Two losses not terrible, but blowing leads is
It’s easy to lose perspective in sports. But it’s also important to always keep things in context.
I do believe this season already is a disappointment for Penn State. Even if the Lions finish 10-2, it will be a disappointment, and in fact, that might even make things even worse.
If you’re thinking, “C’mon, man, how can 10-2 be disappointing? There are 125 teams in the country that would love to go 10-2.”
Viewed solely in the light of the final record, it sounds ridiculous to say that a team that loses only two games would be a disappointment. And I will admit, I picked the Nittany Lions to go 10-2 this season, so it’s a fair point to wonder how I could now view such a record as disappointing.
But this is where context is key.
Penn State should be undefeated.
I strongly believe that. You as fans probably believe that. And you can bet that every member of the Lions — coaches and players — believes that the team should have won the two games it lost.
You see, in sports, if you go up against an opponent that’s just better than you and you lose, you can handle that. It’s actually pretty easy to deal with because you can always take solace in knowing you did everything you could to win, and the other team was just better.
Ohio State was not better than Penn State, despite the 27-26 final score at Beaver Stadium. The Lions were in control of that game, up 12 in the fourth quarter, and blew it. Plain and simple.
I’ll give Ohio State credit for coming back. But the bottom line, to me, is Penn State was clearly the better team for almost the entire night, then the game ended on an awful fourth-down playcall that killed the Lions’ final hopes.
Let’s now look at last week’s 21-17 home loss to Michigan State. There is just no way the underachieving, short-handed Spartans should have won that game. No way.
Penn State’s offense was awful, Trace McSorley played as poorly as he ever has for the Lions, and the explosive offense we’ve come to expect was held to a measly 17 points.
If Ohio State had controlled the game and won, say, 40-27, and Michigan State had controlled the game and won, say, 35-28, I would be telling you that, no, this season is not a disappointment.
But when you’re a top 10 team and you flat out give away your two biggest home games of the season, then we have to look at those losses and their impact much differently than we would just any regular losses.
Three weeks ago, the 18- to 22-year-old kids on the PSU team had reason to believe they could win the Big Ten. And to believe they could reach the College Football Playoff.
Those goals were discussed throughout the offseason and truly were attainable.
To lose those goals because you blew two games that you should have won has to be crushing. It’s why everyone is wondering now how the players and coaches will bounce back the rest of the season, because those type of heartbreaking losses can destroy teams that lack great leadership.
Even if the Lions do finish 10-2 — which I now doubt because of the looming trip to Michigan — it would only serve as a reminder to every member of the program of what could have been if not for the two wasted opportunities.
Cory Giger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.