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Game Day Observations: San Diego State

Penn State took out San Diego State 37-21 on Saturday in Beaver Stadium for its third home win in a row. I had the pleasure of observing parts of the game from both the field and the press box. Here are some observations I had:

  • Saquon Barkley is really, really good. His touchdown in the first quarter had some of everything; a spin move, an outrunning of the defenders, and a flying finish. Barkley is a human cheat code, and Penn State is lucky to have him. Check this out:

Unfortunately, Barkley didn’t play in the second half after hurting his ankle in the first. He was linping a little bit, but seemed ready to go if needed. Hopefully, keeping him out was more precautionary than anything. If Akeel Lynch’s injury is as serious as it appears — he was carried off the field and couldn’t put any weight on his left knee after it looked like the trainers were doing ligament testing on the field — this team will need Barkley more than ever.

  • Penn State showed the meaning of “team” on Saturday. Obviously the storyline of the day was Anthony Zettel and his family, and how well he played despite the devastating loss of his father on Friday night. What was even more encouraging was how well the defense played as a whole. The unit only gave up 14 points, and seven of those were set up by a Penn State fumble on a punt return attempt. The team also only allowed the Aztecs to gain just 242 yards on 63 plays, recorded five sacks, and forced three fumbles. The unit played to pick up its teammate, and in the process played in a way that would have made Terry Zettel proud. This Austin Johnson fumble recovery for a touchdown was one of the cooler things I’ve seen in a while, too. Look at the big man run! His reaction to scoring was great, if you haven’t seen it yet. 

  • I am not a college football coach, and probably never will be. With that being said, though, I don’t understand a lot of things that John Donovan does. In the fourth quarter, with our top two running backs out and Christian Hackenberg having a great game, Donovan called a running play that got stuffed. Our receivers had been getting separation, and Hackenberg was finding them. Why call a run? I don’t know. After a decent last few games, it’ll be interesting to see his play calling against better competition in Big Ten play.
  • I’ll admit, the Beaver Stadium sound guy (is it still @psuPJ?) is doing better than last year. But, it seems like “Trap Queen” is the new “We Dem Boyz.” How many times did we hear that on Saturday? “Trap Queen” and “Shut Up and Dance” are probably 25 percent of the soundtrack to football Saturdays in Happy Valley. If you’re going to play the abomination that is Fetty Wap, at least throw in some variety (I recommend “679”).
  • It seems that Sam Ficken’s replacement is quickly becoming just as beloved as Ficken himself. Joe Julius, the subject of two separate Nittanyville endzone banners, went 3-for-4 on field goals (a 55-yarder was blocked) and a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points. A note to the student section, though: You guys need to pick one chant and all stick with it. I heard chants of “Joey! Joey!”, “Big Toe Joe!”, and “Big Toe!” I’m all for supporting such an awesome player, but get on the same page with the chants.
  • Attendance surprised me in a few ways. About ten minutes into the game, the student section was full except for a few rows at the top. I was surprised and impressed at the turnout of students, despite it being a THON canning weekend on a home football weekend for the first time. Also, there were WAY more San Diego State fans than I anticipated being there. It makes sense, as Penn State is essentially a destination game for SDSU compared to some of its usual opponents in the Mountain West Conference, but either way, shoutout to the Aztec fans for traveling across the country to cheer on their team.
  • San Diego State’s helmets were DOPE. It was hard to see from a distance because the design was so intricate, but SDSU’s helmets were arguably the coolest helmet for a Penn State opponent I’ve seen in my time in State College. Look at these:


  • James Franklin made good on his promise. Back in February on National Signing Day, Franklin accidentally FaceTimed a Penn State fan instead of one of his newest commits. After the humorous exchange, Franklin said that he promised the fan, Aleem Medley, tickets to an upcoming game. Franklin did one better than just tickets though, as Medley was down on the field and helped the cheerleaders wave the “We Are” flag to start the “We Are Penn State” chant. It was cool to see Franklin come through on his promise, and Medley was visibly thrilled to be in Beaver Stadium for the first time.


  • The Blue Band sounds different this year, but I don’t think it’s their fault. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it sounds like the Blue Band is being played over the PA system when it plays. The Band itself is great as always, but the echoes in the stadium because of that get to be unbearable at times. Either don’t play the Band over the loudspeakers, or take a page out of Indiana’s book and install speakers into the stadium wall right below the band, and play the Band through those. Speakers directly below the band makes the sound coming from the Indiana band even and on-time throughout the stadium since it’s all coming from the same place, and it sounds better and louder.
  • We had a future mascot in our midst. Shoutout to this nine year old fan named Cole, who had the entire student section cheering in the first half while he did one-armed pushups alongside — and just as well as — the real Nittany Lion. It was awesome.

  • I’m glad I got to write this feature. After reading Game Day Observations as a freshman in 2011, I decided I wanted to write for Onward State. I named this series as my “favorite article” in my interview to join the OS staff, and three years after being hired, I’m finally writing one for myself. I think it’s pretty cool, and I’m really excited about it. I hope I did you proud, Kevin, and I hope all of our readers enjoyed it as well.

That’s all from this week. We’ll have another Observations post after next week’s Military Appreciation Day game against Army West Point.

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About the Author

Alex Robinson

Alex Robinson was Onward State's Acting Managing Editor/Resident Old Man. He lived in Harrisburg almost his whole life, but he says he's from California -- where he was born -- because that's more fun. He loves cats and Chinese food, but only separately. He met both Ben Affleck and Kanye West within a half hour, so the three of them are basically best friends. If you want to hear his #scorching #hot #takes, you can follow him at @ARobinsonPSU or email him at [email protected]


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