Game Balls and Helmet Stickers: Rutgers
As for the Game Balls, the first one goes to none other… Nittany Nation, take a bow. You certainly earned it. Heading into this game, we had two choices, under the circumstances. Stoop to their level or rise to the occasion with class and dignity. We all made it our mission to choose the latter, both in social media circles as well as in person at the tailgate. Call out our "culture" all you want. Of course love football. We live for gameday. But come fall Saturdays in Happy Valley, I challenge anyone to find a better host than us. That was never more evident than on Saturday. JoePa would be proud and I am sure he's smiling down upon us all.
On offense, I am going to go a little left of what you think. Paris Palmer and the rest of our beleaguered O-Line, this one's for you. All of you and give one to Herb Hand too. I hesitated on this last week just because of the competition, or lack thereof. But, for the second week in a row now, Mr. Hackenberg has kept his jersey clean, his head free from cobwebs and our RB's look like the second coming of Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris. Heck, some of those holes were so big even I could have taken one to the house. Savor the moment, the Big Uglies don't usually receive much positive pub, but today is your day my friends. And a well-earned one at that.
Defensively, once again I lean left of the expected and give this one to the punter. That's right, Chris Gulla gets this week’s Gameball on defense. Make no mistake about it, there were worthy names all over the field on Saturday night, but Gulla got the call on Friday and made the absolute most of his opportunity. He averaged just over 40 yards per punt and, with the help of his coverage team, kept the Knights pinned deep in their own territory all night long. Rutgers return ace, Janorian Grant, was relegated to non-existent status throughout. The punt game has been a major thorn in our side over last season and continuing into the first two games of 2015. That was clearly not the case on Saturday night and has earned Mr. Gulla the recognition he deserves.
As for this week’s Helmet Stickers, the obvious choice goes to our dynamic duo at running back. The Big Blue Wrecking Crew of Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch have suddenly put Penn State back on the map offensively. For the first time since 2010 both backs gained over 100 rushing yards in one game, with Barkley leading the way at 195. For the second week in a row, the freshmen sensation garnered Big Ten Freshmen of the Week honors. DaeSean Hamilton gets one for his 57 yard catch and run, as does DeAndre Thompkins for his second quarter TD that put the Nittany Lions on the board first and opened the floodgates.
Brandon Bell and Grant Haley both returned from early season injuries and immediately made their presence known on defense. Marcus Allen led the way in tackles with 11, many of them coming up to stuff the run. Jordan Lucas continues to show his senior leadership as he made plays all over the field. He did so honoring his fallen comrade Nyeem Wartman-White by wearing his #5 jersey rather than his customary #9. Last, but not least, we are all watching the little guy, John Reid, grow up right before our eyes. Another one of those famed Freshmen from the 2015 class, Reid had two INT's and broke up many other passes along the way. Reid gets better and better every game.
And so, the book has now officially closed on Rutgers week. The Scarlet Knights return home licking their wounds and we all get to spend the week reveling in the aftermath of a Stripe Out that could not have possibly gone any better. Visions of Saquon dancing in our heads and of a defense worthy to carry the name Penn State with pride are enough to make the rains of a season opening loss but a distant memory. I wouldn't say we're back on track just yet, but one could only imagine the potential if our All-Star QB finally comes around and starts slinging it like we all know he can. As it is, we have a date with the Aztecs of San Diego State rolling into town to taste the hospitality that makes Happy Valley such a special place. Well done Penn State, well done!