Homecoming crowd savors win

 

 

For the glory of Old State…

It’s doubtful that the alma mater ever sounded better.

Penn State had just completed a scintillating come-from-behind 39-28 victory over previously undefeated and nationally ranked Northwestern and the Nittany Lions sprinted to the adoring student section for the coolest new game-day tradition Bill O’Brien has implemented.

With most of the crowd still around soaking in the Homecoming victory, it belted out one of the loudest renditions Beaver Stadium has ever heard.

For her founders strong and great…

Sandusky, scandal, sanctions – it’s been a sickening 12 months since the last time Homecoming was celebrated. Penn State has been kicked around like a rag doll for the past 11 months. The heinous crimes of Jerry Sandusky, the firing and death of Joe Paterno, a 24-hour news crawl that included news and unheard of ridiculousness (e.g. Penn State should change its name and start over, said one marketing expert) dominated the winter.

For the future that we wait…

Then came the spring when the world wanted vengeance through a statue and then summer when NCAA President Mark Emmert did his best to decimate the future of Penn State football with unprecedented sanctions and transfer and recruiting rules that defy every rule and bylaw that the NCAA has ever had.

Raise the song, raise the song…

Lo and behold, most players were defiant and decided to stay. Sure, a few left and it hurt – hurt the team and hurt the collective pride of Penn Staters everywhere. But most stayed and everybody rallied behind them.

Sing our love and loyalty…

 

Thousands showed up at a 6 a.m. summer practice to show the players that support. “PROUD TO SUPPORT PENN STATE FOOTBALL” signs popped up in nearly every State College business. The opening game against Ohio was eagerly awaited by coaches, players, students, alumni and fans alike.

Sing our hopes that bright and free…

Finally, the season began. It was a chance to turn the attention to the field and away, at least temporarily, from the sanctions, the Freeh report, Karen Peetz, Franco Harris and all the internal squabbles.

Rest, O Mother dear, with thee…

The opening game brought some relief and sorrow. The arriving of the team buses was emotional for everybody that saw it and that emotion carried Penn State to a 14-3 lead against what we know now is a very good Ohio team.

The emotion didn’t last, however, and the Bobcats rallied in the second half, handing Bill O’Brien’s team a tough loss.

A road game at Virginia was next and the Lions did more than just show up. They dominated the game in every facet – except the scoreboard. Missed kicks doomed them to a loss that kicked every Penn State fan in the stomach.

Would this nightmare ever end?

All with thee, all with thee….

With many across the nation thinking that this team would be lucky to win three games, Penn State rebounded with a solid win over Navy. The Lions were 1-2 and could’ve been…should’ve been 2-1.

When we stood at childhood’s gate…

Temple was up next and the Owls had already been hailed as the best college football team in the state by some. They hadn’t beaten Penn State since 1941 but, hey, it’s easy to kick somebody when they’re down.

Like the Navy game, Penn State never was threatened and won easily.

Shapeless in the hands of fate…

Illinois sent eight coaches to State College in the summer with the decided purpose of recruiting as many Penn State players as they could. That didn’t sit well with the Nittany Lions and they showed that in a 35-7 demolition of the Illini in Champaign.

Thou didst mold us, dear old State,

Dear old State, Dear old State…

Now 3-2 on the season and moving in the right direction, here came undefeated and No. 22 Northwestern. Navy, Temple and Illinois were wins – any wins were good – but this would be a bigger test.

May no act of ours bring shame…

Written in 1901, this line jumps out of the grand old song now more than it ever has. It’s hard to sing it with out cracking. It’s hard to hear it without thinking about what all has happened. That’s a good thing.

To one heart that loves thy name…

Despite all that has happened, it was Homecoming and over 95,000 people were on hand to cheer and support this group of players and the school they still cherish.

May our lives but swell thy fame…

Trailing 28-17, Penn State outscored Northwestern 22-0 in the fourth quarter in as exciting a game as there has been in Beaver Stadium in quite awhile. It was loud, it was joyous, it was great to see these players jumping up and down in sheer glee.

They rushed through the obligatory post-game handshakes and raced to get to the South end zone for this new tradition that they clearly love.

The Homecoming crowd returned the love. It’s been a difficult road for the past year and things are sure to be difficult for some time to come. But for this day Penn State football was fun. It couldn’t have been a better Homecoming and, never, has the alma mater sounded better.

Dear old State, Dear old State!

Marty Valania covers football for nittanylionsden.com. Follow @EastRecruiting on Twitter.

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