The critics were wrong.
One of Head Coach James Franklin’s core values is, “Don’t believe the hype.”
The team certainly followed through with that value, ignoring critics all season to get to this point, the final game to win the Big East Division. And win they did, defeating Michigan State 45-12 this past Saturday on the heels of a needed Ohio State win over Michigan.
For seniors such as Von Walker (Mill Hall, Pa.), Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J.), and Jordan Smith (Washington, D.C.), this Senior Day was the culmination of four years of quietly working hard, gritting one’s teeth, and bearing the brunt of intense scrutiny from the public.
“You really can’t write a better story than this to be honest, it’s not over yet,” said Bell, a linebacker. “As far as we’ve been preaching to young guys, keep pushing, keep pushing, put your head down and go to work and see where it will take you.”
In front of an amazing post-Thanksgiving break crowd of almost 98,000 fans and 250 lettermen, Penn State battled it out against the Spartans.
It was the Spartans who notched the first six points of the evening off of two field goals. Penn State appeared to have some difficulty warming up to the Spartans’ quick style of play.
Before the end of the first quarter, Tyler Davis (St. Charles, Ill.) kicked a field goal for Penn State, bringing the score 6-3.
After another Spartan field goal, Penn State broke down the dam and finally scored its first touchdown of the game, a drive down the field that resulted in a one yard run by Saquon Barkley (Coplay, Pa.).
Yet another Spartan field goal saw the Lions head to the locker room at halftime down by two, 12-10.
Although Coach Franklin denies that Penn State is more of a second-half team, Penn State made some key adjustments in the locker room and came out a new team in the third quarter.
“We have done a great job making adjustments at halftime,” said Coach Franklin.
Just two minutes into the third, quarterback Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va.) made a beautiful 34-yard pass to Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del.) for a Nittany Lion touchdown.
Just minutes later, a Michigan State fumble was recovered by Nittany Lion Grant Haley (Atlanta, Ga.) and it resulted in yet another Godwin touchdown, this time a 59-yard pass that wowed the crowd and put Penn State comfortably ahead, 31-12.
The Penn State defense, led by Bell and Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J.) turned it up a notch and held the Spartans to punt after punt, stopping Michigan State in the red zone more than once.
“We have come such a long way and the group is growing so much with everything that we have overcome this year,” said Cabinda. “We are really proud of the
Another drive down the field saw freshman running back Andre Robinson (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) stretch his legs and run 14 yards for another Penn State touchdown, 38-12.
For icing on the cake, McSorley made one last pass to Robinson, a 40-yarder that gave Penn State its final score of 45-12.
“This means a lot to me and to this team,” said McSorley. “It is huge for us to come out and accomplish what we did tonight for our seniors on senior night and in front of our home crowd… I am incredibly thankful for how this year has played out so far, incredibly grateful and happy for how everything played out.”
Penn State reclaimed the Land Grant Trophy as a result of this win, a friendly competition between the two land grant schools, PSU and MSU.
Penn State also won the Big Ten East division title and trophy.
With this win, and an Ohio State win over the Wolverines, Penn State is now headed to the Big Ten Championship against No. 6 Wisconsin next Saturday, December 3, for an 8 p.m. kickoff in Indianapolis.
“I just want to thank everybody,” said Coach Franklin. “Humbled for this night and the type of support that we get and just so thankful for the guys in that locker room. It’s been special.”
We know you travel well, Nittany Nation, so book your hotels and grab your tickets to watch our team continue to prove the critics wrong in Indianapolis!