for at least one week between contests… or maybe, do away with the lower-level bowl game which forced LSU and Penn State to muck around in conditions that didn't allow for a true comparison of two football teams' athletic attributes. The glut of 34 bowl games caught up with the Capital One Bowl today, and it's sad that college football just can't help itself. Less is more, but that sentiment just won't carry in this 141-year-old sport.
2) After the horrible personal foul call on LSU with roughly 21 seconds left, the clock was re-started, due to the fact that the previous play (a flanker screen) ended with a ballcarrier being tackled in the middle of the field. College football's current rules stipulate that if a play ends in a manner that should not cause the clock to stop, the clock should be re-started after a penalty. That rule provision – and any other similar aspects of the rulebook – need to be rewritten. If common sense had prevailed, LSU – already jobbed by the personal foul call from a horrible officiating crew – would have at least had the chance to run its next play without a clock re-start. There are so many rule changes that need to take place in college football before September of 2010. This is just one of them.
(PS—If you were focusing on Bobby Bowden's last game in the Gator Bowl and don't realize how bad the officiating was in this game, consider the fact that the crew erroneously ruled that PSU running back Evan Royster gained a first down on a 1st and 10 carry that gained only nine yards. When the zebras messed up that call, they wound up giving an extra down to Penn State. Yes, the Nittany Lions didn't score on the possession, but the combination of game administration and replay reviewing was inept, inaccurate and profoundly disorganized. The referees in this game were as bad as the CBS audio unit in the Gator Bowl.)