First off, tip your hat to Ohio State. They came into Happy Valley on a Saturday night and dominated our defense. I was not a believer in the Buckeyes before this game. I am now. Personally I'll be cheering on the Buckeyes hoping they go undefeated and win the National Championship from here forward to stick a thumb in the eye of all the Big Ten critics.
Now before we get into talking football, I think a review of the Penn State Alma Mater is in order.
May no act of ours bring shame
To one heart that loves thy name
May our lives but swell thy fame
Dear Ol' State, Dear Ol' State.
This weekend featured some of the worst behavior from Penn State fans I can ever recall. I saw Ohio State fans being harassed for no reason other than they were wearing red as they just walked around the tailgate area. When the Blue Band played the Ohio State fight song in tribute to the visiting fans, the back rows of the freshman student section started up the predictable "Fuck Ohio" chant. This only moments after singing the Alma Mater I mentioned above. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. If those words don't mean anything to you just go back to singing "We don't know the God damn words." And finally, to the moron that threw the beer on Chris Fowler, thanks asshat. College GameDay comes to Happy Valley to give America a taste of what it's like to tailgate here and you turn us into the Philadelphia Eagles fans of central Pennsylvania. I work really hard to defend the honor of Penn State fans around here and with one moment of stupidity you threw it all away on national television. I hope you're proud of yourself because nobody else in the Penn State family is. I wouldn't be surprised if GameDay doesn't come back for a long time. And when they do they will probably put up a barricade 50 yards away and search everyone confiscating any kind of beverage or projectile. I can't say I would blame them.
Now let's talk some football. We're all a little upset after being beat up that bad on Saturday night. I'll admit I walked out of that stadium after Morelli threw the pick. I couldn't watch any more. I can't recall being that disgusted with Penn State football since losing to Iowa 6-4. But I've had a few days to think about it and I think we all need a little perspective now. We lost to the number one team in the country. There is no shame in that. Disappointment, yes, but shame, no. Our coaches and players did their best and played to win. More importantly they did it with honor. There were no stupid personal fouls or cheap shots. For that we can be proud.
This was a chance to see where we stack up as a program against one of the elite programs in the country. And at home in a night game on national television we lost by 20 points. So it's evident we have a way to go to reach that level. But it doesn't mean we're terrible as the message boards would have us believe this morning.
The fact is that right now Ohio State is on a different level than us. There is no denying that. Last year they replace almost the entire defense and they go undefeated up until the BCS championship game. This year they replace everyone on offense and they are 9-0. Ohio State reloads. We don't. This is a fact of life. Does that mean we're terrible? No. We'll probably still go 8-4 or 9-3 and go to a very nice New Years Day bowl game. This program is built to win 8 or 9 wins every year and make some noise on the national level once every three or four years. It has been that way ever since the 1980's. For those of you who think only winning 8 or 9 games is something new around here, you don't know your Penn State history. Either that or you have a short memory. Would you rather have eight wins a year or four wins a year like we did in the early part of this decade. Perspective, people.
Now I'm not any more satisfied with this than you are. Our goal should be to win every game every year. But realistically there are very few programs out there that can do this for extended periods of time. Some programs can put together a good run of four or five years. We had a run like this back in the 80's. Notre Dame had a good run at the end of that decade. Nebraska dominated much of the 90's. USC has dominated much of this decade. But eventually the peloton catches up to you. If you're not careful it will blow past and leave you alone to struggle up the hill under your own power. All of the teams I mentioned have been caught and engulfed since their brief dynasties. And we're seeing the decline of the USC program now as Ohio State tries to establish itself alone atop the college football mountain. Someday the Buckeyes too will fall. This is just their time.
Our dilemma as fans is how to handle our position in the college football landscape. Should we abandon our team after back-to-back eight win seasons? Or should we sit back and accept eight wins blindly supporting the people who give us a product that is less than our expectations?
Now I'm an optimist. I go into every game thinking we're going to win. Or at least that we have a chance to win. In the message boards I am what many would probably refer to as a "kool aid drinker". Opposing fans would call me "delusional". Whatever. Is it delusional to expect your team to win before the game is played? I don't think so. I think it's just being optimistic. Delusional would be sitting here today saying I still think we have a better team than Ohio State. Delusional would be saying we won the game although we clearly lost. Delusional is saying Mark May is a good analyst and Lou Holtz speaks English.
I still think we have a good team. We're just not Ohio State good. We're certainly not bad. We win a lot more games than we lose. So everyone needs to step back from the ledge and calm down a bit. I'm right there with everyone who says we'll never be considered an upper echelon team until a new coaching staff is put in place. But I'm not going to throw Joe Paterno out on the street, and I'm not going to ask Tim Curley or Graham Spanier to do it either. The man built Penn State football and he deserves our respect and gratitude. He's earned the right to go out on his terms. I realize you all want to win right now, but he's 80 and you're not. You have several good years of Penn State football left. He doesn't. So I for one have just accepted the fact we are going to be an eight or nine win team until he retires. I look forward to the day we have a new coach, but I'm not going to turn this space into firepaterno.com. I'll cheer on the team when they win. I'll still cry in my beer, yell at the wife, and kick the dog immediately after they lose. But the next day I'll be back to normal because I've accepted the fact that this is who we are. I'm just taking each game for what it is and looking forward to the next game. I suggest you all do the same.