I asked the semi-rhetorical question earlier this fall, What’s a Penn State Football Fan to Do?
The answer is cheer their asses off for the young men who decided to stay and represent Penn State football in the Post Joe Paterno, Post Jerry Sandusky, Post NCAA Wrecking Ball era.
In week one of the college football season, one of the lead stories on every redundant ESPN show was “How will Penn State respond?” They responded by losing to Ohio University. Not THE (god that is annoying) Ohio State University, but Ohio University. Since that day, all the Nittany Lions have done is go out and win football games. The most recent being an absolute drubbing of Illinois on the road Saturday afternoon.
This win was particularly satisfying after what went down with the Illinois coaching staff following the NCAA Wrecking ball earlier this year. Following the NCAA’s decision to punish the players at Penn State (who did absolutely nothing wrong… actually, I don’t even want to talk about this because I am so upset about it.) The Illinois coaching staff (and they were not alone) camped out in the parking lot outside of the football complex in State College hoping to snag themselves some players who might be considering transferring following the Wrecking Ball.
This led to this statement from the Penn State Players:
The two players who do the majority of the talking in this video are Michael Zordich and Michael Mauti (the Michaels also happen to both be my favorite players, which I will come back to). Mauti in particular was upset by what happened and had this to say about coaches trying to pilfer players:
Penn State went out and made a statement Saturday and no one spoke louder than Mauti, who finished the game with six tackles and two interceptions, including one on the goal-line that he returned 99 yards before running out of gas. Mauti was the most vocal about the Illinois coaching staff this off-season. I would be lying if I said this year I had been fully invested in the Penn State games (really, until Saturday they were non-conference games anyway). But the one player who routinely jumped off the screen has been Mauti. So much so that Danielle has even taken notice, nicknaming him Dowdy-Mauti (I personally like Rowdy Mauti).
I read an article a few weeks ago about how, quietly two former Penn State linebackers has become two of the NFL’s best (49ers ILB Navarro Bowman and Dallas’ Sean Lee). Linebacker U continues to churn out legit NFL linebackers (where have you gone Poz?) and Mauti and Gerald Hodges will most likely be joining their ranks soon. Because I had detached myself from PSU this fall (no longer) I hadn’t truly bonded with any players in particular. Michael Mauti is now officially “My Guy”. Injuries have kept him from reaching his potential sooner, but now that he is healthy, the dude is killing it.
Bill O’Brien has done a really nice job with this team. I was afraid after the loss to Ohio that the wheels would fall of and things would spiral out of control. I mean, let’s be honest, when Matt McGloin is your QB, how much does it really take for things to fall apart? That simply has not been the case. I think the move to add the players names to the backs of their jerseys was the right one. O’Brien explained that he wanted the players who chose to stay to be recognized for that decision. I am not mad a the guys who left (except maybe the kicker, because he left us with Ficken). I understand why they did what they did. That being said, I have a world of respect for Mauti, Zordich and the rest of those who stayed.
Saturday, the Lions take on undefeated Northwestern in a game that will be a good barometer of what this team really is. It is a freaking shame that the NCAA did what they did. Penn State would be loaded with talent, and they seem to finally have the coaching staff to make good use of it. Joe is gone. Sandusky is behind bars, and now it is the fans and the players that are being punished, not the people who perpetrated those awful crimes, or the people who helped to cover them up. As a Penn State fan, and a football fan in general, I am saddened by this.
The SEC, and college football writ large are swamped by programs rife with recruiting violations, “student”-athletes who never go to class or have rap sheets longer than my arm, and coaches for whom there is no lower limit to what they will do in the name of a win. Yet it was this program, and these players for which the NCAA chose to make an example of. The NCAA has ZERO credibility in my eyes, and I say this not only as a Penn State fan, but a fan of college football in general. The entire system is screwed up.
There, I got that out. Penn State, and Michael Mauti specifically, you have won me back. Thank you. Sorry Danielle. Stop planning things for Saturdays.