Thursday, October 31, 2013
Planning for success: Penn State
By Josh Moyer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- There's been a lot of talk about forgetting Saturday's 63-14 loss to Ohio State. About maybe pretending like the worst defeat in 114 years never happened, that the embarrassment should be shrugged off and discarded like an empty Gatorade bottle.
"You've got to get back to work and forget about the past," offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach offered.
But Dieffenbach altered that statement when pressed. Can you really forget about something like that? Isn't there a difference between forgetting and moving on?
Bill O'Brien tried to provide his players with some perspective after the loss to Ohio State.
"It's always going to be in the back of your mind. But we know what type of guys we have on the team, and we know what type of coaches we have. And we're not going to let that affect our outcome on the rest of the season."
Those words were remarkably similar to those by players on the 1994 Ohio State team, which lost to Penn State by that same score -- 63-14 -- on the road. Nineteen years later, and those Buckeyes still remember. Former defensive end Matt Finkes won't even wear black socks anymore because he still recalls wearing the color during the October game that's "etched in my memory."
There's no remedy to forgetting a 63-14 game. There's no way to erase it from the record books or pretend like it was never played. But there is a way to move past it -- while still remembering, of course.
"You get another win under your belt," former Ohio State DT Matt Bonhaus said, "and that feeling, that loss, goes away."
Added PSU safety Jesse Della Valle: "That's our goal, obviously, just to rebound and get back on track."
Penn State will get its chance at noon on Saturday against an Illinois team that started off hot and has cooled almost as fast the Lions' defense. The Illini boast a middle-of-the-road offense now, ranking No. 73 in total offense (400.7 ypg) and No. 58 in scoring offense (30.7 ppg).
But those numbers and rankings mean little this week -- and they'll mean even less if John Butler's defense repeats its performance from Saturday. Few questions this week revolved around the ability of Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase or the style of Illinois' offense. Many, many more revolved around the mindset of Penn State.
Dwell on the last game, and lose the next game. Play like the last game, and lose the next game. Bill O'Brien crossed arms in a gray sweatshirt Tuesday and explained that his staff would simplify the defense this week, maybe make fewer checks at the line, and "just let them go play."
The reigning coach of the year gathered the Nits around 2:45 p.m. Monday and preached focus, about the 63-14 loss not being the worst thing that will happen in their lifetimes. He again emphasized taking it one game at a time -- which sounded a lot like advice from the Ohio State staff back in 1994, long before replays of painful losses were repeatedly streamed online and fans vented on message boards 24/7.
Said Finkes: "The coaching staff just sat us down and said we still have a lot of goals to accomplish -- and let's not lose this whole season just because of one game."
The only way for PSU to move past that game isn't forgetting. Della Valle had it right on Tuesday; it's about focus.
"We have a lot more to play for this season," he said. "So we're going to move on and focus on what we need to do."
Said '94 OSU guard LeShun Daniels: "It's a new week. You need to focus on a new team. You need to get back to what you're doing. You need to move on."
Ohio State rebounded against Wisconsin in 1994, and its defense limited the Badgers to a field goal a week after surrendering nine touchdowns. Penn State is planning for success against Illinois on Saturday, a game in which it's still favored by double digits, by simplifying and focusing.
A win over Illinois digs the Lions out of the past and reinforces that focus on the future. Another big loss?