Last November, we were on the “Road to Redemption” which fizzled out before it even got started. This November, we enter the final three-game stretch with destiny hanging in the balance. We have been labeled one of college football’s most dangerous. A team that no one wants to meet, out of shear fear of being overmatched and unable to compete. In the infamous words of Bob Shoop before he shuffled off to Tennessee, “Penn State is a 30/30 story waiting to happen”. Whether he was being honest or just blowing smoke we may never know, but it’s obvious that all the talking heads over at ESPN have been gushing over our boys in blue and white. Standing in our way is a trip to Indiana, the second in three weeks. One game at a time indeed, and this time we have Hoosiers in our crosshairs. A worthy foe and one that would like nothing more than to knock Penn State off its newfound pedestal. The fact remains, we are now the hunted rather than the hunter. To beat the No. 10 team in the country is enough to call ones season a smashing success.
Penn State enters this contest in all-too-familiar territory, a man down, as left tackle Brendan Mahon was admitted to Hershey Medical Center earlier this week with an undisclosed injury or health issue. One-time starter Paris Palmer, who had already taken over for the injured Andrew Nelson on the right, replaced him on the left side versus Iowa and performed admirably. Chasz Wright took his place vacated on the right and more than held his own. All week long, the coaching staff has wrestled with the decision on whether to take the redshirt designation off freshman Will Fries, but seem content using the starting guards Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern (freshmen themselves) as the backup tackles in case of emergency. Under normal circumstances, the loss of your starting combination at the bookends would be cause for a dilemma and possible panic, but considering they already weathered the storm early in the season losing seven linebackers, adversity does not seem to faze or unravel this group of Lions. In fact, they seem to thrive off it instead.
For the record, this Wednesday marked the five-year anniversary of the firing of Joe Paterno, over the phone I remind you. I remember all too clear the feeling of unexpected despair and blind fear of the unknown that enveloped us all back on November 9th, 2011. I remember staring in awe as I watched our students storm the streets of Happy Valley in anger and protest into the wee hours of the morning. Our home away from home had suddenly become a battleground and all we could do was watch from a distance with tears in our eyes. I remember all too well the feeling that we had suddenly become the hunted for reasons I could not fathom back then and many of which still go unanswered to this day. Needless to say, I would not wish that moment in time on my worst enemy. Five years later, game by game, we have become the hunted once again but this time for all the right reasons. One game at a time, brick by brick, this current cast of Nittany Lions has not only managed to restore our roar among the nation’s elite, but they have also managed to restore our football reputation in the process. And that, my friends, will prove too much for any attempt at an upset in the great state of Indiana: Penn State 34, Hoosiers 13.