Jason Cabinda recalls how Penn State Football got ‘over the hump’ in 2016

Penn State Nittany Lions linebackers Jason Cabinda (40) and Manny Bowen (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State Nittany Lions linebackers Jason Cabinda (40) and Manny Bowen (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Former Penn State Football linebacker Jason Cabinda went on The Matt Lombardo Show Podcast on Friday and gave fans a glimpse of what led the programs resurgence in 2016 

Penn State Football was 2-2 coming off a 49-10 throttling at the hands of Michigan in Ann Arbor the week prior, and uncertainty descended over happy Valley the following week in 2016.

In week 4, hosting Minnesota, staring back-to-back losses in the face and falling to 2-3 on the season, quarterback Trace McSorley orchestrated an eight play, 53-yard drive to set up a game tying field goal. The Nittany Lions would go on to win in overtime on the back of a 25-yard rushing touchdown by Saquon Barkley.

At the time and on the surface, it looked like an ugly win on an ugly afternoon in State College over a very mediocre Minnesota team. However, former linebacker Jason Cabinda, who was sidelined with an injury for that game, said it was much more than just any old victory when asked if it was a game that was a launching pad of sorts for the rest of the season.

"” Yeah. Absolutely. I think our confidence definitely skyrocketed, I think that’s when the belief factor really kicked in because we felt everything we were doing really paying off,” Cabinda said, during an appearance on FanSided’s The Matt Lombardo Show Podcast."

That win was not only crucial to get above .500 with Ohio State coming to town in two weeks, it settled some of the criticism around the proverbial hot seat head coach James Franklin may, or may not have been sitting on had they lost that game.

The no. 2 ranked Buckeyes came to town two weeks later, set for a primetime clash as three touchdown favorite over Penn State Football. Cabinda returned as the centerpiece of the defense for that game, and might have been the spark the Nittany Lions needed.

The defense held a high scoring RJ Barrett led offense to only 21 points, and pulled the upset due in large part to the blocked field goal by Marcus Allen that cornerback Grant Haley famously scooped up and ran back for the go-ahead touchdown.

"“We were beating the teams that we should beat, when it came to beating Ohio State or beating Michigan, when we beat Ohio State that year, that was really it,” Cabinda said. “That’s what really allowed us to go on that roll after that game.”"

The Nittany Lions certainly got on a roll after that victory as that win not only thrust Penn State Football into the top 25, they would rattle off nine straight victories en-route to a Big Ten Championship and eventual Rose Bowl bid.

For the senior linebacker, that game and that team was the hump the program needed to get over.

"“Obviously that gutsy win against Minnesota and the win over Ohio State was that hump …” Cabinda said. ” Anytime you have that team that kind of falls off, and don’t get me wrong, we still had winning seasons, but Penn State always used to be used to that national prominence and playing for national championships and we had fallen off of that standard off the sanctions and all that stuff … But, when that happens, there’s always a game that’s the hump you need to get over.”"

Franklin’s squad would go on to lose an instant classic to USC in the Rose Bowl, but the teams 38-31 come-from-behind victory against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game was the school’s welcome back moment.

As Cabinda said, that win was Penn State Football getting back to national prominence, out of the shadows of the sanctions and a few disappointing seasons and back to relevancy.

On the outside looking in, it seemed that team was maybe sporadic form the start, with a loss to Pittsburgh in the final seconds and uninspiring victories over Kent State and Temple, but Cabinda says the team believed from first kick.

"“For us, that was the season where absolutely everyone was rowing in the same direction. We truly believed in all of the philosophy and the ideals that Coach Franklin was telling us, and I just truly feel like we all were on the same page, and believed in ourselves,” Cabinda explained."

That quote seems more relevant now more than ever as Penn State Football looks to rebound from a 4-5 season in 2020. The philosophy and ideals of Franklin will be put to the test, as they look to prove the program is in as a good a spot, if not better, than before and last season was a misstep with Covid-19 to blame.

The program’s redemption tour back to national relevance will begin in 141 days when they travel to Madison, to take on those same Wisconsin Badgers, who they beat to to put themselves back on the map in 2016.