A brief yet very important editor’s note: this particular set of text is not, repeat not, in relation to the awful tragic events which have unfolded – and will continue to unfold for some time – in State College over the last six days. That in itself warrants lengthy discussions which will follow very soon.
Nor will this be an encomium of Joseph Vincent Paterno. He’ll be discussed at length hereafter as well.
The football game that will be played tomorrow at Beaver Stadium now seems extremely insignificant as compared to the lives, children, families and careers that have been shattered.
However, in fairness to a group of young men who have worked their tails off since last January – from the winter weight program through spring ball, into preseason practice in that awful August humidity and over the last 10 weeks – and who had nothing to do whatsoever with an outside world which came crashing down on their campus, an overview of what they are trying to accomplish is owed.
From the standpoint of one who has dreamed of the day which would bear the sight of Tom Bradley on the sideline as the head coach of the Nittany Lions, certainly and most obviously this was the last way it was ever drawn up on the board. A favor to all involved is to skip the obvious: yes, we know that this will be the first time since 1950 that Joe Paterno is not blah blah blah and since the Truman Administration and blah blah blah and the billions of coaching changes in Division 1 football since he was hired and blah blah blah and the first time since a loaf of bread cost a nickel and blah blah blah. One more for good measure: blah.
At the moment, just shut up. When Dave Pasch opens tomorrow’s broadcast with those numbers and factoids, tell him to shut up. No, seriously – look at your television screen and literally tell him.
With three games remaining on the slate and as the only undefeated squad in league play, Penn State will open tomorrow’s noon hour with its inaugural protected cross-rival game versus Nebraska. Two national powers will collide inside Beaver Stadium in what’ll be a darn good football game.
Taylor Martinez’ throwing motion resembles that of a, well, it’s pretty terrible, mechanically speaking. But this is a typical Nebraska squad – several big hogs up front, power ball a majority of the time and a Blackshirts defense, which this year is not spectacular but still formidable. Penn State must establish the run early, and anybody looking at this game objectively can see that the Nits are a better team than the Huskers, mostly because of the former’s superior defense. What a crying shame for next season that Devon Still will play his final home game. Without question, Still has been the leading force of a terrific defensive unit. Said unit, along with Silas Redd, is the main reason Penn State is currently the 12th-ranked team in the BCS standings.
With Bradley at the helm and no longer restricted to do anything by anybody, it’ll be very interesting to see what he does defensively. Remember how effective Gerald Hodges was when he blitzed on literally every single down in the second half of the Iowa game? For Penn State fans who love them some defense, keep an eye out for a surprised look on Glenn Carson’s face as he accepts and delivers the signals from Scrap. Good change is still change, so Carson et. al had best be prepared for some new wrinkles.
Apropos, now that he’s the head coach, is it no longer acceptable to refer to him as Scrap?
In short, prior to the events leading up to this game, tomorrow should’ve been marked with a “W” next to it. When the emotions are added in, public opinion says that it could have an effect either way. But anybody who has played sports at an elite level knows that once that first snap, first hit, first score, first whistle occur, for that defined period of time, instinct takes over and the outside distractions are temporarily put in check. Most of the time.
Yes, it still feels weird trying to dissect this game. Nobody can help it. It just does. It’s so simply a speck of dust as it relates to the most important thing here, and that’s of course these children who allegedly suffered unspeakable horror.
One final note (“No on 15 is the way to vote”) about the upcoming discussions (emphasis on the plurality of discussion) which will take place in this space about the Jerry Sandusky scandal and all its layers. It would be wise to reserve your judgment on Paterno’s involvement and/or potential negligence related to all of this. Just because you hear and read everything that the current news media has fed to the world does not mean you should accept it at face value.
Please, as a favor to yourself if nobody else, allow all the facts to be revealed over the course of time before you make any final decisions about a man who has devoted his entire life to the betterment of youth.