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.
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BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
2:45 4th Qtr Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State