On Friday night I was wallowing in my sorrow with a severe case of the bye week blues when lo and behold, much to my pleasant surprise, I open up a local, small-town Virginia fish wrap and see the shiny, bald head of James Franklin staring at me. Even better was a caption that read ‘Penn State Coach James Franklin on course to win NCAA title.’ Let those words sink in for a minute. On course to win NCAA title. Don’t know about you, but those words are music to my ears.
Apparently, as we spent the past week in heated debate over 4thand 5 play calls and contemplating dire straits for a squad that just lost by one point to the Buckeyes, most of the rest of the country was busy raising eyebrows at what’s really going on here in Happy Valley. In fact, earlier in the day as I trolled a Michigan page that had posted the current Big Ten power rankings, which by the way we sit at a robust No. 2, the overall consensus was WE ARE just a few plays and a little more depth away from toppling those same Buckeyes that reign as kings of the Big Ten. More music to my ears on the gloomy bye-week weekend.
And yet all week long we were battling it out with each other as if we had 1stand goal at the 3-yard line with a National Championship on the line and the man has the nerve to call 4 straight up the middle. Oh wait, that was Joe versus ‘Bama in the 1979 Sugar Bowl. It’s nice that JoePa didn’t have social media to contend with back then but I’m sure he took a ton of heat at water coolers the following week. If my memory serves me well, Joe owned it in the aftermath and used it as motivation to climb up the mountain. And there was James Franklin late Saturday night with fire and brimstone in his eyes owning a call that probably should not have been. He was as passionate as we’ve ever seen him and said he’d take us from the lowly depths of ‘great’ into the wild blue yonder of ‘elite.’
As different as they both are as people, their paths in regards to victory are eerily similar as head coaches of Penn State. After slow starts, 10-11 and 12 win seasons are beginning to be the norm around here again. Much like those that bled Blue and White back in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, we are forced to grow with a leader that is still growing into his role. There are going to be moments like that 4thand 5 that will haunt us all season long much like 4 straight up the gut in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, but the payoff as we all know is what legends are made of. Somewhere up in the clouds, I suspect Joe is smiling down on us, partially because of how well his Nittany Lions have recovered and because James Franklin is now having to deal with the fickleness of a fan base that thinks they can do better when things don’t go well. It comes with the territory I suppose but Joe & James, it’s all the same as we make our way back to the top of the mountain!