Penn State-Nebraska More Than Just a Football Game

Story posted November 9, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Joe Garofalo

The Penn State-Nebraska game this Saturday is much more than just a football game; it is a landmark. When Nebraska came to Beaver Stadium, almost a year to the day from the Saturday, it entered a stadium and university facing an unprecedented amount of adversity. With the beloved coach and the legacy of the Penn State name all but gone, the matchup of two ranked Big Ten conference foes was barely even a glimpse on the mind of many. Questions and uncertainty filled the entire campus, alumni and country as to just what exactly the future of Penn State held.

But there was one rock each and every person had to hold onto, and that was Penn State football. On that November 12th afternoon last year in Beaver Stadium, the healing process began. With over 100,000 fans, students and alumni packing the stadium in blue, to honor the victims of child abuse and show Penn State true colors.

But what that day really did was provide relief and comfort for just that, one day. From the shouting of “May No Act Of Ours Bring Shame” in the alma mater to the gritty, passionate game played by the players everything, aside from the loss, made this a magical day. A day which was truly the front bookmark to a story about to be written.

After that tough demoralizing 17-14 loss at the hand of the Cornhuskers, many were left with a series of questions. First, who would be the head coach of this football team? Second, would there even be a football program? And third, what did these events hold for the future of this university?

For 46 years, the Penn State sidelines were home to the famous and well-respected Joe Paterno, but after his firing there was much debate as to who would be his replacement. Many thought it would be someone with a Penn State background, and ultimately they were wrong. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien took the job.

When O’Brien arrived, he brought with him more questions than answers. As someone who was never a head coach there were those who wondered when and if he would succeed at Penn State. There were also those were worried he wouldn’t fit at Penn State. Hired January 7th, 2012, Bill O’Brien is now 10 months into the job and has proven each and every doubter wrong.

Entering into this Nebraska game a year after the controversy began, O’Brien has restored order, or even restored the roar. He has won over of the Penn State community, by being class personified. He has won of the hearts of his players and recruits, by starting 6-3 and securing a top 25 recruiting class.

More importantly, he continued the tradition and legacy of the Penn State name with his practices on and off the field. After the events of this past year, many were left to question if the Nittany Lion football program would even go on.

After the dismissal of nearly the entire coaching staff, the athletic director and university president. Penn State football seemed to be a distant memory. Then add on top of it the NCAA sanctions, which took away 14 years of records in addition to punishing the next four, and now a real case can be made for the demise of the program.

But what people didn’t expect is just how these setbacks would only make the university stronger. Having the biggest alumni base in the country, all Penn Staters nationwide banded together to support the same cause and honor the commitment each of us as Nittany Lions have made to each other.

This is where the newly termed slogan “One Team” comes into play. In saying we are all “One Team”, it is just statement that the university as a whole is going to stick together through it all and battle whatever adversity comes its way.

The name and brand of Penn State the university, and the football team, were somewhat tarnished in the events of this past year, which had many believing the stature of the university was in question. But in looking at the university in the last few months its clear this isn’t true. Penn State has moved on and is working towards being an even better university than it was before.

The football team, many feared, would be finished by the NCAA sanctions and the departure of transferred player, which is far from the case. With an incoming recruiting class coming in ranked in the top 25 and a 6-3 football team on the verge of being nationally ranked, it is apparent Penn State football is still alive and very well.

So while this game against Nebraska on Saturday may just appear as another football game, that is far from the case. While last year’s game signified the beginning of a new era, this year’s game cements its standing and future legacy. Unlike last year where many people were just happy the game was played, this Saturday is a game each and member of the Penn State family wants to win.

As arguably the best, bowl-eligible, team in the Big Ten, Nebraska presents a difficult challenge on the road. And while a win against a ranked Cornhusker team could mean wonders in the polls, it pales in comparison to its effect on the program and university as a whole.

A win against Nebraska would not only erase the memory of defeat from last year, but it would provide a great deal of closure. Closure, that the incidents of the past year are clearly behind us. Closure, that this football team is still alive and well. And finally closure, that this university is ready and able to move on. This is not just any other football game for Penn State, it is a showcase to the rest of the world that Nittany Lion football is not going anywhere.

Joe Garofalo is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email jwg5403@psu.edu.