Thank You, Seniors - The Behrend Beacon

Thank You, Seniors

Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 8:47 PM

Author: Brandon Boyd (managing editor)

It was overtime. It had to be.

Anything to keep them out there. With no bowl game, this game against Wisconsin was it for the Penn State seniors. 

Senior quarterback Matt McGloin threw for 200 yards and a touchdown. Senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill had 12 tackles and two sacks. Injured senior linebacker Michael Mauti, whose number 42 was plastered on all Penn State helmets, provided emotional support for the team.

This was no doubt a gritty effort by the Nittany Lions, whose coach, Bill O’Brien, tabbed them as fighters – or was it a more profane term of endearment? – after the game on live television. 

The seniors, denied a bowl game by NCAA sanctions, made sure to have one final hoorah of their own, and with Penn State’s 24-21 win over Wisconsin, they capped one of the more tumultuous years in college football history.

“This is a very special team because of the players and because of these seniors,” O’Brien told The Associated Press.

The team proved special, too, in its ability to overcome obstacles on and off the field. After being left for dead in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the team rallied to put together an 8-4 season capped by an overtime victory.

And wasn’t it fitting that Sam Ficken, the previously maligned kicker, lined up and squeaked in the game-winning field goal?

His 37-yard field goal nearly shaved paint off the left upright, but nevertheless, stayed true. Wisconsin kicker Kevin French’s 44-yard attempt a few plays later sailed wide, and with that, the team rushed on to the field to celebrate.

Few thought the team would have a winning record. Certainly no one pegged them for eight wins. And after starting the season 0-2, such predictions seemed justified. 

This team banded around O’Brien and the surrounding community, taking on an “us against the world” type mentality. Short of taking on the world, they took on the Big Ten, losing only to Ohio State and Nebraska.

Think of where this team was. Before the season, running back Silas Redd and wide receiver Justin Brown bolted for greener – or redder, as in USC and Oklahoma, respectively – pastures. McGloin had not played in the team’s bowl game against Houston after getting in a fight with a teammate in the locker room. Joe Paterno, the patriarch of Penn State, passed away.

Then it happened. Sophomores Zach Zwinak and Allen Robinson stepped up to replace Redd and Brown. The only fight McGloin showed was on the field. And, of course, O’Brien showed he had what it took to pull a program from depths rarely, if ever, seen in college football.

Saturday, the team had to overcome one last struggle. A Wisconsin team headed for the Big Ten championship. A running back, Montee Ball, ready to set an NCAA record for career touchdowns. The team’s leader, Mauti, out with a knee injury. A defensive battle for most of the game.

It was overtime. It had to be.