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Smeltzer: ‘Pride of York’ Earned his 1st Big Moment at Beaver Stadium

Beau Pribula’s first Penn State touchdown will be remembered by some as controversial.

It’s not fair to him.

Pribula did nothing wrong.

With the outcome decided, Penn State’s backup QB did what backup QBs do.

He came in for mop-up duty. It went quite well. Pribula led a scoring drive punctuated by his 5-yard TD run. That run happened with six seconds left, and thus created a debate. Did coach James Franklin and Penn State do the right thing by having the offense continue to run plays despite the score and time?

Penn State fans generally didn’t have a problem with it.

West Virginia fans were more likely to have an issue, and WVU’s coach, Neal Brown, didn’t seem thrilled. 

“I wouldn’t have done it,” Brown said, “but it doesn’t bother me.”

What Brown said next will perhaps be most intriguing.

“Stuff like that comes back around.”

So controversy has surrounded Pribula’s big moment, and some would probably argue that I’m being hypocritical by calling the controversy unfair as a media member.

To be clear, I make no apologies for reporting on Brown’s comments and Franklin’s response to them. 

That’s my job.

Still, it would be nice if a guy scoring in the endzone of his boyhood team’s home stadium didn’t have that subplot.

Alright, that’s all you’ll read from me about whether Franklin and Penn State did right by sportsmanship. 

Now, let’s talk more about Pribula.

Pribula came to Penn State after a decorated career at York High School in a town roughly two hours from State College. 

He became Central York’s first three-year captain. As junior, Pribula led his school to both its first district championship win and state championship game appearance.

The QB led Central York to a second straight undefeated regular season as a senior. This time the team fell in the district semifinals. Pribula’s play earned him Pennsylvania Player of the Year honors in both his junior and senior seasons.

Pribula ended his high school career with a county-record 108 touchdowns. He committed to Penn State in August 2020 as a three-star recruit.

Normally, he’d have been a bigger deal as Penn State’s Class of 2022 QB signee and a local kid to boot. 

It’s just that, well, about seven months after Pribula committed to Penn State, a guy named Drew Allar did the same.

But Allar’s promise didn’t stop Franklin from praising Pribula on signing day.

“No disrespect to Trace,” Franklin told Pribula and his family via Zoom, “but I think you have an opportunity to do things Trace wasn’t able to do.”

Trace, of course, is Trace McSorley, Penn State’s QB while Pribula was in middle school. 

McSorley was the one who introduced Pribula’s signing.

The comparisons haven’t stopped almost two years later.

“Well, first of all, it’s the mobility,” Franklin told reporters at his weekly presser this Tuesday, “I think is the first thing. I think the other thing is both of them are kind of men of few words. Both of them had significant impacts at their high schools in terms of winning and having really productive high school careers. I think they also both have really high football IQs and the game makes sense to them.”

Franklin feels the biggest similarity between the two is how they play football.

“Beau is obviously a little bit bigger (6-foot-2, 203 pounds) but I would say style of play and guys who have the ability to beat you with decision-making as well as their legs,” he said.

Pribula sees the similarities as well. 

“I started watching Trace as soon as he became the starting quarterback,” Pribula told reporters via Zoom late Tuesday morning. “I probably watched every game that he played because I was a Penn State football fan. So I always watched him growing up, I think I was in middle school, and Penn State being my favorite football team, I always wanted to be like the Penn State quarterback… We wear the same number, and I guess we look pretty similar, so I guess you could say we have similar playing styles as well.”

A distinct difference between McSorley and Pribula is that McSorley is from— as rapper Matty Fresh said in the viral song that you’ve probably heard by now— Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Virginia, so he’s not a local guy like Pribula.

One of the perks of being a local guy is that Pribula grew up loving Penn State football to the point where he dedicated his Halloween costume to the program.

Another is that his family didn’t have a long way to go to cheer him Saturday and thus got to see his big moment.

“I think it meant a lot to them (the people of York),” Pribula said, “and I know it meant a lot to my family as well. My grandfather was in attendance, my mom and my sister, and it means a lot to me and it means a lot to them. (I’m) proud to represent where I’m from, York, Pennsylvania, and I know people back home are proud of that, too.”

At the end of the day, that’s what should be remembered. 

Who knows what will become of Pribula’s college career?

Maybe he’ll be Penn State’s full-time starting QB one day. Maybe he won’t be. 

Maybe his running ability will make him a useful part of the offense even as a backup, a la Tommy Stevens and Will Levis. 

Or maybe he won’t get much playing time at Penn State and will end up transferring, thus starting anew at another school. 

In any case, the PA kid already has a touchdown and a moment to remember in the state’s most famous football cathedral, and that’s pretty cool. 

“That was the end goal,” Pribula said. “You wanted to score a touchdown and extend the lead, and it was a great feeling crossing that goal line.”

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