The Gophers, you ask? Yes, them. I only bring it up because by now you know the search is over. They ran circles around our D for more than two quarters and that was more than enough to send their OC, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania native and self-proclaimed Penn State fan growing up, Kirk Ciarrocca a one-way ticket home to Happy Valley. Too little, too late for this date with Memphis but well received by most. We had all intentions on beating up his squad in Minnesota and yet we didn’t. Much like we just knew in our heart of hearts last December that Kentucky never stood a chance, yet they did. So here WE ARE again. Bowling for Cotton. It’s time to tame a tiger, but the fear is real.
This isn’t just a FrankLion issue either for all those that love to hate. JoePa’s all-time victories record was littered with games he should have won. Does Iowa ring a bell, anyone? God help James Franklin if he ever loses to the likes of say…Toledo. Yikes! I’d have to shut down all access to the internet if that ever took place. For weeks, in fact. On the flip side, Penn State once beat Cincinnati (who just happens to be Memphis's stiffest level of competition in the rough and rugged American West Conference) 81-0. Should be a walk in the park in this year’s Cotton Bowl, right? I’m afraid not. I’d rather be scrapping with the likes of Ducks or Gators like all the rest of you, but it’s time to tame a tiger instead and it won’t be easy.
Don’t get me wrong now, and don’t mistake this fear for a feeling we’re going to lose. We won’t. WE ARE…PENN STATE, after all. The same Penn State that broke the color barrier versus SMU in the 1948 Cotton Bowl. The same Nittany Lions that whooped up on Texas 30-6 in 1972 and smoked Baylor 41-20 two years later in our last appearance in Dallas. A ton has changed in the past 44 years but we’re still here battling on New Years Day for all intent and purpose, even if the date doesn’t match up anymore. The only difference between now and then is we were battling for respect back in those days, whereas, on Saturday afternoon in Dallas, Texas, we aim to keep it.
Maybe that’s what scares us the most. Memphis is who we were, many moons ago, much like Kentucky to start the year and Minnesota this past November. Thankfully, we have stood the test of time. In between our last visit to Dallas and today, we’ve smelled the Roses, bowled in Miami, tasted sweet Sugar, and had many a Fiesta. We’ve traveled off into the sunset clutching that No. 1 ranking twice, perennially staked our claim as a Top 10 team, and have clawed our way back from certain death without ever feeling the pain of a losing season. For all the fear that may have accompanied our invite to this year’s Cotton Bowl, I can only imagine what Memphis thought when they saw it was us they had to face. Put your fears aside Nittany Nation, this one’s destined to be a springboard for what’s to come. It’s time to tame a tiger: Penn State 31, Memphis 14.