Penn Statement: When Doubts Begin to Be Cast Aside

By Nick Polak on October 22, 2017 at 12:12 am
Saquon Barkley
Adriana Lacy, Roar Lions Roar


We've talked ad nauseam about how the fortunes of the entire Penn State program shifted drastically after that day. The battle that sparked a revolution. The first step on the road to redemption. The darkness before the dawn.

But today, all of that is in the past. Today was about making a statement.

All week (and season, really), the national narrative surrounding Penn State has been that it's a good team that has benefited from an easy schedule and luck. And you know what? That narrative wasn't wrong. Until Saturday.

This is far from the best iteration of Michigan we've seen. The offense has so many holes it's fair to wonder if Jim Harbaugh is developing trypophobia. But the defense, despite the massive turnover, has hardly skipped a beat.

So far in 2017, the Wolverine defense had allowed 192, 200, 232, 189, 252, and 278 yards to opponents. On Saturday night, Penn State put up 506.

Penn State did exactly what they were supposed to, and what they were supposed to do doesn't happen to Michigan.

So far in 2017, the Wolverines had allowed 17, 14, 13, 10, 14, and 20 points to opponents. On Saturday night, Penn State scored 42.

I could continue, but I think you get the point. Penn State's offense dominated an extremely stout Michigan defense, and they did it with a quarterback who missed a number of open, potential 25-plus yard plays. They did it with an offensive line that left their star running back out to dry repeatedly after his big first quarter. They did it with a redshirt freshman tackle lining up against one of the most fearsome defensive end duos in the nation. Despite all that, they did exactly what they were supposed to do.

As for the Nittany Lion defense? Penn State had been outstanding in 2017, but who had they played? The average offensive S&P+ ranking for their opponents was 90th before tonight. The Wolverines were a small step up from that at No. 76, but still represented a unit ready to be picked on.

Penn State's defense ate John O'Korn and his supporting cast alive. They did it by holding an opponent to under 20 points for the seventh straight time to open the season. They did it by applying pressure and taking advantage of field position. They did it by adjusting after a few cracks were revealed in the second quarter. They did it by flying all over the field. They did exactly what they were supposed to do.

And exactly what they were supposed to do wasn't something that's supposed to happen to Michigan.

The Nittany Lions won't be favored next week in Columbus, even as the No. 2-ranked team in the country. Considering the opponent, that's totally fair. Ohio State has been rolling, is coming off of a bye, and has been the early favorite in the matchup since before the season began. Penn State is not a perfect team, and the flaws that they showed were still existent on Saturday, may not go away.

Photo: © Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

But the commentary leading up to next weekend's clash is going to be very different than it has been to this point. No longer will this Penn State team be thought of as one that simply rose to the No. 2 ranking by default. They won't just be a slightly tougher test for the Buckeyes. Next weekend is going to be a dogfight in every way. It could potentially be the college football game of the year.

A statement was made by this Penn State team on Saturday night. A statement of which its full reverberation won't be realized until the rest of the season is played out. Perhaps it's the start of something truly, truly special. And perhaps it's simply a delicious slice of revenge pie.

But no matter what happens from here, a statement was irreversibly made. This team doesn't care about what anyone outside of Happy Valley thinks. They're just going to keep doing their thing for as long as they're allowed to do it. Attempt to derail them at your own risk- I'm sure they have plenty of other statements they'd like to make.

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