First of all, I’d like to offer an apology. You see, I could have had this all wrapped up on Saturday for your reading enjoyment but instead I spent the day in withdrawal watching all those other teams on TV. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to seem ungrateful since it actually was our Nittany Lions that ushered football in this weekend, but that “Friday Night Lights” experiment just seemed bizarro to me. It’s safe to say that after having gone through it now, we don’t ever want to have to go through that again unless it’s for a bowl game. Oh well, I’ll take a 63-24 conference opening victory all day long even if it was played on the wrong day. Now on to our Game Ball recipient…
Miles Sanders had as daunting a task as anyone in college football coming into the 2018 season: replacing SuperQuon Barkley. No one envies the job of stepping into the shoes of a legend and yet all off-season you could see the signs that Sanders was ready to tackle it head on and even relished the opportunity. He runs like a bull with nimble feet. He picks a hole and blasts through it like a rocket. On Friday night under the lights in Champaign, Illinois, he was nearly untouchable. Every time he had the ball tucked under his arm he made good things happen. He shredded the Illini defense to the tune of 200-yards, 3-touchdowns, and little-by-little completely erased the shadow that loomed over him from his predecessor. After four games, the question is no longer IF he can fill Saquon’s shoes. It’s clear that Miles Sanders is beginning to create a legacy of his own and he gets this week’s Game Ball as a small token of my appreciation and respect.
Of course, any running back will tell you their success is only as good as that of the Big Uglies in the trenches. Our O-Line was supposed to dominate heading into the season and for the first time in far too long, we all witnessed that strength. They lead off our Helmet Stickers across the board for finally coming to life as Penn State nearly topped 400 yards rushing and pounded the rock on Friday night. Trace McSorley and Ricky Slade were beneficiaries as both scored touchdowns on the ground and nearly topped 100-yards apiece as well. Juwan Johnson showed back up just in time for this week’s showdown with the game we’ve all come to expect out of him and KJ Hamler continues to keep our jaws dropped.
The duo of Sean Clifford and Mac Hippenhammer struck once again on a deep ball and redshirt freshman, Journey Brown, pounded it in on the next play to add his name to our growing list of star players. Mike linebacker, Jan Johnson, had a nice game inside including an interception as did his backup Ellis Brooks. Shareef ‘The Beast’ Miller continues to make his case for alpha dog along the D-Line and Kevin Givens continues to wreak havoc in the middle. Last but not least, a Helmet Sticker goes to Brent Pry, our defensive coordinator, for whatever he does or says at halftime that transforms our D into a brick wall during the second half. If we could just string all four quarters together, Penn State would be frightening.
And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The preseason is over and the conference slate has begun. The Fighting Illini stood up but ultimately got smacked back down. We’re 4-0 and staring at our hardest test to date. There’s a heavyweight bout brewing on the horizon and it’s got a sea of white written all over it. Brace yourselves Nittany Nation, “Friday Night Lights” have come and gone but the bright lights and white nights of a Penn State blizzard are next on the docket!