Sunday, November 25, 2012

Penn State's 2012 football season was amazing, despite everything

This amazing season of Penn State football will be remembered long and well by Penn Staters, while others still struggle to grasp PSU and its football program

Rick and Ilsa had Paris. Penn State football will always have the unfettered joy of this victory over Wisconsin, and of this amazing renaissance season of unity, stoicism, defiance, resilience and excellence.

And the national media has its perverse version of events, too.

They are trying to alter perceptions already. Trying to change the storyline. Trying to obscure Penn State's surprising success in 2012, and trying to trump-up the auxiliary issues instead.

They are the ESPN.coms of the world, which couldn't let Penn State revel in the 24-21 season-ending overtime win over Wisconsin on Saturday for even a nanosecond. Because it doesn't fit their predetermined narrative.

Incredibly, chose to run as its primary story from the Penn State-Wisconsin game ... a piece about how Penn State football attendance declined in 2012.

That's right: Moments after PSU completed its amazing season, defying all predictions and expectations of everyone outside the program, winning 8 of its last 10 games, including a nailbiting, bone-chilling finale over a high-quality opponent, didn't prominently feature a story about the game. Or about Penn State's season. Instead it featured a decidedly negative story about attendance.

Penn State's football attendance is an issue - a complicated issue to write about next week. Or next month.

Saturday at 7:30pm it was not remotely the biggest storyline from this game, not unless there were 96,000 empty, instead of filled, seats at Beaver Stadium.

Or unless your motives are corrupt.

They of course will claim it was journalism. Just reporting the news. Well, their news report was absent the critical fact that Penn State's last two home games were played with school out of session - no students in town - a bizarre quirk which of course had a big impact on attendance.

It was an editorial disgrace. But that's what Penn State is up against. Still. There are those who maintain Penn State should not even have a football program right now.

The national media and general public still don't quite know what to make of Penn State and PSU football, for two reasons:
  1. The general public still largely completely misunderstands many elements of the Sandusky scandal - we won't get into the myriad ways in which they misunderstand it right now, but you know it, and it's largely the national media's, Louis Freeh's and Mark Emmert's fault.
  2. They just can't quite grasp the force that is Penn State football. The positive force.
You, Penn State football fan, know exactly how wonderful PSU football is, and how wonderful this 2012 team has been. Here are a few highlights:

  • Bill O'Brien. A worthy heir to Joe Paterno? Who knew such a person even existed?
  • The players who stayed and battled through the extraordinary adversity together (the NCAA allowing other schools to actively recruit Penn State players right before the season?!) and the crushing 0-2 start to win 8 of their next 10 games. Which could have been 10 of 10 if not for some terrible calls.
  • The reaffirmation that Penn State football always was about much more than football and winning. You knew that, of course, but after all that has transpired, and the relentless misguided media narrative, some had their doubts. No more, not after the season-long display of class and dignity by seniors such as Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti, Stephon Morris, Michael Zordich and Matt McGloin, by O'Brien and by the fan base (generally speaking - a few folks are a little nuts). Not after reading about all of the academic metrics at which PSU football continues to excel, and hearing about the child abuse organizations the team is supporting, etc.
So, the 2012 Penn State football season has been pretty dang amazing.

The replacements for the star players who departed after the sanctions hit have been exceptional. Good for them.

The players who left? Some had good reasons for departing, some got bad advice, all were victimized by NCAA president Mark Emmert's grand deception.

Kicker Sam Ficken, after a nightmarish start to the season, kept his head up and became a reliable performer and - lo and behold! - one of the stars of the Wisconsin win.

The team has been fun to watch: a balanced, effective offense, a stout defense, generally disciplined play and a smart, 4th-down gambling coach.

The gameday atmosphere and crowd size have been good, considering all that transpired, and considering the bizarre scenario of the final two home games played with Penn State on its Thanksgiving break. Attendance is down, but not way down. It is a real concern moving forward, no doubt, but for this season, overall, under the circumstances, it was okay. And, memo to, it's a topic for next week.

The team has stayed out of the police blotter (knock on wood!) and produced more Academic All-Americans and rated near or at the top of graduation rate and APR measures, per usual, and in the continued direct diametric opposite manner of what the NCAA egregiously and erroneously accused it of.

Quality recruits are committing to PSU. And why not? Hard to imagine there are better, more complete programs to play for.

The team and coaches have said, almost without exception, the right things to the media, over and over.

The optimism for the future is generally good too, considering the heavy NCAA sanctions.

Hope is a most important thing. And Penn State football most definitely has heaping helpings of hope. Despite virtually all of the well-known and highly compensated pundits out there saying hope was gone from Happy Valley, dead done for the next 5 or 10 or 20 years. Despite the high and mighty who recklessly and wrongly tried to snuff out hope.

That would be you, 2011 PSU Board of Trustees, Louis Freeh and Mark Emmert.

Instead, Penn State football 2012 has been an amazingly sturdy, defiant bridge from the past to the future.

And Saturday's game was sort of the season in a nutshell:
  • Down early, allowing two easy 1st quarter TDs, just as PSU went down early this season, dropping to 0-2 with losses to middling teams.
  • Bouncing back to play very well the rest of the way, despite catching some critical bad breaks.
  • And, ultimately, satisfying. Very satisfying.
There were over-manufactured moments Saturday - Mauti's "42" uniform number on every PSU helmet was a bit much, but Hodges wearing Mauti's 42 jersey was a neat personal gesture - along with some impromptu giddiness, such as McGloin's goofy forward roll after the go-ahead TD.

There were spot-on gestures, too, most notably "2012" going up on the Beaver Stadium facade, listed right alongside the championship and undefeated seasons. In a place of honor.

That's how 2012 should be remembered. As deserving of a place of honor.

And that's how it will be remembered, naysayers be damned.

For more insight, analysis and opinions about Penn State football, check, or follow Pete Young on Twitter @AllPSUfootball.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff all year. I am disappointed the season is over but this past Saturday's win ranks among my all-time favorite Penn State football victories.

    I am beyond proud of Bill O'Brien, his coaching staff, the students, alumni and fans, and all the players, but especially the seniors.

    It is my belief that Beaver Stadium should be re-named "Class of 2012 Stadium" as Michael Mauti and Co. are the true foundation of Penn State football going forward.

    And someday when the world calms down and reason is restored, the field can be named Joseph V Paterno Field.