Penn State plays Iowa today in what’s the latest biggest game of the season. I’m not super optimistic, but I’m hopeful.
A few weeks ago after the surprise defeat of Ohio State, two articles caught my eye. The first, by Chris Low, was originally titled “Joy comes to Happy Valley…“:
For Franklin, the last 2½ years probably seemed more like dog years, as he weathered massive scholarship reductions and back-to-back 7-6 seasons in his first two with the Nittany Lions.
His eyes were still moist 20 minutes after the game, as he soaked it all in.
“I don’t even know that you can explain it, everything this program has been through the last five years,” Franklin told ESPN.com. “No one understands what we’re still going through. Nobody understands, so to see us all come together as a family and as a community, we don’t do that by ourselves. It took all 107,000 fans in there going crazy.” …
It was Franklin’s first win over a nationally ranked foe since he arrived in Happy Valley in 2014, and he had been as frustrated as anybody that some of the Nittany Lions’ gains in the program had not translated into more wins on the field.
“We’ve redshirted kids,” Franklin said. “We’ve tried to build this for the long term, and there are times that I question if I should have done that. But it was the right thing to do for Penn State, and it’s also the right thing for us.”
The second is from Onward State. It explains why a healthy, star player was absent from the field for the first half against Ohio State:
“Garrett [Sickels] has been a model citizen for us for three years,” Franklin told SB Nation. “We just had a situation where we had a bye week and some guys wanted to get home early for the long weekend. He ended up not going to a class.” …
“I’ve been in a lot of places where you put the right guys on the field regardless, so there’s nothing better than when you can reinforce that type of message and still win. That carries a lot of weight,” Franklin said following the game. “He came out and played with his hair on fire, and then he’s the first person to grab me at the end of the game and tells me he loves me.”
In miniature, this paints the whole portrait of Penn State football. It’s an approach pioneered by Joe Paterno. It’s the Grand Experiment, it’s Success with Honor, and now it’s apparently so fundamental to the Penn State way that it doesn’t even have a name under James Franklin. It’s just “the way we do things.” That’s great to see.