Well, the regular season may have taken its final breath, but the world of college football never rests. No sooner had Penn State settled back in at Happy Valley did the down season take off running. Big Ten Conference honors started rolling in on Tuesday and the inevitable reared its ugly head as news came in that Offensive Coordinator, Joe Moorhead, accepted a job as head coach at Mississippi State. Goodbyes are never easy, but this one was bound to happen eventually, so save your anger and thank the man for giving us one heck of a ride. After all, that is the ‘Penn State Way,’ is it not?
As for the ones that make the wheels go ‘round, All-Conference selections were announced this week and it’s littered with Nittany Lions. Shaka Toney earned a nod on the All-Freshman team while Tariq Castro-Fields, Will Fries, Yetur Gross-Matos, Shane Simmons, and Lamont Wade all garnered honorable mention nods. On Special Teams, Saquon Barkley earned first-team honors by both the coaches and media. Punter Blake Gilliken landed on the second team, and punt returner DeAndre Thompkins was named second team by the coaches and third by the media.
Marcus Allen led the defense with first-team coaches’ honors (second team media), Amani Oruwaryie was a second-team selection in both, Jason Cabinda was second-team coaches (honorable mention media) and Shareef Miller earned third team honors by the coaches. Grant Haley, Curtis Cothran, Parker Cothren, and Troy Apke all landed on the honorable mention team.
On offense, Barkley was a unanimous first-team selection and Mike Gesicki picked up first-team honors by the media and a second-team nod by the coaches. Trace McSorley was a second-team pick in both and DaeSean Hamilton landed on the coaches second team (third media). Ryan Bates earned third-team honors and Juwan Johnson was named honorable mention. Last but not least, our unsung hero, Brandon Smith, was named a Sportsmanship Award honoree.
Record-breaking tight end Mike Gesicki has been named a finalist for the Mackey Award for the nation’s best at his position and King ‘Quon is a finalist in no less than 5 national awards including the Paul Hornung Award, the Maxwell Award, the Doak Walker Award, the Walter Camp Trophy, and the Silver Football. We find out on December 3rd if he is invited to the Big Apple for the Heisman Trophy presentation, coincidently the same day we find out our bowl destination and opponent.
The loss of Moorhead is bittersweet, but it’s a testament to our program and the direction we’re headed. When the mighty SEC comes knocking on the door, consider that a compliment. Things may not have gone exactly as planned this year, those four points of separation are just as bittersweet, if not more, than our OC heading south. But, Penn State sits at No. 9 today, with a handful in front of us set to battle it out this weekend. It’s not inconceivable that we may find ourselves back inside the Top-5 when all is said and done, with a win in late-December and some timely losses. For that we can thank Joe Moorhead for all his hard work and dedication, appreciate those players that make the wheels go ‘round, and understand the architect of it all, James FrankLion, has made his home in Happy Valley and is here for the long haul. Saying goodbye is never easy, but there is much to be thankful for this Holiday season for the Blue and White faithful!