Forgive the pun, but with all due respect to our opponent, I had to do it. There is not a thing related to a potato in ‘Vandals,’ their athletic nickname (which by the way is pretty darn cool) but come on, it’s Idaho for crying out loud! With the whiff of tailgates brewing in the air all week long, most of us could relate to Idaho and the sweet taste of that scrumptiously mashed, smashed, french fried, diced, and sliced potato that everybody adores one way or another.
All things considered, consider it is a good thing that we can kick off the 2019 Penn State football season with a little bit of humor and lightheartedness. Maybe it just comes with the territory of surviving another long off-season. It wasn’t that long ago that some of us were being talked off the ledge, fallen prey to some spacey, new, bizarro world full of transfer portals and what could have beens. It was downright scary at times but as always, we persevered and stand tall at the gates of a new era. In more ways than one I might add, and it includes all of us.
It’s not just the newly crowned QB in Sean Clifford, or a wiser, more mature version of Micah Parsons that signifies this new era. It’s not just Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Slade daring defenses to catch him, Justin Shorter finally ready for liftoff, or even the massive youth movement that’s taken place right before our eyes. All those add intrigue individually but collectively, what it signifies is the next step in the…process. Dare I say, to become elite. I know, I know, we thought ‘the process’ James Franklin used to pound in our heads ran its course way back when Saquon was busy mesmerizing linebackers. But yet, through all the ebb and flow of this particularly peculiar off-season, that phrase became meaningful once more.
Don’t let Franklin’s charming smile and witty banter fool you, somewhere lurking deep in the shadows is a savage mentality. Everything that went down this off-season was calculated and by design. The best part of all, he warned us how hard it was going to be way back on October 29th after another one-point loss to “you know who.” Snicker all you want at the post-game tirade but if there’s one person that actually believed what was being said, it was the man that said it. After this time spent together, do you really think he’s a guy that’s satisfied with what went down on fourth and five? He wasn’t then, he’s not now, and everything that’s happened since has been building for this moment. If you haven’t bought in, then you might as well go root (or play) for someone else. See what I’m saying?
So here WE ARE today, on the eve of kickoff. The Countdown is wrapped up for another year. Who else but KJ Hamler ringing in the one-day-to-go spot and all that’s left is a tussle with the Vandals. Make no mistake, this is no App State rolling into Happy Valley. If Game one goes as last year’s did, then we’re in a world of hurt. I don’t think that will happen. No, our tests are further on up the road. This one is strictly to get our feet wet. For prediction purposes, I’ll be conservative and predict an easy 38-0 shutout; nothing cute, nothing fancy, as the Nittany Lions make smashed potatoes out of Idaho. As we stand here at the dawn of a new era with visions of championships dancing in our heads, I remind you, it’s going to take us bringing our ROAR as much as the players dominating the game to get where we all want to be.