I must admit, it was hard to watch James Franklin sit at that post-game podium and wear his heart on his sleeve, choking back those tears. It was hard to watch Malik Golden and Saquon Barkley show that look of defeat, a look that we have not seen since September 24th. We had come so far only to fall in the final seconds. Penn State and USC put on a classic for sure. Two college football blue-bloods that battled it out until the bitter end. No one wanted to see it end the way that it finally did. As much as we pride ourselves on defense, it was exhilarating to watch our boys in Blue and White stand toe-to-toe in the middle of a shootout. Once the dust settled, most of America had already anointed the 103rd edition of The Grandaddy of Them All, this season’s best bowl game. Both teams came into the contest as two of the country’s hottest, and both left with that title justified.
It was a game of two halves for Penn State, as was the case for most of the year. Sophomore gunslinger, Trace McSorley, began with two interceptions and ended with another, but in between, he lit USC up like a Christmas tree. Mike Gesicki led it off with an acrobatic grab in the corner of the end-zone and Chris Godwin accounted for 187 of his 255-yards passing and two of his four touchdowns through the air, with one rushing. One-half of the Dynamic Duo in the Nittany Lion backfield, Saquon Barkley, was nothing short of, well, dynamic to say the least. He zigged, he zagged, he put on a Heisman-worthy show and torched the Trojan’s defense for 194-yards rushing with three touchdowns, including a 79-yard romp in the third-quarter that left all of our collective jaws dropped halfway to the floor. If by some chance America didn’t know who Mr. Barkley was before the game, they absolutely know who he is now.
In the end, Penn State enters 2017 with a score to settle. A chip on their shoulder, and motivation to drive them even further than the trip out west to The Granddaddy of Them All. The Nittany Lion’s may have lost the battle, but the journey has just begun. In the end, after all the confetti dropped to the Rose Bowl floor, I found myself looking back in time to the 1985 Orange Bowl and a loss to Oklahoma. The stakes may have been just a little higher back then, but the statement was just as strong. The Lions of ’85 lost a battle but returned with a vengeance in ’86 and this squad, led by the self-proclaimed Pennsylvania Boy with a Penn State Heart, stands at the same crossroads. Trust the process, he said. Our trust paid huge dividends. A loss is never easy, but that process is just beginning and those dividends have already reaped rewards.
We may have lost by a last second field goal in a game we were never supposed to be in, but the loss is truly just the beginning. In the end, we didn’t win the game, but we won respect, which may have been the hardest obstacle of them all to overcome throughout this whole process. In the end, it’s hard to say goodbye to such a magic carpet ride like 2016, but we all look forward to what lies in front of us. So, go ahead my friends and Smell Those Roses with pride and honor, the best is yet to come for our boys in Blue and White!