Newsflash: There’s still a football game this Saturday.
That little fact might have gotten lost somewhere during Panic 2006: The Mario Manningham Saga.
And it’s a shame, really – Saturday provides a nice, warm and fuzzy plot for fans to follow in a game that’s destined to be anything but that.
Native Pennsylvanians like Steve Breaston and Ryan Mundy are returning to their home state to play in Beaver Stadium for the first and only time in their careers.
They’re scrounging for tickets, trying to take care of friends and family who eagerly await the their opportunity to cheer on the hometown boys.
And then there’s Chad Henne.
Sure, he’ll have his family and close friends waiting for him at State College. But lined up behind them will be about 100,000 angry Nittany Lion fans wanting the homegrown boy’s head.
Not exactly the open-arm welcoming someone would expect for his homecoming.
Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe Happy Valley will cheer for its native son in Saturday’s battle between two of college football’s most successful teams of the past few decades.
Just look back to just last week. Henne received an e-mail from his old high school basketball coach. Seems encouraging, right?
What did it say?
Watch out for Paul Posluzny.
Ehh . scratch that whole “maybe I’m overreacting” thing.
Henne is public enemy No. 1.
The Wyomissing, Pa., native broke the hearts of Penn State fans everywhere when he chose maize as his color of choice to compliment blue over the Nittany Lions’ white.
Joe Paterno sent the house to try and lure the prized in-state recruit to Happy Valley. But in the end, the legendary coach’s efforts were all for naught.
When it came down to decision time, Henne knew he had to trust his gut and leave Pennsylvania for the Wolverine state.
“I just felt a lot more comfortable here with Scot Loeffler and him developing me as a quarterback than Jay Paterno,” Henne said. “I have nothing against them, I’ve always liked Penn State and enjoyed going up there. I just felt a lot more comfortable here.”
Penn State’s current starter, Anthony Morelli, jumped on the opening at Penn State created by Henne’s move to Michigan. Morelli promptly de-committed from Pittsburgh, where he had previously decided to play college football, and took over Henne’s title as the heir apparent to the Penn State football throne.
So let’s recap.
Angry fans in a hostile environment? Check.
Opposing quarterback who feels disrespected and has something to prove? Check.
And breaking news: Manningham isn’t playing. More pressure on Henne’s shoulders? Check times 10.
Saturday’s game very well could be the defining game in Henne’s career here at Michigan.
What’s one more incident of angering Pennsylvanians going to hurt?
– Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.