STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – You couldn’t look away. Like those horrible car accidents on the side of the road, with white sheets billowing in the wind that flag your attention down, it was hard to close your eyes.
You know you didn’t want to, no matter what the score became, no matter how lucky Penn State got during Saturday’s 23-13 loss.
Joe Paterno got mad, quarterback Michael Robinson showed much improvement, receivers Justin King and Derrick Williams showed why they were so valuable right out of high school.
You had to watch.
You know you got mad at the first six minutes you missed, because you know no one cares about an old Conference USA foe (TCU) beating a team with no quarterback and no wide receivers (Oklahoma), or a running back so hyped to win the Heismann in his second year that he rushes only 63 yards (Adrian Peterson).
Guess what? Andre Hall had more yards (74) just a few hours later.
A disaster – Hurricane Katrina, for instance – will eventually make you look away in disgust.
The Bulls’ 2005 season opener – seen glued to your seat, eyelids pulled back to the ears to watch the set, with all to show for it being the money you spent on wasted beers – was not one.
Sure, it was another loss against another historic team in another historic stadium in front of another historic crowd two sizes too big for USF.
They wanted to handle it, but didn’t. They wanted to win, but didn’t.
They wanted to look sharp on all aspects of their game; they weren’t, save the defense until running back Tony Hunt’s 70-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
At least it’s over. And was it really that bad?
No, not really, because if I was a betting man, I would have bet under the 23-point spread – though I would’ve regretted it had the game only been one quarter.
When a team has to replace a quarterback less than 10 minutes into the game, has more than four receivers drop passes and a star running back held to as few yards as Hall was, there isn’t much you want to remember.
Certainly nothing to brag about.
You could linger in the past of Saturday and say, “Well, they tried their best,” perhaps adding, “That defense of theirs wasn’t half bad.”
Then you’d wish you’d have said, “I wish I would have stayed with Pat Julmiste all along.”
But in the end, Penn State’s defense proved why it was sixth in the nation last season in total defense. Why it allowed no more than 21 points per game last season – for the entire season.
Why one of their defensive tackles, senior Scott Paxson, can put his position to good use and bring down Carlton Hill by tripping him while laying on his stomach.
But you are going to sit there – you’re allowed to and I’ll even help you out here – and find the pluses, ignoring the minuses because, well, subtraction is harder.
At least Hill, the Bulls’ top recruit, who had a catch for 8 yards, played.
The defense looked decently good. At least you could say that.
At least they started a different quarterback. At least he didn’t throw an interception.
At least they brought in Pat Julmiste – 25-31 passing with two touchdown throws and 200 yards – after three series. At least he didn’t fumble.
Remember, they scored two touchdowns – two leaping-lizard grabs by recently demoted sophomore receiver Johnny Peyton.
And now, at least a lot of people in Pennsylvania know USF.
At least no one got hurt. At least Game 1 is over.
At least the season has started.
There are a lot of at least’s and if’s and man-I-can’t-believe-that’s, but you know what you’ll say after remembering the Bulls are on a four-game losing streak continuing from last season?
At least they are playing FAMU this Saturday.