Before This Week, the Most Un-Penn State Thing I Ever Saw Involved... Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary

Before This Week, the Most Un-Penn State Thing I Ever Saw Involved... Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary

As the title and video would indicate, this post relates to an on-field incident involving Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary and a mid-90s game against Rutgers. In no way is this intended to minimize or trivialize the sickening revelations of the past week. But with all that's been going on, I found myself thinking back to a moment I distinctly remember from 1995, mostly because of how odd it was in the Penn State standard I had come to know at the time. It was absolutely the oddest thing I'd personally ever seen from a Penn State team.

Here's what happened, from the perspective of a student who watched it unfold with more than just a win on his mind.

In 1995, I was a sophomore at Penn State. There are few places in the country where being a college football fan was more fun. My friends and I lived for college football Saturdays.

Among the many reasons we loved watching college football was that we'd occasionally have more than just a passing interest and would drop a few shekels on a game.

On Saturday, September 23, 1995, we happened to take Penn State -20 against Rutgers at the Meadowlands. Penn State was still riding high from an undefeated 1994 season. They had won 19 straight games entering the matchup with Rutgers.

Rutgers entered the game 1-1, having dropped its opener to Duke(!). They regrouped the next week and beat Navy 27-17.

Rutgers had OK talent. Future Jets and Dolphins quarterback Ray Lucas was on that team as a backup signal caller. Marco Battaglia, a tight end who went on to play parts of seven seasons in the NFL, was Rutgers' main weapon.

Regardless, sixth-ranked Penn State had an overwhelming talent advantage.

The players take the field, and a shootout ensues. The third quarter ends with Penn State holding a 38-27 advantage. My friends and I brace ourselves for a roller-coaster fourth quarter.

Penn State finally puts a stranglehold on things and leads 52-34 with a little over a minute left. For the most part, JoePa has taken his starters out the game.

Freshman running back Curtis Enis carried 15 times for 145 yards. Bobby Engram had a huge day, hauling in 8 catches for 175 yards. And starting QB Wally Richardson, who had a nice day, going 16-26 for 252 yards, was also pulled from the game.

Enter State College native and Penn State backup quarterback Mike McQueary. My friends and I, having watched so many Penn State games in the past, immediately recognize McQueary's introduction into the game as a sign that JoePa is calling off the dogs.

McQueary will take a knee, run out the clock, and we'll lose our bet.

We don't even bother hoping against hope that Penn State will score some late b.s. touchdown. Knowing that Penn State never runs up the score we are resigned to the fact that Penn State won't cover.

We're watching the clock tick down. Penn State's offense, with so many backups in the game, looks completely disorganized. They look like they're scrambling to simply take a knee. A wide receiver runs on the field late. It was kind of bizarre, but we didn't think anything of it. McQueary was going to take a knee.

He finally gets under center and takes the snap. In an instant he backpedals and passes his fullback. He then play-actions to his tailback. What the hell is going on here? Why didn't he take a knee? Why didn't he hand to his fullback for a patented Penn State fullback belly? Why didn't he give it to his tailback? Wait, is he about to throw this ball?

The next thing we know, the ball is in the air. My friends and I are watching in stunned silence. What is going on? The ball comes down and lands right in the hands of Chris Campbell, the receiver who came on the field late. Campbell catches it at the 15 and goes in for the touchdown.

Did that just happen? Penn State, up 18 with a little over a minute left, just threw the football? Penn State, pending the extra point, now leads by 24? They're going to cover?

My friends and I are beside ourselves. The game clock finally reaches zero, and it's time for the coaches' post-game handshake.

Joe Paterno races out to midfield to meet Rutgers coach Doug Graber. Graber, understandably upset, says something along the lines of "I didn't think you played like that."

In hindsight, our gambling interests aside, this is where it gets truly interesting. Paterno, clearly taken aback that someone had the audacity to question his integrity, his sportsmanship, his program, immediately fires back with what at the time was the most un-Paterno thing imaginable. He cursed.

This was stunning. JoePa didn't curse that we knew of. If he did, he did it behind closed doors, not in front of ESPN's cameras.

The entire thing, from McQueary throwing the pass, to Penn State running up the score, to Paterno cursing at Graber was so bizarre. After the game, Paterno defended his backup quarterback.

My friends and I always joked that McQueary had to have had money on the game. In reality, the decision to throw was probably the result of dropping in the polls the year before. The undefeated 1994 team dropped from #1 to #2 in the polls after allowing Indiana to score two late meaningless touchdowns in what was a blowout. It cost Penn State a share of the National Championship, which was awarded to Nebraska.

Regardless of the rationale, it remained the most un-Penn State thing I ever saw. That is, of course, until this week.

Sixteen years later, although in completely unrelated fashion, it's Paterno and McQueary again.

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

ap-bol-bol.jpg
AP Images

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.