We all knew heading into this game in Columbus that Penn State would have to play mistake-free football in order to compete with the Scarlet and Gray (or is that Black? Hard to tell nowadays). Far from mistake-free, we saw first-hand the difference between a defending champion (something we haven't been in over 25 years) and a program clawing its way up the mountain. A dropped pass here, an overthrown ball there. A 44-yard touchdown gallop called back for a meaningless holding penalty. A team that can replace one starter with two others that have big game experience versus a team that is forced to replace a starter with a true freshman. A team that can't hit the broad side of a barn with its punting versus one that can consistently pin you inside your own 5 yard line. Those, my friends, are the difference between Penn State and The Evil Empire. For some, it's a tough pill to swallow. And yet, we still found ourselves with a shot, albeit slim, in the final moments. As much as victory was the ultimate mission, it was a solid look into how far we have to go to reach the pinnacle. Honestly, it is not as far as some would have you think. Another Top 10 class of recruits, including the nations #4 ranked punter and a year’s experience under our young player’s belts and this game turns into a sweat shop for those Buckeyes and their fans. Mark it down, October 22, 2016 will be their day of reckoning. I can't wait, but must lean on that trusted patience I preach until then. On to the Game Ball and Helmet Stickers...
Mr. Barkley, you Sir, are a bonafide rock star. An emerging stud in the college football world. A little slice of Curt Warner, a dose of Curtis Enis and a sliver of Ki-Jana Carter all mixed into one complete package. It's not often we heap this kind of praise upon someone so young, but to watch him carve his way through that Buckeye defense was akin to watching a craftsman at his finest. They had no answer for Saquon Barkley on Saturday night. None. Take away his long TD run in the first quarter and the kid still ended up with 194 yards. On his biggest stage to date, Saquon put the nation on notice and opened many eyes. There is only one Game Ball to hand out today, and it belongs to the kid they call Sa Sa.
As for the Helmet Stickers, on offense, Chris Godwin is the first man up. He opened the second half by imposing his will and determination on a Buckeye defender, dragging half the defense on a quest for paydirt. He fell just shy of the end zone and DeSean Hamilton finished shortly thereafter. It was only a 5 yard reception, but that dive at the goal line was a veteran move. The two of them have combined to create headaches for opposing defenses and should see much more involvement as the year progresses. Carl Nassib, aka The Sack Master, continued his stellar season with 1.5 sacks and several tackles for loss on the night. Anthony Zettel spent much of the evening fighting double teams but managed to block a few passes in the process. Finally, a helmet sticker goes to senior Jordan Lucas who led the defense with 9 tackles.
For the record, I am not here to cry over spilled milk. A loss is a loss, no matter how you shake it. Penn State gave it a shot and came up short because of costly mistakes. The Buckeyes made them pay a price for each and every one of them. That's what a veteran team does. That's why they are the defending champs and fighting for another title. That is exactly where we want to be. As it stands now, Penn State is 5-2, with both losses coming to a still-undefeated team in Temple and Ohio State. This was a tough loss, but one with plenty to learn and grow from. The Nittany Lions know they could have gone into a hostile environment and walked away with a win on Saturday night. It did not happen, but there is plenty of season left. It all begins in Baltimore this week and a rematch with the team that doesn't like to shake hands. Who's ready for a bowl of turtle soup?