You Can Still Win, Even After All of Your Mistakes: Ohio State 39 – Penn State 38

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Penn State led by 18 points TWICE and still lost. They took advantage of early Ohio State mistakes and miscues and built leads that were seemingly insurmountable. But Penn State forgot one thing; Ohio State was playing at the Horseshoe, defending their home turf in front of  109,302 raucous, rabid fans. And Ohio State remembered one thing; they remembered that you can still win after dropped passes and missed tackles and stupid penalties and untimely turnovers.  You can still win. You can come back from way back despite the darkness of your dilemma or the depth of your despair.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer surely couldn’t believe his eyes as his special teams play was less than special, giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff.   But Urban was equally incredulous after the game, becasue even after all of his team’s mistakes, they still won. So he is pointing right at you because you can still win, too. Coach Meyer knows this becasue he himself overcame heartache and almost heartbreak as he somehow, someway, coached his boys to a marvelous and miraculous come from behind win.

And you can still lose even with a big lead and a comfortable cushion. Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley  just learned that the hard way. In spite of how wonderful you think you are and how marvelous things seem to be at present, everything can unravel, quickly. Everything can come crashing down and it can all smash to pieces and all can fall apart in the blink of an eye. You can lose it all because you thought you won with time still left on the clock. So don’t get complacent or conceited even when everything is seemingly going your way. You can still surrender the lead and give away the game.  Just ask Penn State.

So hats off to J.T. Barrett and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The fifth-year senior, some six weeks removed from his fan base questioning whether he belonged in the starting lineup, threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns, leading his team in an epic comeback that will long be remembered at the Horseshoe. Barrett seized momentum and snatched a win right out of Penn States arms as they outscored Penn State 19-3 when it mattered most.  J.T. Barrett completed his last 16 passes and was a perfect 13 for 13 in the fourth quarter as he led his team to victory down the stretch over the No. 2 team in the Country with the No. 1 offense in the nation.

J.T. Barret looked like new money as he pulled a rabbit out of the hat and escaped out of a straitjacket and handcuffs better than Harry Houdini as he won a gritty, gutsy, game that no one gave him credit for being able to win. Vegas began to bet against Barrett because they said he couldn’t win the big one. But win the big one he did, and in dramatic fashion.

So remember, you can still win, despite your faults and your failures and your disappointments and even your disasters.  You CAN still win. You can come all the way back, even from the dead. The power of His resurrection is alive and well, in sports and in life. It’s called grace.  And it comes from God. And you can still find it, even after you lose it.

Survival of the Fittest

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Sep 24, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott (4) is carried off the field by outside linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (54) and outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks (95) after kicking a game winning 61 yard field goal as time expires for a victory against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.                                           Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports    

Jake Elliott is now a hero in Philly.  He got carried off the playing field after a thrilling, comeback  win in the Eagle’s home opener. But first, let’s talk about Penn State’s equally stunning win.

Penn State pulled off one of the most improbable, implausible wins of the season and maybe of Coach James Geoffrey Franklin’s career. His young guns came through in the clutch as the No. 4 Nittany Lions survived their trip to Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.  Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley found Juwan Johnson for a seven-yard touchdown as time expired — beating Iowa 21-19 on Saturday night.

It was a final drive to remember. Penn State had just 90 seconds to go 80 yards to overcome the 19-15 deficit. It got to the 7-yard line thanks to seven McSorley completions and a 12-yard McSorley run. With four seconds left, on fourth-and-goal, McSorley audibled and found Johnson over the middle to complete the last-second comeback.

And to top off the weekend, my Eagles beat the New York Football Giants in epic fashion. Philly’s rookie kicker hit a record-setting, 61-yard field goal as time expired. Elliot’s longest previous kick had been 55 yards.  Elliot, who just joined the team two weeks ago, set up for the kick with one second on the game clock. The snap and the hold were all good, and as all of Philly watched with bated breath, the ball just barely nicked the right upright and sailed over the crossbar with no time left on the clock.

Both Penn State and the Eagles had the game in hand but seemingly let their victories slip away as Iowa State and the Giants both grabbed leads late in the game. But both victorious Pennsylvania teams had enough gumption and gusto to march down the field and win their games in walk off style.

The term “survival of the fittest” is a Darwinian term referring to “those traits best suited to perpetuate the species that endure to be passed along indefinitely from generation to generation. Conversely, those traits most detrimental to the good of the species will be phased out after a few generations.”  While we do not subscribe to evolution, we can borrow, repurpose and re-apply this term  to sports teams and players appropriately.   

In sports, fitness means you have work out your kinks and worked on your game and have survived the tests and the trials and the sufferings and the pains that come part and parcel with every day of practice and every game of the week and every season of your career. And the same goes for life. Your survive the tests and trials  of life and emerge intact; you may be battered  and you may be bruised, but in the end your spirit is unbroken and you’re no worse for the wear. 

So, even if you’re not a fan of the Nittany Lions or of the Philadelphia Eagle’s, you have to love how these two teams emerged and evolved through their games and survived.  It’s a lesson for us all.

Always remember, it aint over till it’s over. Even with 0.4 seconds or 0.1 second on the clock, you too can survive.

Signing Day: Penn State and Brailyn Franklin

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Brailyn Franklin is going to play for Penn State!

Brailyn is a fine young man. He “picked” Penn State over Maryland, Temple, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse on Signing Day. He attends church in Manassas, Virginia where his pastor, Bishop Wesley Cherry, Sr. preaches and teaches and lives and breathes faith. And watching him from a distance, it is clear that Brailyn is a product of his family’s and his church’s faith. His proud parents are humbled by the prospect that their son was recruited by a Big 10 Power school, and are moved even more by how Heaven is elevating Brailyn.

Sometimes faith is mixed with “pinch me, I must be dreaming” amazement at how God has ordered and orchestrated the pieces of our lives to come and fit together perfectly. Brailyn’s athletic and emotional development is impressive. Add to it his maturation and progression and you get the excitement of Signing Day that is only surpassed by his unlimited potential.

Brailyn Franklin did everything for Battlefield (Va.) High School: rush the passer at defensive tackle, return kicks, run the wildcat, force fumbles, split out wide and built a stadium. Alright, he didn’t build a stadium. But he did build a solid relationship with Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry, and that was key in leading Franklin north to Happy Valley.

Here’s what the website FANSIDED said about Brailyn signing with Penn State:

Thin at linebacker, the Nittany Lions got an important piece of the puzzle on National Signing Day when linebacker Brailyn Franklin officially signed with Penn State. Franklin committed to the Nittany Lions back in August and followed through with that promise on National Signing Day.

Listed by many recruiting services as an athlete, Franklin will start at Penn State as a linebacker. He mainly played on the defensive line in high school in Virginia, but at 200 pounds, he’s better suited to be a linebacker in college. He’s a raw talent who would benefit greatly from an extra year to both develop his skills and build some size. He could also move to the defensive backfield if needed.

Franklin’s versatility and speed make him a very intriguing prospect and Franklin could be a key addition to the defense. http://victorybellrings.com/2017/02/01/penn-state-football-20017-recruit-profile-lb-brailyn-franklin/

Franklin intends to major in sports psychology, a mission he’ll begin as soon as his Haymarket, Va., Battlefield High team finishes its 2016 season. “What I’m hoping to accomplish on the field this season is to actually get to the championship, and making sure that I finish out the season healthy so I can prepare for college,” Franklin said.

Congratulations Brailyn and welcome to Penn State!

Penn State Redemption

penn-state-tops-wisconsin-to-win-big-ten-championship_5_1Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin hugs his wife after his team defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 38-31 in the 2016 Big Ten Football Championship Game in Indianapolis on December 3, 2016. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

Penn State’s 38-31 victory over No. 6 Wisconsin in Saturday night’s 2016 Big Ten championship game was bigger than you think. With a convincing win, Penn State won its first conference championship in eight seasons. It was, in part, a vindication for Coach James Franklin and the Penn State Football program.

When the Wisconsin Badgers raced out to a 28-7 lead over the Nittany Lions in the first half, the impact of this year’s successful season was in doubt and it seemed like Penn State Football had only come halfway home. Yet their remarkable comeback in the second half against Wisconsin — the largest in Big Ten title game history – coupled with their victory over Ohio State earlier in the season, was proof positive of the return of Penn State Football. The turnaround removed all doubts about how far Penn State has come since their fall from grace in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

In 2012, Penn State Board of Trustees hired former FBI director Louis Freeh and his firm, including a team of former federal prosecutors and FBI agents, to conduct an independent investigation into the scandal. In the opinion of many, the mission Freeh was given seemed to presuppose that Sandusky’s crimes were not his alone and that people who had reason to suspect him had looked away.

Joseph Vincent Paterno, a.k.a. “Joe Pa,” was fired the second to last game of the 2011 season in the middle of the scandal. After being accused in the Freeh Report of withholding information about Jerry Sandusky’s inappropriate behavior in the locker room, in essence, Paterno was found “guilty” in the court of public opinion. A year after the report’s issuance, the chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees, which had originally commissioned the report, said that Freeh’s conclusions amounted to “speculation.”

On September 4, 2013, in an interview conducted by Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports, the former Chief Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Frank Fina, who investigated and prosecuted Jerry Sandusky, stated that he found no evidence that Joe Paterno participated in a cover-up. Fina then qualified that statement, stating that he saw no need to judge Paterno beyond his own words and that Paterno himself said it best. “He said: ‘I didn’t do enough… I should have done more.'”

Because of the findings of the Freeh Report, The NCAA vacated 112 of Penn State’s wins dating back to 1998. This included the removal of Paterno’s last 111 wins at Penn State, dropping him from first to 12th on the all-time wins list. And, while it may never be medically proven, the scandal certainly sucked the life right out of Joe. In November of 2011 it was reported that Paterno had a treatable form of lung cancer.

It is clear to me that the scandal only helped to worsen Joe’s condition, and on January 13, 2012, Paterno was hospitalized for complications relating to his cancer treatment. He remained there until he died nine days later on January 22, 2012.

But redemption is sweet. In 2015, the NCAA reinstated Joe Pa’s wins. And the vigor and vitality of the Penn State football team has been restored as evidenced by the 2016 Big 10 Championship win which was transforming and is heartwarming indeed.

As my momma used to say, “God don’t like ugly.” God will one day right every wrong and make every rough place plain. God will upset the apple cart of your enemies and make every crooked lie straight and every false accusation frivolous.

And that is what has just happened for Penn State.