All across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok the last few weeks people have been posting “beginning of the decade vs. end of the decade” pictures. This is in an effort to show how much, or how little, the person has changed. Going into the decade, 2009 into 2010, I was finishing 11th grade. I was getting ready to turn 17. Further, I had already circled the first date that my Penn State application could be submitted for early admission. I didn’t follow the picture trend on my social media accounts, but I did start to think about Penn State football. So, let’s look at where the Nittany Lions were after the 2009 season versus where they are ending 2019.
Penn State Football After 2009 and 2019
It is interesting to think about the few seasons before the sanctions handed out by the NCAA. Also, how far the program has come in one decade. There have been a lot of ups and downs and several coaching changes, for the first time in several decades, but let’s see where it started.
The End of the Last Decade: 2009 Season
Head Coach: Joe Paterno
Season Record: 11-2
Big Ten Record: 6-2
Bowl Game: Capital One Bowl vs. LSU; win 19-17
The Nittany Lions entered the decade finishing an 11-2 season and ranked ninth overall in the AP Poll. The first day of the new decade saw a 19-17 win over LSU in the Capital One Bowl. The two losses? A 21-10 loss to Iowa in the fourth week of the season. Then, a 24-7 loss to Ohio State in week 10.
Daryll Clark was the starting quarterback and he threw for 3003 yards in the season. The fourth-string quarterback? Future starter Matt McGloin, Mr. Moxie himself. Clark threw 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2009. Evan Royster rushed for 1169 yards and six touchdowns. He added two more receiving touchdowns. The three leading receivers were Derek Moye, Graham Zug, and Andrew Quarless. Quarless would go on to play tight end for the Green Bay Packers and win a Super Bowl. Zug was a former walk-on that led the three in touchdowns with seven.
The defense allowed 159 points on the season, recorded 14 interceptions and forced eight fumbles. The leaders on the defense? Josh Hull, Navorro Bowman, Sean Lee, Drew Astorino, Jared Odrick, Nate Stupar, and Nick Sukay. The majority of them were drafted and played, or are still playing, in the NFL. Bowman led the Nittany Lions in tackles for loss with 17 and Jack Crawford wasn’t far behind with 14.5. In addition, Odrick led the Penn State defense with seven sacks. Who was right there with him? Crawford with five and a half.
Now, I am not going to neglect the special teams. Collin Wagner made all 46 extra points and went 15 for 22 on field goals. Jeremy Boone recorded 53 punts with an average of 43 yards per punt. Overall, 2009 was a good season for the Nittany Lions. It set a nice tone for the start of the decade that we are about to finish.
The End of This Decade: 2019 Season
Head Coach: James Franklin
Regular Season Record:10-2
Big Ten Record: 7-2
Bowl Game: Cotton Bowl vs. Memphis
Now, it is time for this decade to come to a close. Unlike the 2009 season, the Nittany Lions will not play their final game in a new decade. This is will be it until April. The 2019 season was deemed by many as a rebuilding year for Penn State football. No Trace McSorley, no Miles Sanders, and a few losses on the defensive side of the ball, but not many. So, it came as a surprise to those people that the Nittany Lions were undefeated entering week nine. A not-so-great showing by Penn State handed the young team their first loss of the season against an also undefeated Minnesota squad. Then, two weeks later the Nittany Lions suffered their second loss at Ohio State. This loss kept starting quarterback Sean Clifford out of the second half in Columbus and the final regular-season game with an injury.
How Did This Team Compare to the 2009 Team?
The Nittany Lions have a chance to finish the decade with the same record that they entered it with, but that may be the only thing the two teams have in common. Penn State played its first game in the decade with an upperclassmen-heavy team. This team does not have that luxury on its side. Clifford is a redshirt sophomore that played in one less regular-season game than Clark, who was a senior, did in 2009. As mentioned above, to start the decade Clark finished with 3003 passing yards. Clifford is currently at 2521 passing yards. Not too far behind with two fewer games.
Royster was the main back in 2009, this season was a running back by committee. Still, Journey Brown rushed for 688 yards and accounted for 11 total touchdowns. Three more touchdowns than Royster. KJ Hamler and Pat Freiermuth are the leading receivers to end the decade. Freiermuth has stated that he will return next season even though he is eligible for the draft, but Hamler has not made an announcement.
Now, the defense. The names that led the defense into this decade were some of the greatest Penn State has ever seen. This season has some greats as well though. The defense recovered 11 fumbles and intercepted eight passes. Further, the defense accounted for more than 30 sacks. Linebacker Micah Parsons led the team with 95 total tackles and also had 11 for loss. Yetur Gross-Matos continued his dominance as well. Gross-Matos led the team in sacks and tackles for loss this season. He also decided to declare for the NFL draft. The entire defense did well this season, ranking in the top 10 in scoring defense.
News to End the Decade
Head Coach James Franklin signed a six-year contract extension at the beginning of December. Not long after, Offensive Coordinator, Ricky Rahne was announced as the Head Coach of Old Dominion. Current and former players wished Rahne the best in his new coaching venture. Finally, Memphis Head Coach Mike Norvell was named the new head coach at Florida State. Norvell will not be coaching Memphis in the Cotton Bowl.
Overall, it has been an interesting decade for Penn State football, to say the least. It started with a Capital One Bowl win and it will hopefully end with a Cotton Bowl victory.