RESTORING THE ROAR: Bill O’Brien’s first victory, even if it was expected, is a step in the right direction. Photo courtesy Rob Carr/Getty Images

If you felt a giant gust blow through yesterday evening, it wasn’t the onset of another hurricane; it was a huge sigh of relief exhaling out of State College, Pennsylvania.

To be honest, Penn State had control of their game against Navy from start to finish. But given the way the first two weeks went for the Happy Valley hopeful, you almost felt like the entire fan base was tense until the game went final.

Then, the Nittany Lions could sit back and say, “Okay, we got one.”

HAPPY HAPPY VALLEY: The Nittany Lions haven’t had much to cheer about in 2012 before yesterday. Photo courtesy Rob Carr/Getty Images

You see, when I wrote that having to play football under these such restrictions may actually be WORSE than the death penalty, the first two weeks of this college football season is kind of what I had in mind. Penn State played flat, and each time they punted or their opponent scored, it felt like someone was rubbing salt on the wound left agape by Jerry Sandusky.

It was part of the reason why I was in favor of this football season being suspended for the Nittany Lions. I wasn’t one of the bloodthirsty critics that wouldn’t to inflict as much harm to State College as humanly possible, I just felt the timing was wrong. It felt too soon for Penn State to be carrying about football as if it was “business as usual”, and the feeling was very much evident against Ohio and Virginia.

I’m glad Penn State won against Navy, but make no mistake: this was a MUST-win for the Nittany Lions. If this team went 0-3 out of the gate to THOSE three schools, it would be full-on panic mode in Happy Valley.

Think about it. I mean REALLY think about it: if Penn State loses to Ohio, UVA, and Navy, does anyone definitively know where ‘rock bottom’ is? 3-9? 2-10? When do we begin to wonder if 0-12 is really possible?

That’s why this win was crucial. The Penn State family can look at this season and say, “Okay, we’ve still got a rough road ahead, but we’re back on track towards being the school and football program we used to be.”

And, to be honest, in the wake of such a horrific, unthinkable scandal, small steps is what it’s going to take. The Nittany Lions got their first victory. Next, will come that victory where they come from behind and overcome adversity (not unlike this season). Then, not necessarily this year or the year after, the first winning football season will come. And, before you know it, the wounds of 2011 and 2012 will have healed. Or, at the very least, they will have scabbed over.

That’s how big this victory over an 0-2 service school was. Because it was the first step. The first step towards forgetting about Sandusky. The first step towards a conversation that doesn’t involve group showers or little boys. A first step back towards normalcy.

Now all Penn State has to do is put one foot in front of the other.

NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
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