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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in more than a month, Penn State football will hit the road, traveling to Purdue to take on the Boilermakers Saturday.
The Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-1 East) and the Boilermakers (3-4, 1-3 West) are set to meet for the first time since 2013 as Penn State makes its first trip to Ross-Ade Stadium since 2012 for a noon kickoff on ABC/ESPN2. Network TV coverage map available HERE.
Penn State highlighted the final outing of a three-game homestand with a historic 24-21 victory against then-No. 2 Ohio State. Junior cornerback Grant Haley capped off a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback with a 60-yard touchdown return off a blocked Ohio State field goal attempt by junior safety Marcus Allen to secure the upset.
The accolades piled up for the Nittany Lions following the win, as Haley and Allen split Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors, while linebacker Brandon Bell earned the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week nod. Leading the team with 18 tackles, one sack and a tackle for loss, Bell also picked up Bednarik Award Player of the Week honors. Haley also earned the Big Ten Rose Bowl Player of the Week award, while Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin was selected as the Dodd Trophy Coach of the Week.
Among all the weekly individual awards, Penn State's victory also vaulted the Nittany Lions into the Associated Press poll.
Now on a three-game winning streak, it's a business-as-usual approach as Penn State has put Ohio State in the past, quickly turning the focus toward preparing for the trip to Purdue, which presents a much different atmosphere than the friendly surroundings at Beaver Stadium.
"We know what kind of situation we're going into," senior center Brian Gaia said earlier this week. "It doesn't matter where we're at, whether it's home or away we're going to try to bring our own energy so that way we don't have to rely on something else." Gaia said.
Led by interim head coach Gerad Parker, the Boilermakers are coming off of an inspired outing at then-No. 8 Nebraska last week. Purdue led the Cornhuskers at the half, 14-10, before falling short in a 27-14 decision. The Boilermakers' lone conference win this year came on the road at Illinois, as Purdue rallied to top the Illini, 34-31 in overtime. Penn State is up 13-3 in the all-time series against Purdue, with wins in each of the last seven games dating back to 2005.
What to Watch For - Penn State
- Nittany Lion quarterback Trace McSorley has settled into his role within the new offense, combining his effective passing with his developing ability to become another dimension in the Nittany Lion run game. Despite just eight completions against Ohio State, McSorley engineered key scoring drives for the Nittany Lions, tossing four receptions for at least 20 yards, including the a 20-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin at the end of the first half.
"With each game and each rep, he continues to gain confidence," Franklin said earlier this week. "I've been pleased with him but he's been pretty much steady Eddie. He hasn't changed. His approach has been really good. His practice habits have been really good. His questions have been really good. His leadership has been really good."
- Penn State's defensive line shined in the Nittany Lion victory against the Buckeyes, but this week there will be an added emphasis on the secondary unit as cornerbacks coach Terry Smith noted Purdue's athletic receivers present a challenge on the perimeter. With Haley and Allen coming off of stellar performances against the Buckeyes, Penn State's secondary group also features another experienced veteran in Malik Golden, who has registered at least six tackles in the last five games he has played in.
- Entering an entirely different environment on the road this week, Franklin has stressed throughout the week that there's an added importance surrounding Penn State's ability to continue its intensity on the road this week, especially as it pertains to helping the Nittany Lions get out to a strong start early in the game.
"Our two losses this year so far have been on the road," running back Saquon Barkley said. "We try to create our our juice because we don't have that energy from Beaver Stadium."
What to Watch For - Purdue
- Purdue's passing offense is atop the Big Ten standings this week, led by redshirt sophomore quarterback David Blough. Averaging nearly 300 passing yards per game, Blough's thrown for at least 300 yards in each of the last two outings, completing 25-of-43 passes for 309 yards last week at Nebraska. His 2,065 passing yards on the year are also ranked first in the Big Ten and 18th nationally in the FBS rankings.
- The Boilermakers are averaging 306 yards per game in their passing attack this year, which is tops in the Big Ten and ranks 16th nationally in the FBS standings. Wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey is leading the team with five touchdown catches on the year, averaging 70.1 yards per game, which ranks seventh in the league. Yancey highlighted the most recent outing on the road in Nebraska, grabbing an 88-yard touchdown pass from Blough, marking the longest completion in the Big Ten this year.
- Matching up against its second consecutive ranked opponent, Boilermaker head coach Gerad Parker will lead Purdue on to the field at home in Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time at the helm of the program. Franklin noted that with the change in Parker stepping in as interim head coach, the Boilermakers have reacted well and could be poised to present a challenge to the Nittany Lions in unfamiliar territory.
"Their team responded to [Parker] really well last week," Franklin said. "New coach, new style. Nebraska is ranked in the Top 10, on the road and they were winning at halftime against them, so it's going to be challenge. There's no doubt about it and our guys are going to have to be ready."
The Final Word -
The Nittany Lions have played each of their last three games at home in Beaver Stadium putting together a winning streak that features victories against Minnesota (29-26-OT), Maryland (38-14) and of course, Ohio State (24-21). Heading out on the road to Purdue, Penn State will now play three of its final five games of the season on the road. Maintaining momentum and intensity will be key, along with the ability to create and sustain energy in a somewhat new environment, with trips to Indiana and Rutgers for the first time since 2014 quickly approaching.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry took time to talk with members of the media Thursday afternoon.
Check out updates from the Q&A session below.
Could you reflect on
the season and how its been so far with everything you've went through with the
defense and just where things are for you heading into Purdue?
Pry: Obviously there has been a lot of adversity. The plan was to have some veteran linebackers and a veteran back end to help bring the young front along. We got thrown a curve ball early with the injuries to [Brandon] Bell and Jason [Cabinda] and then [Nyeem] Wartman-White. So some guys had to grow up fast and it put a little more onus on the front. Week-by-week, I think they've improved. Coach [Sean] Spencer has done a great job just getting those guys experience, rolling them and playing a lot of guys. We've seen the maturity increase each week and I think that's been an important part to get us to this point. I also think that the adversity we faced and the way the kids handled it became a positive. That thing had a chance to slip sideways with a couple of tough losses where you didn't play well and you have your new guys playing. The guys really set their jaw, persevered, worked hard and kept seeking results. Ultimately it gave us the chance to get better each week.
How does having
Brandon [Bell] and Jason [Cabinda] back help you from a play-calling standpoint
and how much flexibility does it allow you?
Pry: Against Ohio State, we were able to do some things that we hadn't done previously. Many offenses now, including Ohio State, are check with me, where they are getting a call on the sideline after the coaches in the box take a look at the defense. Against Minnesota, against Maryland, we kind of rode out what we had. We checked a few times against Maryland, we didn't check at all against Minnesota. So when somebody would ID a pressure or ID a defense, we had to kind of ride it out and with those experienced guys in there, particularly the two of them together, you feel like you can change a call and make an adjustment out there on the field that's going to get communicated and get executed. That was really big for us and obviously just the leadership and the confidence that the rest of the kids have in those two guys, I think it's uplifting to everybody.
If someone told you
before the Ohio State game that Bell and Cabinda would have played the entire
duration, what would you have said and what makes those two so effective as
Pry: I'll say this, I think the plan was - I felt a little bit better about Cabinda playing a fair amount of snaps, but I wasn't sure if Bell would be able to. That's something you evaluate and you have to do a good job of evaluating that early on guys who are coming back from injuries and how much they should play.
To be honest, we were able to kind of control some of those reps and Manny Bowen slid over to Will [linebacker], but I wouldn't have thought they would have played that number of snaps. In a big game like that, those are your big dogs and they want to be out there. That's kind of the type of guys they are. Again, those two guys are so mature and so smart - they are great students of the game, they get it. As the play is turning over and the ball is snapped, they have great recognition of what's going on. That comes from experience, those guys have played a lot of football and they're students of the game.
It's kind of two-fold, it allows them to see things quickly and react quickly. I think that they both have good skill sets, each of them are strong in certain traits that allow them to physically be what you need to beat a team like Ohio State. They both tackled very well, particularly Brandon in the game, on some very good athletes. They both play with a lot of confidence and a big chip on their shoulder and they played very hard. They are definitely two guys who I would consider to be well rounded linebackers.
It looks like things did
go a little sideways in the second half of the Michigan game. How did you get
everybody to reset and not let that game beat you two or three times?
Pry: I think to me, the expectations are the same, it doesn't matter who is out there. You can say that or you can live that and we live that. Particularly in my room where the injuries were mounting up. Jan Johnson didn't feel any less accountable than Jason Cabinda. Brandon Smith didn't feel any less accountable than Nyeem Wartman-White. Those guys felt like everybody was counting on them and it was their responsibility to prepare each week. We had a third team Mike [linebacker] against Michigan who gets thrown out on a targeting call and then his back up, Jan Johnson, the fourth team guy comes in and plays pretty good and gets injured in the second quarter. At that point, it becomes, ok you're going to play somebody at a spot and he hasn't played at all fall and hasn't practiced there and that's where it gets dicey because you're just not familiar with what's going to happen to him at that spot. The preparation is not the same. We had a similar situation against Minnesota at the end of the game. Brandon Smith and Jake Cooper go down with injuries, those were your two Mike's in the game and then Manny Bowen, who has never played a snap of Mike in his life, has to line up at the end of regulation and in overtime and play Mike linebacker. You can help them with some calls that are a little easier. Manny got a quick lesson in three calls at Mike linebacker on the sideline and went out there and did pretty well. I think the guys have to adapt and adjust, but it does come to a certain point where you think, alright now we have to really dumb it down because we have some guys who are playing out of position and haven't had any practice at it.
When you look back at
the season to date, what to you, as the leader of the defense are you proudest
of so far?
Pry: I think fighting through adversity. There was a lot on these guys. You come out of Pitt and you rebound and play pretty good against Temple and you feel better about things. You know you have your hands full going on the road at Michigan and you have a couple of injuries that hurt you. You have a couple of busts early in the game, you have a missed sack opportunity, you have a sudden change. Things kind of mounted up and we cut through all of that and come back after the game and say, look, this is where we're at with this thing. We can be this type of defense and we can be very good and here's why. Here's the positives that we did against Temple, here's the positives we had against Kent State, here's the positive things we did against Michigan and Pitt. Here's why we didn't play things so well against Michigan and Pitt, here's the things that happened. It's not about who is out there, it's about us and what we did as coaches or players where we can be better. Let's learn from that and put it away and let's be better for it. I think that's what we were able to do to be quite honest.
We went into the Minnesota game against a very good team that was very challenging offensively and we didn't play great, but we played well enough in spots and took away the things we felt we needed to take away and it gave us a chance to win. We grew from there. Maryland presented some new challenges and some differences and I think the guys have gained confidence in their own ability and their own play. They have found their identity. It's been fun watching their growth.
I think the adversity that those guys had to work through - I've been too many times, too many places where the adversity has you and it's going the other direction. I think the staff did a tremendous job from Coach Franklin on down and from the defense on down, just hammering away. Even the injured guys, just watching those guys be involved with the guys who had to step up. It's such an inspiration. Those guys never turned it down a notch - Cabinda and Bell and Nyeem, when [Evan] Schwan was hurt and Malik [Golden] was out, they really stepped up their game when they had to be on the sideline having to help those guys get prepared and giving them confidence.
Two season ending injuries
in back-to-back years, how has Nyeem Wartman-White handled this past month and
is a return for him possible?
Pry: I'm never going to say never. I don't know the answer to that totally. I'd say it looks doubtful, Nyeem's looking to the future. His attitude has been outstanding. I don't know if I could handle it the same way. He comes in with a big smile and he's coaching these guys up and he's an inspiration to everybody. He is refreshing that way and it makes everybody smack themselves and say hey, look how fortunate I am, this guy has this great attitude and he is on his second ACL, what do I have to complain about? Nyeem has a bright future, whether it's in football or coaching or something outside of athletics. He is an outstanding young man and we're going to be with him every step of the way.
James Franklin this
week has been told praise for you and what you've been able to do leading the
defense through the adversity. What is your relationship like with him in terms
of your history together?
Pry: Let me tell you, when we give up too many points or too many plays, I don't know that we're buddies because he's ripping my tail. There is mutual respect and I think he has never waned. He has had the utmost confidence. We're very like minded so when something's not right, generally we're on the same page with it. We recognize and ID things from the same vantage point. We're pretty like-minded and it's been good that way. I certainly trust him and he trusts me. He is the leader and we go the way he goes, I believe. We couldn't have worked through the adversity we did - that starts at the top and that's kind of how we've built this program and one of the reasons why I love working with him. We're going to approach things the right way with these kids with the game, our preparation, our off season, and I believe in how we do things and I think we both stick to that when tough times happen.
Franklin said one of the things he likes about you is that you're very
demanding but in a very positive way. What are the sources of that in your
history and how important has that been since you've been working through the
Pry: I do think there is a way and if you know my background, my father has been a coach for 40-some years. When you grow up around it, you see what guys respond to. What they respond to in a positive way and in a negative way. Your comments, when you're the leader, really have a lot of influence on these young men and I think you have to be careful how you present things and you have to be careful how you approach it.
I think that's the key to this. We're trying to teach young guys to kind of ultimately be their best, to reach their potential, whether its playing in that individual game or over the course of their career here. I think there's constructive criticism, there is a way for them to understand that this isn't going to get it done or this isn't how we want to do it.
You teach them through it, you coach them through it and you make sure they see the positives on the other end of things and on the other side of it. Then most importantly, it goes back to our program philosophy. You can't coach guys hard and you can't work through those situations if you don't have a lot of trust and respect, if there's not a mutual relationship that has a lot of trust, care and concern. I think these players, they know that about me, and they know that about our staff. We're not in this just to win football games, we're in this to help them achieve and reach their ultimate goals as a student and as a player.
I think when you go through these things it's just the bigger picture and you stay grounded to that and grounded to what's right and we have that. That's the foundation of our program. We went through tough times at Vanderbilt and could prosper through and I think we have a good plan for those kinds of things. I think years of watching my father do things and learning his mistakes and his accomplishments and talking with him. I have two brothers who played ball and you're just around it all the time and you see what's effective and what's not. Ultimately, when you care about somebody you want to be careful because you don't want to hurt them. You want them to hear your criticism in a way that they're going to want to take it and want to do something good with it.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 24 Penn State football hits the road for the first time all month, traveling to Purdue for noon matchup in West Lafayette, Indiana Saturday.
The Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-1 East) enter the week on a three-game winning streak on the heels of a comeback victory against then-No. 2 Ohio State last week.
"It's going to be a good challenge," Franklin said. "It's going to be a different environment than the one we played in last week and that's what we are preparing for all week long."
Penn State has not played a game outside Beaver Stadium since meeting then-No. 4/5 Michigan, Sept. 24, 2016, as the trip to Purdue opens a series of three of the next four games in a true road game setting.
As he does every week, Franklin took a few moments to highlight the historic Ohio State victory, thanking the fans for filling Beaver Stadium and making a difference, before turning the focus toward the upcoming trip to Purdue.
Franklin noted that the return of Nittany Lion linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda from injury made tremendous difference to only in terms of their combined 31 tackles, but in their leadership as well.
"There's a lot of confidence with those guys on the field because we're able to lean on their experience," Franklin said.
While Penn State knocked off its first top-2 team since winning at then-No. 1 Notre Dame in 1990, the Nittany Lions were quick to get back to work, making corrections, learning from the tape and focusing in on the Boilermakers.
"I think that's something that gets lost in big wins," Cabinda said. "Mistakes were made and there were a lot made during that game and we got better off that film. We put the Purdue film on and we're on to Purdue and our goal is just to be 1-0 this week."
On The Quote Board -
- Quarterback Trace McSorley's mother provides snacks for the offensive line every week.
"At our snack every Friday before the hotel, whether we're on the road or at home she finds some local establishment like bakery or something in town and she brings something different each week for those guys and there's always a little note in there," Franklin said.
- Brandon Bell and DaeSean Hamilton both addressed the team in the hotel prior to Saturday's game, something a little unfamiliar to Bell.
"I've always had things that I wanted to express to the team, things like that," Bell said. "This year I am kind of in more of a leadership role; I felt more comfortable doing it. I expressed that to them and making sure our minds are right before the game and continue to do that in practice and on Saturdays."
- Franklin said he has been most impressed with the way defensive coordinator Brent Pry has persevered in the wake of challenging situations throughout his tenure, specifically noting the recent injuries to the Nittany Lion linebacker unit.
"I've been a lot of place where that has happened and there has been a 'woe is me' by the coach and if you do that, the players take on that identity and he hasn't been like that. It's been next man up and what a great opportunity we have to go out and do something really special," Franklin said.
- Following the win on Saturday, Jason Cabinda located his mother in the front of the stands and went over to give her a hug.
"I had been out for a month and you can be down because you're not playing and stuff like that and then being able to finally be back on the field and being that she saw me through it all and that injury and that process of sitting out, it was just so great to have that kind of experience."
- Coach Franklin reflects on punter Blake Gillikin, with specific regard to the high snap on a punt attempt that he chased own to recover for a safety against Ohio State.
"We believe in recruiting athletes who happen to kick and that's what he is. He's been in competitive environments his entire life. You know, you could make a decision there to either fall on the ball and scoop it up or kick it out the back of the end zone, and I thought he showed great poise and athleticism to go get that ball."
By Lou Prato, noted Penn State football historian and former director of the Penn State All-Sports Museum
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If anyone should know the last time Penn State scored a touchdown on a blocked punt or field goal, it should be someone like me who has written a few books and many articles about the history of the Nittany Lions football team, right?
Based on my near octogenarian memory and much research, which continues to this day, I'm not sure Penn State returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown had ever been done until Grant Haley did it last Saturday night late in the fourth quarter to upset No. 2 Ohio State. No Penn State player has ever done it inside Beaver Stadium, which opened in 1960.
You don't have to go too far back to find the last time Penn State blocked a punt for a touchdown, which also came against Ohio State. In the 2012 Penn State White Out clash in Beaver Stadium, Mike Hull blocked a Buckeye punt that fellow linebacker Michael Yancich recovered in the end zone for the score.
For the last 20 years, I have been researching Penn State football, studiously reading about every game. I have been at many of those games since my first one in 1955, either as a member of the media or simply a fan. I remember seeing only one other blocked kick run in for a touchdown and it was by Penn State's opponent, UCLA, in 1967 at Beaver Stadium. From my research, I found just one other game where a blocked kick resulted in an immediate touchdown, and that also was by an opponent, Penn, in 1908.
There was a blocked kick by Penn State in 1906 that should have been a touchdown but wasn't because the player who recovered it ran the wrong way, in what is one of the more bizarre moments in college football history. Also, in 1974, Penn State had a field goal attempt blocked by West Virginia, but amazingly scored on the play.
I covered the 1967 UCLA game for Pittsburgh's Channel 11 television station. UCLA was No. 3 in the nation, led by quarterback Gary Beban, who would go on that season to win the Heisman and Maxwell trophies. Coach Joe Paterno was in his second year as head coach, and despite a surprising 17-8 win over favored Miami in the Orange Bowl the week before UCLA's visit, Paterno was still feeling the heat from his 5-5 finish in 1966 and a season opening 23-22 loss at Navy.
With six minutes left in the third quarter, and Penn State holding a surprising 7-3 lead over the Bruins, star running back Bobby Campbell went back to punt with the Lions at their own 25-yard line. UCLA's Vic Lepisto blocked the punt and it bounced into the end zone where tackle Hal Griffiths recovered. The game went down to the last minute with Penn State scoring and trying an onside kick that failed and UCLA escaped with a 17-15 victory.
The narrow setback to UCLA would be the last loss for Penn State until 1970 as the Nittany Lions went on to set a team record that still stands of 31consecutive games without a defeat.
The blocked kick in 1908 against the Quakers cost Penn State the game. It was on Oct. 10 in Philadelphia, with 7,000 fans watching at legendary Franklin Field and once again Penn State was surprising the heavily favored opponent. With the game still scoreless and about five minutes left, freshman Vic Ballou dropped back to punt from inside the Penn State 10-yard line. Penn's Fred Gaston recovered the blocked kick for the touchdown and Penn stopped a last minute Penn State drive near its 20-yard line to win, 6-0. Penn didn't lose a game that season, winning 11 and tying one. Meanwhile Penn State would finish 5-5 and in the next four years would become one of the best teams in the country, with the undefeated in 1911 and 1912 teams now recognized by some historians as national champions.
What happened on Oct. 20, 1906 against Yale in New Haven was almost unbelievable. Although both teams were undefeated, Penn State was again a big underdog. The rain started before the opening kickoff and with just five minutes into the game, Penn scored on a 39-yard run off a fumbled Penn State punt return to take a 6-0 lead. A short time later, Penn State's veteran center-linebacker William "Mother" Dunn broke through and blocked a Yale punt at its 40-yard line. Sophomore guard Cy Cyphers scooped up the ball as it bounced into the air and ran towards the goal line. All at once he was in the clear and goal line was getting closer. Then he looked back and saw his teammates waving their arms and screaming something at him. Suddenly, he realized he was running the wrong way!
Cyphers turned and started going back but it was too late. He was smothered by several Yale tacklers at about the Penn State 20-yard line. Yale took advantage of Cyphers faux pas and kicked a field goal (worth four points then) and that would end the scoring for the day. Yale's 10 points would be the only ones scored on Penn State that season and the team finished with an 8-1-1 record, best in Penn State football's short 20-year history to that point. Yale wound up undefeated and unscored upon but tied in nine games and is considered at least the co-national champions of the season.
However, it was the Penn game that made Dunn Penn State's original first-team All-American. Walter Camp, the former Yale coach and patriarch of college football, was there, but he was more than a spectator. Since 1889 (and for years after) Camp had selected the bonafide All-American team. After the season, Camp chose Dunn as his center, writing in Collier's Magazine, "...it was he who led his team to such a remarkable record, a good deal of it depending on Dunn himself." Of course, Dunn became a Penn State legend while "Wrong-way Cyphers" disappeared into Penn State history.
In the Nittany Lions' 1974 game at West Virginia, the Mountaineers blocked John Reihner's field goal attempt from the 17-yard-line in the third quarter. West Virginia's John Eastwood tried to pick up the ball, but it bounced into the end zone, where Eastwood again tried to corral it. Penn State's Ron Coder pounced on the loose ball for the bizarre touchdown en route to a 21-12 Nittany Lion win on October 26, 1974.
In one play against Ohio State, Grant Haley has become a Penn State luminary and a unique one in school history. Now the question is, will fans remember Marcus Allen, who blocked that Buckeye kick?
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State assistant head coach and cornerbacks coach Terry M. Smith joined the Big Ten Head Coaches Teleconference in place of Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin this afternoon.
Smith took questions from members of the media, recapping Penn State's victory against then-No. 2 Ohio State last weekend, while also looking ahead to the trip to Purdue Saturday.
Check out updates from the Q&A session below.
Being ranked for the
first time in five seasons, is there any change in terms of your game week
Smith: No, we're going to approach it as business as usual. We work under the belief that the next game is the most important game, no matter who your opponent is. I think there is just a little bit more excitement. Our kids, have bought into the process the entire year and after a game like this past weekend, the process becomes - I don't want to say easier, but the buy in is even greater. Our kids are excited for this week. For us personally, we haven't won a game on the road so it will be a good test for us to get our first road victory.
What are your
impressions of Purdue's David Blough, as he has led the Big Ten in passing
yards at 306 per game?
Smith: He can throw the ball, he has some very good receivers on the perimeter, some guys who are fast and athletic, who create challenges for us out on the perimeter. When you watch him play the last few weeks, I think he has thrown for over 300 yards the last two games. He is very accurate, he throws a good ball - a catchable ball, and you can see him directing the offense. He got off to a pretty good start after the first play last week, but after that they got it together. We have our work cut out for us and we're going to figure out how to slow him down and keep the pass game to a minimum.
How critical has Marcus Allen been over the last few weeks with his ability as you have waited to get healthy at linebacker?Smith: He has been huge. A few weeks ago he had 22 tackles in the ball game and then obviously blocking the kick and making a lot of tackles this past weekend. He is doing what we would expect of him. We knew he was a special player for us a few years ago when he started midway through his freshman season. He has taken on a leadership role on our team and he is doing a lot of leading by example and producing pretty good results for us.
How much more
versatile can this defense be moving forward, considering a guy like Koa Farmer
has kind of gotten involved while waiting for [Brandon] Bell and Jason
[Cabinda] to get back?
Smith: The one good thing is that we've built some depth through the injury situation, so we have some guys who have good, viable playing experience, that can come off the bench and keep guys fresh. The guys who have come off the bench are probably a little bit more athletic, just not as much playing experience. It gives us some options and it gives us the ability to change our scheme slightly, depending on who our opponent is. The last few weeks we've started to jell a little bit. Each week we're playing a little bit better and better.
With the return of
Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda, how crucial were they in the win Saturday and
how much of a boost do they give the defense moving forward?
Smith: They give us a tremendous boost, when you talk about two veteran players who have played a lot of football for Penn State. Their leadership, most importantly, they are getting guys lined up and making sure there's the right calls, the right checks. Then for the two of them to go out there and have 31 tackles, we've missed that. We've missed their direction and their leadership. We just want to try to make sure those guys stay healthy and stay active and try to continue to lead us in a good direction.
On Jordan Smith, what
does his experience mean to the team and your secondary group and what are your
thoughts on his play down the stretch against Ohio State?
Smith: Jordan has played a huge role for us, coming off the bench in certain roles. He has made tremendous plays for us the last few weeks, including the pass breakup on the last series of our defense. His veteran savviness, he's a great leader in the cornerback room. All the other corners look to him. He is kind of that wise, older spokesman. He has been around the block, he doesn't get too high and doesn't get too low. He understands what his role on our football team is and when he's asked to contribute, he is contributing greatly for us. He has had some good success for us here in the last few weeks and we hope for that to continue here in the last few weeks.
Coming off of a big win
that coincided with 75 prospects in attendance, how do you think that showcased
Smith: The greatest thing is that we defended our home turf. We always want to win games at home. It was a pretty electric atmosphere. We hope that we impacted one or two recruits for the future, but all we can do is try to take care of business on the football field. We're just worried about one more game and that's Purdue this week. We're trying to keep our focus right on those guys because if we turn around and lay an egg against Purdue, then what good is that victory last weekend?
How many times since
Saturday have you watched Grant Haley's touchdown off of the blocked field goal
and how have to seen him develop as a corner this year?
Smith: I watched it probably two times through film study, just when I'm grading the film. Once the game is over and we review the film, it's time to move on. Purdue is our next test so that's for the fans to continue to watch and to continue to Tweet and those things. Our mission and purpose right now is 100 percent Purdue.
Obviously the play on Saturday was a huge play for Penn State football this year and maybe one of the biggest plays in the history of Penn State football. He [Haley] has developed into a great corner, he competes at a high level and he covered exceptionally well against arguably some of the best receivers in the nation and he has done that all year. He competes at a high level. He is a smart kid. He is fundamentally sound and he makes very few mistakes. He is just developing into a great leader, player and person for us here at Penn State.
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