We’re counting down the days until kickoff. So, every day, we’ll try to make that time tick by just a little faster by also counting down the top 30 moments of James Franklin’s tenure so far. Up next — with 21 days left — is the No. 21 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 21 moment: Tight end Mike Gesicki’s fiery and memorable quote after the Pitt loss
On Sept. 10, 2016, Penn State suffered a tough 42-39 loss to Pitt — but the game itself served as a symbol of sorts.
The Nittany Lions trailed by three touchdowns late in the second quarter, and it looked as if they were about to be routed. But they refused to give up, rallied and then came up just one pass short of a comeback.
The result isn’t what’s memorable here. It’s that the game helped reveal this team’s attitude early on; loss or not, it still acted as the start of a turnaround. And nowhere was that more evident than with the words spoken by tight end Mike Gesicki immediately afterward:
“We have more heart, in my three years, than we’ve ever had,” he said in the hallways of Heinz Field. “We’ve got a bunch of dudes that aren’t going to give up, that aren’t going to quit, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to come back and win because we owe it to each other. We owe it to our fans. But, more importantly, we put way too much time into it to just go down 28-7 and say, ‘All right, we’ll see you guys next week.’
“No, that’s not happening anymore. That’s not Penn State. That’s not who we are. So for us to fight back and turn that into a game and have the ball moving down the field on that last, converting that fourth down, that’s who Penn State is. That’s who we’re going to be in the future.”
Gesicki’s words were retweeted by numerous players and thousands of fans in the hours and weeks following the game. They resonated. And they weren’t without action.
In the Big Ten championship, against Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions trailed by three touchdowns late in the second quarter. This time, they rallied to victory — a poetic end to a historic run that essentially started with that loss, and attitude, from Gesicki and the Pitt game.