In an empty, snow-filled whiteout in Beaver Stadium, the 2020 Penn State football season came to an end.
The year 2020 was unkind to the Nittany Lions. Breaking in 4 new position coaches and an offensive coordinator is normally a tall order. In retrospect, doing it without spring practices, summer workouts, a fall camp, and some early season MAC opponents was tough sledding.
On top of that, who would have thought that Penn State would have been without Micah Parsons, Pat Friermuth, Journey Brown, Noah Cain, Tariq-Castro Fields, and John Donavan for most (if not all of the season)?
Tough sledding indeed.
In a year when Penn State started the season winless in their first five games, with the “fire Franklin” mob chanting at full volume, games being cancelled left-and-right due to the pandemic, and the promise of a championship in the dust, you’d forgive the Nittany Lions to pack it in and start looking early towards 2021.
But not these Nittany Lions. While most fair-weather fans threw in the towel, us die-hards got to see what resilience looks like – and it looked like Blue and White. A team that showed some grit and managed to finish the season with a four game winning streak.
Granted, it wasn’t the stiffest of competition - but it was still an impressive turnaround.
And the Nittany Lions did it without missing any games, having any COVID outbreaks, or cutting any corners in the pandemic-safety department. Much better than most teams.
Some thoughts about this season:
- Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson are all very quickly making us forget about Pat Friermuth. These guys have looked great.
- Wide Receiver was a huge question mark coming into the season, and it looks to be a position of strength coming into 2021. Parker Washington looked great. KLS has shown flashes. A host of solid kids coming in the door and this position group appears to be on the up and up.
- The running backs are unbelievably talented. The final game saw Penn State lean on two true freshmen running backs. And they looked pretty good. (granted, maybe not the stiffest of all defenses), but there’s a lot to be excited about when Noah Cain and Devyn Ford both get healthy.
- The offensive line seems to be figuring things out. Phil Trautwein is an excellent coach, and I can’t wait to see what he can do with more practices and time with the line.
- Great to see Shane Simmons get some starting playing time. He’s been around forever with injuries not being kind to him. Fun to see him out on the field and making an impact.
- Brandon Smith will make us forget about Micah Parsons next year - mark my words!
- The cornerbacks this year have really been an impressive group. I can’t wait to see more Joey Porter Jr next year.
It looks like the Penn State team has decided against accepting a bowl invitation. I don’t blame them. Gearing up to play another game in 10 days in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in North Carolina doesn’t sound like a glamorous, fun bowl destination in the middle of a pandemic.
On the recruiting front, Penn State has plenty of scholarships available to sign a few more recruits before the second official signing day in February. It’ll be interesting to see if Penn State can flip some commits.
Expect the transfer portal to be a hopping place in 2021. I wonder if Penn State takes advantage at a few key positions?
With eligibility requirements waived in 2020, it’ll be interesting to see which players go to the draft and which players try to make another go in 2021.
With 300K deaths in the US due to COVID, it’s quite amazing that Penn State was able to put a nine-game season. I’m thankful to see that Penn State did it safely. I’m thankful that on a Saturday evening in mid December, I was lucky to see my favorite college football team having fun playing a game in Beaver Stadium.
The off-season will be interesting.
2021 will be fun.
Next stop - Madison Wisconsin to take on the Badgers on September 4th!