The thing is, this is not the Penn State of two years ago, with all due respect to the Fiesta Bowl Champs and a squad that’s one of only six nationally to reach nine wins over the prior three years. No, this is a new breed of Nittany Lions, knocking on the elite status door, rather loudly I might add. They’re an offense that has yet to find four quarters of consistency but when they’re on, they’re as lethal as any top team in the country and they are paired with a defense that plays with a chip on their shoulder. For better or worse at times, they play with passion and swagger all day long. Defenses do win championships, after all. This version of Penn State is a squad that will take all those bad omens and a treacherous three-game gauntlet, chew them up and spit them out like sunflower seeds.
For all our fear and lack of faith leading up to this one, Michigan State was no match for all our fury and it wasn’t even close. At 8-0 and the newly crowned the Kings of Michigan, with back-to-back W's over the state’s flagship programs, perhaps it’s time to just let the recent past go. The memories are great but there’s so much more to look forward to in the present. For the record, that was a triple threat of games as tough as any played in the country we just rolled through and one Spartan-hex dismissed. We may be 1-0 this week but 8-0 sounds so much sweeter at the moment.
Speaking of swagger, is there any better out there than that flex our big tight end puts on in the end zone after every touchdown? I think not, and lucky us the young man turned in a ‘Pat-Trick' on Saturday by hauling in three. That makes 15 so far in his brief career and sets a record at the position. It’s hard to believe it was barely even a year ago we were all begging for the reincarnation of Mike G. Pat Frieirmuth, this week’s game ball is yours!
On offense, Sean Clifford continues to grow and excel. KJ was KJ even on an off day by his standards. Journey Brown reminded everyone that The LawnBoyz are plural and includes all four, and Nick Bowers turned in another one of his patented catch and rumbles. We should also add Blake Gillikin to the offensive list because his precision punts are as much a weapon as any of our playmakers will ever be.
Defensively, Jayson Oweh is the man of the hour with his double dose of two sacks and two forced fumbles, followed closely by Boom Shaka-laka Toney who notched another sack on his pelt and added a blocked field goal to his repertoire. Micah Parsons led the D in tackles with 12, Ellis Brooks had a fumble recovery, and both Jaquon Brisker and Marquise Wilson (who just burned his redshirt) collected interceptions.
While we’re handing out helmet stickers, add Gregory Drane and the entire Blue Band to the list for being front and center the entire way, buckets of rain and all. As much as I want to just let go of the past, watching them bear it out the entire way under austere conditions was as ‘One Team' as Bill O’Brien could have ever asked for back in the day.
So the Kings of Michigan come home with the ugly Land Grant trophy in tow. One gauntlet down and another three-game stretch on the way that will define who WE ARE when it’s all said and done. Get past the first two traps and The Evil Empire and their house of horror await. Let go of the past just a little and get some rest Nittany Nation. This time it’s not the bye-week blues we face but just a quick pit stop along the winding road of destiny.