The score was 35-28, yet it never really felt all that close. That’s because the defense gave up a combined 14 for 18 in 3rd/4th down conversions. That ultimately led our defense – the backbone of this team – to surrender 545 yards of total offense. They did it through the air, with 342 yards passing, and on the ground, with the other 203 (including 137 yards and 2 TDs from Saquon Barkley, who could’ve had a ton more if he hadn’t split series with the other backs).
It was quite the demoralizing day for the defense, and yet there we were, down 7 points in the fourth quarter. I was pleasantly surprised by the Husky offense. Through most of the first half, I was ready to jump on here and lambaste the whole unit, particularly Jake Browning, for once again not showing up in a big game. But, he really turned his game around and kept us in it. I was proud of the fight our offense showed, against a very tough, very stout Penn State defense.
The Huskies were down two scores early, before a wide receiver pass led to our first TD. Then, right before halftime, we took advantage of a turnover to go into the second half only down 28-14. We pulled to within 7 on the first drive of the second half, and it looked like the tide was starting to turn. But, they returned the favor on the very next drive to make it a 2-score game again. Myles Gaskin blew through their defense on a 69-yard scamper in the fourth quarter to bring it back to within 7, and this was it. This was the game. For once, if we could just stop them on a 3 & Out, we might have had a chance. Instead, they converted three straight third downs to chew through the clock. They got down into field goal range and on a 3rd & 2, ran or a yard, and looked like they were gonna go for it on 4th down until a false start penalty moved them back. There, with under a minute to go, on the Washington 28 yard line, they missed the put-away field goal.
But, with under 30 seconds to go and no time outs, it would’ve taken a miracle. Three straight incompletions to start our final drive surely didn’t help. Then, on fourth down, a hook-and-ladder had Dante Pettis running up the sideline and into Penn State territory with 5 seconds to go. A chance for a Hail Mary perhaps?! Except, he had no idea how much time was left on the clock, and tried lateraling to an offensive lineman in the middle of the field. It was recovered by the defense, and that was that. I’m not mad, but I’m bummed I didn’t at least get to see our Hail Mary attempt. I mean, this IS college, you never know what’ll happen.
A tough end to a tough season. I wish a lot of it had gone differently, but this way it almost seems fitting. With our top notch recruiting class – and many more yet to come – I agree this is just the beginning of something special. Before too long, we’re going to be winning these major New Years 6 bowl games, and the rest of the country will have to take notice!