The Proof Is In The Pudding: Franklin Earns Elusive Signature Win
To say the odds were stacked against the Nittany Lions Saturday night would be the understatement of the century. Not only were the Lions 18-point home underdogs (the Lions have never been such heavy underdogs at home), but they squared up against arguably the best team in the nation save for Alabama. This is the same team that came into Norman and steamrolled the Oklahoma Sooners. This is the same team that had championship aspirations.
But Penn State believed. James Franklin believed. Tonight is the product of belief — there’s no other way to put it. But this win transcends football; the storming of Beaver Stadium was symbolic of the bond shared by students and alumni alike. “This community’s been through so much in the last five years,” Franklin said. “This is a big step in the right direction in terms of healing. I said this early on that for us to get to where we want to be we’d need this entire community together. A win like tonight — and I know I’m biased — but I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else.” That’s exactly what football did tonight.
Nobody would’ve thought this program could’ve been capable of such a dramatic victory after being decimated by Michigan. Everybody wrote this program off; there was no hope, no bright outlook. It seemed as though the team’s fate was already sealed. But it didn’t matter what was said on the outside. The team took the loss and gained something from it. Position-mates began studying film in their free time and players made it their goal to improve and grow — none of this was mandated by coach Franklin. The result? Progress.
“That was definitely the lowest point of our season,” Trace McSorley said. “Since that game, we’ve taken ownership in preparing on our own. Getting guys in, watching film as units — offense, defense, special teams. Receivers met with quarterbacks, and running backs with the offensive line. We’re able to watch film together and know what we’re getting into heading into that week of practice.”
A season that was essentially finished has been reinvigorated with new life. The Lions are now tied for second place in the Big Ten and have all but spoiled Ohio State’s chances at returning to the College Football Playoff barring any of the top four losing anytime soon. James Franklin can finally tell his naysayers that he took down not just any ranked opponent, but the No. 2 program in the country. This win sent a statement. Penn State is back; nobody wins a game like this through sheer luck. It takes a good amount of skill, obviously, but it takes a certain willingness to outlast your opponent.
This win is special. The program executed a complete 180, and it all starts with preparation. Looking ahead at the schedule, there’s no doubt — health willing — that the Lions could rip through the rest of this schedule and finish the season in a place the program hasn’t been in a long time. Not to be overly optimistic, but after watching this team tonight — anything’s possible.
The proof is in the pudding. This win is just the start. There’s a different vibe around Happy Valley.