By Steve Kish
This fall will be much the same in State College. Fall classes will
begin, new incoming freshman will begin their steps to the future. The
leaves will turn from green to shades of red, orange, and yellow, and
the air will become crisp and cool. On Saturday’s Beaver Stadium will
be filled with cheering fans, some games will be whiteouts. This is
where the same ends and the unknown begins.
For Generations Penn State fans have seen one man, one leader, one
iconic legend on the sidelines. Joe Paterno for the first time in 46
years will not be manning the sideline. He will not be leading his
troops into battle against the Michigan’s and Ohio State’s of the
college world. Fans do not know what to expect, what type of team they
are going to see. JoePa gave them something to look forward to every
year. They knew the defense was going to play angry and mean and
dominant. They knew the offense would pound the ball. Hoping to run
the defensive line into the ground by the fourth quarter, and pound
the ball down the opposing teams throat. Then use that running game to
throw off play action and take the timely shot down the field.
This fall Penn State fans are going to have to deal with the unknown
with first time head coach Bill O’Brien. Sure we all know Bill
O’Brien’s pedigree. We saw what he did in New England, but how much of
that was him and how much was the other Bill up there. He was the man
in charge of the offense for one year, Charlie Weis had held that same
position for five years, and he did not restore Notre Dame.
Penn State is going to go into this season hearing every news
station, every commentator asking how will they respond. How will they
move on. Well winning has always helped repair relationships. O’Brien
needs to win fast and furious. Squeaking by teams will not make the
cut. Sure a win is a win but JoePa loyalists will have their comments
and remarks. JoePa would have done this or that, or it wouldn’t have
been that tight of a game if Paterno was still around. These are how
things will go if O’Brien isn’t crushing teams.
Coaches come and go, but no one has had to come and replace a coach of
Paterno’s caliber in this new age of news and technology. Sure Woody
Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and Bear Bryant all were replaced or retired
and a new coach took over. The difference is they didn’t have 500 news
outlets following their every move. O’Briens every move will be talked
about, failure will crush him, faster possibly then any coach in
history. Forty Six years of on the field coaching legacy is a mountain
to look at, it is college football’s Everest.
O’Brien needs help, the Penn State players need help, and the Penn
State fans need help. Need help moving on, moving forward. Paterno
will always be part of Penn State. Whether they take down Paterno’s
statue outside Beaver Stadium or they don’t, that doesn’t matter. The
lasting memories of the great Paterno have been altered forever. Penn
State won’t be the same for awhile. It can’t be, Paterno was Penn
State and his name has been drug through the mud for months now.
The players must trust O’Brien, Penn State must trust O’Brien. They
have to, point blank. He is the man that took this challenge, one that
will he no matter how it ends he will be remembered for. He is the man
that replaced the Legend. The future is now for Penn State as a
University and as a football program. O’Brien has had years with the
mental genius of Bill Belichick and seeing how he deals with the media
and adversity. He has outlets to reach out to find ways to deal
with the media circus that will hit if he isn’t winning.
Everyone needs to give O’Brien and Penn State time to find themselves.
Half a century of tradition is gone, and a new regime is starting.
Let’s see how Penn State handles this new beginning, as only time can
heal wounds, but in sports, wins help the process move a lot faster.