PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Penn State beat up on its little brother once again Saturday afternoon, 23-7. It may sound demeaning to put it this way, but that’s really all Rutgers is and has been to PSU over the years. And every time we think Rutgers has grown up enough to fight back, the Nittany Lions have put their not-so-pesky little brother back in his place.
We’ve seen how calling an opponent “little brother” can backfire in a big way. Just ask former Michigan running back Mike Hart, who infamously did so to Michigan State after the 2007 game, and the Spartans have dominated the series ever since, going 9-4.
Maybe Rutgers can get to a point in the coming years where it can make this series competitive. Certainly, Greg Schiano is doing a nice job there, so much so that many people felt Saturday’s game would be very close.
Just like very few games that these teams have ever played have been close or competitive.
Penn State is 29-2 all-time against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights haven’t beaten the Lions since 1988, and Saturday’s win was the 14th in a row for PSU in the series.
As the picture above shows, Rutgers hasn’t even scored in double digits against Penn State in now six consecutive games.
The sad part, from the Rutgers standpoint, is that PSU didn’t even play a great game Saturday and still was never challenged.
It was a weird game, really, from Penn State, which had to play in very windy elements that changed the game plan, according to James Franklin.
PSU’s defense was outstanding, without a doubt. The two fourth-and-1 stops in the first half were game-changing plays, showing the Lions’ dominance up front and also that Rutgers just isn’t ready to match up in the trenches from a physical standpoint.
Where things were really odd for Penn State was on offense, where the Lions did some kooky things just to make sure they got out of town with a victory.
Having backup QB Will Levis run 17 times without attempting a pass is downright bizarre. Now, PSU didn’t need Levis to throw the ball at all, because Rutgers’ offense just never mounted any kind of threat. But if you’re gonna play Levis, you might as well develop him as an all-around quarterback instead of just a running back.
Penn State could run the ball at will, and the coaches knew it, so they just kept doing so. The Lions rushed for 248 yards, while holding Rutgers to only 83.
Schiano did great things at Rutgers his first time around, and maybe he will again in act two. But he’s in the Big Ten now, not the Big East, so establishing the Scarlet Knights as a legitimate threat will take some doing.
I hope he does. I’d like to see Rutgers play better. I was, though, one of the few in the media who picked a blowout Saturday — my prediction was PSU 38-16 — because I just got a sense that the Lions gained a lot of confidence from finally having something go their way in last week’s win over Michigan.
I’ve been thinking since the Michigan victory that Penn State will now win out, including the week nine Big Ten game, and maybe even find itself playing in a bowl game with a chance to finish 5-5 and on a five-game winning streak. That would enable the Lions to carry a lot of confidence into the offseason and next year.
Rutgers, meanwhile, has to visit Beaver Stadium next season, and face a Penn State team that likely will not be downtrodden and going through a really rough season. So there’s no real reason to think that little brother will put up much of a fight then, either.
Maybe it will happen someday. I had a brother who was three years older than me, and he whooped my rear for years. Until, when I was about 12, I smacked him a good one in the face, and after that he respected me enough — or at least was fearful of me enough — to leave me alone.
One of these days Rutgers may stand up and smack Penn State in the face.
But that did not occur on this day.
Not even close.
PSU coverage around the web:
PennLive: What would winning out mean for PSU?
Sports Illustrated: What Penn State is doing better since 0-5