EDITORIAL: Monday Morning Quarterback: From a Season to Forget to a Season to Remember
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Nov. 21, 2020. Penn State lost to Iowa 41-21 and fell to 0-5, the worst start in program history. With the wheels falling off and things turning from bad to worse, something happened. This team fought back as it went on to win its final four games of the season to finish at 4-5.
After that Iowa game, I wrote an editorial,trying to pinpoint the reasons the Nittany Lions had struggled. To sum it up if you didn’t read it, the main reasons were turnovers, slow starts and tackling. Over this four week stretch, PSU has managed to flip those weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
Now, one could argue and say, “Well, Andrew, look at the competition over the last four games.” That’s a fair point. Looking at the final standings, Penn State took on the bottom four Big Ten teams record-wise in Michigan, Rutgers, Michigan State and Illinois.
What I would say in response to that: It’s really difficult to bounce back from a start like this Penn State football team had, no matter who it played. Just from a psychological standpoint, that’s a victory, a small one for a team with as lofty expectations going into the season, but a victory nonetheless.
This team was completely demoralized. You could tell from the press conferences, the body language, everything. The mood was down in all phases and that was nothing less than evident on and off the field.
This season was special not because of the record, but the character that this year’s team showed in response to being down when everyone on the outside doubted them.
Leaders and playmakers emerged from the likes of the dynamic duo at wide receiver in Jahan Dotson and true freshman Parker Washington to running backs Keyvone Lee and Caziah Holmes.
The play at tackle in the run and pass game by Caedan Wallace, the young tight end group showing depth without Pat Freiermuth, who declared for the 2021 NFL draft, the return of “Linebacker U,” starring Brandon Smith, Jesse Luketa and Ellis Brooks, and the secondary that was locked down by Joey Porter Jr. and Keaton Ellis: These players, a mixture of young and old, showed that there are positive signs moving forward for Penn State, contrary to popular belief.
Not only will this year be remembered for the fight and young emerging talent but also for another bright spot: how the program handled the complications of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Penn State did one of the best jobs mitigating the spread of the virus not only in the Big Ten, but in the country, and that’s a credit to the staff, players, team doctors and so many more people that played an integral role in making sure the Nittany Lions played every game that it could.
So, yes, the 2020 Penn State Nittany Lions football team underperformed. They struggled in all three phases, constantly lost the penalty, turnover and big play battles, and had significant injuries and one opt-out in Micah Parsons.
With all that being said, the Nittany Lions did what James Franklin had consistently spoken about for years. They found ways to win.
The script has officially been flipped. These last four wins created momentum for next season for the returning members moving forward as the confidence grew each week.
The season may be over, but this 2020 team will be remembered for setting the groundwork for years to come, and now, there’s a new age for the football team in Happy Valley, and the future is definitely bright.
Andrew Field is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.