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A Backup Saves The Day

The season may have ended for fans, but for players and coaches, they play on.

Penn State quarterback Beau Pribula celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA football game against Rutgers Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in State College, Pa. Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

Saturday was Senior Day in Happy Valley. Plenty of players, some who exhausted all eligibility, received their flowers prior to the game against Rutgers. It is yet to be determined how many of the players with eligibility will return, but that’s another conversation for another day.

While the fanbase may have given up on the season a week ago, the players and coaches still have some to play for. In fact, to the eyes of future Nittany Lions, the best message to send at the moment is that of stability and consistency. And what better way to do that than to earn yet another 10-win season and New Year’s Six game appearance?

Rutgers, to their credit, did everything they could in the first half to make sure that didn’t happen. The Scarlet Knights mixed some key throws with their typical run game to keep the first drive alive, getting on the board first. They drove near the length of the field, as Gavin Wimsatt handled found Isaiah Washington multiple times when Kyle Monangai couldn’t get the job done. The Wimsatt-to-Washington combination would prove to be fruitful throughout the game, and, for a time, it would appear to be even lethal.

Penn State responded by scoring a touchdown of their own, grabbing a turnover, then tacking on a field goal. As the second quarter came to a close, Rutgers had another productive drive, which also led to a field goal. That would be curtains for the Scarlet Knight offense.

Quarterback Drew Allar would get hurt trying to finish a run (and failing to slide), so the rest of the game was commandeered by Beau Pribula. In a weird turn of events, Penn State would do to Rutgers what Michigan had just done to them a week ago. Pribula attempted —and completed, one pass in the entire second half. Yet, what was a 6-10 lead at halftime would balloon to a 27-6 victory when it was all said and done.

Not long ago, Penn State found itself in need of a backup in a meaningful game. Due to the lack of anything resembling top quality, the Lions succumbed the game, and the season, the rest of the way. Faced with a similar situation, a suitable counterpart was at the ready.

One game remains, the Nittany Lions will look to close out the season against Michigan State, then they will await their fate. Another double-digit win season is within reach. And, once a floor is established, all that’s left is to break the ceiling.

Stats and Storylines

0 - The amount of touchdowns Rutgers has scored in State college since 1994, the last time the Scarlet Knights scored above six points.

234 - Rushing yards by the Nittany Lions, multiple of which were of the “explosive” variety. Turns out, when you run to the outside you can get the long runs. If only our previous coord—ah nevermind.

6 - Of James Franklin’s 10 seasons at Penn State, six of them have ended with at least nine wins. With another win, five of them would have had at least 10 wins.