Some gameday notes and observations while wrapping up the longest home season in Penn State history:
The last time Penn State endured such a disheartening loss a week prior to Senior Day was 1999 when the Nittany Lions were shocked by Minnesota, 24-23, on a Hail Mary pass and a last-second field goal.
Longtime blue-and-white followers remember what happened from there: Penn State ended the regular season with three straight losses and took until 2005 to fully recover, if it really ever has.
Though the timing of Minnesota in '99 and Ohio State last week - both late-season losses that blew up the best of postseason scenarios - occurred in Week No. 10, that's kind of where the similarities end.
The 1999 team was rolling along at 9-0, loaded with talent (LaVar Arrington-Courtney Brown-Brandon Short), ranked No. 2 in the country and headed for a matchup with Florida State for the national championship.
This team had already absorbed an early-season loss, flashing its lack of offense in the process, and may not have a first-round draft pick on the team, let alone the first two overall picks.
Indiana (4-6) at Penn State (8-2)
TV: Big Ten Network (channel 66 on Atlantic Broadband)
Line: Penn State is a 26-point favorite after the line opened at 21.
Updated PSU injury/status report: G Johnnie Troutman (thigh) is out. He will be replaced by Matt Stankiewitch, unless the Lions shake up the line. Some special-teams personnel have also been switched.
The '99 team failed to put the Gophers away in the last few minutes and wound up stunned. This year's team punted 10 times against the Buckeyes and was running uphill most of the night.
This year's team will face a 4-6 Indiana team today that while dangerous is no where near the kind of challenge Michigan, quarterbacked by Tom Brady, presented the week after the Lions lost to Minnesota while looking ahead at the Wolverines in '99.
This year's team attempted to sneak in the back door with the help of an unacceptable non-conference schedule that in the end masked the Lions' flaws when the better Big Ten opponents came to town, and the '99 club was more prepared for conference play from having beaten Pitt and gone to Miami and won.
The one similarity that remains is both teams ended their regular seasons at Michigan State.
So subdued and still stymied from the Ohio State loss was Joe Paterno that, three days later at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, he wasn't ready to handle questions on what the seniors playing their final game at home today have meant to the program.
It adds up to a team having to execute today to make up for the reality that most of its emotions were exhausted last week.
n JoePa said the doctors cleared Evan Royster for Ohio State last week, but Royster's knee injury suffered during pre-game drills, at least on the TV replay, appeared significant enough to slow him down. When he did have some running room, Royster didn't do anything to show he was 100 percent. Keep an eye on him today, and don't be surprised if Stephfon Green gets more carries.
n The losses to Iowa and Ohio State, along with Michigan's struggles, mean Penn State will finish the regular season void of a great win. I would rank the win over Northwestern the Nits' best so far.
n Is this the week when caution is finally thrown out and the Lions' punt return game is turned over to Justin Brown or Devon Smith?
n The Kansas City Chiefs have as much tradition and organizational pride as any team in the NFL. That's why it wasn't at all surprising that the club decided to waive troubled Larry Johnson rather than let the former PSU great break the Chiefs' all-time rushing record, of which he's just 75 yards shy.
n If Penn State fans weren't depressed enough after the loss to Ohio State, they flipped on ESPN Classic a day later only to find the 1979 Sugar Bowl.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.