Now THAT was a football game. I lay awake late Saturday night trying to put it into words and I’m still finding the experience nearly indescribable. How to convey the sheer epicness of a nationally televised White Out night game against a ranked SEC opponent? It’s the greatest environment in college sports.
IYKYK. You just had to be there. You had to watch it to understand the emotional train ride from start to finish. A nail biter-- three lead changes in the first half alone-- until the last second with the Nittany Lions on top. The entire day was a highlight reel.
Penn State hosted College GameDay for the fifth consecutive year, making us the only university to do so. Lee Corso pointed out that not only has Penn State lost five straight to the SEC, the last time we beat an SEC team was 11 years ago; and he still picked us to win. Adding to the excitement, Saquan Barkley showed up as the GameDay guest. And, Adam Talifero returned as an honorary captain twenty years after his miraculous walk out of the tunnel following recovery from his spinal cord injury.
109, 958 fans filled Beaver Stadium to watch a poised, not rushed, Sean Clifford hit 28 out of 32 passes. Thanks to the O-line, Clifford had all the time he needed and endured very few tackles. The receivers amazed us with their ability to be open and successful. Two tight ends, Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson, made big plays to set up touchdowns. Jahan Dotson was superb, bringing in pass after pass. Dauntless Dotson also threw a 22 yard pass to tight end Tyler Warren. The Lions scored four touchdowns on four redzone possessions against a defense that had allowed its opponents just ten points this season.
Franklin portrayed the defensive performance as “bend but not break.” The steady, dependable defense turned Auburn away three times when we needed it the most, including a fourth quarter stand from the two yard line. Perhaps we didn’t end the game on our own terms with the offense kneeling out the final downs, but our defense was there to hold our lead as time ran out.
Even special teams showed up solidly. Jordan Stout booted all of his kickoffs through the endzone and punted for an average of 50 yards. Our returns were decent even without any breakthrough runs.
And of course, the White Out stands alone in its greatness. In a pre-game meeting, Coach Franklin described the White Out experience as “a window into the soul of Penn State.” We do have a football culture in the best possible way, as Eric wrote in his pregame blog two weeks ago. Our football culture has always showcased our love and loyalty, our resilience and our pride. The simple concept of wearing the same white shirt creates a sense of unity and of camaraderie. When Nittany Lions from all over meet as One Team on a White Out night, its pure unrivaled monochromatic magic.