On offense, let me introduce you to Saquon Barkley, in case you possibly missed him. The true freshman from Whitehall, Pa, and a one-time Rutgers commit, hurdled himself (literally) into Happy Valley-lore in only his second game as a Nittany Lion. Midway through the third quarter, Barkley took the ball and never looked back; 120 yards, a touchdown, and one highlight reel jump over would-be tacklers. It was an introduction that has us all seeing the future just a little bit brighter than when the day began. I have a hunch, this could be the first of many "game balls" that Saquon adds to his trophy case!
Defensively, this week’s game ball goes to a 5th year senior who has become the epitome of hard work and perseverance. Former walk-on defensive end, Carl Nassib, has already turned his senior season into a show of force. He manhandled the Buffalo Bulls to the tune of 10 tackles, 3 sacks and an interception. Those of us watching from home almost got tired of how much the ESPN announcers were gushing over him. If I could have, I would have reached right through that television and handed them a cold, wet towel! He was that good and walks away with today’s top spot.
As for Helmet Stickers, we have several to hand out but none more important than the first, the Offensive Line. Two words say it all: ZERO SACKS. Still a long way to go but after that debacle on opening day, it was a step in the right direction. Redshirt Freshmen DeAndre Thompkins and Nick Scott get a helmet sticker for showing some significant life and a heartbeat in the return game on special teams, as does true freshman Brandon Polk (see a theme here?) for turning one of those long returns into a 22 yard TD. Defensive Tackle Austin Johnson had a monster day of his own with 9 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Last, but not least, let’s give one to our linebackers. Tasked with replacing two starters due to injury, the trio of Von Walker, Jason Cabinda, and freshman Troy Reeder (See a pattern yet?) held their own and then some. All three stepped up and carried the title of Linebacker U with pride.
Under the circumstances and considering the fact that some of us were threatening a mutiny after Week 1, the 27-14 win over Buffalo was just what the doctor ordered on a rainy day. It was not dominant. There were moments that made us cringe. But, it was a win and an ode to the future. Aside from Mr. Barkley, there were new faces littered all over the field. Young guns making plays, as well as the mistakes you'd expect from a team so full of youth. Above all, we witnessed improvement and something to build upon. Up next, we stare down the barrel of THAT team from New Jersey. A team with its own share of problems, but one looking at this game with a must-win mentality. Take a day or two to catch your breath and put the past behind you. On September 19th, all eyes will be on Happy Valley for a primetime battle with those pesky Scarlet Knights!