College Football Analysis: Is Penn State on the Verge of Turning Things Around?

Over the past few years, I’d been penning a book on the greatest Penn State football victories of the past four decades. While the closing chapter of that book certainly was less than exuberant (which was published in May with some post-scandal, post-O’Brien-hire information), this past Saturday was a fitting start to the next book on Penn State’s proud traditions.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. The Penn State players punctuated the day themselves with a Gatorade shower to celebrate a win over—wait for it—mighty Navy.

This win meant something, for sure. But it didn’t have much to do with the caliber of our foe. This win was about starting new habits.

After an off-season unlike any other in its turmoil, Penn State lost an emotional rollercoaster to a solid MAC opponent and then gave away a victory to a ho-hum Hoo team. Penn State may not be a championship team in 2012, but they had no reason to be winless after Ohio and Virginia.

Against Navy, we saw glimpses of a team starting to put the pieces together. Even with a depleted running back corps. Even with a sub-par kicking game. Even with inexperience in the secondary.

On its way to a 34-7 drubbing of the Midshipmen, Penn State not only showed what they could accomplish in 2012. They showed the Nittany Nation that the future isn’t as bleak as we may have feared.

The young OL has looked better than average in each of the first three weeks. When was the last decade you heard that about a Penn State o-line?

The defensive line has some budding superstars in redshirt freshmen Deion Barnes and Anthony Zettel.

The young secondary played much better, and sophomore receiver Allen Robinson has proven that his success is no fluke.

And let’s not forget that one of the top QBs and the top TE in the nation are already on board for next year’s recruiting class.

Saturday’s win might be the start of something big, even if nobody is defining “big” as a Big Ten Leaders Division title. After all this team has been through, no one in the fan base is expecting to win out. We’re mostly just grateful that these brave and loyal young men decided to stick with the program.

But with a Big Ten conference that is looking as dysfunctional as an offensive coaches’ meeting in Camp Randall (who will Bielema toss under the bus next?), maybe O’Brien can earn another Gatorade bath after the Wisconsin game.

Ryan Murphy is author of Ring The Bell: The Twenty-two Greatest Penn State Football Victories of Our Lives and a frequent contributor on the Nittany Lions Den. Expect more “Midweek Serenity” after each Penn State game this fall. Past reflections: Ohio: Fagnano's Fitting Fall. Virginia: A Feel-Good Loss.

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