Man, if only our head coach would have listened to all those armchair quarterbacks long before this. The good news is, newly anointed hero of Happy Valley, James Franklin, was already two steps ahead of them. Imagine that! As insane as it sounds, Penn State held practice Sunday afternoon. Sure enough, for all the naysayers to see, was a picture on Penn State football’s Twitter feed that showed the video board inside the team’s meeting room with the words “Focus” and “PURDUE” splashed all over it. Standing in front of that video board? FrankLion, of course, already in the process of flipping that switch. I was already a huge fan, but man, I’m really starting to love this guy we can now refer to as Mr. Signature Win, especially if he can follow that up with a victory in the trap game.
Aside from the possibility of being a trap game, Purdue comes into the contest with nothing to lose and everything to gain. They’re a team that sits at 3-4 on the year and just went through a mid-season coaching change. They gave an undefeated Nebraska squad all they could handle a week ago before losing steam in the second half. They are a pass-happy offense that will give our secondary fits if Marcus Allen and the rest of the DB’s aren’t locked in and focused. The bad news for the Boilermakers is they are not very good against the run and that spells trouble with Saquon Barkley and Co. ready to pounce. I’ve had a gut feeling all week that for all the patience Mr. Barkley has shown as his teammates continued to gain confidence, that he’s about to reap the rewards in these last five games of the regular season. Added incentive to come away with a win in Ross-Ade Stadium are the two words that were taken away from us for a couple of years, Bowl Eligibility. Hard to believe that if it had all played out the way it was originally designed, this year would have been the first for bowl eligibility post-sanctions. Thankfully, those days are behind us.
For the record, early Monday morning I awoke to start another week. Like most I suspect, I pulled on my best Penn State hoodie and hat before heading off to work, still grinning from ear-to-ear. As I walked in, I was met with a giant bear hug from a Virginia Tech Hokie fan and a high-five and fist bump from another co-worker who roots for Michigan. They knew. They knew what that win on Saturday meant to us. They watched in silence almost five years ago as I followed Joe Paterno’s funeral procession on my laptop with a tear running down my cheek. They felt my anger, shock, and complete dismay the afternoon that Louis Freeh wagged his finger at us and spoke the words “football culture” for the first of far too many times. They felt the struggle and knew the significance of that win even if they weren’t Nittany Lion fans themselves. Contrary to the title of this piece I do not see this as the proverbial trap game. What I see is a team on a mission instead. A team that was trapped inside some kind of bizarre world and finally clawed its way out. No, my friends, this team has been through too much to fall for any more traps. They will instead make good on the statement they made a week ago, 31-13 Penn State, and I say that with a grin that just won’t go away!