At this point, there does not seem to be much left to say. Devon wrapped things up fantastically in Saturday's gamer, Jared provided you links on links on links from around the web, and the rest of you celebrated PSU's first bowl win since January 1st, 2010 in style.
The nuts and bolts of Saturday's 31-30 overtime win over Boston College are really pretty simple to me. 15 practices were certainly not enough to cure everything that ailed the Lions throughout the 2014 campaign. Those steps are taken in the 8 months between now and fall practice when none of us are watching. But, enough improved in the four weeks since Michigan State's dominant season ending win to provide hope for 2015 and beyond.
Christian Hackenberg looked more like the 2013 version than 2014, to the tune of 371 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no picks. Was he perfect? Hardly, but in a year where not much went right for the sophomore quarterback, an MVP performance certainly beats the alternative.
Freshman receiver Chris Godwin emerged as the primary target for Hackenberg, hauling in 7 passes, for 140 yards and a touchdown. Geno Lewis and DaeSeanHamilton matched those 7 receptions, including touchdowns for each. Perhaps the most welcome site was Kyle Carter grabbing 3 passes, including the overtime touchdown to set up Sam Ficken's game winning extra point. All told, 8 Lions caught passes, and all but Bill Belton have 2015 eligibility.
On the other side of the ball, it was not the dominating performance we had come to expect from this defense, but this feels like one of those times you tip your cap to the other guy. Boston College entered the game with one of the nation's top rushing attacks in the country, and did not disappoint. For all the big plays we've seen from freshmen like Marcus Allen, Grant Haley, and Christian Campbell, there were moments where they looked their age.
But that, more than anything, is what this bowl game will mean for Penn State. 15 extra practices to get those guys more reps, and one more chance to face a guy wearing a different jersey than you for 9 months. Now the real work begins. James Franklin and the rest of the staff will look to close out the 2015 recruiting class with an exclamation point, solidifying what looks to be a top 10 class in the nation. The returning players will begin winter conditioning in earnest next month, where those young players will need to take those big steps to take PSU from good to great.
It's all much easier when you finish with a W.
Three Completely Random, Probably Useless Thoughts
1. Plenty of people have said it much better than I could dream of, but I don't think it's possible to feel better for a collegiate football player than how I feel for Sam Ficken. It was about 27 months ago now that Sam was not only the butt of jokes in Happy Valley, but nationally. The ultimate #collegekicker. But from the second that Virginia game ended, there have not been many kickers in America better, or more consistent than Ficken. Those sorts of stories make watching sports great.
2. I was sitting in a Manhattan bar late Saturday night/Sunday morning with a few friends, highlights of the Nebraska-USC Holiday Bowl came on, and we started discussing the number of freak athletes the Trojans have, not to mention Oregon, Alabama, Ohio State, etc. That's the gap James Franklin is looking to close on the recruiting trail. Time will tell if he can be successful, but the early returns look promising.
3. There is no better way to wrap this up than a simple thank you to the seniors. As Franklin said, every win from here, until eternity, is possible because of the efforts of these young men. None of them signed up for anything remotely close to what they ended up with, but they all chose to stay, and become part of something no Nittany Lion fan will ever forget.