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Penn State Football: In The End, There Are Worse Things Than Confidence Building Blowouts

by on August 31, 2019 10:40 PM

The most points scored in the first quarter of a season opener since 2004 (21).

The most points scored in a single game since 1991 (81).

The third most total yards of offense in a single game in Penn State history (673).

That makes 79-7.

There are two different schools of thought if you're going to unpack Penn State's annihilation of Idaho on Saturday afternoon. The first is that, well, Idaho isn't very good, which is hard to argue with considering the final score. Alternatively, and a lot more likely, Idaho was exceptionally overmatched. You can be good at football, but if you can't catch KJ Hamler, well then you can't catch KJ Hamler.

So sure, 79-7 does not lend itself to saying the game was balanced. There was a moment when Hamler was actively running away from his own end zone and he still almost broke it back for a score. Chances are he isn't doing that against Michigan.

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The other school of thought: good football is good football. Jordan Stout booted over 13 touchbacks, Sean Clifford looked sharp once he warmed up, Hamler was Hamler, Justin Shorter looks confident, a host of running backs played to their stars and Penn State's defense was everything it has been billed as. Yetur Gross-Matos was a man, Jayson Oweh looks primed to break out, Micah Parsons didn't do a whole bunch but he didn't have to, John Reid looked like the old John Reid. It goes on and on.

In short, you can be way better than another team, but you still have to go out and actually play better.

There is something to be said for the confidence that builds. As cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields said after the game, "We're playing who they put in front of us. And my film is my resume." So even in a game that is over nearly at the moment it began, there is reason to care.

And when you care and you win by...[counts]...72, you tend to feel pretty good about yourself.

Does that breed overconfidence? Maybe, but games against Buffalo and Pitt will be slightly more challenging to varying degrees and the Nittany Lions will eventually find out their weaknesses. All told, given the option to feel confident or feel like each week is a battle, it's better to be overconfident than cautiously optimistic. And you can't fault a good team for winning like one.

It makes you think about Penn State's 2018 season and that late loss to Ohio State. How would things have changed if the Nittany Lions had held on to win? How would the confidence of that team changed, how would their swagger have been different? The 2016 Big Ten title run was as much about self-belief as it was big plays. Penn State starting out 2019 feeling like its offense can move the ball at will and that the defense can stop anyone is not the worst way to go about it.

So sure, Idaho is not on Penn State's level and pretty much everyone knew that going into Saturday. The only lingering doubt fans may have had was the remaining PTSD from Penn State's near loss to Appalachian State last season. Nobody was expecting 79 points, but you don't end up being nearly a six touchdown favorite by mistake.

Penn State's season will be long, and the Nittany Lions will have stressful moments and almost certainly a tough loss. That's how life goes.

But as Sean Clifford said after the game, "I was having so much fun [today.]"

And there are worse things.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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