Finger: Was Writing on the Wall with Paterno, Penn State?

Finger: Was Writing on the Wall with Paterno, Penn State?

With our fearless leader, Enrico Campitelli Jr., on vacation in an undisclosed location—really, he won't tell us where he is—we may have some special contributors dropping by The700Level.

Today we're joined by CSNPhilly's John Finger. Reexamining multiple incidents involving the Penn State football team in 2007, Finger begs the question as to whether or not the writing was on the wall in regards to what we now know about how the university and its football coach collectively handle institutional crises...

Note: West of Philadelphia is a large land mass called Pennsylvania. To most, this region is called “Penn State Country.” To be more succinct, this is Penn State football country and non-citizens of this land act at their own peril.

I grew up in Penn State Country. I have family and friends who are and were Penn State alums, professors, boosters and supporters. As such, Penn State football dominated everyday life during the season. For many, football Saturday’s were the reason for existence. The same went for the annual spring practice game. Typically, Saturday afternoons in this part of the world consisted of women preparing mass quantities of food, drink all while dressed in the appropriate Penn State garb. The men would wear a tasteful Penn State shirt with a pressed pair of khakis and black shoes.

Just like Joe. Hey, it wasn’t just a football game or a happening. Penn State football was life.

And it drove me nuts.

More so, the man at the center of this universe, was impossible to ignore. Joe Paterno was the most well-known and revered man in the Commonwealth. He gave speeches to introduce presidents and he was the star. If he went to a basketball game, people watched him. People fought in bookstores in order to buy copies of his autobiography or life-sized poster cutouts.

Paterno was a moral arbiter for a lot of folks in Penn State Country and a compass of what was right and wrong. Paterno, in Penn State Country, was the cult of personality personified.

And it was all a lie.

As it has played out, Paterno is not very much different from the Jackie Sherrills or Barry Switzers he railed against. When push comes to shove, Paterno will always protect his own no matter what the cost.

The following story was written on Oct. 19, 2007 during a period where Paterno’s players were being arrested for sexual assault, fighting on campus and shooting a crossbow through the dorms. Plus, Paterno had been involved in a road-rage incident on campus.

Little did we know what was going on behind the scenes at Penn State with disgraced former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Perhaps the handwriting was on the wall? 


Gotta Go, Joe
Oct. 19, 2007
There was time up there in the hinterlands of Happy Valley when a certain football coach could carry on his business in town with impunity. If there was a professor or another local pinheaded intellectual rolling through stops signs, then by golly, it was up to the football coach to restore order by making the necessary traffic stop.

Anarchy might be a concept that the intellectuals like to discuss and stroke their pointed beards over, but here in the real world anarchy doesn't get you to a Bowl Game, Poindexter!

After all, whose name is it on the library where they stash all those books the professors love to read and write? It ain't no philosopher... yeah, that's right; it’s the football coach, smarty pants.

Better yet, it used to be that the football coach ran that little college town in the same way that Porky used to in that eponymously titled movie from the 1980s. See, Ol’ Porky ran his backwoods town and even had the local law enforcement signed up for duty. In fact, when making the rounds about town, the sheriff and his boys would occasionally come across a few of Porky’s friends who may have had a little too much moonshine and were causing a “disturbance” or something like that.

But rather than take the miscreant to the lockup and run him through all that fingerprinting and photographing rigamarole, the local law would just take the deviant over to Porky’s house to let him deal with it.

Hey, no sense getting worked up over boys just being boys.

Once upon a time the “Porky's Model” was how it was done up there in Happy Valley. Say a footballer had one too many after practice (or study hall) and decided to fire a crossbow into the dorms. Or, say, he may have teetered over the edge into felony rape and sexual-assault charges ... well, the State College PD and the campus cops could have just turned it over to the football coach. No sense getting worked up over it. Let the boss handle it. That's what he's here for.

But there's a big problem nowadays. It seems as if the times have changed up at State. It also seems as if those pinheads in academia and those degenerates in the media have finally started to take that whole “accountability” and “discipline” malarkey the coach always talked about, to heart.

But this time, it just doesn’t apply to tailgating and rooting for Ol’ State to win the big game and letting the boys be boys. Nope, instead they want to know things. Like, for instance, why the football coach won’t tell the taxpayers in the Commonwealth how much his public-subsidized paycheck is for.

How gauche!

Then they want to know just who does the coach think he is when he “gently chided” a woman driver who may or may not have rolled through a stop sign. I mean come on, Coach... you know how those gals are behind the wheel. She was probably putting on her makeup and didn't see the sign. No wonder her husband was shouting. Cut him some slack, Coach — he has to live with her!

But oddly enough, those vultures want to know why the coach has not discussed the running back who will stand trial for felony rape and sexual-assault charges when the star player allegedly attempted to have sex with a woman sleeping in his apartment.

“What makes this assault different ... is that she was punched in the kidney in order to gain compliance,” assistant district attorney Lance Marshall said outside the courthouse. “This case is more unusual than our typical sex assault case” on campus.

Yes, and you want to know what else makes it different? In the first five games of this season, the running back rushed for 302 yards and six touchdowns. It’s a good thing that it's a star football player from Penn State that stands accused and not a lacrosse player from Duke. Otherwise, the school might cancel the rest of the season and suspend the program.

But something like that would never happen at Penn State, would it? Not with Mr. Clean, Joe Paterno running the show. After all, when asked about the charges levied on his running back, the football coach, understandably, got angry...

At the guy asking the question.

Here's an excerpt from last Wednesday's media teleconference:

Question: Bonnie Bernstein reported on ABC's telecast that you told her Austin Scott was off the team. He's no longer on the depth chart. What's his status?

Coach: You want to talk about anybody that we're playing? I'm not going to talk about it. Austin Scott's got to work some things out.

Yeah, like trying to stay out of jail,

Meanwhile, when asked if four of his players, who were reportedly involved in an on-campus fight the night after the Iowa game, would see action this weekend, The Coach said: “It depends how well they practice.”

Come on... it was just a fight. It wasn't like they raped anyone. Sheesh!

Now here’s the thing that gets me: when I was a kid growing up in the so-called Penn State Country, I read the football coach's biography and was taken with certain aspects of it. Particularly, I was enchanted by parts where Paterno wrote about his youth in Brooklyn and his father’s insistence on education and a strong sense of morality be the focal point of his son’s life. These lessons were drilled into young Paterno everyday not just by his father, Angelo, but also a particular Jesuit Brother who used  to make young Paterno stay late after to school for special assignments in Latin and literature. In fact, it may have been the most interesting section in any jock lit book I have ever read.

It makes me wonder what that old Latin and literature student would think of the tired, old ball coach who hasn’t quite learned that things aren't the way they used to be.

What would the Jesuits say?

What would Angelo Paterno say?

Penn State's signature win over Ohio State has it feeling it's back on map

Penn State's signature win over Ohio State has it feeling it's back on map

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – In another day and time, the late John Facenda — the voice of NFL Films and the very “Voice of God,” as he came to be known — described Marcus Allen “running with the night” while scoring a particularly memorable touchdown for the Raiders in a Super Bowl victory over Washington.

On Saturday, another Marcus Allen went soaring into the night, not to mention Penn State lore.

A blocked field goal by the Nittany Lions’ junior safety resulted in a go-ahead 60-yard TD return by teammate Grant Haley, as PSU upset No. 2 Ohio State in Beaver Stadium, 24-21 (see story). That led to the team’s fans, dressed appropriately for a White Out, to storm the field, and led to the kind of emotions that hadn’t been felt on campus in a long, long time.

“This is for everybody,” coach James Franklin said.

The Langhorne native talked about the game being “a big step in the right direction” as far as healing a community wounded by the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal. He talked, with tears in his eyes, about the death of his brother-in-law four days earlier.

Yet he didn’t wish to discuss whether it was the kind of signature victory he needed to propel the program back toward prominence (or, for that matter, ensure his job security).

“That’s for you (media) guys, all that signature stuff,” he said, adding that he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the big picture.”

Rather, he said, “I just want to enjoy tonight.”

Understandable, since the Lions, 5-2 after their third straight victory this season, beat a ranked team for the first time since 2013 (No. 14 Wisconsin), beat a team ranked in the top five for the first time since 1999 (No. 4 Arizona) and earned a victory over their highest-ranked opponent since knocking off No. 1 Notre Dame in 1990.

PSU also snapped a 20-game road winning streak on the part of the Buckeyes (7-1). Seventeen of those victories had come in Big Ten play.

Few people saw it coming, though middle linebacker Jason Cabinda said that amid a sleepless Friday night at the team hotel, he and his roommate, fellow ‘backer Manny Bowen, allowed themselves to dream.

“We were just talking about how great it would be to pull this off,” he said, “and how we believed we could pull this off, and how it would be like writing history.”

It was already etched upon the pages of Brandon Bell’s mind.

“This was no fluke,” the senior linebacker said. “This is what we train for. This is what we go out there and play for. Obviously everybody is (saying) we shocked the world, but this is what you expect. Or what I expect.”

Bell, playing for the first time since the season’s second week because of a leg injury, had a career-high 19 tackles and one of his team’s six sacks. Cabinda, playing for the first time since the opener because of a hand injury, had 12 tackles and a sack of his own. Bowen added 11 stops, and defensive end Garrett Sickels, suspended for the first half for violating a team rule, had career highs of nine tackles, 3½ tackles for loss and 2½ sacks.

“Maybe,” Franklin said, “I should suspend him for the first half for the season.”

With Cabinda and Bell back, the Lions were more aggressive on defense than they had been, more varied. Yet the game seemed to be getting away from them when Ohio State built a 21-7 lead through three quarters.

J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes’ splendid quarterback, had thrown for one touchdown, Curtis Samuel had busted off a 71-yard run for another and PSU’s repeated special-teams blunders (a blocked field goal, a fumbled punt and a bad snap on a punt) had left the Lions staring up at a team that had won its previous 78 games when leading by 14 points or more in the fourth quarter.

OSU had, however, been extended to overtime the previous weekend at Wisconsin, while PSU had a bye, two things that might very well have contributed to all that happened next. You had Lions QB Trace McSorley capping a brisk 90-yard drive with a scoring run early in the final period. And freshman linebacker Cam Brown blocking a punt (even though the block wasn’t on) to set up Tyler Davis’ field goal, cutting the gap to 21-17 with 9:33 left.

Then Allen blocked Tyler Durbin’s 45-yard field goal attempt as well, the first time since 2007 the Lions had rejected two kicks in the same game. Haley collected the rebound and set sail down the left sideline.

Durbin and holder Cameron Johnston gave chase, and Johnston, the punter, closed the gap on Haley, one of the fastest guys on Penn State’s team.

“I told him, ‘If you would have gotten caught by the kicker I never would have let you live that down,’” McSorley said.

Never mind that — Haley admitted he would have never forgiven himself.

He managed to make it the distance, though, and after Ohio State’s final drive ended with a pair of sacks, PSU had the victory.

When the gun sounded several Lions sprinted toward the student section at the south end of the stadium and performed their own version of the Lambeau Leap. And as the fans spilled out onto the field, two male spectators turned to each other high up in the west stands.

“We’re back in business,” one said to the other.

That seemed to be the feeling in the locker room, too.

“It’s just a game that put Penn State back on the map,” Haley said. “We needed that signature win, and we did it tonight.”

All because Marcus Allen soared, and took everyone else along with him.

Flyers Notes: Ivan Provorov bounces back with help from Shayne Gostisbehere

Flyers Notes: Ivan Provorov bounces back with help from Shayne Gostisbehere

Shayne Gostisbehere has been through it before.
The ups and downs of a rookie season. Although his season a year ago was mostly up and up as a Calder Trophy finalist.
Nonetheless, Gostisbehere felt badly for 19-year-old Ivan Provorov following that minus-5 performance in Chicago on Tuesday and then another minus effort in the home-opening loss to Anaheim on Thursday.
So "Ghost" had a talk with his Russian counterpart about life on the blue line.
“He was down after a few games,” Gostisbehere said. “I didn’t really tell him much other than, ‘Hey, we’ve got 79 more of these.’ I told him to keep his head up and he’ll get over it. 
“He’s a hell of a player and sometimes you don’t get all of the bounces. He’s a great player as you guys could see. He had a great bounce-back game tonight.”
Indeed he did during Saturday’s 6-3 win over Carolina (see story).
Provorov says when the play seems slow to him, he knows he’s focused on what has to be done.

“Once you get comfortable, you get used to the speed and the game slows down for you,” he said. “With every game, I’m getting more comfortable and trying to make more plays.”
Provorov set up two critical early Flyers goals with two assists during a plus-2 outing that led to a 3-2 lead in the second period. The Flyers didn’t trail thereafter.
Both his shots went right to the net. Several other times this week, he had his point shots blocked.
“You try to read off how much time you have and stuff like that, how fast the player is coming at you,” he said. “You’re trying to [decide] what kind of shot to take.”
Provorov admitted some of his teammates were giving him encouragement.
“I think everyone is going to have tough games, it’s only his third game,” Gostisbehere said. “You have to give the guy a break. It’s tough to be in that position, he’s 19 years old.  
“He’s a kid, it’s tough. I was 22 so it was a little different, I’m a little older and everyone is going to have those tough games, but it’s how you bounce back.”
Provorov also had two hits and four blocked shots.
Scoring streaks
Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds both extended their goal-scoring streaks to four games. They are each one shy of their career-high — five games.
The last Flyer to have a four-game goal-scoring streak was Claude Giroux, who did so from March 19 to 28, 2015, with five goals.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Flyers had two players concurrently on goal-scoring streaks of four games or more was 1993, when Josef Beranek had an eight-game streak from Oct. 9 to 23 and Eric Lindros had a six-game streak from Oct. 12 to 26.
Read is truly enjoying the best start of his career.
“It made hockey a little bit more fun,” he said. “The last couple of years have been frustrating. You are battling as much as you can out there to try and get better.
“Scoring a couple of goals here early gets the confidence high. I enjoy going on the ice every shift and giving it your all and trying to make this team better every shift.”