It was something on the back of every Penn State player and fan’s mind when bowl selections came out this weekend, would the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal affect where the team would head in the postseason?
Those fears were realized on Sunday when the Lion learned of their fate-a trip to the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas-to face the Houston Cougars (12-1, 8-0 C-USA; lost in C-USA Championship game). While a matchup with Heisman-hopeful Case Keenum and the high-flying Cougar aerial attack, it’s not exactly where the team wanted to be.
“Smh worst case scenario” was posted on defensive end Jack Crawford’s Twitter account late Sunday.
The players’ beef is that this is still, despite the scandal, a very good team. As evidence by its 9-3 (6-2 Big Ten) record, the Lions deserved a much better bowl fate. By virtue of their record, they finished as the fourth best in the Big Ten, which would mean a trip to either the Outback, Insight, Gator, or even the Capital One Bowl.
Instead, thanks in part to the charges against Sandusky, the Lions were invited to the TicketCity Bowl, which is the seventh bowl to be able to select a team from the conference. Team that the Lions have beaten this season, like Northwestern (Meineke Car Care Bowl), Ohio State (Gator Bowl) and Iowa (Insight Bowl) all received invites ahead of them.
Whether it’s fair or not, the allegations against Sandusky clearly played a role in where the Lions were invited to play in the postseason. It also could have weighed that the Lions went 0-3 against ranked teams this season and closed out the year with a listless 45-7 beat down at the hands of Big Ten Champ Wisconsin.
Nevertheless, the players felt as though they deserved a better fate and clearly were disappointed with the selection.
“Still waiting for the real bowl announcements to come out.. They got us in the wrong bowl,” linebacker Gerald Hodges posted on his Facebook page.
While Hodges and Crawford were among the Nittany Lions disappointed, teammates Silas Redd and Drew Astorino were among those pleased to be heading to Dallas.
Redd posted on his twitter, “Ticketcity bowl it is! I’m excited to play Houston and hopefully cap off this roller coaster season with a big win!”
Astorino, talking on the Big Ten Network, said that he was disappointed that they were passed up by some team they beat, but did say he was looking forward to the challenge of Keenum and the Houston offense.
The players reportedly held a players-only meeting late Sunday to discuss the bowl and whether they would participate through a vote.
If the team does decide to participate, it would setup a great matchup in the TicketCity Bowl’s second year, pitting one of the nation’s top offenses against one of its top defenses. After all, the Cougars were No. 6 in the country just last week before losing in its conference championship game. And seriously, who doesn’t want to watch a quarterback who threw for over 5,000 yards and 45 touchdowns this season?
I know I sure do.