VERY Happy Valley: Oregon State Helps Silence Penn State Critics

Tom McCartneyCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2008

STATE COLLEGE, PA—When the Oregon State Beavers left Penn State University on Sept. 6, they left with their tails tucked far between their legs.  There was no real team morale about them.  Head coach Mike Riley did not appear very happy at all with his team's performance.  After all, they had been dominated.

The Nittany Lions dominated both sides of the ball.  On the defensive side, the Lions held the Beavers to 92 rushing yards and held the passing attack, which was playing from behind, to 250 yards.  The Lions accomplished this feat with their second string in for a large portion of the game.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions roared loud and strong.  The rushing attack was good for 239 yards, including 112 and three touchdowns by Evan Royster.  In the passing attack, Daryll Clark picked apart the Beavers.  Clark threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns, as well as adding his own 61 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown.

The Lions took the game by a score of 45-14.  They looked sharp in every aspect of the game.  Oregon State, on the other hand, not so much.  The Beavers were overpowered in every sense.  They did not play offense well, and they certainly did not play defense well at all.

In fact, the only real bright spot for the Beavers was a freshman by the name of Jacquizz Rodgers.  Rodgers broke three tackles up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown in the closing minutes of the first half.  Rodgers would also add a touchdown in the closing minutes of the game, finishing with 99 yards on the day.

With the exception of two late scores by a freshman, however, the Beavers just did not look good.  Basically, nature took its course, as the Lions ate the Beavers whole.

When the spotlights shut off late that Saturday at Beaver Stadium, there was no postgame celebration.  Students didn't storm the field (actually, most left before the fourth quarter even started).  Players didn't take a victory lap.  There was no Gatorade cooler dumped upon Joe Paterno's head.

The game was a win.  There was satisfaction, but no alarming rejoice.

While Penn State students and faculty were satisfied with the win, the media was not so impressed.  The Lions had just shredded the number one run defense of the previous year and were receiving no love at all. ESPN commentators, journalists (yes, you Bleacher Reporters too), and rival schools alike all took shots at Penn State's scheduling tactics.

"They don't schedule anyone tough," "None of their teams could beat any team in a 'real' conference," and "Wait 'til Penn State gets killed in Big Ten action" were all common phrases you'd hear uttered.

Penn State needed to prove a point.  Averaging more than 55 points a game at the time of the win apparently just wasn't enough (tough crowd, eh?).  After all, this was a schedule that included teams like Coastal Carolina, Syracuse, Temple, and...oh yeah, Oregon State.

However, Penn State thought they'd need to wait until Illinois came to the "White House" to prove that point.

Au contraire, monsieur.  Two days before the Illini lined up in Happy Valley, the Beavers did all the vouching they could to the skill of Penn State.

The Oregon State Beavers took the field at home against the almighty No. 1 University of Southern California Trojans.  It was a night Beaver faithful will never forget.  When Oregon State took the field, they came ready to play, taking a 21-point lead into halftime.

However, the Trojans bounced back.  By the end of the third quarter, the Trojans had nearly closed the gap, trailing by only seven.  Oregon State would then show tremendous resiliency.

Still up by only seven, senior Greg Laybourn sealed the deal with an interception to put the Beavers at the USC two.  Trusty freshman Jacquizz Rodgers showed his performance in Beaver Stadium wasn't just a fluke and punched it in for six to put the Trojans down 13.  A late Trojan score was not enough to reverse the score.

As Beaver nation stormed the field in Oregon, fans in State College looked on with a smile.  The team that Penn State routed 45-14 had just beaten the "best" team in the nation.

The two interceptions OSU quarterback Lyle Moevao threw against the Nittany Lions reversed themselves against USC.  Moevao finished with 167 yards and two touchdowns.

Fortunately for the Trojans, they matched the Lions, holding tailback Jacquizz Rodgers to only two touchdowns.  However, Rodgers was able to squeeze out 186 yards against the Trojans, nearly double what he gained against the Lions.

It seems as though the Lions have already been able to silence the critics—not by their own doing against Illinois, but thanks to the play of the ferocious Beavers.  The No. 1 team in the nation had lost to a team the Nittany Lions beat by 31 points.

Immediately following the game, ESPN commentator Chris Fowler noted that "the Penn State Nittany Lions should be on everyone's watch list now," referencing their 45-14 victory.

Jesse Palmer added his thoughts, saying that Penn State "blew out this Beaver team" and showed optimism that if teams like Penn State and Wisconsin continue, the Big Ten could overtake the Pac-10.

It appeared as though for at least one night, the Beavers had silenced Penn State's critics.

While the Lions still have a lot to prove on their own and have many big games they need to win, at least Oregon State University has assisted them in establishing their credibility.  Maybe Penn State has played more than just "nobodies" this year after all.

With the Big Ten schedule opening up this weekend, the Nittany Lions have the potential to make it a very Happy Valley this year in State College.