Fans in Nittany Lions country let loose an audible gasp when Iowa Western Community College quarterback Jake Waters pulled a purple and gray hat from a plastic bag and fitted it over his head this morning.
He had committed to Kansas State. Some Penn State fans might have paused for a few moments, wondering if maybe he would pull out another cap in some sort of misplaced homage to Antonio Logan-El. ... Nope, after several days of analysts (including this one) saying PSU boasted the edge, the Wildcats pulled ahead when it mattered most.
Waters, causing a tornado of ecstasy and anger, was slammed by some fans on Twitter and praised by others. He was supposed to be Penn State's Band-Aid, the junior college quarterback who could enroll early, push Steven Bench for playing time and ensure the Lions a successful season, maybe two, before turning over the reins to Christian Hackenberg.
But it wasn't to be. Kansas State's staff wooed him one last time Wednesday night, and the move sent Penn State coaches scrambling. They'll find another quarterback -- most likely Tyler Ferguson -- but the sense of disappoint remains for one reason: Ferguson is no Waters.
Waters is widely considered the top juco QB in the country, a player who posted video-game numbers -- 39 touchdowns, three interceptions, a 73 percent completion rate -- against strong competition. He's smart and accurate, the two main ingredients needed for a Bill O'Brien quarterback.
Waters was approached by Texas and Alabama. He completed more than 20 straight passes in the national title game. And he has been mentioned in the same breath as former juco star Cam Newton.
Waters is special, and he could've switched out a few of Penn State's question marks heading into next season and replaced them with exclamations. He would've injected adrenaline into a spring race that will now likely mimic more of a mild jog: Bench vs. ... someone.
Forget Hackenberg. For next season, not beyond, Waters would have been more important to this team. As a worst-case scenario, he would have played backup to Bench and given the staff the ability to redshirt Hackenberg -- in addition to giving the second-team defense better competition and allowing O'Brien more cause to sleep easy.
It's not quite time to hit the panic button, not with Bench doing well enough to unseat Paul Jones before the redshirt sophomore abruptly quit. But Waters would have allowed this staff, this team and this fan base a reason to relax.
He enrolled at Iowa Western because no FBS schools wanted him. He started a second season there because he still hadn't garnered interest from major programs. But, for Penn State, a school whose fans followed Waters' every move and fretted about a nonexistent Kansas State girlfriend, no one wanted him more.
And the reason some are so angry right now? No one needed him more, either.