Maybe. I don’t know. I’m still willing to reserve my judgement for a season or two.
Here’s what I do know. JoePa was a great coach and greater human being, even through seasons that were a bit light on wins. Of course, there were people who complained about him too, but we could always be confident that our third quarter team was going to come out strong. Joe had that halftime magic.
I also know that as our nightmare unfolded, Bill O’Brien, Mauti, and Zordich held our ship steady through the horrible storm. O’Brien inherited a team of Joe’s recruits, brought in his freshman quarterback pick, and, due to the sanctions, only lost players from there on out. Somehow though O’Brien managed to ride the emotional waves with us and make us feel like we still had that spark.
And I know that James Franklin adopted an incomplete team and only this season has been able to really add to it. I’d argue he’s working with less now than O’Brien was and certainly nothing like what Paterno built.
Am I making excuses for him? Maybe. I just think we oughta give him a bit more time to show what he’s got. Let’s try not to be shortsighted. Let’s allow him a few years to build a program. I think the complaints in his direction are more a symptom of our funk rather than the truth. The truth is this team is rebuilding. This team is young. This team lacks the depth needed for season-long endurance. And underneath the mistakes and inconsistencies, this team has pride, loyalty, and heart. They have to play better and they will.
So, what to do in the meantime. We’ve got to get out of this funk. We’ve got to find ourselves some inspiration. I suppose the effort expended to hang in with our university over the last several years was bound to catch up with us eventually. We’ve been surviving on a wing and a prayer for nearly four years now.
We need something. A spark. Inspiration.
I was challenged this weekend to write something to inspire, to get us going. I honestly don’t know what the answer is. At the moment, inspiration eludes me.
Maybe what we need is to come home. This weekend is homecoming, so what better time? Come home to the Penn State you love. Walk around town. Say hello to the Indiana fans. Take your picture at the Lion Shrine. Watch the Blue Band’s ever impressive show. Sing the alma mater with the players and students. Catch the fever again.
In his post game press conference, Franklin summed it up like this:
“I am going to come in here every single week and be positive... I love our players, love our school. I love our colors, love Penn State, love Happy Valley, love the community. Do we need to get better? Yes! But you guys can ask me every question in the book and try to get me to be negative, I'm not gonna do it. Not gonna do it. Love our guys, love our staff. I love the opportunity we have here. Got to get better. I know it. You know it. The fans know it.
“We won today. We're 1-0. And we're gonna do everything in our power to go 1-0 next week. And I'm gonna come in here, and I'm gonna be positive. I'm gonna be positive. I'm not gonna go down that road, with anybody. Love our coaches, love our players, love our media. Love everybody.”
Maybe we should take a cue from our coach.