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How Big of a Deal was Penn State's Loss to Virginia?

Saturday’s loss didn’t bother me.

Maybe it was the kids out in the yard building a sweet tree house (with dad’s help during commercials and halftime). Maybe it was the sunny, eighty-degree San Diego morning. Maybe it was the mere ability to watch a Penn State football game on TV (rather than listening to it in Kenya, East Africa, where I regularly reside).

I wasn’t devastated after Penn State’s loss at Virginia.

The Ohio loss: that hurt. We were outplayed on our home turf. We lost a commanding lead. We caught some bad breaks. We had the nation’s eye, had a chance to show Mark Emmert and his NCAA executives that PSU football wouldn’t go quietly into the good night.

Losing to the Bobcats hurt.

Against Virginia however, it was evident that we were the better team, even on their own field. Sure, the offense could have converted more in the red zone. And yes, ill-conceived blitzes on third downs still are baffling. But Penn State is better than Virginia this year, and for a fan base trying to figure out who we are as a football team, that means something.

We’re a team that is decent. We’re a team that’s two plays away from 2-0. We’re a team that will be competitive in every game in the Big Ten this season (only Ohio State causes me any trepidation at this point, and we get them in Happy Valley). Even before the sanctions, no one expected a BCS run or a commanding Leaders Division title.

So, for us to struggle in games 1 and 2, under so much scrutiny and in the midst of so much transition, doesn’t cause me too much dismay. The entire team improved between week 1 and week 2 (except for poor, poor Sam Ficken), and I see no reason that this team can’t keep getting better.

Ryan J. Murphy is a frequent contributor on the NLD and author of Ring The Bell: The Twenty-two Greatest Penn State Football Victories of Our Lives (published 2012, Kindle and paperback). Read his Ohio game reaction—“Fagnano’s Fitting Fall.

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