On the Big Ten Conference’s biggest stage, the Nittany Lions seized their opportunity and proved themselves to the rest of America. They roared back from a three-touchdown deficit and etched their names into our collective hearts forever with the 38-31 victory over Wisconsin. They claimed the most improbable, and raised a championship trophy high above their heads. Led by the beating heart on offense and a bend but not break D, not to mention a boisterous crowd decked out in Penn State white, it became obvious that this team was hungry. In the end, the announcers were forced to welcome everyone back to Camelot and the rest of the country had no other choice but to accept and respect that we were back amongst the elite.
Just a few weeks ago, I started to proclaim the happy back in Happy Valley. On this night, those who chose to cheer our supposed demise finally took notice. On this night, the mighty Lettermen of past glory were proud spectators as they bore witness to a new era of brothers in Blue and White that carried the torch. LaVar Arrington may have opened the pregame introductions to those of us watching from home and in the stands, but it was a new #11, Brandon Bell, that made a LaVar-esque leap of his own when the Penn State D needed a big-time stop. On this night, Chris Godwin was the opponents sole focus it seemed, so Saeed Blacknall and DaeSean Hamilton turned up the heat and made those Badgers pay the ultimate price. On this night, the beating heart of the offense, Trace McSorley, was christened the Wizard of Camelot in front of a national audience for his four-touchdown, gutsy, lights-out MVP performance. This team has taken on his identity, we’ve seen enough to know its more than just a fluke. They scrap, they claw, they play with grit. They never gave up, no matter how lopsided the score. The small pockets of red throughout the stadium could only watch in dismay. Those attributes showed up against Pitt early in the season, but in truth, we all saw a glimpse for the first time back in January during the second-half of the Taxslayer Bowl. It was a comeback bid that fell just short, but ever since then this team has morphed into the “Comeback Kids,” the never-say-die Nittany Lions that simply would not be denied, and now they have the trophy to prove it.
In the end, some would say that destiny fell just one position short, but I say that destiny is far from finished. For two years, Coach Franklin never wavered as he pleaded with us all to trust the process. On Sunday afternoon, we learned our fate as the newly crowned Big Ten Champs, and found ourselves on the outside looking in, sitting at the fifth spot of a four-team playoff. As much as Penn State deserved a shot, especially when we beat the team that made it in head-to-head, the image of Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delaney, handing over that trophy to a victorious squad of Nittany Lions the night before was priceless. Being snubbed on Sunday was nothing new. We felt that sting in ’68 and ’69, ’73, and ’94 and instead make our return to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. Not a bad consolation prize at all for a team that was unranked and looking for direction at the end of September. A battle awaits between two of college footballs proudest members, Penn State and USC, on the hallowed grounds of the Granddaddy of Them All. No, destiny did not abandon us in the final minute, in fact destiny is all part of the process, an ongoing process that is only in its infancy. Welcome back to Camelot, my friends!