Last year was about healing a program that had been counted out for so long. Last year was about shaping expectations and pouring a foundation that would last for years to come. Last year was about proving ourselves.
This year, it’s all about building a house on that foundation. Putting an addition on the House that Joe built, if you will. The House was in need of some repairs, some TLC – and this year, the house got upgraded thanks to our stellar team, especially the upperclassmen.
From the initial big wins like the 52-0 shutout against Akron to the 33-14 trouncing of rival Pitt, it was clear that this season was no longer about proving ourselves to anyone. It was about building upon a foundation that the 2016 team so thoughtfully laid.
Last year, it was a shock to the football world that Penn State defeated Ohio State. This year, Penn State was considered a fierce competitor to the Buckeyes, and the Lions came within two points of a repeat victory.
Last year, Penn State struggled against the Michigan Wolverines. This year, College Gameday came to Old Main and even voted in favor of Penn State.
The tides are turning.
What has made those tides turn, though, are the kind of people who make up the football program. Put aside the drives, the plays, the records that are accumulated throughout a season. At the core of Penn State Football is its players.
One of the reasons so many fans flocked to Beaver Stadium for the last home game was to see junior running back Saquon Barkley (Coplay, Pa.) play in what may very well have been his final four quarters in Beaver Stadium.
While the Heisman contender promised that he would be playing in whichever bowl game Penn State goes to, Barkley is likely headed to the NFL next year. Aside from adding incredible talent and more than a few touchdowns to the team over the past three years, Barkley has been a leader on and off the field.
Head Coach James Franklin had nothing but praise for the running back after the Nebraska game.
“Everybody talks about the yards and the touchdowns and the hurdles and all those types of things… but for people that have been able to get to know Barkley, he’s a better person,” said Coach Franklin. “He’s a tremendous teammate. He’s been a model citizen off the field. He’s just been awesome…Blessed to have coached him.”
So even as the tides begin to turn, and the 2017 season winds down and some goodbyes are said and some new recruits are secured, it is important to remember that the significance of this season was to continue to build on that House. A house whose foundation is based on the players who stuck it out through the hard years so that today’s players could build up the walls as great players and even better citizens, long after the final victory bell ring has faded.