The day opened with a tangible energy in Beaver Stadium. Starting the day off was the Senior Day ceremony, in which all graduating seniors were honored with a hug from Head Coach James Franklin and were able to stand with their families before the game. Although the squad is graduating just 19 seniors this year, their dedication to the program and domination on the field will certainly be missed.
Senior cornerback Trevor Williams (Baltimore, Md.) said of Senior Day, “I think the emotions were pretty high. A lot of guys and their families were emotional for the seniors because it was their final home game.”
Both teams started off on fire. Penn State (7-4, 4-3) seemed to have a firm grasp on the game from the start, with Saquon Barkley (Coplay, Pa.) nearing scoring a touchdown in the first minutes of the game. Penn State scored first with a field goal by Tyler Davis (St. Charles, Ill.).
Shortly after, quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) threw a touchdown pass to Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan, N.J.) for Penn State’s sole touchdown of the game.
“Those 50/50 balls aren’t a big issue. So when anyone gets the opportunity to make a 50/50 catch we all have high hopes in each other to make it,” noted Blacknall.
Michigan quickly retaliated after being kept on their heels for the first plays of the game. Michigan notched four touchdowns, two of which were before halftime. Likewise, a fumbled punt in the third quarter allowed Michigan an easy touchdown in the bottom of the third quarter.
The game was not without stellar moments, however. Senior linebacker Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J.) had many standout plays, including a key interception and fumble recovery, both of which helped keep the Nittany Lions’ heads above water.
Although there has been no confirmation, many believe this game may have been Hackenberg’s final game in Beaver Stadium. Hackenberg has denied any speculation about a jump to the NFL, but he did comment on the extra emotion of Saturday.
“It means a lot to me, playing here with these guys, the seniors…I was taking everything in…We still have two games to do what we need to do and end on a high note,” commented Hackenberg.
Penn State takes on No. 6 Michigan State (10-1, 6-1) away this coming Saturday. Despite this emotional loss, the squad is confident that they will end the regulation season on a high note.
“We all have to figure out what we’re going to do to execute…we know that we’ve got a good opportunity for something to happen,” affirmed Hackenberg.
Whatever the score, We Are and forever will be, Nittany Lions. Thank you, Seniors.