From The Stands (And More) - Penn State
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I have so much to say. I can't keep my brain organized right now. Need to focus.
Let's go about it this way. I'll link my usual From The Stands here. Then I'll write out like 15% of my thoughts and publish them with the From The Stands. Then I'll go fix my travel issues, and then I'll probably not stop writing about this game for the next 36 hours.
We'll start with the audio. And then I'll expand on the story I tell in this:
Now if you'll allow me to explore that space a little bit. This might not make much sense if you didn't listen to that. Here goes...
We are Illini fans. We've invented new ways to lose the last 30 years. If I say "Kyle Hudson muffed punt", you probably can picture the 2007 Michigan game. "Walter Young had possession". You thought of it.
Even in this stadium there have been new-ways-to-lose moments. Remember 2011? A game much like this and we lead the entire way. It's 7-3 Illinois with three minutes left and Penn State, who didn't have a touchdown all day, drives the length of the field. It's fourth down, they lob it to the endzone... INCOMPLETE! Illini can now kneel it out for the huge road win.
Wait - there's a flag. Pass Interference on Justin Green. First down Penn State and they punch it in. Now Illinois trails 10-7.
BUT WAIT. Illinois still has 1:08 to do something and Nathan Scheelhaase gets the team into field goal range. Derek Dimke comes out onto the field to try to tie the game and... DOINK. Hits the upright, no overtime, Illini lose. Yet another new way to lose.
Over and over and over again, we see the gutpunch moment in the game and immediately- and I mean IMMEDIATELY - die a little on the inside. We know how this is going to go. We've seen it two dozen times.
So today, when those things tried to happen and Illinois still won, well, I have no idea what to do with my hands. Maybe I should just make a list:
- Daniel Barker scores the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. It comes off the board because of two flags - one ineligible downfield, one PI.
- Chase Brown then scores the go-ahead touchdown... and it comes off the board for a holding penalty. Illinois only gets a field goal out of the drive.
- Penn State punts with 33 seconds left and Donny Navarro muffs the punt at the 10 yard line (in what would have usurped every Illini muffed punt in history - a muffed punt with 30 seconds left at the 10 to hand the other team the game-winning FG). But Tailon Leitzsey made a heads-up play and grabbed the fumble, saving the day and sending the game to overtime.
- In overtime, the ball is in Josh McCray's hands for the winning TD... but he drops the pass.
All of these things happened - the things we've seen happen for 30 years - and we won the game. I'm still struggling to comprehend it.
Now, it's worth noting that Penn State had their own rake-steps. Just before Josh McCray dropped the pass, Sean Clifford dropped a TD on the throw-back-to-the-QB play. And on our own throw-back-to-the-QB play, in the first overtime, Penn State had the pass picked off and the game won 13-10... and they dropped the INT.
But that's not really where I'm going here. I'm still thinking about the woman one floor above me and her constant, never-ceasing GET HIM when Brown or McCray had the ball. And not just her - the unrest could be heard from the entire fanbase on the other side of this glass. These Penn State fans, the entire game, were UNCOMFORTABLE. There were even some Penn State student SID workers sitting next to me, and they were having all kinds of "oh my God what is happening this is Illinois" moments.
I've seen those reactions before. And then some Thing will happen. And then they're happy and I'm sad. I've gone through that exact scenario over and over.
Hell, I went through it a month ago at Purdue. An entire Purdue crowd, for 2 hours and 45 minutes, stuck in "oh my God what is happening this is Illinois" land. And then a Thing happens (in that game, the punt), and Purdue pulls it out, and order is restored to the Universe. This is, in fact, Illinois.
Today? It never happened. The woman upstairs kept up her "GET HIM" and here "WAKE UP" and her "right through us - RIGHT THROUGH" all the way through overtime and the correction from the universe never came. That's what has me so speechless right now. The crowd I've been around so many times - uncomfortable for a long time, but resting on the assurance that their team will pull it out - and it was 2-5 Illinois pulling it out. Over #7 Penn State.
I have so much more to say about all of this. But right now, as I noted in the From The Stands, I need to work on my travel re-arrangements. What was going to be a train from Tyrone, PA (20 miles from State College) to Pittsburgh followed by a 4.5 hour layover at the Pittsburgh Amtrak Station until I hopped in my sleeper car on the train from Pittsburgh to Chicago will now be a 2.5 hour car ride with Bret Behrens (WCIA). He's (thankfully) staying in Pittsburgh tonight, so he can just drive me to my second train. Then I can hop on that train and sleep (read: write).
And maybe I can watch some of the basketball exhibition on my phone while Bret drives? And then maybe I can change into my Illini shirt and run around Pittsburgh for an hour I-L-L-ing random people. And then I can choo choo my way back to Illinois with a big ol' smile on my face.
Love my team. Love my job. Be back soon.