All Isn’t Lost: Why Penn State Still Has A Lot To Play For

You win some, you lose some. As Jim Carrey’s character in “Bruce Almighty” famously said, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.” Sure, it’s never fun to watch a hard-fought, albeit sloppy, game slip through Penn State’s grasp on a last-second field goal, but there are still plenty of reasons to be excited. All is certainly not lost.

But first, let’s get the ugly aspects of last Saturday’s deflating loss to Northwestern in Evanston out of the way. Primarily, James Franklin’s clock management skills could use some polishing, as evidenced by his head-scratching move to not call a timeout sooner on the Wildcats’ final drive.

Also, special teams deficiencies continue to be a major inhibition to this team’s success. Giving up a 96-yard kickoff return to the house by Solomon Vault (what a name), immediately following Saquon Barkley’s second-quarter touchdown to draw within six of the lead, was a huge blow that Penn State struggled to brush off before making a furious comeback.

12193558_10154248316800663_1486617406313789550_nChristian Hackenberg and Nick Scott prepare for the snap against Northwestern.

Okay, that’s enough ranting for this week. This is supposed to be positive, and that’s exactly what’s coming up next.

Despite falling to 7-3 (4-2 B1G), let’s remember the Nittany Lions just wrapped up a grueling ten-game marathon; no easy task considering some of the opponents they faced during that stretch. Thankfully, Penn State finally has a chance to rest up and get as healthy as possible during its bye week.

All of this in preparation for the Nov. 21 Senior Day White Out clash with Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. And it’ll be a good one, even if the unpopular decision of a noon kick is made by ESPN.

Former walk-on defensive end Carl Nassib passed Aaron Maybin for the all-time single-season Penn State sacks record this past weekend, stretching his gaudy total to 15.5 against the Wildcats. Nassib and five of his fellow classmates make up the last players in program history with a tie to Joe Paterno. Anthony Zettel, Angelo Mangiro, Kyle Carter, Ben Kline, and Matt Zanellato being the others. Surely the 34th-youngest team in the nation by average player class will claw tooth and nail to send these seniors out with a win in their last home game at Beaver Stadium.

12226926_10154248186410663_4581687332731661086_nCarl Nassib (No. 95) and Anthony Zettel look to finish their college careers with a bang.

Plus, upsets over both of “the Michigan schools,” including freshly-beaten, yet dangerous Michigan State, would look fantastic on the Nittany Lions’ resume when the respective committees go about selecting postseason matchups. While a New Year’s Six bowl is out of the question at this point, and it would almost certainly take a pair of wins and some outside help to reach one of the Big Ten’s premier destinations, there’s still a good chance Penn State could find itself playing in a respectable game.

The Foster Farms Bowl, held in sunny Santa Clara, Calif., would pit the Nittany Lions up against a Pac-12 opponent, and if the wild #pac12afterdark moniker has taught us anything, this one would provide some fireworks. The National University Holiday Bowl also takes place in the Golden State (San Diego to be exact), and would offer up another interesting Pac-12 showdown. There’s even the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against an SEC school, which would make for an interesting storyline considering it’s held in Nashville, Tn., home to Franklin’s “previous institution,” Vanderbilt.

12196196_10154248317135663_638961949667554014_nSaquon Barkley (No. 26) is closing in on the 1,000-yard mark and B1G Freshman of the Year.

It’s true, none of these games will be mistaken as must-see television for those without a rooting interest or affiliation with either program, and Penn State could very well play in a different a postseason contest altogether, but at least the Nittany Lions are headed to their second-straight bowl in what was supposed to be the last year of the sanctions. And, as Franklin benevolently states, a bowl means they can “keep the family together” a few more weeks and get in some all-important extra practice.

The fan base of a historically great institution will undoubtedly expect its team to contend for the College Football Playoff each season, but Penn State isn’t there quite yet. That’s not to say it’s out of the realm of possibility as soon as next year, but let’s focus on the task at hand; cheering on our favorite black shoes and basic blues to three-straight wins and a storybook ending.

About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected]

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