55-16. I am still taking time to fully digest this one. Believe it or not, if I dug deep enough, I could find something positive to say. I could tell you that Saquan Barkley, with 103yds rushing, surpassed DJ Dozier for the most yards by a freshman in a season. Nothing to sneeze at, given the history of Nittany Lion running backs over the years. I could tell you that with his TD pass to Saeed Blacknall in the 3rd quarter, Christian Hackenberg set another record in the Penn State books with 48 total TD passes. Not really known as a quarterback school but hey, a record is a record, isn't it? I could tell you that without Carl Nassib, Garrett Sickels, and Jordan Lucas our defense really wasn't up to snuff to take on those mighty Spartans in their house with a championship on the line. Not to mention the long-forgotten Nyeem Wartman-White. Maybe with all four, we would have made a better go of it. Shoulda, coulda, woulda is the reality we'll never know. I could tell you that Michigan State started a total of 17 upperclassmen on Saturday. That they are a group that represents the winningest four years in their storied history in the Big Ten Conference. Eventually, we'll be back up to those levels and we will turn the tables once that time comes. Won't we?
I could tell you that less than 24 hours after that beat down on Saturday, the guy we all liked to make the scapegoat was, "relieved of his duties, effective immediately ". Surely, knowing that John Donovan won’t be around to run the offense into the ground anymore constitutes as being positive, doesn't it? The only problem with that is, it was not our offense that gave up 55 points. That, my friends, was on our D. Our offense actually gained over 400 yards against a team that gave up 132 total to Ohio State the week before. And really, when did we turn into an angry mob that likes to see a man put out on the street a few weeks before Christmas? Where is the Success With Honor in that? For the record, I personally wish him well in his future endeavors. His was not the easiest of jobs under any circumstances. We certainly did not make it any easier on the guy.
I wish I could tell you the future is bright, but right now I honestly cannot. I cannot, in good conscience, stand here and feel good about a 55-16 loss. I cannot give out a Game Ball today after a performance like that, and Penn State doesn't have stickers on their helmets anyway, so my season long charade comes to a screeching halt, as entertaining as it was. Trust me, it is with great honor and humility that I am now known as the only guy to hand out Helmet Stickers to our boys in Blue and White. Who knows, it may resurface one last time if the effort warrants so after the upcoming bowl game, but there is no good way to reward a 55-16 loss. Instead, my thoughts lean towards those seniors and all they dealt with over their years as Nittany Lions. Was it enough to cushion the blow of a season ending loss as ugly as that one was? Has their skin toughened enough to let it roll off as just another blow in a never-ending line of blows? Certainly, they deserved to go out better.
The Road to Redemption slowly veered off track until it finally derailed head first somewhere in East Lansing, Michigan. We are officially looking up at a program that we once had a rather solid grip on. The only solace being that maybe, years ago, as Mark D'Antonio set about building his program into what it's become, he was looking up to us as the model. We were who they now are. The regular season ended much as it began. In shambles and disarray. Left in its wake are a ton of questions and a very important position to fill, partially thanks to us to some small degree. As much as it may have been necessary to release John Donovan, our thirst for blood this season certainly wasn't a well representative of who we all claim to be. We're better than that, or so I thought.
I understand the passion as well as anyone, but I can't help but think we are in the midst of a rush to judgement of our own right now. In light of all the enthusiasm and energy that James Franklin brought with him from Nashville, not once has he claimed overnight success. Instead, he has asked for patience. He has asked us all repeatedly to trust in the process. Trust may be something that we have a little trouble grasping at the moment. Our trust was broken four years ago, and it may never quite return to the way it was. Though no fault of his, Coach Franklin is finding out first-hand how fragile we have become. What was once rock-solid, is now shaken under our feet. My only hope is we can all find it within ourselves to at least see this process through before we make a final decision on another man’s legacy. On the bright side, we have one game left. One last chance to circle the wagons and show our Nittany Lions exactly who WE ARE. A final stand if you will and I trust, wherever we go, we will go with all our Penn State heart!