It is undeniable the fight the 2011 edition Penn State Football team has shown throughout the season. I applaud the success of these young men and credit their determination and loyalty to each other to one man: Joe Paterno.
Say what you will about Joe as a coach (his age, his inability to coach a game on the sideline, his play calling, his lack of play calling), we've heard it all. It is easy to find a rebuttal simply by looking at his numbers: 45 seasons as a head coach, 409 FBS wins, 24 bowl victories, the list goes on. However, outside of being the Division 1 winning-est head coach in college football, Joe Paterno is something much more important to his football players at the collegiate level: an educator.
I believe Joe, who really cares about these young men, tries to build a foundation of excellence beneath each individual player who has been a part of his tenured career so that those players will find success in their future endeavors. I say "tries" because I am sure there are those who do not buy into everything Joe is selling. But when a player does, something special happens (see Tamba Hali's story, see Adam Talifero's story).
And ladies and gentleman, this 2011 Penn State Football team is buying into Joe's expectations for excellence.
"When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality."
"Believe deep down in your heart that your destined to do great things."
-Joseph Vincent Paterno
I choose these two quotes because I believe they describe this year's football team in a nutshell. A team fighting for each other with the belief that this is a season destined for accomplishment.
And Joe's lessons are paying dividends on the field. As I watched the final Penn State offensive drive during the Illinois game this past Saturday, I couldn't help but compare it to two other very important drives in Penn State history...
1994 Penn State vs. Illinois:
Down 31 - 28 with 6:07 left and the ball at their own 4 yard line, Kerry Collins marched Penn State down the field to score a touchdown with 57 seconds left on the clock.
Result of the game: Penn State 35 - Illinois 31 W
Result of the season: #2 Penn State defeats #12 Oregon in the
BCS Rose Bowl
2005 Penn State vs. Northwestern:
Down 29 -27 with 2:10 left and the ball at their own 20 yard line, Penn state moves down the field scoring on a 36 yard touchdown completion from Michael Robinson to Derrick Williams with 51 seconds left.
Result of the game: Penn State 34 - Northwestern 29 W
Result of the season: #3 Penn State defeats #22 Florida State in 3 OT's in BCS Orange Bowl
2011 Penn State vs. Illinois:
Down 7 - 3 with 3:05 left and the ball at their own 20, Penn State drives the field scoring on a 3 yard touchdown run by Silas Redd with 1:08 remaining on the clock.
Result of the game: Penn State 10 - Illinois 7 W
Result of the season: ______________ (To Be Determined)
Enjoy it ladies and gentlemen, we may be destined for great things this season.