Well, how’s that for an electric start to the season! “Unbelievable and magical,” I believe, are the words the emotional Gus Johnson used. “Crazy… lots of ups, lots of downs,” is what Sean Clifford had to say. If this contest is foreshadowing for the rest of the season, we are in for quite a ride.
Some might call it an ugly win. Some might say we merely survived the game. Neither the offense nor the defense looked particularly fantastic. Dropped passes, dropped interceptions, offensive and defensive line mediocrity, and of course the crassly dubbed “puke six”. (I’d feel bad for poor Chris Jefferson, sick on camera after his 72 yard return, if it hadn’t been against us!)
I’d call it the best of BigTen football. Seven lead changes! Joey Porter officially broke up three passes, almost (almost!) intercepted two, and led the team with eight tackles. Clifford connected 20 out of 37 for 282 passing yards and five total touchdowns, including of course that nearly flawless final drive to win the game.
There’s lots to complain about but even more to celebrate. You can focus on the pick six and the dropped balls or you can look at how every time we found ourselves down and needed a score, we came roaring back to make it happen. The poise and confidence required to throw an interception in the fourth quarter and come back to lead a game winning drive, with your defense to seal the deal—that’s the character of Penn State Football right there. Despite the roller coaster, Penn State found a way to hang on and grind out a win. You can’t beat that kind of season opener.
In his post game comments, Coach Franklin said that the team built confidence in winning a tough game and overcoming adversity; a win like that one on the road can set your team up for success moving forward. Will this win be the momentum our Nittany Lions need to finally build the winning season we’ve been longing for?
We’ve been through too much the past few years to take this as any kind of sign for the rest of the season. We’ll all have to subscribe to Coach Franklin’s oft repeated phrase: we’re 1 and 0 this week; and hope with all our might that the rest of the season is not as much of a roller coaster as this first game.
Let’s just take it game by game.