Amazing how in 24 hours Penn State went from terrific to terrible, but judging from the reaction in the middle of the Commonwealth, that’s exactly what happened.
For the 24 hours leading up to the game with Temple, this was supposed to be a special season in State College:
Now, all of a sudden, according to Penn State fans, the same Christian Hackenberg who was so good putting up 31 points against Boston College in his previous game now stinks, as does the same offensive line he was in front of that day. The same PSU team coached by a great coach in James Franklin is now coached by a bum named James Franklin. The same guy who caught 82 balls last year in the Big 10 cannot get any separation this season.
Nowhere in the post-game analysis up there is the sense that Temple could be better than anyone expected. No one even remotely thought that Temple’s corners, Sean Chandler and Tavon Young, were more than up to the challenge or that playing the 11 returning starters from the overall No. 4 scoring defense in the country might have had something to do with 10 points.
No one factored into the result that Temple might have been supremely motivated, having a full year to stew and game plan over a sub par performance last Nov. 14.
Usually, in scenarios such as these, the truth lies somewhere in between but not in this case. What we have is a lot of people saying “Temple sucks” and the “reasons we lost to them” range anywhere from the Owls doing a Deflategate to a Spygate. (Yeah, we think that thread is ridiculous, too.)
Guess what? Nothing changed in a little over three hours of football on Saturday.
I’ll stick my neck out right now and say that Penn State will win 10 games this year, just like many of those preseason prognosticators wrote and that will be affirmation of Temple’s goodness, not Penn State’s deficiencies. Even if Temple loses to Cincinnati on Saturday, the Owls will still have a good season as well. Maybe just as good if not better. What we had on Saturday is a classic case of overreaction, like many of the MAC posts (I’m talking about you, Akron fans) who said, “I can’t believe we lost to Temple.” They got used to it. Penn State will, too. For today’s denial to turn into tomorrow’s acceptance, both the Owls and the Lions will have to have good seasons. One result on Saturday does not change that reality.
Post-Mortem: The only negative thing about this day was remembering a bunch of great Temple fans who never lived to see it. I’m talking about Steve Bumm, who came up and introduced himself to me outside what could loosely be called men’s room at Franklin Field in the Dark Ages. Like many fellow Temple fans I’ve met in similar circumstances we became good friends. Steve ran the “City of Palms” High School Basketball Christmas Tournament in Florida for many years before he died at age 51.
Or Shane Artim, who never missed a home game. Or Dan Glammer, who tried to make all of the away games as well. Both of those good men died at the tender age of 46. When their friend, Jay Solnick, celebrated birthday number 47 a few years ago, I told him he was now here to stay because if you could stand Temple football as it existed then past 46, you’ve crossed the proverbial Rubicon. There was Dave Edwards, better known as NJ Schmitty, who brought his own unique sense of gallows humor to the last years of Bobby Wallace and the first couple of Al Golden. Maybe he just kept a few people sane with that perspective. People always knew he was there with the giant white Temple ‘][‘ above the Chevy Conversion van. That van and that ‘][‘ will make a return on Oct. 10, his brother told me on Saturday. Sadly, Schmitty will not but we know this Susquehanna University grad would have loved beating Penn State.
There are many,many more, but we’ll just end with former kicker Wes Sornisky, who died in a fire at the far-too-young age of 64 last Dec. 18. Wes was singularly responsible for bringing all of the old players back and plopping them down in the Jetro Lot. They kept coming back and the involvement of the football alumni, once nearly nonexistent, went up exponentially every year. He deserves a lot of the credit for it. The saddest thing is that Wes is buried in a Potter’s Field with no headstone in Delaware, but I have a feeling that, given some time, that sad circumstance will be rectified. When I got a little melancholy on Saturday about that, people told me not to worry because they were watching from Heaven.
I cannot say for sure, but I think it was better to be there live than to watch from Heaven. No. 1 on my bucket list is now crossed off.
Tomorrow: We’re On To Cincinnati