Are losing theirs...”
I keep coming back to this opening line in Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If”. It seems this season is an exercise in doing just that: keeping our heads about us while many are losing theirs.
My friends, we find ourselves continually in uncharted waters. We, in our lifetimes, have likely only experienced one coach, one way to run a program. Success with honor. The best of the best. We were familiar and comfortable with continuity. We had experience that told us when we lost, we would win again.
In Joe Paterno’s first season as head coach, the team went 5-5. He also had four losing seasons in his career. And, he also had the most wins of all time. Sixty years of experience taught us that we could trust Coach Paterno to run this ship.
Now we’ve got a new(ish) captain at the helm. Our program was put through the ringer unlike any other in the history of college football. Even though we have some evidence to suggest that all is not lost, it’s tough, so tough, to wait and trust that the captain’s got this even as we’re taking on water. We had to do that with Bill O’Brien and he jumped ship as soon as he spotted land.
The loss to Michigan State was ugly. We’ve seen bad losses before. We’ve certainly had losses that were more heartbreaking than this one. Still, it is hard to watch the wheels fall off your team in the fourth quarter. I suppose it’s natural to look for someone to blame. Natural, but not exactly mature, is it? No, not exactly. Deep breaths please; this ship is not going down.
Carl Nassib leads the FBS in sacks, tackles for loss, and forced fumbles. He’s been selected as a finalist for the Bednarik Award, College Defensive Player of the Year. He’s also been a finalist and semifinalist for many other awards including one that recognized integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity. That sounds like an award made for a true Penn Stater.
And, is there a player in the world today who is tougher than Christian Hackenberg? That guy takes a licking and keeps on ticking. He gets up every single time he’s knocked down. I’ve never heard him publicly complain. He is one tough dude. Seriously.
Saquan Barkley rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. He’s now Penn State’s all-time leading freshman in that category, and number one rushing freshman in the country, as well. The way he soars over defenders is reminiscent of some of the Penn State greats. He is undoubtedly an exciting player to watch over the next several years.
That’s only three of our many, many bright spots. All of our guys show up day in and day out, playing the best they can even when the game is falling apart. There’s plenty of hope here folks.
I don’t know how I feel about the news of John Donovan getting fired. I know I don’t like to see anybody get fired, especially in the midst of the holiday season. It does seem a bit like the mob was calling for somebody’s head and the offensive coordinator got thrust forward. Was it the right call? I’m not the one who knows that answer.
I do know that I won’t lose my head after an ugly loss. I won’t judge someone whose shoes I have not walked in.
I’m not a player. I’m not a coach. I’m a diehard loyal Penn State fan and I have the privilege of sharing my thoughts with all of you. My job is to show up as the most loyal supporter I can be. Some days I’m frustrated. Some days I’m hopeful. All days I’m proud to be part of the past, present, and future of our university. We Are Penn State.