Coming into Saturday’s game, Virginia was riding a high from last weekend’s blowout of Richmond and Penn State was riding a low from a loss to Ohio. What followed was one of the ugliest games of the first two weeks of this season. In the end, the Cavaliers were able to pull out a lucky win over the Nittany Lions. The final score was 17-16.
Despite the fact that Virginia won this game, they aren’t leaving with any bragging rights. Penn State was the better team on the field, and if not for a poor performance from their kicker, they would have won. Virginia’s offense was stagnant, turnover prone and couldn’t run the football to save their lives.
In the end Virginia tallied 295 total yards on offense and only 32 of those came on the ground. The turnover differential in this one was +4 in Penn State’s favor. The Cavaliers lost three fumbles and Michael Rocco threw an interception.
In the second half, UVa head coach Mike London inexplicably benched his starting QB Rocco in favor of Phillip Simms, who has only had the summer to learn the play book. Simms was on the field for two drives and the offense couldn’t move the ball. Rocco eventually returned to the game to lead the game winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
Penn State lost this game for one reason and one reason only: the foot of place kicker Sam Ficken. Ficken missed four of his five field goal attempts and he had an extra point blocked. Ficken could have been the hero, but he missed a 42-yard field goal as time expired that would have won the game.
I doubt that anyone would have thought this game to be a blowout before kickoff, but no one could have foreseen such an ugly game, a game in which one team outplayed the other but still lost. This game result might just be harder to accept for Penn State than the one against Ohio last week.