Forgive me my friends if I seem a little confidant today, more like a little giddy. I sense we are all walking with our heads held high at the moment, even if it was just a serving of turtle soup and not much more. You see, it has been a long, hard road in recent years. You know that, as we all lived it together. We traveled down the road of expectation more than once, only to have reality smack us back down to earth time and again. But this one feels different. This victory seems complete. This rag-tag pride of Lions could have crumbled, but instead they rose to their feet. From the fast and furious beginning down to the final whistle, there was no mistaking who the better squad was on Saturday. Two seasons ago we sat on shaky ground, but on this day, Maryland had no choice but to shake hands and concede.
Game balls today are in abundance and helmet stickers go all around. This one was a team win, not a win of individuals. This one is for Mike Gesicki, who taught us hard work really does pay off on his tour of redemption, and for Saquon Barkley who has practiced patience as we worked out the kinks on offense. This one is for the undersized QB, Trace McSorley, who has already proven you can’t measure the size of one’s heart, and for an O-Line that is finally beginning to see the fruits of labor bloom. It’s for Brandon Smith who has given the best Mike Hull-impression since, well, Mike Hull, and for Manny Bowen who is beginning to show shades of another LBU legend that goes by the name Bowman. It’s for Koa Farmer, the California kid who seems to have finally found a home and it’s for two of the few seniors left from an era that has passed us by, Malik Golden and Evan Schwan who are making the most of their final opportunity in Blue and White. It’s for Marcus Allen who has been at the forefront on this re-established swagger we now have and for John Reid who consistently let’s his play do all the talking. Yes, my friends, game balls and Helmet Stickers today for everyone, for standing up to adversity yet again and making us all proud half-way through the season.
In 2014 we found ourselves exactly where Maryland finds itself today. A 4-0 team that got rocked in front of a Homecoming crowd. It was a sobering day to say the least. In the aftermath of that loss to Northwestern, perhaps for the first time, James Franklin pleaded with us all to “Trust the Process”. Some of us took him for his word, while others saw it as an excuse. Whichever side of the fence you sat on, “Trust the Process” became a rallying cry for the kids he brought into the program. On Saturday, we watched as one of our leaders, Andrew Nelson, lay injured on the soggy turf, late in the second quarter. Knelt beside him was his head coach, tending to the man he has commonly referred to as one of his 100+ sons. It was a scene we’ve seen before if you pay close enough attention, but one that still tugs at the heart to see the bond between a player and coach on public display.
A few plays later, with Paris Palmer as his replacement, Saquon Barkley ripped off a 45-yard touchdown run to end the half and effectively seal Maryland’s fate. It was the perfect trifecta on a nearly perfect day. Part “Next Man Up” philosophy that Bill O’Brien so graciously left behind, a clear sign of progress that Franklin has pointed towards all along, and it all occurred in The House That Joe Built under his watchful eye. At its core was a healthy dose of swagger that had only been seen in bits and pieces up until now. As Penn State heads into a much-needed bye week it’s as clear as the rising sun over Happy Valley that the Nittany Lions believe in each other and they believe in the man guiding their ship. With a Whiteout looming on the horizon, and a highly anticipated rematch with The Evil Empire, it’s about time we start believing in them as well after the show they put on in front of the Homecoming crowd!