Game Balls and Helmet Stickers: ARMY
Blame it on the wind and rain all you want. The numbers speak for themselves. With all of the love, respect and admiration we have for one of our service academies, the Black Knights had no business making it such a close game. None. And yet, there we were once again watching our defense bail us out in the end. Despite the absence of our top two running backs, it should not have come down to a defensive stop in the final two minutes. A team that entered the game 1-3, and gave up 38 points to a paltry Eastern Michigan the week before, came into Beaver Stadium and held the Nittany Lions to a measly old 20.
Obviously, the scapegoat through all this continues to be the O.C. John Donovan and, to some extent, James Franklin. For the record, I am not one of those that wants them shipped off to a faraway land. I believe in our coaches. I have full faith in the direction they are taking this program. I'm not ashamed to admit it. In other words, I, "trust the process," as Franklin has so often pleaded for us to do. This staff has not been afforded the opportunity to put together their own team with their own players. If 2014 was a season in limbo, 2015 is more like a youth revival. We have seen it week in and week out all over the field. At times, it ends up looking like it did on Saturday. At other times, it has looked the way it did during the first half against San Diego State. Unstoppable. Once Saquon and Akeel went down, the offense stalled. On Saturday, it never got off the ground. A win is a win is a win, but cupcake season is officially over. Time to get down to the nitty gritty and Big Ten play. Now, on to those Game Balls.
Keeping with the theme of youth, two of those who lead the revival have earned our Game Balls today. On Defense, true sophomore Jason Cabinda gets the honor. His 4th down sack with 90 seconds left in the game sealed the victory. On the day, Cabinda tallied 14 tackles, 2 sacks and forced a fumble. He has been a force of stability ever since taking over in the middle for an injured Nyeem Wartman-White. Cabinda's play, and more importantly his leadership, continue to grow every week. Offensively, another true sophomore picks up this week’s honor. His day started off shaky as the game began with an illegal procedure penalty, but Mike Gesicki more than made up for it with his first touchdown as a Nittany Lion. The 33 yard pitch and catch was a thing of beauty that put Penn State up 20-7 at the time. Gesicki got off to a slow start this year. Hopefully this is just the beginning of what we all expect him to do.
As for the Helmet Stickers, there are a few to hand out. True freshman Manny Bowen filled in for an injured (or resting) Brandon Bell and finished third on the team with 6 tackles and a fumble recovery. Redshirt freshman, Nick Scott, made a nice run on the game’s first touchdown. Sophomore Chris Godwin continues to impress at wide receiver and redshirt freshman Joe "Big Toe" Julius almost seems automatic on field goals inside the 35 yard line, knocking down two more with ease this week.
If you cannot see the theme here, than it just may be a lost cause. In every game so far a new face pops up on the gridiron. This week, it was Bowen on defense. By all accounts, he should have redshirted. The staff had every intention of saving him for later. Instead here he is, fresh off of the high school bus, making plays in Beaver Stadium. Some of us are not happy with a 6 point win over Army. Nor should we be under normal circumstances. But, this my friends, is far from the status quo. Nothing is normal about what's going on in Happy Valley right now. There is a tremendous gap between the vets on this team and the young Lions that represent our future. As it stands, a win is a win is a win and this week Penn State is 1-0 in the eyes of the players and coaches. Rome wasn't built in a day, nor will the revitalization of powerhouse Penn State Football take shape in a day. Brick by brick, folks. Brick by brick.