I so wanted to see us come out swinging on Saturday. To paraphrase Saquon’s postgame interview: ‘jab, jab, jab, and a haymaker when they’re leaning the wrong way.’ I wasn’t in the stadium but the reaction to the opening kickoff was a collective groan heard round the world. By the time the score was six to zero, I was wondering if we had lost all of our fight. In fact, I was bracing myself for this season to slowly self-destruct. The Fight Song sounded more like a plea than a cheer.
But then, thankfully, finally, something happened. We woke up, or a spark ignited, or we remembered the fight deep down in our hearts. Two passes, a run, and we were back on top. Patience, resilience, and confidence returned to the field and never looked back. Thirty-five unanswered points to prove we will fight on yet.
You probably remember Joey Julius, our former kicker affectionately dubbed as “Big Toe” before he left the team due to his struggle with depression and eating disorders. Joey took his fight off the field. He recently gave a speech highlighting his challenges and progress over the last year, in which he admitted that didn’t find the “Big Toe” nickname so enjoyable. He understandably wanted his skill and not his weight to be the focus. That’s a reminder to me and to all of us that just because we mean something favorably, doesn’t always mean it’s taken that way. One of my favorite teacher writers recently wrote that he doesn’t practice the so-called Golden Rule: treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Instead, he strives to treat others they way THEY would like to be treated. Joey ended his speech with the phrase, “compare and despair.”
This season is an excellent one. We can compare it to our high expectations and despair that it didn’t match up, or we can celebrate our many successes. We can look at our change in rankings, compare it to the discrepant changes of other programs and despair, or we can lift up our own team’s awards and accomplishments.
Curtis Cothran said in his postgame interview, “if everybody does their job on each play it works out.” As fans, we worried that our team had lost their fight and that they didn’t have it in them to come back from two tough, tough losses and win. But they did. Now our job is to do the same. To have the resiliency we demand of our players. To show up and support this team. To prove that our Penn State family will surround them with positive energy. To demonstrate that we haven’t given up either.
We all got a little distracted, a bit off track. We all needed to return to our fundamentals, to be patient, to demonstrate our resilience. With the mental mistakes cleaned up, as well as adjustments made on the field, in the stands, and on our couches, we can finish this season with the confidence with which we began.
Fight on State. Strike your gait and win. Victory we predict for thee. We’re ever true to you, dear old White and Blue!