“Besides pride, loyalty, discipline, heart, and mind, confidence is the key to all the locks.” – Joe Paterno
It’s certainly felt like we’ve been locked out this season. I’ve held onto hope each new Saturday, but I have to admit I’ve had less and less confidence in Penn State’s ability to win. To win a game after an 0-5 start is difficult to say the least. It’s in your head at that point. Losing has become a habit, and that winning feeling is all but forgotten.
Saturday felt different. How pleasantly surprising to see Penn State finally show up from the first play of the game. Our first drive ended with a touchdown, we held the lead at halftime, and we weren’t responsible for any turnovers! Important plays were made when they were needed: Drew Hartlaub recovered Michigan’s muffed punt and the offense turned it into points and the defense came up with a big fourth down stop to ensure the win.
This was our first win at Michigan since 2009. With injuries and medical conditions, our team seems to be getting younger and this week three true freshmen, Keyvone Lee, Parker Washington and Theo Johnson, accounted for more than half the yards on offense. We also had veteran players like Isaac Lutz step up. He said, “I’ve just been trying to get better every day so that it would put me in a position to be able to do things like this.” His opportunity came and he was ready to make three catches for thirty yards.
I was particularly impressed with the team’s response to that most ridiculous penalty. It makes absolutely zero sense as a rule, let alone a call at that point in the game. I was certain that “Illegal batting” was about to become the new “two seconds.” It’s always something with Michigan, isn’t it? But, this time it wasn’t. We didn’t lose this game to Michigan like we did in 2005. James Franklin touched on the “interesting call” in his press conference as well, saying that the team could have gotten bogged down by the call because it felt unfair. “But, life isn’t fair sometimes and you just gotta find a way to battle through it. We did that today.”
I know Michigan is terrible. Jim Harbaugh has been a disappointment. The Big House lacked its usual home crowd advantage. Of course there are still many mistakes to be corrected and areas to be improved. But, oh the sweet relief of victory in a season that began so poorly.
This win was so important for us. I’ve never doubted the Nittany Lions’ pride, loyalty, discipline, heart, or mind but team confidence has been hard to find. We’ve heard a bit of Sean Clifford’s overconfidence, in my opinion, but we haven’t seen evidence of a confident football team.
Beating Michigan shows this team has the ability to battle adversity even with limitations and challenges. They CAN win and they should move into next week with confidence that they can and will win again. Here’s hoping this team is able to carry their confidence into the final games of the season.