Saturday, August 13th, 2022

I was at the record-setting 9-OT Penn St./Illinois game… and it was even worse in person

I was at the record-setting 9-OT Penn St./Illinois game… and it was even worse in person

Information about I was at the record-setting 9-OT Penn St./Illinois game… and it was even worse in person

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Look away... baby... look away.

Look away… baby… look away.
Image: Getty Images

Saturday was my first game at Beaver Stadium since graduating from Penn State. I drove an hour and a half to my friend’s house in York, Pa., on Friday and then woke up at 5 a.m. the next morning to drive two hours to State College with his family and set up a tailgate in the cold and rain.

But it would all be worth it to watch my team get a 24.5-point win over 2-5 Illinois.

Buuut, of course we can’t have nice things — and Illinois is now 3-5 after what must’ve been the funniest college game of the year for the neutral viewer. Not that I’m complaining about the tailgating experience. It’s fun no matter the result, but undeniably better when you don’t get completely embarrassed.

It didn’t take long to realize that the game wasn’t going to be the 24.5-point thrashing that we Nittany Lion faithful expected. Penn State got their last points of regulation early in the second quarter and were terrible on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Sean Clifford, who appeared to not be fully recovered from whatever injury knocked him out of the game against Iowa two weeks ago, threw for a pedestrian 165 yards and one TD. The defense gave up 357 rushing yards. Illinois marched it down the field at will but just couldn’t get in the end zone.

By the time regulation was over, disappointment had given way to indifference as it became clear that we’re just not that good. Even if they could pull it out against Illinois, Ohio State was looming on the horizon, cracking their knuckles and drinking chunky milk without even wincing (probably).

I zoned out when the P.A. announcer explained the new overtime rules as they are longer than the instructions for the FitnessGram Pacer Test, but I will summarize. The first overtime is just the same-old-same-old. In the second, if a team scores a touchdown, then they must go for two. And then after that it’s just a two-point conversion contest.

The format was changed to prevent games like the one between Texas A&M and LSU in 2018 that went to 7 OTs and lasted nearly five hours. Instead we got a 9-OT game, but everyone was home in time for dinner so mission accomplished I guess.

The problem with the new format is that when you have the teams just attempt two-point conversions, the number of outcomes is fewer than it used to be. Before, a team could score a touchdown, go for a two-point conversion, go for an extra point, kick a field goal, turn the ball over, or anything else that can happen in regulation. There were more variables and possibilities for one team to separate themselves from the other. Now they either get two points or they don’t.

This turns overtime into something that resembles a soccer penalty shootout where they either score or they don’t, and then it’s the other team’s turn to try. It’s more or less random who ends up winning and this penalty shootout just happened to go nine frames.

You knew it was going to be a long one when in the third overtime, Penn State attempted and failed a Philly special. Funny on its own, but hilarious when you consider that Illinois tried and failed the same thing three times during the game. That’s four total Philly specials. One more and you get a free calzone with any order of at least $20.

Something I’m guessing you didn’t see if you watched the game on TV, or at least didn’t fully appreciate, is the walk of shame that both teams had to make from one end zone to the other between OTs. The game went to 9 OT’s, which means this happened eight times.

Then it was questionable play call after dropped pass after the Illinois quarterback, Artur Sitkowski, injuring his wrist (who we applauded when he was able to walk off the field under his own power. Take notes, Iowa). And then eventually it ended 20-18 which is a score that should be impossible. Also, I realized after writing the headline that Dan Orlovsky was on the call — so maybe it was actually better in person.

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