We are 4-0, Nittany Lions, and that feels fantastic. There’s the usual fan grumbling following the victory over Villanova, but I think we played the perfect post-Auburn game and here’s why:
First off, it was fairly predictable which was a relief. We’ve had to endure two blood-pumping nail-biters in our season opener versus Wisconsin and last week’s exciting contest against Auburn. Ball State in the middle there may have been less nerve wracking, but the excitement of returning to Beaver Stadium and clinching the 300th win brought its own special exhilaration. An FCS matchup allows our stress levels to settle and our blood pressure to even out.
Not to say any of us were expecting an easy game. Villanova is a well-coached team, a worthy opponent to be taken seriously. It was not a scrimmage. It wasn't the Sisters of the Poor. It’s also not the same level of physicality and competition. We were very, very likely to win. It’s nice sometimes in a season, especially a season that started out as electric as this one, to relax and enjoy a win.
Relaxing, enjoyable games can tend toward boring, but there were plenty of explosive plays to keep us entertained and engaged. Four pass plays with fifty yards or more. Parker Washington played the best game of his career thus far with five catches totaling forty-eight receiving yards and two scores. Jahan Dotson continues to shine, opening the game with a first snap touchdown. KeAndre Lambert-Smith recorded his first TD in a dynamic eighty-three yard reception. The defense delivered several sacks, a couple tackles for loss, and refused to allow Villanova to get much of anything going. And, somehow we wake up this week ranked number 4 in the nation.
Despite the bright spots, all was not sunshine and butterflies. This was a game that reminded us we’re not that great. All the praise and predictions about our season are not guaranteed. We only got here because we worked hard to get here. Coach Franklin espouses his 1-0, “every game is a big game” mindset, but I can’t help wondering if mentally there were some breaks taken. In his post game presser, Franklin confirmed an issue with complacency this past week during practice. He said his players were enjoying getting patted on the back and reading articles and Franklin plans to fix that.
When the mindset is not 100% there, mistakes are made and weaknesses are revealed. We needed a team like Villanova to expose us. We came off that Auburn game on top of the world. Now our feet are back on the ground and we can get down to the business of improving every week.
All in all, the perfect game four. We won. We were entertained. We have work to do. Buckle up everybody, it’s all BigTen from here on out. Let’s go State!