Oh Penn State. The last three games have been heartbreaking, logic defying, and just plain disappointing. It’s tough to know what to say at this point.
I’ve written a lot about losing to Ohio State the past few years. All of those blogs have taken the theme of “success with honor” to bring us back to the heart of the program. What is it about Ohio State that has me ruminating on The Grand Experiment? Could it be… the losing?
I think it’s the reaction to the losing. There’s a fine line between loyally discussing areas of improvement and cranky armchair coaching, and I’m acutely aware of it. Win or lose, I want us to be the type of football culture that ascribes to the philosophy Joe Paterno laid out in his 1973 graduation speech:
“We work hard to achieve our goals and when Saturday comes and we walk on the grass in this stadium, we stand as a team. We tighten up our belts. We look across at our opponents. We say, ‘Come on, let’s go. Let’s see how good you are. Let’s play.’ We are ready... If we win, great, wonderful—and the alumni are happy for another week. But, win or lose, it is the competition which gives us pleasure.”
I am determined to enjoy the competition above all else. We may have lost to the Buckeyes (again) but our Lions showed up to battle. With the return of a healthy Sean Clifford, we gave Ohio State a fight no one expected. Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington, and Keandre Lambert-Smith made some stellar catches; Dotson surprised us with the “Wild Warren” for a rushing TD. The defense contained most of Ohio State’s explosive plays and held them to way less points then they were used to putting up. Jordan Stout put in a solid performance, despite the missed field goal. A best effort is not a perfect effort.
In a presser early last week, Coach Franklin said, "I think I have shown my loyalty to this team, to this program, to this community. I think I’ve been pretty consistent with that... So I am fiercely loyal to Penn State.” Even after this third loss, I remain fiercely loyal to Penn State, too. But, I might be the only one I know still in James Franklin’s corner.
In 2018 I wrote that I supported our coach though, “Clearly I’m not as confident in him as I was in JoePa—call me after you’ve got 60 years of success with honor under your belt—but I do believe James Franklin could be the real deal. And I believe James Franklin is the kind of person who not only wants to, but will, continue to search and learn and improve.”
In 2019 I wrote, “I believe in our program. I believe in the kind of person James Franklin is and the standards he sets for his players.”
Am I wrong? Maybe. But, I still believe those words. I want to stick with Franklin as much as I want to stick with this team. Even if it’s sacrilege to prefer a striving team over an elite one. Even if it makes me look naive. Even if I’m the only one.
Here I remain, ever true to you Dear Old White and Blue. I’ll never give up hope. Fingers crossed, positive energy, and winning vibes for next weekend. Go State Beat the Terrapains!