Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

October 8, 2012

Penn State trains focus on football, not courts

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Another milestone arrives for Penn State during the upcoming open week, but players have no plans to keep tabs of this event.

Ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, whose arrest last year sparked the scandal that plunged the program into turmoil, is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday. He'll likely spend the rest of his life in prison following his conviction in June of 45 criminal counts including child sex abuse.

Penn State players who had nothing to do with the scandal, but bore the brunt of the NCAA's wrath, have long moved on. They're focused on football and what's turning into a promising season - not the courtroom.

"No one pays attention to that,'' linebacker and senior leader Michael Mauti said Saturday with an icy stare after being asked if he would pay attention to Tuesday's proceedings. "It has nothing to do with us.''

Not directly anyway. The NCAA punished the program with unprecedented penalties of a four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship declines for the school's handling of the scandal. Players were allowed by the NCAA to transfer right away, creating an offseason scrum in what amounted to college football's version of free agency.

In the end, more than 90 percent of the players stayed - and they're on four-game winning streak following the 39-28 victory Saturday over previously-unbeaten Northwestern. Next up is a trip to Iowa on Oct. 20

"You know what, I didn't even realize that it was coming up. I really didn't,'' defensive end Pete Massaro said. "That's in the past. This program is moving forward.''

And with a dramatically different offensive philosophy, too, under first-year coach Bill O'Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.

The Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) ran 99 offensive plays against Northwestern - equaling the school record set in a 38-6 victory at West Virginia in 1966, former coach Joe Paterno's first season. Penn State outgained Northwestern 30-17 in first downs.

After a one-week visit at No. 24, the Wildcats dropped out of the latest Top 25 poll. Penn State received one vote in the poll - its first poll vote of the season.

Perhaps the starkest difference under O'Brien is play-calling. It's entertaining and bold, as evident by the 5 of 6 conversions on fourth downs including Allen Robinson's 6-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter with the Nittany Lions down 11.

But O'Brien wasn't done. Instead of going for the extra point to get Penn State within four, he decided to go for two. Michael Zordich rumbled up the middle into the end zone to get within 28-25.

Sparked by the fourth-down call, the Nittany Lions steamrolled over Northwestern from there in a 22-0 fourth quarter. For the year, Penn State leads the nation in fourth-down conversions (13) and attempts (20).

"We love it. It is an attitude kind of play,'' Zordich said about the fourth-down gambles. "We want touchdowns. That is what this offense is about ... We love it because it gets your mind right.''

The defense loved it, too. Mauti's outside linebacker running mate, senior Gerald Hodges, gave his best performance of the year helping to shut down the Wildcats' potent attack to a season-low in total yards (247) a week after the Wildcats compiled a school-704 against Indiana.

The win was a huge confidence boost going into the bye week. The Nittany Lions will go through light workouts Monday-Wednesday, at least, and O'Brien will decide from there whether he'll run his team through any more drills.

There's still a lot upon which to improve, especially on special teams. A muffed punt by Jesse Della Valle at the Penn State 17 set up Northwestern's first score of the afternoon. Venric Mark's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Wildcats its short-lived 11-point lead late in the third quarter.

But the Nittany Lions rallied from adversity, like they have all season.

"Those things that happened over the summer and in the past are a lot bigger than football,'' O'Brien said. "These kids are just having fun playing football right now and going to school.''



 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DSC_0237web.jpg Hrdlicka, Teter pour ‘heart’ into Zebra soccer program

    For the past four years, Claremore High School seniors Katelin Teter and Nick Hrdlicka have represented the ‘heart and soul’ of the Lady Zebra and Zebra soccer programs.
    The soccer duo will join seven other seniors on Friday night for Homecoming against Collinsville at Lantow Field.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • DSC_0114web.jpg SOCCER: JV Lady Zebras edge Verdigris, 2-1

    Claremore sophomore forward Brylee Brasher may have felt a little out of position Monday night during the junior varsity game against Verdigris.
    Normally, starting in the goal for the Lady Zebras varsity team, Brasher came out of her comfort zone to start at forward for the Claremore JV.
    The position switch proved to be a great decision for head coach Robin Sutherland, as Brasher showed a tenacity on offense that led to Claremore’s 2-1 win over Verdigris.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Claremore’s Stone leads NSU tennis to MIAA title

    Amanda Stone was a player the last time Northeastern State won a conference title in tennis. This time, she’s the coach.
    Thanks to a 9-0 rout of Lindenwood on Saturday, No. 31 Northeastern State claimed no worse than a share of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association championship.

    April 16, 2014

  • Vian's Rowdy Simon seeks playing time in Tulsa backfield

    The Tulsa football team practiced for two hours on Saturday and finished the workout with a 102-play scrimmage.

    Whereas last Saturday's scrimmage was dominated by the Tulsa defense, today's scrimmage session was a more balanced. The Tulsa offense scored on 10 of 21 possessions, including six touchdowns and four field goals, and the Tulsa defense had two takeaways.

    April 16, 2014

  • FOOTBALL: Tulsa-Tulane season opener moved to Aug. 28

    The American Athletic Conference announced today that the Tulsa-Tulane football game, scheduled for the first weekend of the 2014 season, will be played on Aug. 28 at The University of Tulsa's H.A. Chapman Stadium.

    April 16, 2014

  • BASEBALL: Arkansas cruises past SFA, 7-2

    The Arkansas baseball team (23-15) jumped out to an early lead Tuesday evening and never looked back, picking up a 7-2 win over Stephen F. Austin (15-21) at Baum Stadium.

    April 16, 2014

  • Hornbeak leaving OU men's basketball program

    In a surprising decision, sophomore guard Je’lon Hornbeak informed Oklahoma’s coaching staff on Tuesday he will transfer at the end of the spring semester.

    April 16, 2014

  • Rave reviews following OU's spring game

    Oklahoma didn’t play a game as much as it put on a show Saturday at Owen Field. At least, that was the intent.

    April 16, 2014

  • BASEBALL: Sooners outlast Cowboys in 18-inning marathon

    The longest game at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium lasted 18 innings between the Bedlam rivals. The Oklahoma Sooners converted three runs in the top of the 18th to come away with a 12-9 victory.

    April 16, 2014

  • Locust Grove cleans house, ousts four coaches

    Locust Grove High School has relieved head wrestling coach Johnny Cook and head boys basketball coach Ronnie Maple of their coaching duties, school sources said Tuesday.

    April 16, 2014

AP Video