First and foremost, had it been a hard-fought, close loss in a hostile environment, we would have walked away with our heads held high. Penn State battled through an anemic first half, on the back of a bend but don’t break D that morphed into a brick wall near the end zone, and flew home to Happy Valley with the 16-10 victory. It was enough to send Nittany Nation into a total frenzy!
We were in the same exact position a year ago. As the dust settled in Indiana, Jaquan Brisker went from being the hero, to being on the receiving end of one of the worst calls in college football, all in a matter of seconds. There was no chance at having a repeat in Camp Randall. The senior safety effectively slammed the door on any hopes that Wisconsin had of overcoming what would be one of the most aggressive defensive efforts of the entire James Franklin/Brent Pry era.
Time and time again, you’d see Brisker being attended to on the turf as he battled injury most of the day; however, when big plays had to be made, he was front and center in the thick of the fray. The Lackawanna JUCO transfer and second-year starter came in as the No. 3 ranked safety in college football, a preseason All-American, and a member of the distinguished Freaks List. He left with every bit of that reputation intact, as well as the owner of this season’s first Lions Pride Game Ball, for obvious reasons.
He was far from being the lone standout as the Nittany Lions weaved together a total team effort that raised eyebrows on the national level. Ellis Brooks patrolled the middle like General Patton. Arnold Ebiketie? A gift from the transfer portal gods. Jesse Luketa manned his new hybrid role like a boss, and Nick Tarburton finally shed the injury bug and turned in a commanding performance. PJ Mustifer? Just call him Mufasa already, because that grizzled vet is clearly the Lion King in the trenches.
Say what you want about the first half O that couldn’t gain an inch it seemed, let alone a stinkin’ yard, but you’ve got to give them credit for turning up the heat when it mattered most. At the end of the day, a win is a win when you score more points than the opponent and Sean Clifford showed poise and resolve as he drove his underdog squad to the win. If Jahan Dotson isn’t everybody’s All-American, then their right to vote should be immediately revoked. Noah Cain got those crafty wheels churning in the second half. KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Parker Washington proved to be worthy wingmen and the O-Line eventually came around with plenty of room for improvement.
What I may have secretly liked most was the demeanor of new Offensive Coordinator, Mike Yurcich, on the sideline. There was a shot of him with Clifford during the first half as they struggled to move the ball. He was cool, calm, and collected as they figured it all out. Ultimately, they did, including the game winning touchdown from under center which threw us all for a happy loop. Long gone are the JoMo days, may their legacy live on in all of us, but there's clearly a new sheriff in town and he’s already proven his worth!
I can’t fathom what that plane ride out of Indiana must have been like a year ago. It sent Penn State’s season into a tailspin. Brisker really was a hero that day and worked to set the tone for this season. He and the rest of his squad proved their point as they put Wiscy on ice!
Up next, a Nittany Nation Homecoming that’s long overdue! A 3:30 affair with Ball State, 31-21 winners over Western Louisiana in their season opener. They say to never take your opponent lightly and I subscribe to that school of thought. That said, the thought of 107K headed to home sweet Happy Valley after a year away is as daunting for any team to walk into, let alone a mid-major that’s glad to take the pay. ‘Jump Around' was fun and all, but it’s our turn now and time to hear the mighty ROAR.