We’ve heard nary a peep from Happy Valley this fall. After the exhausting coverage of the horrors that took place at Penn State, that’s been a very welcome thing.
The just-concluded regular season has been filled with so many echoes waking, unbeatens shockingly falling within hours of each other and Johnny Football coming from nowhere. Yet, perhaps the best story comes from Penn State. That should be talked about.
We don’t need to rehash the reasons the Nittany Lions were expected to be a devastated program that would win a game or two for years. The recruiting base would be destroyed and poor Bill O’Brien would rue the day he gave up being yelled at by Tom Brady for this.
The season opened with a home loss to Ohio—not the Urban Meyer-led Buckeyes of Ohio State but the feared Bobcats of Ohio University. That was followed by a loss to Virginia, another program not to be feared. It sure looked like that one or two win season was underway.
Instead, they went 8-2 the rest of the way, with losses only to unbeaten Ohio State and Big Ten championship game participant Nebraska. Along the way, the Lions beat 24th ranked Northwestern and the other team in the Big 10 title game, Wisconsin.
Sanctions, defections and a black cloud—all were expected to devastate a once proud program that couldn’t possibly hold its head high for the foreseeable future. That's where O'Brien comes in.
It’s the most remarkable coaching job I’ve ever seen. Yes, I said it. I don’t care about Xs and Os. I don’t know that much about Xs and Os. The more important part of coaching is leadership, creating a culture and inspiring. O’Brien can’t get enough credit for the job he did this year, winning more games than any previous Penn State first-year coach.
The players also deserve a ton of credit. Especially the 22 seniors who stayed and fought together with their heads held high.
Quarterback Matt McGloin led the way by completing 60 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He set records this year for completions and yards in a season. He leaves with Penn State career records for most touchdowns, career 300-yard games, career 200-yard games and consecutive 200-yard games.
A pair of sophomores give the team reason to look forward to next year. Zach Zwinak was the leading rusher with 1000 yards and a 4.9 per-carry average. Allen Robinson led the receivers with 77 catches for 1018 yards and 11 touchdowns.
It’s OK to credit this Penn State team. It’s okay to root for them—I am.
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