PSU focused on importance of OSU game
October, 24, 2012
By Josh Moyer | ESPN.com
In the back of his mind, Jordan Hill always knows.
Every time he tugs on that victory bell. Every Saturday he peels off those shoulder pads. Every night his head smacks that pillow. Hill knows his time is growing short. He can sense his Penn State hourglass running low.
"I just feel the clock ticking more and more now with the season coming to an end," the defensive tackle said. "We only have five games left, so I feel a sense of urgency."
Maybe he considers Ohio State the most important game of his career, because he doesn't wish to look ahead. Not because of some take-it-one-day-at-a-time coaching cliche, but because he doesn't want to move past this unforgettable season or his career's final White Out.
Is Ohio State the Nittany Lions' biggest rival?
"Yes, they are," Hill said.
How huge is this game?
"It's the biggest game for us," Hill added.
Ask any player, senior or underclassman, about Ohio State and Hill's iteration will be echoed on some level. Biggest game ever? Maybe not, but it's clear this game means much more than a contest that, on some level, amounts to little more than an exhibition.
A win here means players can finally erase those question marks off their foreheads, glance down at the Big Ten standings and call themselves the best -- even if it might be just for a week. A win here means, despite sanctions or transfers, coaching changes and scandals, this football team will not not surrender those blue jerseys for white flags.
"It shows the kind of character we have on this Penn State team and, given everything that we've been through as a team and everything that has stood in our way -- whether it's been a sanction or a transfer -- we just have the kind of guys that smile through adversity and take it on," said linebacker Michael Mauti, who overcame a torn ACL last fall to rise to the Butkus Award semifinals. "A win like that would definitely be a big deal for our program moving forward."
Bill O'Brien likes to deflect pressure and controversy, sometimes trading in absurd replies for honest ones. What was the coach yelling at that Northwestern referee? Oh nothing, O'Brien explained, he was yelling at himself. Why didn't the coach plug in Steven Bench after PSU led 31-0 against Iowa? Well, O'Brien said matter-of-factly, the game simply wasn't in hand.
But is this Ohio State game important? Even O'Brien couldn't describe it any other way. "For me to sit up here and say it's not a big game, that's crazy," he remarked on his 43rd birthday. "This is Ohio State."
Call it the Emmert Bowl. Or the Inelligi-Bowl. Or the Battle of the Banned(s). Neither team can advance to the postseason but, whatever you call it, players know there's something more to this. Penn State can show its second chance translates into a second return to the top. Beating the Big Ten's lone undefeated team, one offseason after watching 10 offensive starters leave for one reason or another, sends a statement.
And what would that statement say? Well, Hill didn't want to look ahead to ringing those victory bells yet. He likely didn't want to look past practice on Wednesday.
"You just want to do as much as possible before it's over,' he said.
The Early Offer: March 5
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35