Week off just what the doctor ordered
After the worst 11 months any team has ever had, dare fans hope things are starting to turn around for the Nittany Lions?
After the Sandusky arrest, Paterno firing, NCAA sanctions, and player defections, the season started o-2, with the Virginia loss especially tough to take.
Despite Bill O’Brien seeming to make all the right moves, things still looked shaky. Potential recruits, fans, advertisers–they were all watching.
Now, with a mix of grit and determination, leaders Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich, and a bunch of people noboby heard of before–Zach Zwinak and Allen Robinson, to name two, Kyle Carter and Matt Lehman, to name two more–have won four in a row. They put a tattooing on Illinois in Champaign, payback for the Illini coaches shamless recruiting of players after the NCAA announced the free transfers as part of the sanctions.
Then this past Saturday, the team performed a near flawless no-huddle drive against the best team they’ve played so far, answering Northwestern’s punt return touchdown on the way to an exciting, come-from-behind homecoming win.
Penn State’s hit the halfway mark at 4-2, and people are talking about Bill O’Brien as coach of the year.
Well, that’s way ahead of where we are. And, it’s one reason this is the perfect time for an off week.
The irony can’t be lost that the Sandusky explosion took place at the end of last season’s off week. But, this bye is a positive one.
First of all, as noted above, it gives everybody time to take a breath, and make a fair assessment of this team. And this coach. The season is a good one so far, but the toughest games lie ahead. Bill O’Brien has guided his ship thorugh jagged rocks, sandbars, and sea monsters with amazing aplomb. But he has still only coached six games.
Bill Belton can get healthy, and maybe form a one-two punch in the backfield with Zach Zwinak (and a little Zordich thrown in now and then). Matt McGloin, his receivers, and his O-line can digest more of O’Brien’s playbook. Some of the backups on the defensive front seven can get more reps in practice, and the secondary can keep working on better pass coverage. Maybe Sam Ficken can even figure out how to make field goals beyond extra point range.
Tired and hurting bodies in general can heal. And everybody can get ready for a difficult stretch run.
A division title is still a possibility. And while it might not mean much in the long run, there seem to be so many more possibilities than just a couple months ago.