One week after being unable to hand out any game balls, we have a few to deliver today. Obviously, the image of Barkley galloping into the end-zone untouched is one that will not be forgotten. After being bottled up most of the afternoon, he once again came through when we needed him most and added another chapter to his legacy. Marcus Allen was named the co-defensive Big Ten Player of the Week after his 22 tackle performance on Saturday. It was an incredible day for Allen, the hard-hitting safety from Maryland and the most tackles recorded by a Nittany Lion since 2005. It was also the 4th most all-time for a Penn State defender. Finally, we have a game ball for the unquestioned leader of this squad, Trace McSorley. After a slow first half, the sophomore from Virginia came out in the second on fire and willed his team to victory. His 300+ yards passing and 76 yards rushing were a personal best and included a 26-yard scramble with just seconds remaining in regulation to put Penn State into field goal range and send the game into overtime. The Michigan debacle aside, with every game he plays it’s become clear that with him at the helm, a win is truly never out of reach.
As for helmet stickers, no better place to start than the newly-anointed, record-setting-kicker, Tyler Davis. Davis broke a record of 17 consecutive made field goals, a record previously owned by everyone’s favorite underdog, Sam Ficken. Irvin Charles gets his first for being on the receiving end of the fire that McSorley came out throwing in the second half. His counterpart and leader of the receiving corps, Chris Godwin, came through in the clutch once again. Defensively, how about some love for Manny Bowen, who has quietly taken command of a depleted Linebacker U and has been all over the field making plays. Evan Schwan gets one for his big-time sack in overtime that ended any chance of a touchdown drive. Last, but not least, a helmet sticker goes out to seldom used senior cornerback, Jordan Smith, who filled in admirably for an injured Christian Campbell and may have saved the day with his end-zone INT in the fourth quarter.
As Barkley shook free of the final defender and raced into the end-zone, pandemonium broke out on the soggy turf inside Beaver Stadium. Fans rushed the field, players jumped into the stands to celebrate with the crowd and the coaches were seen hugging anyone they could find. Tears of joy trickled down the cheeks of those who thought the heart of a Lion may have been left somewhere out there in Michigan. A squad that wasn’t ready for the big stage a week ago could have folded and buckled after another slow start on Saturday. Instead, they battled, they fought, and in the end, they rose to the occasion. This may not have been the “signature win” we have been in search of, but under the circumstances, this band of brothers who proudly represent the Blue and White have their signatures written all over it.