Penn State experienced a death in their family with the firing of Joe Paterno, and Tom Bradley’s effort to maintain the Nittany Lions’ focus deserves a standing ovation.
Forget the scandal which led to Penn State firing Paterno for just one second. If the university had its own Mount Rushmore, it would feature four JoePa heads on it. No active head coach in all of college sports is the face of not only their team, but also their entire school, like Paterno was.
After losing their legendary head coach, a man who every player on that Nittany Lion team looked up to like a father, taking on a strong Nebraska team seemed like a lost cause.
Now, combine that loss with the jaw-dropping circumstances that it occurred under, and “death wish” seems like a more appropriate description than “lost cause.”
Penn State looked well on their way to being massacred by the Cornhuskers when Bradley channeled his inner Mickey Goldmill and kept the young players’ focus.
According to The New York Times, Bradley talked about the upcoming contest in a Thursday news conference saying:
“We’re obviously in a very unprecedented situation. I just have to find a way to restore the confidence and to start a healing process with everybody. I am going to try and go about it. As I said earlier, it is with very mixed emotions and a heavy heart that this has occurred, that we are going through this.
"We have great leadership on this football team. My job is to make sure they stay focused. Obviously, they have had a tremendous amount of distractions over the past week. It is a very resilient group.”
Bradley definitely did his job on Saturday afternoon. Down 17-0 in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions easily could’ve given up, but Bradley ignited a furious comeback that came up just short. Penn State scored 14 unanswered points, but failed to complete the rally.
The still in-awe Penn State team may have lost a key Big Ten battle, but under the given circumstances, Bradley and the entire football squad deserves praise, not criticism.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer. Follow him on Twitter.