The 2012 calendar year was a tremendous one for Penn State's sports teams. The results speak for themselves, and all 31 Penn State teams across the University Park campus should be recognized for their efforts in 2012. The long list of achievements on the field of play include one national title, seven Big Ten titles, and in the classroom, more than 270 Academic All-Big Ten honorees.
No team in any sport across the country weathered an offseason with more challenges than the Nittany Lion football team. Without the 31-member senior class' leadership, it is hard to imagine how the 2012 football season would have gone. Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich spearheaded the effort to keep the team intact when the NCAA announcement came out on July 23. The seniors set the standard for how the team was going to approach every day with a workmanlike attitude.
The Nittany Lions started the 2012 season 0-2 following a last-second loss at Virginia, but they caught fire in the latter stages of September. Penn State rattled off five-straight victories en route to winning eight of its final 10 games, including six in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions finished second in the Big Ten Leaders Division.
Under the direction of Maxwell Football Club's Collegiate Coach of the Year and Big Ten Coach of the Year Bill O'Brien, Penn State set the standard for hard work, attitude and perseverance in 2012. O'Brien's leadership set the stage for a hard-working, gritty style of play Penn State fans grew accustomed to every Saturday throughout the fall.
"I think we did a really good job of playing together," O'Brien said. "Our players did a great job buying into how offense, defense and special teams work together. We showed that to the players on film that here's how it works when it goes well and here's how it works when it doesn't go well. The mantra is One Team."
O'Brien engineered a dynamic, fast-paced offense that featured the Big Ten's passing leader (Matt McGloin), top receiver (Allen Robinson) and a running back (Zach Zwinak) who gained 100 yards six times in eight Big Ten games and 1,000 yards for the season. Penn State led the Big Ten in total offense (437.0 ypg) in conference games and was second in scoring offense (32.6 ppg) and second in pass offense (283.1 ypg) against Big Ten foes this season.
Penn State gained more than 500 yards of total offense three times in conference play, topped by 546 yards vs. Indiana, its highest total against a Big Ten foe since gaining 557 yards against Michigan State in 2008.
The 2012 Nittany Lions had two All-Americans (Jordan Hill and Michael Mauti), six first-team All-Big Ten selections and three individual conference award winners: Michael Mauti - Big Ten Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year; Allen Robinson - Big Ten Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year; Deion Barnes - Thompson-Randle El Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
The Nittany Lions saved their best game for last. On a snowy November afternoon in Beaver Stadium, it would have been hard to script a better finish for the 2012 team. A senior class that will forever be remembered for its commitment to Penn State had to earn ever ounce of success it achieved, even on its special day. After an emotional senior ceremony to honor the 31 members of the senior class, the Nittany Lions quickly found themselves down 7-0 to Wisconsin.
The Lions roared back to take a 21-14 lead until the final 18 seconds of the game when the Badgers sent the contest into overtime with a late score. Sam Ficken's leg put Penn State up 24-21 in OT before a missed field goal preserved the Senior Day win. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill was the star of the show. Hill was simply not going to let the Lions be denied in his final game, notching 12 tackles in dominant fashion. Penn State walked off the field following a superb season into a locker room scene it will remember forever.
Penn State won five Big Ten championships and had five coaches selected conference coach of the year during the fall season alone. Among the teams on the list was the 15-time defending Big Ten champion women's soccer team. Under the direction of Big Ten Coach of the Year Erica Walsh, the women's soccer team turned in the most successful campaign in the program's illustrious history in 2012.
Walsh and the Nittany Lions finished 21-4-2, which included a march to the College Cup Final for the first time in program history. The road to the fourth College Cup in school history featured dramatic wins over Michigan in shootout for the ages and an overtime game-winner from senior Christine Nairn against Florida State in the College Cup Semifinals.
Nairn and junior Maya Hayes earned NSCAA First Team All America honors. Nairn, Hayes and Whitney Church were named First Team All-Big Ten. Standout freshman midfielder Raquel Rodriguez earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.
The Nittany Lions move into the offseason with a great deal of motivation after coming up short in the College Cup Final, but the 2012 team took the program to new heights and laid the groundwork for what is going to be a bright future ahead for Penn State Women's Soccer.
"To put it all in perspective, I would say imagine a year, one year from now, you set a goal for yourself and you work towards it every day to the best of your ability and then you actually achieve that goal," said coach Walsh. "You realize as its going on that you control the things that you can control, but there's so much in your sport that's outside of your control that when it does come together, you got to cherish it. You got to live it and love it."
Thank you to all of the Penn State fans for making 2012 an outstanding year. We wish you the best in 2013, and we are looking forward to seeing you on campus soon.
Watch a pair of videos to look back on the teams of 2012 and the event of the year.
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