Penn State Caps Off Adversity Filled 8 Game Season With 3 Game Win Streak
Penn State made sure history didn’t repeat itself on Saturday with its win against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium.
With the Nittany Lions’ 39-24 victory over the Spartans, they secured their first win at home of the 2020 season. Ironically, or maybe not so much, the last time Penn State didn’t tally a victory at home was in 1918 – the year the Spanish Flu plagued the population. The Nittany Lions went 0-1-1.
Penn State hasn’t had much success playing in the middle of pandemics, to no fault of its own.
However, Penn State found success in a multitude of ways on Saturday afternoon in its victory over the Spartans, and it held more significance than simply dodging an unfortunate fate.
Besides the obvious fact that the illustrious Land Grant Trophy will now officially remain in Happy Valley for at least another year, a group of extremely successful and respected seniors got to end their careers at Beaver Stadium for the time being on a high note, the same way Penn State concludes its unusual eight game 2020 season.
This season was full of ups and downs for Penn State and the Nittany Lions had to battle adversity in many different forms. A plethora of problems presented themselves for the Nittany Lions this year, but they have continued to march onward.
Despite all of the external difficulties that the coronavirus pandemic has caused for Penn State, internally the team stayed clean. Led by head coach James Franklin, the Nittany Lions followed protocols precisely, resulting in zero COVID-19 outbreaks amongst the team. Penn State was one of three Big Ten schools this year to not have a game cancelled.
Head coach James Franklin acknowledges completing the season hasn’t been a simple task.
“I’m proud. With everything that's going on in our country, in our community and in college football, the way that this team has stuck together, the way this coaching staff has stuck together and the way we've done it as a group [has been amazing],” Franklin said. “I’m proud of the entire program and how we've handled tremendous adversity… I'm thankful for the people behind the scenes that have sacrificed so much and allow this to work.”
In more of a football regard, COVID-19 really threw a wrench in Penn State’s season from the get-go. Star linebacker Micah Parsons decided to opt-out, which left a massive void in Brent Pry’s defense. Parsons isn’t the type of player one can just replace.
It showed, as Penn State’s young and inexperienced defense struggled to stop teams and play together as a group. The offense was right there with it, struggling with turnovers, injuries and finding a true identity.
The entire team struggled mightily, as the 2020 Nittany Lions became the first squad to go 0-5 in program history.
Perhaps, the unprecedented and shortened offseason didn’t allow Kirk Ciarrocca to properly implement his new offense. No matter who’s executing, trying to implement a new system in an insufficient offseason is going to be challenging.
In addition to leaping right into conference play and having essentially zero sense of normality throughout the entire season, it was evidently a lot for the Nittany Lions to endure at times.
These may appear as excuses, but really it highlights how much Penn State has had to overcome to finish the eight-game season on a three-game win streak with their heads held high.
The Nittany Lions had absolutely no momentum on their side following their fifth loss of the season to Iowa, and add in the fact how strenuous living in a pandemic for months upon months has been, they could’ve easily folded and called it a season.
Instead, they conclude the eight games with a 3-5 record, have a matchup upcoming with Illinois and potentially, results pending, a bowl game on the horizon. Penn State could end up finishing the season 5-5, which would be a massive achievement considering how the season looked like it was going to transpire about one month ago.
James Franklin has really rallied his troops and drove them in the correct direction, but everyone involved deserves the proper recognition.
“The resiliency that we've showed - I’m proud of them. It’s not something that we've experienced or been through, so to find a way to show that type of heart and to show that type of belief and brotherhood, and stick together and battle through… I’m very proud of them,” said Franklin.
Penn State has shown incredible perseverance and resilience, and even in a season that is perhaps one to be forgotten in terms of wins and losses, the heart, grit and will that the 2020 Nittany Lions have demonstrated shouldn't ever be.
Zach Donaldson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.