Game Balls and Helmet Stickers: SDSU

Game Balls and Helmet Stickers: SDSU

Hearts were heavy in Happy Valley coming into this one. The news of the passing of Anthony Zettel's dad, Terry, after an 18 month battle with cancer gave us all a solemn tone as the news started to break early Saturday morning. Someone who has given so much to us over the past few years was grieving and it affected us all. That's family and that's what WE ARE. Through thick and thin. For better or worse. When it all hits the fan, we have each other’s back. Sure, we tailgated. We threw on those jerseys, the black Nike's and rolled up those khaki's just as we always do on a football Saturday. But the Zettel family never strayed too far from our minds or from our hearts.

A few hours before kickoff, word spread that Anthony Zettel was in State College and was going to play against San Diego State. This one was for his dad, a proud father of all his son had accomplished. At 12:45 Zettel led his team off of the Blue Buses and walked them into battle against the Aztecs. We would come to find out later that the past few weeks had been very trying on the Zettel family as Terry had taken a turn for the worse. Anthony spent a good part of those weeks driving home to Michigan after the games on Saturday. A scene from the locker room, after the win over Rutgers last week, showed James Franklin close the post-game celebration by having Zettel lead the team with a WE ARE...PENN STATE break. At the time, few outside that locker room realized the emotion behind it. As the Nittany Lions made their entrance onto the field this week, Anthony made his way to the stands. As he embraced his mom, it was all put into perspective. Today, there is only one Game Ball to hand out and it goes to Terry Zettel, by way of his son Anthony, who led Penn State with 7 tackles, as well as blocked two passes, was credited with a half sack and recovered a fumble. He was in full beast mode despite the most trying of circumstances.

The 37-21 win was not without its share of highlights and Helmet Sticker moments despite it being a closer game than some originally thought. Watching a 320lb. behemoth dance his way down the sideline for a 71 yard TD was a thing of beauty. Austin Johnson's fellow Wild Dog, Carl Nassib, caused the fumble that sprung the big guy loose. They registered 4 sacks between the two of them and wreaked havoc all day. Christian Hackenberg finally took and made, some shots deep and deftly reminded everyone exactly why he has the NFL scouts drooling. Saeed Blacknall came out of his early season silence with a bang and Chris Godwin is quickly solidifying himself as Hack's go-to guy. Before his early exit with an ankle injury, Saquon Barkley was well on his way to another step up the ladder of stardom. Last, but not least, Helmet Stickers go to all of our THON canners for setting their football weekend aside for such a worthy cause.

I watched the game from home this week on the Big Ten Network. For the second week in a row they ended the broadcast by showing the players sing the Alma Mater in its entirety. As the Blue Band played I saw our much aligned QB with his arm around Anthony Zettel. A smile on Hack's face and Anthony looking up to heaven. I saw our star freshman Saquon Barkley laughing and acting as if his ankle wasn't all that bad (a huge sigh of relief for us all). I watched our coaches standing in the back, arms around each other’s shoulders, singing along. As I watched it all unfold two words came to mind. Family and progress. Last season, Penn State would have found a way to lose a game like this. Despite poor special teams play, untimely penalties and a rash of injuries this team found a way to win. We have a long way to go, but that is as sure a sign of progress if ever there was one. After the players rang the Victory Bell and headed into the tunnel, the cameras followed and caught Anthony Zettel veering off once again. This time, he walked over to the line of fans and gave them all hugs and high fives as he made his way to the unthinkable task ahead. That, my friends, is family and that's what Penn State is all about!