“The cheers and excitement in that final post-game locker room were as loud and jubilant as any in Beaver Stadium history, because these loyal, dedicated Penn Staters had competed for something more important than a bowl game or conference title. They had competed for the honor of their team and their university.”
So wrote John Black ’62 one year ago, after the Nittany Lions closed out the 2012 season with an unforgettable 24-21 victory over Wisconsin. Zach Zwinak (above) was the workhorse, and Sam Ficken was the hero, bringing a difficult season for himself—and the entire team—full circle. There will never be another 8-4 team so beloved in school history.
This year’s Lions close out the season Saturday in Madison, and for so many reasons, it’s hard to imagine matching that storybook ending this weekend. Pundits (and probably even most fans) are expecting a difficult trip that sends Penn State home with a .500 finish. If so, it’s probably something less than the best-case scenario that optimistic fans had hoped for when the season began.
Whether this team finishes 6-6 or 7-5 seems less important than the fact of what these players—the 2012 and 2013 teams—have done in blue and white. They have, as John Black wrote, “competed for the honor of their team and their university.” Every player on the roster today stayed at Penn State, or committed to become a Nittany Lion, when things looked bleak. A six- or seven-win season might not seem worth remembering, but like last year’s squad, their legacy will be greater than the sum of those wins.
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