Game Ball and Helmet Stickers: All Zipped Up

Game Ball and Helmet Stickers: All Zipped Up

In 2014, James Franklin made his Beaver Stadium debut as head coach of the Nittany Lions. A week after his first win in Dublin, Ireland over Central Florida, he collected victory number two with a 21-3 win over Akron. A year later, Game Ball and Helmet Stickers made its own debut. I had the misfortune of handing the very first Game Ball, regrettably, to a Nittany Lion. Regrettably because that game ball went to Matt Rhule, head coach of Temple, after his Owls made the shocking upset to kick off the 2015 college football season. It was ugly and it helped stoke a fire for all those that still had doubts about FrankLion. In 2017, the third edition of Game Ball and Helmet Stickers kicks off with a bang thankfully, and with a nation full of Penn Staters grinning from ear to ear.

Penn State beat Akron on Saturday 52-0 and they did so by completely dominating all three phases of the game. In the aftermath, James Franklin called this the most complete game he's seen since his arrival in Happy Valley. He's right, as he usually is. My oh my, how things have changed in a few short years. 52-Zip is a long way from 21-3 in his home debut. Even against the teams we were supposed to beat, rarely did we beat them with ease as Penn State fought through the sanction era. That was not the case this weekend. From opening kickoff to the final whistle, there was no questioning why the Nittany Lions opened the season ranked No. 6. The obvious choice for this week’s Game Ball would be Saquon ‘Sa-Gone' Barkley, but without this man’s persuasion we would be watching King ‘Quon in Rutgers red instead of Blue and White. So, with honor and appreciation from us all, I present it to the guy that notoriously spent the first few months on the job sleeping on couches as he set about putting his stamp on Penn State football, the one and only James Franklin.


King ‘Quon picked up right where he left off, as did the rest of the offense, and leads off our Helmet Sticker handouts. He tallied over 200 total yards with two touchdowns and begins this week as the clear leader in the Heisman race. The other half of the Dynamic Duo, quarterback Trace McSorley, made very few mistakes minus a first-drive interception in the end-zone and accounted for three touchdowns of his own (two passing, one rushing). Mike Gesicki was on the receiving end of both and looks every bit as unstoppable as he did a year ago. DeAndre Thompkins opened the floodgates by taking his first punt return to the house and daring the Zips all day long to try it again. Juwan Johnson made his debut as a starter and quickly put minds at ease in his bid to replace Chris Godwin and how ‘bout the Big Handsomes on the O-Line? No sacks allowed and they opened holes as wide as the Atlantic for Barkley to navigate.

Defensively, the field general Marcus Allen made it loud and clear he's on a mission and made life misery for Akron's offense. Amani Oruwarye put minds at ease by showing he's more than capable of filling in for the injured John Reid. His first quarter interception was a thing of beauty, but the way he recovered on a sure touchdown deep and batted the ball away was pure speed and athleticism. The Wild Dogs up front kept the pressure on Akron’s quarterback and completely took away the Zips running game. All told, the Nittany Lion D held them to a paltry 156 total yards on the day and Akron never even got to sniff the end zone. 32 players took snaps on defense and although there were no individual stars, it was a collective effort for sure.

With that, the book has closed on Akron, Akron, Akron (I just had to one last time) and Nittany Nation plunges head-first into the sweet taste of revenge that lies ahead. This one was a tune-up as predicted, nothing more nothing less, and Penn State handled it with darn near perfection. Just like the No. 6 ranked team in the country should. Up next, the one we've all been waiting for since last September. Here kitty, kitty, kitty…