Pregame Predictor: Curtain Call

Pregame Predictor: Curtain Call

It was August 29, 2014; James Franklin’s debut in Dublin, Ireland and a redshirt freshman blazed his way into our hearts with a series of acrobatic grabs and game-saving receptions. His name? DaeSean Hamilton, and he now stands alone atop the record books as Penn State’s all-time leader in receptions. A few weeks later, Penn State was sitting at 3-0, fresh off the news that the sanctions and bowl ban had been lifted. It was Homecoming Week and included the first appeal directly to us on Franklin’s part to keep our focus on going 1-0. Things didn’t go so well that day versus Northwestern, but late in the first quarter, with an injury-depleted linebacker corps unable to stop the Wildcat juggernaut, a true freshman was called upon to make his debut on defense. His name? Jason Cabinda, who now goes by the well-earned moniker ‘Captain Cabinda.’ A few weeks after that, the Nittany Lions were going nowhere fast and had a date with the mighty Buckeyes staring them in the eyes. An injury at safety forced the debut of another true freshman just before kickoff. His name? Marcus Allen of course, who more than held his own that night four years ago, and went on to earn the reputation as a punisher of running backs.

And that was the norm during those dark years of Penn State Football. A roster half the size of what every other school tallied was forced to turn to youth to maintain and survive. One by one, they found their way onto the field and into our hearts. Mike Gesicki, Grant Haley, Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon, Christian Campbell, Brandon Smith, Saeed Blacknall, Troy Apke, Curtis Cothran and Parker Cothren, Tyler Davis, Tyrell Chavis, Tom Pancoast, Billy Fessler, Desi Davis, Daniel Pasquariello, Brendan Brosnan, Cody Hodges, and Mitchell Vallone. Twenty-three seniors in total will make their curtain call on the Beaver Stadium turf this weekend. Some are record breakers, and some were fixtures on the practice squad, but none more important than the other when it comes to Penn State's survival during its darkest hour. They all lent a hand one way or another, and for that we are eternally grateful.


The saddest day of the year is upon us during this season of great expectations: Senior Day. Year in and year out, it’s inevitable that on this day the tissues come aplenty and lately they’ve been needed more so than ever before. What began in 2012 has matriculated its way to 2017, the last of the Mohicans. A class of 23 that came to Penn State when the valley was not so happy. They are the glue that kept us together and the beating heart that helped us rise mere inches from the top. It’s impossible to say what Senior Class has been the most important to this program’s vitality during this era and wouldn’t be fair to judge in the first place, but one thing’s for sure, without their grit and leadership who knows where we would be standing today.

By the way, there is a game to be played on Saturday as well. Nebraska comes rolling into town and by no means does this mark the end of the season. Penn State and those 23 seniors find themselves back inside the Top 10 all the sudden and carry with them a slight sliver of hope in the playoff race. Seems those two losses by a grand total of four carries just a little weight in the committee’s mind and this week’s battle with the Cornhuskers will go a long way towards justifying that. Take care of business and let the chips fall where they may. It may be a final curtain call for those 23 seniors in Sweet Home Happy Valley, but the 2017 season is anything but over. This year’s StripeOut is looking more like a washout, tears included, but my money is on Penn State to handle business and send the Cornhuskers home dreary and wet 38-9.