Penn State Nittany Lions: Tom Brady

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August, 22, 2013
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On this day in 1851, the United States won its first ever America’s Cup. And for winning it all, you get a silver trophy. Oh, yachting.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Michael Mauti's teammates surrounded him in the meeting room Monday, watching as he delivered an emotional plea to finish this season strong.

Players fell silent when the fifth-year senior steadied himself. There was no whispering, no chatter. They all took a seat, "all eyes glued" to Mauti, cornerback Stephon Morris said, and nodded as he told this squad to focus on Saturday.

"We still have a game to play, he got up and told us that yesterday," defensive tackle Jordan Hill said, "and that we have to go out there and focus on Wisconsin and not focus on him. He said we can focus on him later next week.

[+] EnlargeMichael Muati
Jerry Lai/US PresswireFifth-year senior linebacker Michael Mauti, Penn State's leading tackler, will watch the Wisconsin game from the sideline.
"That's spoken from a true leader. And that's what we have to do for him, just go and play the game."

Mauti told ESPN on Monday he was still awaiting a diagnosis, and Bill O'Brien said Tuesday that it wasn't the time to address specifics on the linebacker's left knee. It's clear it isn't good -- O'Brien mentioned Tom Brady's torn ACL when addressing Mauti -- but the coach expected word of the injury to be released at a later date.

Mauti paused several times Monday when asked about that left knee, which caused him to miss most of last season. He took a few deep breaths and, in a somber tone just said, "It's just not the time, man. Now's not the time. After this week, I'm going to worry about me. Right now, it's about getting these guys ready for Wisconsin."

Mauti has found himself spending a lot of time inside the Lasch Football Building this week. He remains a staple at the team meetings, and he's tried to advise backup Mike Hull on nuances of the outside linebacker position.

He stood off to the side during Tuesday's open practice in a blue ballcap and his Penn State varsity jacket. Mauti didn't need crutches to stand, but he walked slowly with a noticeable limp. He passed his stretching teammates, chatting and smiling with Anthony Zettel, before watching his teammates take part in position drills.

"I can't tell you how much gratitude I have and how I feel about the fans the last couple of days," Mauti said Monday. "It's been an outpouring of support all year. It helps you understand how special this is."

O'Brien wouldn't say if Mauti might try to petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility. He only acknowledged on Monday that the fifth-year senior would not suit up for the final game of the season.

But, even though he'll be on the sideline instead of the field, wearing a ballcap instead of a helmet, Matt Stankiewitch knew that wouldn't change the linebacker's mentality.

"It doesn't matter if he can play or he can't play," the senior center said. "He's still going to lead."

Tuesdays with O'Brien: Dual threat?

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Don't tell Bill O'Brien his quarterback can't be a dual threat.

"What are you talking about?" the coach yelled in mock exasperation Tuesday when a reporter made that statement. "Were you at the Northwestern game?"

An animated O'Brien thrust out his arm and smiled while addressing the athleticism of Matt McGloin, who's rushed for five touchdowns and countless first downs this season. Maybe "dual threat" wasn't the right adjective to describe a senior whose slides and dives have been known to cause a few chuckles, but O'Brien said his signal-caller can move.

"People always use that label 'dual threat,' and I always use the example of Tom Brady -- and one of the best qualities about Tom Brady is his feet in the pocket," O'Brien said. "What we've tried to do with Matt is teach him about pocket awareness, and Matt's done a good job of that."

Fullback Michael Zordich, who stood off to the side during the media conference, took the dais and -- joke or not -- smiled about the notion McGloin was a running threat.

"It's debatable, that comment," Zordich said with a laugh. "But, nah, we mess around with him because we always say he's not that athletic -- but he's very good at getting away from the pocket and evading pressure. It's really impressive.

"I wouldn't go as far as calling him an athlete, but I'll give him credit for that."

McGloin's awkward touchdown "dive" -- or faceplant, depending how you look at it -- became a memorable .gif in the world of social media. But there's no debating his efficiency: McGloin has 1,788 passing yards, 19 total touchdowns and just two interceptions.

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5 Questions: Former kicker Kevin Kelly

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
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Every week, NittanyNation will pose five questions to a recruit, player, alum or coach about all things Penn State.

This week's subject is Kevin Kelly, a PSU kicker from 2005-2008 who started all four seasons. He came on with a scholarship and left by shattering the school points record. The 5-foot-7 Pennsylvania native ended his career with 425 points -- 143 points more than the No. 2 on the list, Craig Fayak.

Kelly still attends about four games a year and says he never misses a game on TV.

NittanyNation: Have you reached out to Sam Ficken at all, and just how much of a mental game is kicking?

Kevin Kelly: Yeah. I reached out to him a couple weeks ago, and we've been texting back and forth here and there. But, at this point, it's a mental thing. Being at a Division I school and being a starting kicker, especially at Penn State, it's not physical. His mistakes maybe are physical, but it's moreso a mental thing for him, and it's just something that takes time.

My freshman and sophomore years, I wasn't a good kicker. I made field goals, but I didn't make the ones that I needed to make. He's kind of in the same area, where he's growing and learning. He's gradually getting better and better, and that's what we can expect of him. As long as he's trying to fix those mistakes, that's all we can ask for.

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Offense seeking balance

September, 6, 2012
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien didn't have to pause and search for an answer when asked about this week's offensive game plan. To O'Brien, the solution to Saturday's maladies seemed obvious.

"We've got to be more balanced," the first-year head coach said. "That starts with me."

He didn't walk through the south tunnel Saturday hoping to pass nearly seven out of 10 plays. And, he said, he's not looking to do that against Virginia. He wants to return to the football basics; he wants to run more.

But there's a hitch in this week's scheme: Trainers have held Bill Belton out of practice, and O'Brien might be forced to start a fifth-year senior, Derek Day, who's carried the ball 15 times in his career.

USC transfer Silas Redd reached that mark eight times last season.

"For any QB to be successful, you have to run the football," Matt McGloin admitted.

O'Brien called 48 passes to just 22 runs last week. Even by New England Patriots standards, that's high. Tom Brady surpassed the 48-attempt plateau just once last season in a 24-20 loss to the New York Giants.

New England passed about 58 percent of the time last season; Penn State passed in 68.5 percent of its plays last week. To add some perspective, even pass-happy Houston would've called about five more running plays than PSU, based on last year's numbers.

So, O'Brien appeared sincere this week when he said he'd better emphasize his stable of inexperienced running backs. He praised his offensive line and remarked about his confidence in Day and those other tailbacks. But, Virginia coach Mike London didn't appear to expect balance.

"I think they won't depart too far from what they showed last week, showing what their identity is," London said Thursday.

Short, quick pass plays defined the Nittany Lions' offense when it hustled the ball downfield in the first half. Then again, it also defined an offense that sputtered in the second half.

"We felt in the first half we were kind of showing the identity we wanted to have," offensive tackle Mike Farrell said, "but in the second half we faded a little bit. So it's been a priority this week for us to improve and play a full game."

Tight end Kyle Carter said his team hoped to add another dimension to its attack by focusing more on deep throws. McGloin didn't complete a pass longer than 25 yards, and most attempts weren't thrown farther than 15.

At practice Wednesday, quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher stood close to McGloin while he launched a handful of 40-yard tosses. Allen Robinson caught a perfect ball in stride, while a slower Matt Zanellato found himself two steps behind another.

McGloin wouldn't say what he was expecting for Charlottesville. He refused to say whether, when he looks back on this season, Penn State might have more passes than rushes.

"Right now, it's simple," McGloin said. "We're going to do what we have to do to win. If that means we throw it 10 times, we'll throw it 10 times. If we have to run it 100 times, we'll run it 100."

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