A Season Forward and Backward: the 2007 Nittany Lions

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A Season Forward and Backward: the 2007 Nittany Lions

Now that Penn State’s regular season is over, let’s take a look back on the '07 season—a season full of troubles on and off the field.

The Nittany Lions began the season riding high, following a convincing season-ending win over Tennessee in the Outback Bowl to end the 2006 campaign.

As Derrick Williams put it following the game, "We expect nothing less than a national championship next year. Anything less would be a disappointment."

Thousands of Nittany Lion faithful—and of course the media—echoed Williams’ comments. There were comparisons to the 1994 offensive juggernaut led by Kerry Collins (winner of the Davey O’Brien award for best quarterback), Ki-Jana Carter (runner-up in Heisman voting and first overall pick in the NFL draft), and All-Americans Bobby Engram and Kyle Brady.

Students at the university also recall the 2005 team, led by senior Michael Robinson, and a stalwart defense led by All-American Paul Posluszny.

This year’s squad lost just Posluszny, Tim Shaw, Donnie Johnson, Nolan McCready, Jim Shaw (no relation), Ed Johnson, and Jay Alford from the defense, Levi Brown, BranDon Snow, Tony Hunt, Chris Auletta, and Robert Price from the offense and Jeremy Kapinos from the special teams.

Many thought that quarterback Anthony Morelli’s performance in the Outback Bowl proved he was turning a corner in his maturity and would develop into a top passer.

Penn State breezed through their weak non-conference schedule, highlighted by a 31-10 thrashing of Notre Dame (who currently stands at 1-8) in the first-ever "White House."

A chance to defeat Michigan seemed within their reach for a first time in a decade, after the Wolverines were shocked by Appalachian State and annihilated by Oregon in the Big House.

However, Ryan Mallett and Michael Hart had other ideas, and Michigan was able to come away with a 14-9 victory.

A trip to Illinois produced similar results. Penn State’s vaunted defense struggled in the first half, and an overtaxed special-teams unit allowed fabulous freshman Arrelious Benn to take a kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown.

However, Morelli played extremely well, passing for 298 yards and marching the Lions down the field on two long scoring drives to keep the game close. But the PSU offense could not replicate their successes in the second half, as Morelli threw three interceptions and fumbled away a key first down inside the Illinois ten yard-line, clinching the game for Ron Zook’s Illini.

IconPenn State bounced back with dominating wins over Iowa and Wisconsin at home before obtaining their first victory away from Beaver Stadium against Indiana, despite a heroic effort by the Hoosiers’ James Hardy.

The top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes then hosted the Nittany Lions, and when the final gun sounded in Columbus, it was clear who was number one in the Big Ten.

The Lions' final three contests—against Purdue, Temple, and Michigan State—served as a microcosm of the entire season. At home against Purdue, Penn State overcame Dorien Bryant's electric game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown, and eked out a 26-19 win—thanks in large part to redshirt freshman Evan Royster’s 126 yards on 21 carries, not to mention Maurice Evans' 2.5 sacks.

Temple next awaited the Nits at "The Linc" in Philadelphia. While the outcome of the game was never in doubt, Penn State struggled to dominate the Owls like they were expected to, allowing Temple to get deep inside the red zone several times before forcing stops or turnovers.

The final regular-season game was against first-year coach Mark Dantonio's Spartans. Penn State started sluggishly, but was aided by a solid running game by Rodney Kinlaw, The Lions built a 17-point lead by the third quarter, only to see it disappear—in large part due to conservative offensive playcalling and prevent-type defense, not to mention shoddy tackling.

The pivotal play was a fourth-and-17 for MSU: Running back Jehuu Caulcrick was hemmed in on the right side of the field, before he sprinted to the left and picked up the first down, crushing whatever momentum was left on the Nittany Lion sideline.

And with that last gasp, the Lions closed the book on 2007.

Many have called for JoePa to resign because he has lost control of the team. I believe that if you are a player who has been involved in the incidents, then whoever recruited you is at fault. Your high school coaches are at fault. Even your parents are at fault. Everyone makes mistakes, and the responsibility does not rest with one person. With that said, you do not belong at Penn State especially if you do not learn from your mistakes. Here’s to hoping that Penn State’s future is more intelligent and brighter than its present.

Here's hoping that Penn State’s future is more intelligent and brighter than its present.

In 2008, recruits like Brandon Beachum, Derek Moye,and Devon Still need to step in and remind their teammates: "May no act of ours bring shame, to one heart that loves Thy name."

This is one writer who loves Thy name. We are Penn State. For the Glory of Old State.

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