Lost & Found
Copyright© 2007 by Douglas Fox
Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 28 - Kyle Martin goes to PSU seeking football glory. Read about his successes, failures and excesses as he tries to find his place in the world
I awoke Sunday morning to the sound of my phone ringing.
"Hello?" I answered groggily.
"Are you still in bed, sleepyhead?" Kelly asked cheerfully.
"Umm ... yeah, I just woke up," I answered. "What time is it?"
"Quarter to twelve," Kelly said.
"Sorry I'm late," I answered. Kelly and I were to meet for brunch at Pollock Commons at 11:30. "Give me fifteen minutes."
"I'll get a paper and meet you inside," Kelly said before she finished the call.
I quietly headed for the bathroom to shower and brush my teeth. Damian was just waking up when I got back to the room. I invited him to join Kelly and me. He declined since he was meeting Billy, Mel and Sarah downtown for lunch in half an hour.
I found Kelly sitting with Bev, Christian, Cindy, Jen and G. J. Kelly and I went through the line for food and rejoined out friends.
"You look tired, honey," Kelly commented as we were eating our brunch.
"I am," I agreed. "It was a long day yesterday and I didn't sleep well on the plane." I snorted. "Actually it's been a long season. I love football but I'm glad our last game is next Saturday."
"I'm glad too," Kelly added. "I want to spend more time with you, sweetie."
"It will be better in December," I agreed. "But remember I still have practice every day."
"Yes, but you aren't tied up Friday nights and all day on Saturdays, right?" Kelly said. I agreed.
The girls had watched our game in Cindy and Bev's room yesterday. They praised how Christian and I played. Christian had three catches in the second half, one of them for Chip's second touchdown. G. J. had rotated into the game in the second half and had some good playing time too.
Christian had talked to his brother before his family left for church this morning. Joshua reported that Central was seeded #2 in the District 3 playoffs. My Wolverines were down at #14, but were in the playoffs. The way the seeding chart was set up my team and Christian's team wouldn't meet up unless both teams made it to the district championship game in early December.
Kelly and I headed for her room when we finished brunch. We relaxed, read the paper and caught up with our friends via e-mail. The sports section had interesting news. Of course USC and LSU continued winning. Oklahoma almost lost to Nebraska, squeaking out a 31-30 win with a last second field goal. That should give the poll voters and the computer something to think about before the BCS standings were posted in the evening.
Florida won but Ed Fritz didn't get to play yesterday. Notre Dame won too. Jeremy North made fourteen tackles and had an interception. Jeremy was starting to get noticed nationally. Rutgers lost to Pittsburgh yesterday. I sent congratulations off to Ed and Jeremy and condolences to Hal Long. All my e-mails today included a question, 'Are we going to Panama City Beach for spring break?' Kelly and I both wanted to repeat our week in the sun like last year.
E-mails came back from all my friends later in the afternoon congratulating me on my performance yesterday and saying they planned on doing our trip to the beach again next spring. Kelly and I could start working on our parents at Thanksgiving to get permission to go on the trip.
At dinner on Sunday night Coach Burton announced that we would do video study on Monday and we would practice without pads this week. This announcement was greeted with raucous cheers. No hitting would give us more time to heal before we faced Michigan State. Coach also announced that the entire team was expected to attend our final pep rally on campus on Friday night.
Zack Hayes arranged with the coaches to wire up the projector system in the team auditorium after dinner so we could view the Fox's post game show and see the latest BCS standings in comfort. Most of the team showed up. We expected to finally see our team jump ahead of Oklahoma.
We had to wait through the end of the Denver Broncos vs. New York Jets game for the announcement. Our friend Antwaan Booker was a one man wrecking crew against the Jets' offensive line. He sacked the QB, drew holding penalties and batted down passes for his team. The color commentator said he thought Antwaan was the most dominant rookie defensive end he had seen since Reggie White.
It was too bad the Broncos didn't have an offense. Their defense scored their only touchdown when Antwaan's sack knocked the ball loose and into the hands of a blitzing cornerback. He ran it 35 yards to the end zone to score. The Broncos offense managed two field goals in four quarters. They lost to the Jets 17-13.
USC was #1 and LSU was #2 – no surprise. We were shocked when Oklahoma stayed at #3. The Harris Poll and the USA Today Poll both moved us up to #3 but the computer stubbornly refused to grant us the same respect. Oklahoma's rating dropped to 0.8803 while ours rose to 0.8797.
The rest of the BCS rankings stayed the same as last week –Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, West Virginia followed us. What really sucked about all this was that we weren't even ranked #1 in our own conference. Our loss to Ohio State gave them that honor and the lead in the race to the Rose Bowl. If the season were over today we might be going to one of the minor bowls.
Zack Hayes put things in perspective for us. The only thing we could control was ourselves. We needed to rest up, study hard and come prepared to beat Michigan State when they showed up on Saturday. Zack reminded us that Oklahoma had to survive the Big 12 championship game to stay ahead of us. LSU faced an even more daunting task in playing the second best SEC team, probably Florida. We still had a shot at the national championship if things broke properly for us. Zack preached that we needed to be prepared to take advantage of every opportunity that came our way.
Video study on Monday was fun. What else would you expect from a 52-20 shellacking? Coach Schroeder complimented me on one of my run blocks in the game. I had flattened the cornerback to keep him away from Shawn O'Conner as he ran by. Damian's advice was beginning to pay off.
The second half the afternoon was devoted to viewing clips of Michigan State. They were similar to Wisconsin in philosophy, relying on their running game to move the ball. They were 9-2 and ranked #19 in the polls.
Coach Burton didn't introduce changes to our game plan on offense. We would continue using our spread offense utilizing a balanced mix of runs and passes. Coach C planned to defend against Michigan State using Cuch up in the box focusing on running plays again. Tyler Madden would stay deep this game and help Shawn Byrd and Vic Samovitz defend against the odd passing play.
Kelly and I started research on our term papers after lunch on Tuesday. I ended up down on the second floor of the Stacks. It was dim and musty down there. The top of my head barely missed the light fixtures on the ceilings. One section of the Stacks had histories of Lancaster County. A book published in 1857 had a whole chapter on the exploits of Lancaster County's two Mexican War heroes. They both attended West Point. John Randolph was 14 when he started, Randolph Luther was 17.
They graduated in 1837 with half a dozen other young men who became famous as generals in the Civil War. The boys did well at the academy. They ranked high enough to get posted to the artillery after graduation. The top of each class became engineers, the next brightest went to the artillery. Service in the cavalry was a step up from being assigned to the infantry. The lowest ranked cadets were assigned to infantry duty after graduation.
The book gave me the bare outlines of the young men's service in the war. Both fought at Resaca de la Palma, Palo Alto and Monterey. Luther was wounded and sent home after Monterey. John Randolph also headed back to Pennsylvania after the opening battles. He was assigned to recruit and train a volunteer artillery battery for the attack on Mexico City. His battery arrived after General Winfield Scott captured the city. They served as occupation troops until the peace treaty was signed.
The book reported that Randolph Luther never recovered from his wounds. He died in New Holland in 1849. I found his tombstone when I was a little kid nosing around the cemetery but hadn't remembered the date.
Brevet Major Randolph continued in the Army after the war. He died in Charleston, South Carolina during a yellow fever epidemic in 1853. He was serving as an artillery officer in the sea defenses of Charleston at the time of his death.
I found two more books covering the military history of the Mexican War. I checked them out to read and study back at my room later in the week. My first hour of research was extremely productive. I had enough information for a decent History 20 term paper already. I wanted to do better so I would justify Dr. Brennan's confidence in my abilities. I needed to see Mr. Randolph over my vacation and see John Randolph's letters. That would be what a professional historian would do.
Practices went smoothly throughout the week. My teammates and I put in extra time studying to get familiar with Michigan State. Zack, Ryan Reynolds and I reviewed Chip's successes and mistakes when he played the second half against Wisconsin. He had a lot of little things to fix. Thankfully my friend was receptive to corrections.
Most of the team spent time with the trainers for massages and treatment. We also spent time in the whirlpool to ease our many bumps, bruises and aches from the season.
I bumped into Trevor in the bathroom Wednesday night just before bedtime. Trevor was upset as told me about some weird things going on.
"You aren't going to believe what's happening," Trevor related. "I was over at Lasch studying video with Karol, Tony [King], Josh [Bruno] and Brendan [Hayden]. Karol invited us to stop by his apartment when we were done for some pizza."
Karol, Josh and Brendan are our starting linebackers. Trevor starts at defensive end. Tony is Trevor's roommate and a backup linebacker for our team. I nodded my understanding as Trevor continued his story.
"The cops were at Karol's apartment," Trevor explained. "I don't know what the hell is going down."
"No shit! Wow!" I replied. "I wonder if Anders knows anything."
Trevor and I stopped by Anders' room before we went to bed. Anders hadn't heard anything either.
Rumors were flying around among team members on Thursday morning but no one knew anything about what happened at the apartment Karol shared with Aidan Nagy, Max Rosen and Alex Majerowicz.
While we were getting dressed for practice I overheard Josh Bruno ask Karol what was up.
"Zatracen? debilové!" Karol spat out. "How could they be so fucking stupid?" I later learned his curse was Czech for 'God damned assholes.' Karol clammed up and refused to talk further. Aidan, Max and Alex were missing from the locker room as we prepared for practice.
No one learned more until just before practice started. Coach Burton called for everyone to huddle up.
When things got quiet Coach Burton announced, "I'm sure all of you heard there was an incident with the police and some members of our team last evening at one of the apartments. I won't go into detail about exactly what happened. The State College Police were called to the Nittany Apartments last night for an excessive noise complaint. Aidan Nagy, Maximilian Rosen and Alexander Majerowicz were involved. Aidan and Max were arrested for underage drinking. Alex was charged with supplying alcohol to minors and resisting arrest. These three are suspended from the team pending further investigation by the police and the DA."
I looked around the circle at the jaws that dropped. Everyone was shocked by the news. What were these guys thinking? Have a party in the middle of the week? You just DON'T do that.
Coach Burton continued, "Their roommate Karol Zizka is uninvolved in this incident. Any media inquiries about this incident are to be directed to me or to the athletic department PR staff." Coach paused and scanned around the crowd as we nodded our understanding. "I want you gentlemen to understand being a member of this team does not entitle you to any special treatment. Aidan, Max and Alex will be investigated and possibly prosecuted just like any other student at this university. Zack Hayes and Karol Zizka would like to address the team now. Zack, Karol..."
Zack and Karol looked at each other. Zack nodded to Karol for him to speak first.
"I was asked by Max, Aidan and Alex to pass along their apologies to the team for their behavior last night. They did not mean to cause trouble for our team," Karol began. His face grew redder the longer he talked. "I can't believe they were such ... such ... ZADKY..." Karol paused for a second to compose himself. " ... that they were such assholes to pull a knuckleheaded stunt like this! They want to apologize to the team for what they have done." Karol turned to Zack.
Zack took half a step towards the center of the crowd and began. "What happened yesterday reflects poorly on our coaches, our university and on our team. All of us know what is expected. DO IT! These three teammates slacking off and partying on a Wednesday night is disgraceful. Weeknights are for school work and preparation time for our team. All of you know I enjoy getting together with teammates and friends to socialize responsibly on Saturday nights after a game. That's fine.
Zack scanned around the circle of players. "Our team is close to something special this season. I know the polls still list us at #4 but we have a good opportunity to play for the national championship in January. Oklahoma and LSU both have much tougher roads ahead than us. We take care of business with Michigan State on Saturday and we'll be looking good. Don't let last night distract you. We've been working for the chance to play in Miami on January 8th since the season started. Let's not blow it now! Beat the Spartans!"
Coach Burton took over. "Due to the suspensions, we are making the following changes in the depth chart. Cantrell, you're #2 behind Martin now." I saw my friend Jared Cantrell smile at the news. "MacCauley, you're now #3 behind Jackson and Hunsecker. You will also be #3 behind Voight and Riggs. Any questions gentlemen?"
We got busy practicing. I noticed everyone seemed a little more focused that afternoon. No one wanted to join Alex, Max and Aidan in the coach's doghouse.
Jared Cantrell went in and practiced with the first team for a dozen plays. We passed each other when he came off the field. "I can't believe I was playing with the first string!" Jared said. "I'm only a freshman."
"Take advantage of any opportunity you get to catch the coaches' eyes," I answered. "You move up the depth chart when you show them you're ready."
I was happy for my protégé. He'd probably get 12-15 plays against Michigan State, assuming the first string played the whole game. He'd get a lot more playing time if we blew out Michigan State the way we had with Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.
Suspended from the team meant Alex, Aidan and Max weren't allowed in the Lasch Building and didn't eat with the team at the Training Table. They stayed in their university apartment with Karol and continued to attend classes. Their punishment would be decided after the police, the DA and the university finished their investigation.
In the past Coach Paterno had issued four game suspensions for players caught drinking. Coach Burton hadn't faced this question yet but we all assumed he'd probably discipline Aidan and Alex that way. They probably weren't going to participate in whatever bowl game we went to.
Max was a different case. Max had been suspended for discipline problems when he was a freshman. He had been suspended for academic problems last season. There was a very real possibility that he could be dismissed from the team for this.
Kelly and I shoe-horned an hour of time together on Thursday night. Damian graciously agreed to study over at the Lasch Building so we could be together. Back to back away games are hell on the love life.
After History 20 on Friday afternoon Kelly and I made plans to go out for dinner Saturday night after the game. I planned to invite Chase Utley and his nephew Devin to join Kelly, me, Dad and a client of Dad's who was attending the game. Kelly and I exchanged passionate kisses before we headed our separate ways. The kisses would have to last us until tomorrow evening.
The coaches walked us through the game plan at practice on Friday afternoon, including the first fifteen to twenty plays they planned to call for tomorrow's game. We cleaned up after practice and grabbed dinner at the training table. Coach Burton made an announcement when we were finished eating.
"I'm sure many of you heard rumors flying around our team this week..." He paused and smiled. " ... unrelated to Wednesday night's problems. I want to confirm the rumor that the Phillies MVP second baseman Chase Utley will be visiting our game tomorrow afternoon. He will be visiting with the team before the game and has graciously agreed to address all of you. You can thank your teammate Kyle Martin for helping arrange this visit."
Trevor Conwell gave me a shocked look. I just smiled. Coach continued, "Mr. Utley will be accompanied by his nephew, Devin Kerr. Ironically young Mr. Kerr made it into our tracking system before we knew he was visiting us with Mr. Utley. Young Mr. Kerr is making quite a name for himself returning punts and kicks for the Parkland High School Trojans. Please make both of our visitors feel welcome."
"Damn, Kyle," Trevor exclaimed. "You weren't bullshitting me before were you?"
"I tried to tell you that, Trev," I answered. "Are you free Sunday afternoon? I have a good pile of laundry that needs done."
Trevor sighed. "Sunday afternoon? I can do that." I just smiled as I got up to take my tray over to the cleanup window.
We headed for Beaver Stadium for the final pep rally of the season after dinner. I was amazed when I came out with my teammates into the stadium. There must have been 20-25,000 people there cheering us. The cheerleaders and the Blue Band entertained the crowd to open the pep rally. Coach Paterno spoke, rousing the crowd the way only he can. Coach Burton spoke next. He gave a good talk, getting the crowd cheering loudly for our team.
Coach Burton called each senior on the team forward to be recognized. Tomorrow was Senior Day. Cuch Cuchiella, Karol Zizka and Evan Foster received loud cheers when they were introduced. Shawn O'Conner drew louder applause. Coach Burton introduced Zack Hayes last.
I was moved by the reaction of the big crowd. Everyone stood and gave my friend a standing ovation. No one on our team worked harder or meant more to our success over the last two seasons than Zack. It was proper that the crowd should recognize this.
This evening was bittersweet for me. I was happy that my good friend and mentor was recognized by the fans but I was sad that tomorrow was the last game Zack would play in Beaver Stadium. Zack was one of the key reasons I chose to play at Penn State and our time together was nearly over. I owed Zack almost everything I had accomplished in my six years of football. I owed him a debt I could never repay.
The cheerleaders and Blue Band performed to end the rally. We headed through the locker room and outside to our buses. They delivered us to Toftrees for the evening. We had a short team meeting and then were dismissed for the evening.
My friends and I got our usual poker party together in Trevor's room. We played and watched TV until it was almost curfew. Damian and I went back to our room. I went on-line, hoping for information about how my high school team had played against Conrad Weiser, a powerful team from Berks County that had only lost a single game to AAAA Wilson this season. Our team, seeded #14, were long shots against the #3 seed. No information had been posted yet. I started to call Andy at home when the coaches came through doing bed check. The news would have to wait until morning.
Our game against Michigan State was one of ABC's regional games ... again. I guess you're popular with the TV people when you win a lot. Our game wouldn't start until 3:30 pm. The coaches scheduled breakfast for 9:30 am.
I took advantage of the later breakfast Saturday morning to go on-line to check out my Wolverines. They went up to Berks County last night and had beaten Conrad Weiser in a barn burner of a game. The final score was 40-38. My brother had caught the winning touchdown in double overtime.
The article reported that my high school would face East Pennsboro next Friday night at 7:00 pm. I noticed that Central had won their game too. They beat Kennard-Dale 28-17 in Manheim. The website reported they would play Greencastle next Saturday afternoon.
The team packed their things and loaded on the buses after breakfast. We were dropped off at the Lasch Building. I was all keyed up when I settled in at my locker. I was excited about the game but I was also excited to meet Chase Utley and his nephew. They were to stop by to see me in the lobby at 11:00 am.
Ann Marie at the front desk paged me a few minutes before eleven o'clock. Most of my friends tried to tag along when I went out to meet my guests.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa..." I said, stopping the parade of people following me. "Coach said Chase will be meeting the team later. I can't have everyone follow me out here now."
"I'm you're roommate," Damian protested.
"We've got a bet," Trevor added. "I've got to witness you meeting him if you expect me to do your laundry for a month."
The other guys added to bedlam. "OK," I said. "Trevor's right. He needs to witness this for the bet. The rest of you will just have to wait until later. Chase will be here all day."
Trevor triumphantly followed me out front while the rest of my friends headed back to the locker room. Trevor hung back to watch when we reached the lobby. I walked up to Chase and extended my hand to him.
"Kyle Martin, it's good to see you again," Chase said. He winked to me. This was the exact wording I asked him to use for Trevor's benefit. We shook hands.
"It's good to see you again, Mr. Utley," I replied.
'I'm Chase," I responded. "Mr. Utley is my dad." Chase gestured to his nephew standing beside him. "I want to introduce you to your biggest fan, my nephew, Devin."
"Devin, it's good to meet you," I said as I shook the boy's hand.
"Oh ... Oh, wow..." Devin stammered. "It's really nice to meet you Kkk ... Uh..." I nodded yes. " ... Kyle. This is such an honor."
Chase laughed and said, "For me it's just 'hey, Chase.' For you – 'it's such an honor.' I just don't get any respect."
"You get a lot of respect, Chase," I responded. "World Series MVP – that says it all. There is a whole locker room back there full of guys dying to meet you."
"MVP was nice. So was the parade," Chase agreed. "My personal statistician here..." Chase gestured towards Devin. " ... tells me you are doing great too. You broke Penn State season records for receptions and yardage already. I hope you add to your record today."
"I hope so too," I agreed.
"Are you going to introduce me to your bashful friend over there?" Chase asked as he nodded towards Trevor.
"This is my personal laundryman, Trevor Conwell," I said as I waved for Trevor to come over. "He also plays..."
" ... Defensive End!" Devin gushed. "You're the greatest!"
"My nephew gets over his shyness quickly," Chase teased. "Give him half an hour."
I introduced Chase and Devin to Trevor and vice versa. Trevor did some gushing of his own at first until he got used to Chase's friendly manner. When everyone was accounted for I suggested, "Coach Burton wants to talk to you this morning. Why don't I introduce you to him?" Chase, Devin and I started towards Coach Burton's office. Trevor headed back to the locker room.
Ann Marie sent us into Coach Burton's office immediately. I introduced my coach to Chase. Coach Burton thanked me and dismissed Devin and me.
Outside the office, I said, "Let me show you around the Lasch Building. We have some great facilities for football."
"I'd like that, Kyle," Devein agreed. I took Devin around the building on the usual tour we gave potential recruits. I took him to the weight room and the training room first.
We were walking to the locker room when Devin blurted out, "Chase isn't really my uncle." I stopped and stared at him. "My dad married Chase's sister. She's my step-mom."
"I wondered how someone Chase's age could have a nephew your age," I said.
"My dad works for the Phillies organization," Devin continued. "He was playing ball in AA when my mom died. The Phillies released him a year later but asked him to work for their organization. Chase met dad when he played in Reading. He introduced his sister Taylor to my dad. Dad and Taylor hit it off and got married. I guess I'm lucky to have Taylor and Chase as a part of my family."
"It sounds like you are quite lucky, Devin," I replied. "How'd you end up playing football instead of baseball with your dad and uncle's backgrounds?"
"I guess it's mostly because our football team is a lot better than our baseball team. That and the fact that my closest friends are all football players too," Devin explained.
"I understand," I replied. "All my closest friends play football too."
"How'd you get so good at returning kicks and punts?" Devin asked.
"I guess I should give most of the credit to my brother, Andy," I said. "I never returned punts or kicks in high school."
"Is he the Martin that has all the state high school records for return yards?" Devin asked.
I chuckled and replied, "That would be my younger brother, Andy."
Devein peppered me with questions about how I made my returns and what advice Andy had given me. I answered his questions as best I could as we walked. I gave him the tour of the locker room.
My teammates seemed disappointed when I showed up without Chase but they treated Devin respectfully. Devin was over the top as he met his football heroes on the team. He could quote detailed statistics about each player as he met them. The kid must be borderline obsessive to know this much about our team.
"You certainly know a lot about Penn State football," I commented as we walked back to the lobby to meet Devin's uncle.
"I love this team," Devin answered. "I hope I can play on it someday, though it probably won't happen."
"Don't say that," I answered. "Coach Burton said you have played well enough this season to be in Penn State's tracking program."
"Tracking program?" Devin asked.
"We track all high school athletes in this part of the country to see who we should be recruiting when they are seniors. Coach Burton had a watch on you before we knew you were Chase's nephew and were coming to visit this week."
"So, does that mean the team wants me to play here?" Devin asked eagerly.
"I can't say," I replied. "You're in tenth grade, right?" Devin nodded yes. "Do you know about the recruiting rules?"
"No," Devin answered. I proceeded to fill him in on most of the NCAA rules regarding recruiting. "So I would be considered a recruit making an unofficial visit and Uncle Chase has to pay for everything?"
"I think so," I agreed.
"Cool!" Devin replied. "The guys at home are going to be so jealous."
"Let's go track your uncle down," I said. "It's almost time for lunch for the team."
We found Chase talking with Coach Burton in the lobby, waiting for us to return.
"Coach, would it be all right if Chase and Devin had lunch with the team?" I asked. "I'm sure the guys would enjoy meeting them."
Coach Burton chuckled. "The team will have an opportunity to meet Chase a little later this afternoon. Chase and his nephew have a luncheon date with President Spanier."
"Oh, OK," I replied. "Could I invite you to go to dinner with me after the game?"
Chase smiled and responded, "I was planning on taking you out for dinner after the game to thank you for setting this up for us. What do you say?"
"Umm ... sure," I agreed. "Can my girlfriend, my dad and my dad's friend come too? He made a reservation at the Boalsburg Steakhouse already."
"Done!" Chase answered decisively. "Devin and I have an invitation from your coach to come down to the locker room after the game. I'll see you then."
Chase and Devin headed out when the dinner arrangements were set. Coach cautioned me to make sure I understood that Chase had to pay for Devin's meal and Dad or I had to pay for mine. They were the only arrangements that the NCAA would care about. I gave Dad a call to let him know about the arrangements. Dad and his insurance client, John Webber, were stuck in a traffic jam on Route 322 near Lewistown.
I caught up with my friends as we headed for our pre-game lunch. The atmosphere at lunch was relaxed. All of us were confident we would be able to beat Michigan State in spite of the distractions we had this week. The part of the team that were Phillies fans buzzed with excitement at the prospect of meeting Chase Utley before the game. Trevor and I were the only ones to meet him so far.
After lunch we headed back to the Lasch Building locker room to dress for the game. The blue buses hauled us over to the stadium. The fans were out in force at our entrance to the stadium. I followed Zack, Anders, Chip and Trevor off the bus. Zack, Trevor and I greeted fans and did a few autographs along the fence line. Anders and Chip, being more anonymous, went straight into the stadium. Zack thanked everyone for their support. Trevor and I gave the crowd waves as we headed inside. We finished dressing and then went outside to warm up for the game.
Warm weather from down south pushed up on Friday and took the fall chill out of State College, driving our usual lake effect and Canadian weather back north. The temperature dropped down to the mid-forties overnight and went back up with the late fall afternoon sunshine. It was sixty degrees when we came outside. The winds were 10-15 miles an hour from the southwest. They wouldn't be a factor in the game. The weather was a blessing to our high powered passing attack. I'm sure Michigan State would have preferred snow and cold weather instead.
Chase Utley and Devin were in the locker room when we returned. Chase and Devin worked their way around the locker room, greeting every player and offering encouragement as we did our final preparations. Coach Burton spoke briefly to remind us of the importance of this game. It was our last chance to show we belonged in a big BCS game instead of a lesser bowl game.
Coach Burton introduced Chase when he finished speaking. Chase spent a couple minutes addressing the team about the things that had made him and his teammates on the Phillies World Champions twice. Chase told us everyone on the team worked hard to get there but hard work wasn't enough. The Phillies didn't break through until they figured out how to be a team. If Chase struggled, Ryan Howard would pick up the slack – same with Jimmy, Shane, and everyone else on the team. The team became more than the sum of its parts.
Chase's talk was well received. Zack, Jake, Evan and Karol called everyone into a huddle. Zack commanded, "Hands in! On three, Teamwork and Excellence! One ... Two ... Three..."
"TEAMWORK AND EXCELLENCE!" we chanted in response. We jogged out of the locker room to the tunnel to wait for introductions. This was Senior Day, so the seniors were introduced individually before the rest of the team ran out onto the field.
Our fine punter Steve Cobb was introduced first, followed by our nickel back, Angus Pitts, and then our little used fullback, Vlad Lazlo. Yasin Clark limped out of the tunnel on crutches to the cheers of his appreciative fans. Vic Samovitz, our left cornerback received scattered cheers.
Ben Harris, our right guard, Cory Wells, left tackle, and J. T. Hill, our center, followed to the cheers of the fans. These guys made our offense work with excellent protection for Zack on passing plays and with good solid run blocking for Shawn and Damian.
The announcer moved on to our graduating skill players – Hassan Jackson, Anders Voight and Shawn O'Conner. The cheers and applause grew in volume as each of my friends was introduced.
Our Hero, literally and by position name, Cuch Cuchiella followed Shawn. Karol Zizka, our three year starter at middle linebacker, followed Cuch. Karol drew sustained applause from the crowd.
Evan Foster followed Karol. Jake Washington, our extraordinary defensive end, garnered the loudest cheers so far.
The loudspeakers announced, "Team captain and fifth year senior, your quarterback, Zachary Hayes."
The stadium erupted in thunderous applause as almost 108,000 Nittany Lion fans stood and cheered my friend and mentor as he trotted out onto the field and joined the other seniors. I fought back the tears in my eyes as I looked over the seniors we would lose next season. Those of us left were going to have to play like hell to make up for all the talent leaving after our bowl game.
The rest of the team ran onto the field between lines of Blue Band members and cheerleaders to the continuing cheers of our faithful. We took our positions along the side of the field as our captains met with Michigan State's captains and the referee for the coin toss. Michigan State won the coin toss and elected to receive the kickoff.
Coach C's game plan on defense wasn't radically different than last week's plan against Wisconsin. Cuch was lined up close to the line of scrimmage and didn't have pass coverage responsibilities. The only change was for Tyler Madden, who covered the pass first and then gave run support when the ball left the QB's hands.
It worked. Michigan State ran off tackle left for a yard and then up the middle for two more. Jake Washington broke loose on third down, chasing the QB out of the pocket into Trevor Conwell's bruising sack for a six yard loss. They punted the ball back to us from their 25 yard line.
I lined up on our 35 yard line to await the punt. I advanced a few yards and caught the high punt on the run. Coach Ferguson spotted something on the video last week and we planned a wall to the right side of the field. I followed Shawn Byrd as he set up his block. When Shawn engaged his man I shot around behind Shawn and sprinted diagonally towards the sideline. I flew by my other blockers as they set up the wall to keep Michigan State away from me. We even managed to get a blocker on their kicker.
I raced down the sidelines and into the end zone untouched. "TOUCHDOWN, #87, Kyle Martin." I held the ball aloft to the cheers of the Penn State fans before I was mobbed by the rest of our special teams players. As always, Andrew Perkins booted the ball through the uprights for the extra point. Score: 7-0 Lions.
The Spartans did marginally better on the next drive. They gained a first down running before our defense tightened up. Jake knocked the quarterback to the ground a split second after he sailed the ball to the bench on his sidelines.
Michigan State fixed the gap we exploited last time in their punt coverage. I had to settle for a sixteen yard return to give the ball to our offense on our 43 yard line. Almost six minutes were gone in the game when Zack huddled us up.
Time turned out not to be an important factor on the drive. Zack used six plays, three runs and three passes to take us down the field and score. Shawn ran, I caught a fifteen yard hitch pattern, Shawn ran two more times, then Hassan caught a quick out and broke a tackle and gained twelve yards to put us at the Trojan's 18 yard line. Zack capped off the drive by hitting Anders in stride as he crossed the middle of the field. Anders broke free of the nickel back and strong safety and strode into the end zone for a touchdown. Andrew nailed the PAT. Score: 14-0 Lions
Our team had been on a roll since we squashed Illinois four weeks earlier. Michigan State didn't even provide a speed bump for us. We used our spread offense and a good mix of running and passing to keep Michigan State off balance. We were ahead 21-0 when Michigan State finally managed to score a field goal.
We responded with an eight play drive down the field. I caught the touchdown when Zack threw a beautiful fade pass into the corner of the end zone. We were ahead 35-3 as the half wound down.
The Spartans caught their first break when Shawn Byrd slipped as he went for an interception on a deep pass just before the end of the half. The receiver caught the ball and sailed into the end zone to score. Coach Burton was satisfied to let the clock run out and take a 35-10 lead into the locker room.
Coach Burton sent Chip Brinton and the second string in for the second half of the game. Chip and the offense mostly ran the ball with just enough passing mixed in to keep Michigan State off balance. Chip piled two more touchdowns and a field goal on the Spartans in the third quarter, one a long pass to Christian and the other to Bruce MacCauley. It was his first TD since joining the team. The Spartans managed to score again, another field goal.
Chip and the offense ran the ball relentlessly to take time off the clock in the fourth quarter. The crowd cheered wildly when Charlie Taylor made a three yard run. I looked around, trying to figure out why the crowd cheered so much for a routine play. I found out when I saw the score board. It read "4Q Michigan 31 - Ohio State 20."
Coach C inserted our third string players to let them get some experience. Michigan State's first string did manage a touchdown when they were faced with a prevent defense and a bunch of freshmen.
Chip and the third string were working another time killing drive after the Spartan score. The Spartans brought extra men up close to the line of scrimmage to stop our running. They forced us into third and five. Coach Burton called for short routes. Chip hit Bruce MacCauley slanting over the middle. He had a couple steps on the cornerback covering him. Chip hit Bruce in stride. Bruce opened some eyes once he had the ball in his hands. He accelerated as he ran down the field. He made a sweet move to fake the safety out of his socks, cut back and sprinted into the end zone for another score to put us ahead 59-20.
The game had 4:09 left when Andrew Perkins kicked the ball down to the Spartans. Coach Burton yelled, "First string offense on me!"
The eleven of us gathered around our coach and listened. "Seniors, you've earned the right to be on the field for the end of the game. The ball is in your hands. Take us home, Zack."