After our opening two weeks last season, I thought a column called “Midweek Serenity” would be a helpful balm to the Nittany Nation through our sanctions years. This space grew more and more celebratory as the season wore on though. And I’m relieved to start off this year’s series with a victorious tone rather than a sympathetic one.
Penn State certainly didn’t come busting out of the gates in MetLife Stadium last Saturday, but it was infinitely more satisfying than a 24-14 loss in Beaver Stadium against a MAC team. Granted, Syracuse 2013 might be worse than Ohio 2012—it’s impossible to know after just one week of the season—but it was a major conference team in a neutral site, and Penn State was clearly the better team.
Our quarterback made a handful of bad throws, but the true freshman also completed almost 70% of his passes--a number that PSU quarterbacks rarely sniffed pre-O’Brien. Most significantly, his arm strength and accuracy revealed a kid with truly elite potential.
Our kicker made three very solid kicks, field goals whose absence would have doomed us vs. the Orange, precisely as they did in the Virginia road game last September.
Our defense found ways to get key stops, even if they don’t resemble any of our dominant crews of Penn State lore. Mike Hull’s return is crucially important for upcoming games, but even without him for much of Saturday’s game, new defensive coordinator John Butler put together an impressive debut.
Our receiving corps didn’t show anything more than depth and consistency early on, but once Allen Robinson returned in the second half, we saw what a potent bunch they can be. Matt Zanellato and Geno Lewis emerged as solid additions to an already good stable.
We could harp on the team’s lack of overall depth, which has already become apparent. Or the offensive line’s failure to get much of a rushing attack going. Or the dangers of relying on a rookie QB in tight games.
But we’ll have other weeks for that.
This was a week for enjoying the talented kids who keep fighting for the pride of Penn State football.
Ryan J. Murphy is a frequent contributor to Nittany Lions Den and author of Ring The Bell: The Twenty-two Greatest Penn State Football Victories of Our Lives (available in paperback and digital).