Nittany Lions Reflect On What This Championship Means To Penn State
“Nobody believed in us but us. We had one goal at the beginning of the season, and we did it,” senior receiver Gregg Garrity said in the locker room. “We’ve been talking about Penn State being back, and Penn State’s here to stay.”
Garrity’s right. Nobody believed that these Nittany Lions, in what was supposed to be their first season of bowl eligibility according to the sanctions, would reach this pinnacle of a 38-31 Big Ten Championship win over Wisconsin so soon, if ever. Ohio State and Michigan were seen as the indomitable titans of the East, but neither was up on stage hoisting that trophy in Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday night. It was James Franklin and Penn State.
“It’s a dream,” Garrity said. “We all worked so hard. We always believed in ourselves when no one else did. We stuck together through, they say, the darkest times in college football. Hopefully now a lot more people believe in us, cause like I said before, we’re here to stay.”
Prior to his junior year, Garrity traded in No. 82 for his dad’s iconic No. 19. Gregg Garrity, Sr., of course, is the author of “The Catch” that gave Penn State its first national championship. That highlight reel touchdown toss from Todd Blackledge to a diving Garrity helped the Nittany Lions run away from No. 1 Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl, 27-23.
“Just to put on the blue and white each day is humbling in itself — being a part of this great tradition here. But to also represent my dad and my family, it’s just an honor. I’m so blessed and thankful for this opportunity.”
Penn State’s 24-17 loss to the Bulldogs in last season’s Taxslayer Bowl propelled this team to greatness. Now, Garrity and the Nittany Lions have their loftiest goals in full sight. Washington won in convincing fashion Friday night. Both Alabama and Clemson took care of their respective opponents on Championship Saturday, leaving the table set for a historic Selection Sunday. With the nation’s toughest conference title in its back pocket, Penn State has done everything it could possibly be asked to do since that Sept. 24 setback to Michigan.
“It’s an amazing feeling, man, to be a part of something so special,” Mark Allen said after the game. “We worked so hard throughout the offseason — been working all our lives, really. Shocked the world, but we knew it all along — deep down in ourselves — that we could do it.”
Allen discussed the vision that Franklin laid out for Penn State when he arrived in January, 2014 and what it means to be in this position.
“We all believed in him. Once we had the whole team on the right path, on the right page; and this year we saw that our team is more together than ever. Under James Franklin, a lot of things are possible. We showed that today.”
Redshirt freshman left tackle Ryan Bates, a key cog in the Matt Limegrover-led turnaround of this offensive line, reflected on what these Nittany Lions have been through. For one of the youngest teams in college football, this is just the beginning.
“We’ve had a lot of things change in the past year, and I think it was change for the better,” Bates said. “Seeing where we are now — we’re a young team — and what we could be, it’s scary seeing what we could do.”