When one thinks of Penn State football, undoubtedly the hunched old body and inch-thick glasses of Joe Paterno come to mind. However, when one thinks of Penn State over the last four years, the name that will likely come to mind is Anthony Morelli.Morelli, who has been a part of seemingly constant quarterback controversies, has quietly risen from merely a familiar name among Big Ten fans into a solid quarterback for the Nittany Lions, putting up record-setting numbers.After being widely recognized as one of the best high school quarterback prospects in the nation, Morelli, a Pittsburgh native, sat on the bench for most of his freshman and sophomore seasons, stuck behind Zach Mills and 2005 Big Ten MVP Michael Robinson.When he finally got a chance to start the 2006 season opener as a junior, Morelli threw a 42-yard touchdown pass.In what many Penn State fans saw as a disappointing season that resulted in four Nittany Lions losses, Morelli set school season records for pass attempts and completions with 386 and 208, respectively.Additionally, Morelli’s 2,424 yards ranked third all-time on the Penn State season leader list. Though his 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year were not otherworldly, through half of the 2007 season Morelli has thrown for 1,328 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 58.3 completion percentage, putting him well on pace to surpass last year’s statistics.For the Badgers to get a win over Penn State, they cannot overlook the inconsistent but undoubtedly talented Morelli.Morelli has struggled since the start of Big Ten play this year, throwing just two touchdowns against five interceptions in consecutive losses to Michigan and Illinois, and last Saturday’s victory over Iowa.He realizes there’s no point in dwelling on the past, and with two losses already in the Big Ten, this upcoming game is as important as any.”We had some bumps in the road last year, and we just learned how to pull together and take care of business at the end,” Morelli said, referring to Penn State’s victory over Tennessee in last year’s Outback Bowl. “Hopefully before it gets to the point where it was last year, we can take care of business and try to win the rest of our games.”Despite having won four of Penn State’s first six games, and losing the other two games by a combined 12 points, the unselfish and determined Morelli is already disappointed in this season.”We lost two football games, and I wanted to win them all,” Morelli said. “The only thing we can do now is win the rest of them, try to make the best of the season, try to go to the best bowl game that we can. I didn’t get all the personal goals I wanted to, but we can still win some football games.”In attempting to do so, Morelli isn’t willing to let any outside factors affect the team emotionally. This weekend marks Homecoming weekend at Penn State, an emotional several days for many who will be in attendance at Beaver Stadium Saturday, but not Morelli and the Nittany Lions.”We approach it like it were any other football game,” Morelli said. “It’s about moving the ball, getting first downs, keeping our defense off the field and putting points on the board.”Despite this approach, Morelli realizes that this Wisconsin team will likely present more of a challenge than previous opponents like Buffalo or Notre Dame.”We have to get better every week. A field goal’s not going to cut it,” Morelli said, referring to Penn State’s point total against the Badgers in Madison last year. “They’re a great football team, and we need to come out ready to play. They’re a good quality football team and so are we. It’s going to be a matter of who shows up on Saturday.”Hopefully for Wisconsin, Morelli will continue his in-conference struggles. If he doesn’t, the Badger secondary could have a long day ahead on Saturday.
Syracuse’s bench slowly trudged onto the field, many with their heads down, despite the clock being frozen with seven seconds left in the game. Brisly Estime had tears in his eyes, though he said he wasn’t emotional. None of the players mentioned a bowl game anymore, just playing competitive against Pittsburgh next week — none even mentioned a win.SU head coach Dino Babers declared a week earlier that Syracuse was down to its last strike. “Now we can’t miss a pitch. It’s a full count and if it’s close, we’re going to have to swing at it.”And the Orange (4-7, 2-5 Atlantic Coast) followed it up with a 45-14 blowout loss to No. 17 Florida State (8-3, 5-3) in the Carrier Dome in SU’s final home game of the year. By Babers’ logic, Syracuse struck out. But even he backed away from his statement when asked directly what the count is following the loss, opting not to address it at all.“I think we didn’t play very well against a very, very good football team,” he said in response. “I thought the defense gave us turnovers. I mean those guys are hard to stop. And defense gave us a lot of turnovers. (Estime) did some nice jobs on the special teams trying to give us an opportunity. Sean (Riley) did some nice things in the opportunity. But offensively it was just very difficult to move the ball.”SU no longer controls its own destiny. A win against Pitt in its final game would put the Orange in position for a bowl game, but only if 5-7 teams are needed to fill the allotment and if SU’s academic progress rate is good enough to get a bid.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMORE COVERAGE:Dino Babers: Eric Dungey hasn’t received second opinion on injuryGrade SU’s performance against FSU and vote for player of the gameSee how Syracuse fans reacted to the game on social media Syracuse couldn’t replicate the improbable upset of then-No.17 Virginia Tech from a month earlier that led to students and fans storming the field. Instead, it had fans streaming out of the Dome before the fourth quarter as its bowl hopes were dealt a near-crushing blow.The Seminoles scored on their first two drives of the game, going a total of 131 yards in nine plays and under four minutes. FSU quarterback Deondre Francois found two receivers for scores of 15 and 16 yards, respectively, with the help of blown coverages by the Orange.Even when the defense buckled down, the offense couldn’t capitalize. Zack Mahoney threw two picks and SU totaled minus-seven yards on two drives in the first half that started in FSU territory.The Orange fouled off a few pitches by way of a 46-yard Hail Mary pass to Amba Etta-Tawo as time expired in the second quarter for SU’s only score of the half. And a touchdown pass to Ervin Philips after FSU muffed a punt at its own 22.But none of its positive plays could erase the beat down that was happening throughout the rest of the game or clear the count on the season.Mahoney threw two interceptions and was sacked eight times. FSU’s Dalvin Cook ran for 225 yards and four touchdowns — only eight fewer yards than SU’s entire offense.When Orange cornerback Chris Fredrick recovered a fumble with 13 minutes left in the game there was no reaction from the crowd or the players on the field. Fredrick just jogged to the sideline with the ball and high-fived one assistant coach. Most of the fans had already left the 42-14 game anyway.Leading up to the Florida State game, Babers was still talking about SU’s first bowl game in three years. With two wins, the Orange would have been guaranteed a spot. But with one win, which is still possible, SU had what Babers called “a chance,” that it was fortunate to have.Afterward, his tone changed.“The main thing is we’re trying to send the seniors out on a proper note,” Babers said. “We need to go out there, and we need to play a good football game — a competitive football game down to the fourth quarter when we have a chance to win. And I think that’s the key to bouncing back from all this stuff and trying to send the seniors out on a positive note.” Comments Published on November 19, 2016 at 7:10 pm Contact Jon: firstname.lastname@example.org | @jmettus Facebook Twitter Google+