Heading into the 2012 college football season, no one knew what to expect from the Penn State Nittany Lions. After starting 0-2 with a loss to Ohio at home and a squandered opportunity at Virginia, things looked grim. But from there, Bill O'Brien and Penn State bounced back with five straight victories before falling to Ohio State.
On Saturday, the Nittany Lions bounced right back again, trouncing Purdue 34-9 to prove that no matter what sort of turmoil this team goes through, Penn State will not succumb to the pressures and quit on this season.
Matt McGloin bounced back from a difficult game where he reverted to his old self by picking apart the Boilermakers to the tune of 321 yards passing and two touchdowns without any of those costly turnovers. Brandon Moseby-Felder bounced back from a season of dropped passes with his best game to date, hauling in six passes for a game-high 129 yards and a score. The running game bounced back from an anemic showing against the Buckeyes to gain 185 yards, led by Zach Zwinak's 134. The defense bounced back after getting worn down by Ohio State to suffocate Purdue's offense. And Bill O'Brien bounced back from a rough second half where he was outsmarted by his counterpart Urban Meyer by pushing all the right buttons. Hell, even Sam Ficken bounced back from a season of struggles to make both his field goal attempts and knock through four extra points.
All in all, it was an encouraging sign, another in a line of many for the program. No matter what kind of hand the Nittany Lions are dealt, they seem to find a way to come out ahead. Truthfully, 6-3 isn't the type of record that's going to knock the socks off of the college football world, but this is no ordinary 6-3 team. It's a 6-3 team that simply refuses to make excuses or take the easy way out.
This entire season has been built around bouncing back, a program that needed to bounce back from a scandal so heinous and unfathomable that many thought it would take years, if not even longer. And while the long-term ramifications are still to be sorted out, this team, led by this new, fearless coach, just keeps bouncing back.
These Nittany Lions bounced back from the departures of some key players by circling the wagons and playing for each other. They bounced back from a demoralizing start to go on a winning streak. And they bounced back from a rough home defeat to a rival with another impressive performance.
As a result, Penn State is beginning to bounce back as well, at least from an alumni standpoint. Thanks to the football program, especially the players. going out and working their tails off to provide a distraction for a few hours, some of that pride that was so suddenly stripped away is returning. I saw it this weekend in Boston as I watched the game at The Greatest Bar, Boston's Penn State bar. The alumni there were cheering and chanting and hanging on every play, showing their school pride in a city some 430-plus miles away.
For a program and school that still has a long way to go to restore faith and take the proper steps to help in any way it can for the pain and misery it allowed to happen on its very campus, this team represents the Penn State resolve.
No matter how many jokes we are the butt of — from South Park to The League to everything in between — and no matter how many people want to pigeonhole an entire community based off the actions of five individuals, we are all working as hard as we possibly can to bounce back, to help our university bounce back. Bill O'Brien and the 2012 Penn State Nittany Lions are a proud extension of that, a team that just keeps bouncing back and showing its resolve.