No less than three people reminded me of the change in game time this past Saturday. I had been a bit, ah, forgetful about the Rutgers game and I was worried about missing this one. In my defense, it’s kind of weird watching Penn State football in December. This was the latest game in the year in Beaver Stadium history. Just another addition to a season of weirdness.
I worried at the start of this season that we’d lost our heart, our confidence, and our ability to find success on the field. And even after two wins, I worried again in the first half of the Michigan State game that we’d lost it all. I’m sure I’m not alone in that; the Nittany Lions had trailed at halftime five times this season and lost all five times.
Five times yes, but not six. And I’m so proud of this team for rallying. If nothing else this season, we’ve got to give this team credit for resilience. They didn’t quit on themselves when they started with five straight losses and they didn’t quit with a 21-10 deficit going into halftime against the Spartans, even with everybody watching in doubt.
For Penn State fans everywhere, knowing that nobody believed in their team and watching the Lions score 29 points in the second half while holding Michigan State to a mere three anyway was thirty full minutes of pride. And Jahan Dotson’s punt return for a touchdown? I’ve watched that highlight and the clip of the team celebrating it over and over. The battle, the belief, the brotherhood. In the grand scheme of college football, that moment is just a blip, but for us in this season it’s triumph.
Senior Day always has me a bit emotional. I enjoy watching younger players break out into the spotlight and following their growth over the years. I love hearing the stories of older players who have played loyal and supportive roles consistently and without the limelight. It’s bittersweet when their Penn State career comes to an end.
Before the game, Penn State honored seniors Trevor Baker, Jaquan Brisker, Tariq Castro-Fields, Will Fries, Carson Landis, Isaac Lutz, Michael Menet, Antonio Shelton, Shane Simmons, Shaka Toney, Lamont Wade, and Benjamin Wilson. In a year in which we’ve all missed so much, it’s those that are in milestone years that I really feel for. To be a senior and have to walk around the stadium and enjoy your last home game with no fans there is such a disappointment. I’m proud of these seniors, who faced challenges in their final season unlike any other.
I think this season will bond this particular group of players, and our entire program in ways only sacrifice and struggle can. Players, coaches, and staff have followed strict protocols to ensure the safety and health and continuation of the football season.
In his post game conference James Franklin asserted, “I’m proud of the entire organization and how they’ve handled tremendous adversity and thankful for the people behind the scenes that have sacrificed so much for this to work.”
I hope we can continue the winning streak next week and whatever lies beyond. Even if we can’t, we’ve been reminded that Penn State has a lot to be proud of. It’s an honor to be part of this Lions Pride.