“All of the omens were ominous.”
So began John Black ’62 five years ago, in The Football Letter following Michigan’s 2008 visit to Beaver Stadium. The evidence on hand: “National champion twirler PJ Maierhofer dropped the baton … Drum Major Matt Sabo landed on his rear … (and) on Penn State’s first play from scrimmage, center AQ Shipley snapped the ball over the head of quarterback Daryll Clark, and Clark had to run it down and fall on it for a 16-yard loss.”
Bad omens indeed, and they appeared to signal real doom when the Wolverines jumped out to a 10-0 lead and were still in front, 17-7, late in the first half. Of course, we remember that 2008 team was not the sort of roll over and die, and Penn State on that Homecoming Saturday did no such thing. More than 110,000—and I’m pretty sure all of us stuck around ’til the end—saw the Nittany Lions rally for a 46-17 win that extended their unbeaten start to 8-0.
Five years later, Penn State once again welcomes Michigan as its mid-October Homecoming opponent, and once again the omens aren’t great. These Lions have lost two out of three, and last week’s first-ever loss to Indiana was a frustrating one to accept. The good news: The Penn State team that steps on the field Saturday should have all the focus and motivation it needs.
There might also be some good omens to take from that ’08 game: Once again, it’s Homecoming and once again the stadium will glow white. And while that team boasted a very different offense, its diverse array of backfield weapons is somewhat reminiscent of this one: Evan Royster ’10 (above) was the workhorse with 18 carries for 174 yards, but there was also speedy Stephfon Green ’11 providing the exclamation point with his game-sealing, 80-yard touchdown on a screen pass. A big game Saturday from the mix-and-match backfield of Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch would go a long way toward a repeat of that 2008 result.
Here’s to a happy Homecoming.
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