Game Balls and Helmet Stickers: Indiana

Game Balls and Helmet Stickers: Indiana

Penn State Football is 1-0. One game at a time. Brick by brick, inch by inch. Our offense breathed life, even a little fire at times and oh, by the way, the sky wasn't falling. In fact, some of us actually saw the sun over the weekend. I'm not exactly sure when, as a fan base, we decided a win was a bad thing. I know, I know, it was just Army and all that, but still it WAS a win last week. The fourth win in a row, at the time. Nevertheless, I spent the entire week defending our coaches, our players and cringing at every nasty comment and article aimed in their direction. All over a win! To top it off, one would have thought that Indiana was rolling into town as the second coming of the 2014 Oregon Ducks. Or, to one-up it, the 1994 Nittany Lions. If I didn't know any better, I'd say I smelled fear in some of us last week. Fear of what exactly, I don't know. Maybe the unknown? I truly hope it was not the fear of mediocrity. We have a long way to go, but mediocre is not the goal here. A climb back on top is. And, as evidenced by our 29-7 Homecoming demolition of the Hoosiers, we may not be as far away as some thought just a few days ago. In fact, we may be exactly where we want to be. Indiana was certainly caught off guard and paid a hefty price for it. Could the Buckeyes be next? More on that later, we have some Game Balls and Helmet Stickers to hand out first.

Mr. Hackenberg, step on up! I've been waiting all season to hand you a Game Ball. The truth is, numbers don't always tell the whole story. Game Balls could have gone his way several times so far. Unfortunately for him, his reputation carries a lot of weight and MVP performances come backed with stats. Most of this year, the stats haven't been there. On Saturday, my man lit it up. A slow start notwithstanding, Hack did it with his million dollar arm and showed he had some life in those legs as well. Four touchdowns with his name written all over them. Halfway through what could be his final season in Happy Valley, let’s all hope this is just the beginning and that the best is still to come.

On defense, I'd be remiss if I did not give one to college football’s sack and forced fumbles leader. Carl Nassib is quite possibly the year’s biggest story. The former walk-on who had yet to start a game until this season, has turned into the ultimate underdog. A superhero of sorts. It's been an absolute pleasure watching him terrorize opposing quarterbacks. He did it again this week collecting two more sacks to lead the nation with ten, overall. Nassib plays with a swagger that has been nearly unstoppable to date and will be highly counted on as the season progresses.

Aside from the Game Ball for Carl Nassib, I hand out Helmet Stickers to the entire defense. Although wounded by injury, Indiana came out on a roll and the Penn State D promptly shut them down. Other than the one touchdown drive early on, the Hoosiers could not muster any kind of offense nor generate any momentum the entire day. This year's defense has played at a high level all year and appear to be getting even better. On offense, Brandon Polk and DaeSean Hamilton get the honors for their long TD catches and both Nick Scott and Mark Allen get one for filling in admirably while the top two running backs recover from injuries. Last but not least, Daniel Pasquariello gets a helmet sticker for his job taking over punting duties this week. He averaged close to 45 yards per punt, with a long of 54, and continually gave Indiana a long field to work with.

Homecoming Weekend 2015 is in the books and is definitely one full of memories. What began with a hilarious switch-a-roo between Grand Marshall, Keegan Michael-Key, aka Hingle McCringleberry, and James Franklin on Friday ended with a dose of sun and domination on the grounds of Beaver Stadium Saturday afternoon. Penn State made a statement, albeit a small one, that there is plenty left in the tank to play for moving forward. After five straight weeks inside the friendly confines of home, the Nittany Lions are set to take their show on the road. The Evil Empire awaits in Columbus, Ohio. Penn State has nothing to lose and everything to gain as they look to avenge last year’s double overtime loss to the Buckeyes. Today, they are 1-0 and in the midst of a five game win streak. It doesn't take a mathematician like John Urschel to figure out those numbers don't add up, but whatever way you swing it, they land in our favor halfway through the season. With six games left, the Nittany Lions need just one more win to gain bowl eligibility and extend the party deep into December. Way back on September 5th, our chances of being bowl-eligible were much murkier than today. That, my friends, is progress and reason enough to let your guard down a little and savor the moment.