Conventional wisdom would make today’s game ball a no-brainer. Who else than King ‘Quon himself, Saquon Barkley who bulled, hurdled, and outran himself to another highlight-worthy performance with 207 yards rushing, 70 yards receiving, and two touchdowns on the day. Who else you ask? I’ve got one and it has Mr. Barkley’s blessing written all over it: The O-Line, a.k.a., the “Big Uglies”. Before I go any further, on the recommendation of a few of the player’s moms whose names will go unmentioned, I hereby declare an official name change for this unit. We will now refer to them as the “Big Handsomes”. With that out of the way, how can you not recognize a position group that has been the source of so much angst and inability over the last few years? It was a group that at one time spent a week in the highlight reels for blocking their own players two years ago and one that had a huge hand in giving up over 100 sacks in a two-year stretch. This unit has made steady strides and finally has a look of cohesion that was sorely missing. It’s a unit that lost their leader to a knee injury but has not missed a beat. The combination of Brendan Mahon, Ryan Bates, Brian Gaia, Connor McGovern, and Mr. Return from Exile, Paris Palmer, has proven to be a unit to be reckoned with in the rough and tumble Big Ten Conference. Saquon may get the glory and rightfully so, but it’s been those Big Handsomes that have paved the way and today, along with their coach Matt Limegrover, the game ball goes to them.
For Helmet Stickers, look no further than this year’s version of the Ultimate Underdog, middle linebacker Brandon Smith. His interception and 22-yard return early in the third quarter opened the flood gates that effectively broke the dam. Chris Godwin and his two touchdown receptions kept us in the game in the first half as the Boilermakers traded blows. There’s a reason I pegged the backfield King ‘Quon and the Four Headed Monster in this summers preseason preview and Mark Allen, Andre Robinson, and true-freshman, Miles Sanders, spent the afternoon justifying that tag with touchdowns of their own, Robinson with two in fact. On defense, credit the secondary that played soft in the first half but tightened the clamps on pass-happy Purdue in the second. Minus one long touchdown catch, there was little, if anything that went their way. Brandon Bell was once again flying all over the place sideline-to-sideline and the Wild Dogs made the Purdue rushing attack non-existent. Finally, we all know Trace McSorley holds the keys to the PSU offensive juggernaut, but a Helmet Sticker today for Indiana-native, Tommy Stevens, for being able to engineer two late scoring drives in front of his home state crowd.
Late Saturday afternoon, as I mingled in victory with the rest of the Penn State “social medialites,” we received a reminder that exactly five years prior to the 62-24 thumping at Purdue, JoePa won #409. It has been a number we cherish and have used as a rallying cry ever since. Immediately following the win over Ohio State, James Franklin told a national audience that the upset would go a long way towards helping our community in the healing process. He was right. In the years prior, #409 would have dominated the message boards and fan pages on October 29th. The fact that it became an afterthought this year was in no way a snub on our beloved Joe. On the contrary, it was as sure a sign of healing that I have seen to date. It was living proof that we can both honor the past as well as give our full attention to the present. Joe’s legacy is intact, and our current squad of Lions need as much of us as they can get. Becoming bowl eligible was just a small step towards the ultimate goal, whatever that may end up being. Up next is what has proven to be a thorn in our side, the Iowa Hawkeyes. No sooner had the Nittany Lions landed back home in Happy Valley, James Franklin was calling for another White Out, unofficially of course. With a month like we had in October, what he asks for he gets. So, break out those pearly whites again, my friends, the forecast is calling for another Penn State blizzard on Saturday night!