Saturday was the perfect way for Penn State football to kick off “the next chapter.”
It had everything – perfect weather, great atmosphere, the pageantry that the Naval Academy brings to a stadium and, most importantly, a dominating first win of coach Bill O’Brien’s career.
Of course, this wasn’t the season opener. This was the third game of the season and it followed two grueling losses.
That made the win all that more of a necessity and all that more gratifying to the players, coaches and 98,792 in attendance.
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“I felt very good for this football team,” O’Brien said in the post-game press conference. “I felt in many ways that it was a long time coming. I told them that it was one win and all of the hard work they put in this week and the past weeks paid off. But it’s just one win, now we have to soak it in (Saturday night). We have to get back to work on Monday and get ready for a very, very good Temple team.”
It’s obvious there is a special bond between this coach and his players. Adversity can build that – and no team has been through more than this one.
As much as O’Brien wanted to get a win for the program and his players, they wanted to get a win for him.
“He’s been through a ton since he’s taken the job here,” quarterback Matt McGloin said of O’Brien. “He gives it 110% and the support is there for him. It’s definitely been frustrating for us and for him, and it was so important for us to get that win.”
Jordan Hill echoed those sentiments.
“For Coach O’Brien, this was big just because of all the hard work he’s put in for us,” Hill said. “For us to go out there, play hard, and get a win for him finally…it felt good to just get a win for him.”
You know it’s a pretty good day when the most controversial thing afterward was whether the Nittany Lions should’ve kicked a 25-yard field goal instead of attempting a fourth-and-goal pass from the eight-yard line.
Heck, the Lions even finally got a bounce to go their way as Allen Robinson caught a touchdown pass that bounced off the hands of teammate Trevor Williams. Goofy things like that went against this team in the first two games. It had to be welcoming for them to see one go its way.
Yes, it is just one win and, yes, it came against Navy, but Penn State needed a win.
These players needed a win. This coach needed a win and the Penn State fan base needed a win.
The fans wanted a reason to celebrate this group of players and a coach that have been overwhelmed with adversity.
If you want to know how desperately Penn State fans– and the students in particular – want to support this team, just know that some of the loudest cheers of the day were for Sam Ficken’s made field goals – IN PRE-GAME WARM-UPS.
Yes, everybody associated with Penn State football needed Saturday’s victory. Now, finally, the next chapter can really get going.
Marty Valania covers football for nittanylionsden.com. Follow @EastRecruiting on Twitter.