The rain and clouds that swarmed over Beaver Stadium on Saturday were doubled by about 2:45p.m. as Penn State eked out a 20-14 win over Army.
It was another boring, pitiful and just awful game played by the Nittany Lions. Grant it, they have moved to 4-1 on the season, but their 4-1 record seems like a 2-2 record at best.
Mixed emotions with glimmers of shame and then spotty moments of hope for what the future holds for Penn State football have filled the minds of Penn State football fans since August. But there’s the problem: no one knows what the future holds.
Penn State has won three straight since getting blown out of Philadelphia by Temple in week one. Temple is the only decent team they have played.
Buffalo could not win the FCS championship, Rutgers was without a head coach, San Diego State is a joke and Army only attempted one pass because of their triple-option offense, and they still would have beaten Penn State if it weren’t for turnovers.
What is James Franklin trying to sell us?
At heart, Franklin is a great salesman. He is an astounding recruiter and has the ability to put together talented teams at Penn State in the future if he can show one thing: His ability to coach.
I think there is a concern in State College that no one really knows what Franklin is exactly trying to sell us and whether it is merely an empty pitch for a subpar product.
In my opinion, there is still an emotional void in State College and it remains to be seen whether Franklin possesses the proper emotional makeup or the requisite raw materials needed to fill it — either as a coach or mentor to young prospects like Christian Hackenberg or as a coach.
We are four years since the grand jury report about Jerry Sandusky’s horrible crimes against young children were made to the public. Four years is enough time for Penn State students to forget about that scandal when it comes to football — because that’s what Penn State students look forward to on fall Saturday’s. But the problem is that four years is not enough time for that event to move from a news story into a historical event.
I sat in section EE on Saturday’s game against Army in the cold, rain and on Military Day, and I had to sit there thinking to myself, “Penn State had to remove a military veteran from being honored during the coin toss because of his ties with Sandusky.”
Bruce Heim, the military veteran, is a former board member of the charity that Sandusky founded, The Second Mile.
Penn State president, Eric Barron said in a press release that Heim was being honored in would have distracted the public from the purpose of the day.
The distractions still arise from that horrific event. And it kills me as a lifelong Penn State fan that I cannot talk about Penn State football to a non Penn State fan without having the topic of this controversy brought up.
We all know it was wrong. We all know how horrible it was. We all feel bad for each and every victim that was harmed by Sandusky. But none of this will go away anytime soon.
The fact that this will linger around does not help Franklin in the slightest.
A pregame video plays at Beaver Stadium before home games, with a deep voice saying, “Win for those who came before you.” Then you see glimpses of Joe Paterno on the video boards in the endzone. You see Bill O’Brien. People are going nuts. And it is the nature of a great fan of a program who once experience sustained greatness to believe that the greatness will come around again.
The added complication for Penn State is that the great history of this program is now larded with deep wounds that continue to be reopened.
Franklin continues to be positive, and he has to be. He acknowledged it in his press conference earlier this week. So, in a way, I really can’t blame him for talking about the program as if all is well, even though it really isn’t.
He knows his team isn’t good. He knows it will take time. But we know that, too. And what we also know is that Franklin has shown no ability in putting together a decent game-plan or with developing players.
Penn State hosts Indiana on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, beginning their Big Ten play for the rest of the season. Indiana almost upset Ohio State, and Penn State travels to Ohio State on Oct. 17th.
Maybe we will sit here in November with Penn State finishing 9-3. Or maybe we will sit here with a 6-6 or 7-5 team, with the rain and the clouds still hovering over Beaver Stadium, wondering how fast this is going to get better.