* The 'Cat losing streak reached five with their 10-point loss to the Nittany Lions, and so it is no surprise that the remaining news is far more sobering. Once again, they failed to put together that proverbial full-game. Once again, they failed to make the necessary big plays. Once again, they failed to grasp opportunities when they were right there in front of them. This is why, in his opening statement and without prompting from any question, Pat Fitzgerald would say, "You look at our performance tonight, it was a tale of what-ifs. We had plenty of opportunities, especially in the second half, to do the things winners do and we weren't able to accomplish that. So credit goes to Penn State. Obviously they did the fundamental things better than we did."
* The start was promising for the 'Cats. Penn State's Chaz Powell fumbled the opening kickoff, Jeravin Matthews recovered and seven plays later Persa snuck in from the one. Now out came their heavily reconstituted defense. Kevin Watt was at one defensive end instead of Tyler Scott, who was out with a neck stinger. Quentin Williams was at the other defensive end instead of Vince Browne, who was not injured. Chi Chi Ariguzo was at Will linebacker instead of Bryce McNaul, whose practice time for this game had been limited due to injury. Damien Proby was at middle linebacker instead of David Nwabuisi, who was not injured. And David Arnold was at one safety spot instead of Ibraheim Campbell, who had struggled. "We're still trying to find that perfect mix of guys," the other safety, Brian Peters, would later say.
"We're trying to find combinations," echoed Fitzgerald. "It's not necessarily demoting guys. It's more trying to put guys in roles that may spark them a little bit."
Will there be open competition in practice next week for starting roles?
"We've got open competition every week. When you go through a rough storm like we've been on -- I gave the guys a quote this week. It's OK to make a mistake once. But if you make a mistake a second time, it's a choice. We've got too many guys making the wrong choices. With that being said, I think the No. 1 motivator in the world is to watch. It's called the bench. You're going to get it figured out and you're going to play fundamentally better and you're going to play consistently, or I've got one of the best seats in Ryan Field and you're going to stand next to me. That's not a threat. That's how we're going to get better. By competing and getting better through that."
* On its first possession, Penn State drove 44 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. On the only play of its second possession, quarterback Matt McGloin found Devon Smith on a 45-yard post for another touchdown. On its third and fourth possessions it picked up field goals and, on its fifth and final possession of the first half, it went 63 yards in just 47 seconds to take a 27-24 lead into the locker room. It had come into this affair averaging just 21.7 points in its first seven games.
"In the first half it looked like our defense was pressing, trying too hard or overrunning balls, taking bad angles," Fitzgerald later said. "We've got to get them to settle down a little bit better than we did as coaches. Once they settled down. . .I thought they responded pretty boldly. That's the defense we need to see the rest of the year."
* Still the 'Cats kept pace, Persa finding Kain Colter under the goal posts for their second touchdown, Colter sweeping right for their third. Now, up 21-20, came their last possession of the half, and quickly there they were on the Nittany Lions' 15 after Persa hit Jeremy Ebert on a 54-yard post. They picked up six when Persa found Christian Jones on a curl, picked up one on a Treyvon Green plunge and here, facing third-and-three at the eight, Fitzgerald called timeout with long seconds left on the play clock and 56 seconds left on the game clock.
Did he consider running more time off the clock before calling that time out, he would be asked.
"At halftime I said to Mick (offensive coordinator Mick McCall), 'I got a feeling I'm going to get a question on why I didn't let more clock go down,'" he would say. "At the end of the day, we thought if we take it all the way down and get a first down, then we're going to be hurting for time. But we're not going to be second-guessing everything I do. Probably a bad choice on my part."
The 'Cats would get a field goal here after Persa's third-down throw to Colter on the left side of the end zone was batted away. But Penn State would still have those 47 seconds, which were enough for them to score again and seize Mr. Mo.
* The 'Cats, out of the locker room, appeared poised to seize him right back, driving quickly from their 16 to a first down at the Nittany Lions' 22. But here Persa, who this night had looked more his old self than he had all season, had his pass tipped by defensive tackle Jordan Hill and picked off by linebacker Gerald Hodges and returned all the way to the 'Cat 19. Silas Redd immediately got all those yards on a sweep around right end and, just 3:21 into the second half, all the scoring for this evening was done.
* The 'Cats, as Fitzgerald would later note, had chances. They drove to a second-and-two at the Nittany Lions 38, but then punted after Persa was sacked for losses of seven and seven yards. They had Ebert, arguably their most-reliable receiver, open on a fly down the left sideline and he was unable to hold on to perfect offering from Persa at the goal line. ("Nah. I dropped it," he would say when asked if there was any explanation for his rare error. "My fault. I take full responsibility for it.") They had another of their old reliables, running back Jacob Schmidt, open on a curl on a second-and-eight from the Nittany Lions' 26 and he too dropped Persa's pass. They, finally, had a second-and-six at the Nittany Lions' 13 with the fourth quarter still not half over, but this drive too ended in a punt after Colter was sacked for a loss of 17 and then sacked again for a loss of 11. "The first one was stupid. I should have thrown the ball away," he would say. "But I was out there trying to make a play. Definitely should have thrown the ball away. I don't have anything else to say."
* Kain Colter did have one more thing to say and it was salient both to this evening and the losing streak it extended. He said, "It's tough. I just feel, this whole season, offense is playing good, defense is playing bad, defense is playing good, offense is playing bad. We've got to be able to come together and put it all together. Once we do, we can flip the season back around. But silly mistakes out there. I feel we're beating ourselves every week. It's tough."