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Penn State Football Vs. Akron - Offensive Student-Athletes
September 2, 2017
Saquon Barkley | RB | JUNIOR
Q. Can you describe the confidence that you guys have on offense
when you have the ball compared to a year ago early in the year
The confidence we have is just because of the players we have and the coaching staff we have. We believe in each other. We know Joe Mo [Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead], Coach Huff, Coach Franklin, and all the coaches are going to put up an unbelievable game plan. We know we can go to the left or to the right because the O-line is going to come out every single play and work their butts off. If you look to your left and right, we have skill guys [DaeSean Hamilton], Saeed [Blacknall], DeAndre [Thompkins], Trace [McSorley], Andre Robinson, Mike Gesicki, those guys are going to come out and execute. That is just the confidence that we have in each other and we believe in each other. When you have a team that believes in each other, and believe that they are capable of making a play, it is kind of hard to stop.
Q: You did not touch the ball in that first series, yet you were
able to compose your will rather quickly, how do you do that?
I just stay locked into the game and focused on the game. Obviously, something that Coach [Charles] Huff really focuses on is to be patient and when your opportunities come, you have to take full advantage of them. We were moving the ball at will in the first drive, so I was excited. I would have been fine if we went the whole game and I didn't have the ball in my hand as long as we kept going down the field and moving the ball at will. We have to finish though. We got into the red zone, that is something we focus on, and we came up with a turnover there. That's on us and we have to finish and find a way to get into the end zone.
Mike Gesicki | TE/H | SENIOR
Q: What did you see on your first touchdown catch, when Trace gets the ball to you, what were you seeing? It seemed like there was a defender coming at you and you were able to pluck it.
When the ball is in the air, that's the only thing I'm worried about. There could be three guys around me (and it) doesn't bother me, I'm just worried about the ball, worried about making the play, fulfilling this role on my team. I really appreciate Trace putting that one up. I always tell him that I'd rather it there than anywhere else. I'd rather it up high and let me go make a play, and that's exactly what he did. We were able to execute that and put six on the board.
Q: What were you doing in the offseason to emphasize the faster starts?
There are several periods in practice, especially in the beginning of practice this way we try to get off to a fast start, so we'll do some competition periods. Literally, the first period we get out there will be ones on ones, offense, defense. It's good when you get out on the field and you go offense versus defense, ones on ones, and you get that work right at the beginning of practice, it helps with the mentality and mindset that we have to have a fast start in the game.
Q: You said earlier that you feel like every time you have a good game catch, people said you have a good game blocking, how would you grade your blocking today and how you think you did?
I'd definitely have to go back to the tape and watch all of it, but for the most part I was pretty satisfied with my blocking ability today and my production as a blocker. It's something that I put a lot of time and effort into. Coach [Ricky] Rahne has been emphasizing it a ton.
Juwan Johnson | WR | SOPHOMORE
Q: When you have targets like Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton,
what were some of the words of advice that they gave you coming
into this game that you were going to have while you were playing?
Just to play. I have been playing this game forever, as long as I can remember. [They told me] just to play the game and just do the things that I do well. That is just to catch the ball, to block, and to be a leader on the team. I just keep pushing everyone to stay up when we are down and when we have bad plays, just to get over it, and move on to the next one.
Q: You play against guys on your own team a lot thus far, what
makes you guys so adaptable?
These guys are very versatile. I have been going against these guys for a long time. This system brought in some great players. They are tough to go against in practice. Even in the summer when we were working out, I just said `got to be tough on the receivers.' We have a great cornerback corps and I just can't wait for us to keep going on.
Brendan Mahon | OL | SENIOR
Q. How does it feel to be back playing football at Beaver Stadium?
Words can't describe. Nothing better than going out with a great group of guys, and this amazing fan base.
Q. What was the best part of the line [offensive line] today?
I think we had that physical persona in the Big Ten. Hard-nosed football that Penn State used to be, and I think we brought that back today, and got the ball rolling for the whole season.
Q. The rotation that you guys worked in, how did that play out? Because there were some guys that were getting time that didn't have meaningful time in the past.
Seeing some of the young guys out there was great. Have them get a chance to play in front of this group of fans that was great. Connor McGovern at center did a fantastic job and really put in the time in the offseason, in the weight room and in the film room, and it really showed today in his leadership at center.
Trace McSorley | QB | JUNIOR
Q. How good did it feel to be able to pick up where you guys left off in the sense how explosive your offense was? Everyone was kind of expecting, waiting to see, I guess, what you guys could do this year. How good does it feel to get out and show what you did today?
It felt really good just to be back in the stadium in front of our home fans playing again. It's been a long seven, eight months, however long it's been. I think it's actually been about eight months to the day since we played in the Rose Bowl, so it definitely felt really good to get back out there, start playing again and really show that we're still explosive. I know there are times when we probably could have been more explosive. We had passes down the field that could have been up a little more, balls a little bit higher. Then you catch it, and keep running, so we've got some things to work on. But it felt really good to come out and show that we can still be explosive.
Q. Barkley never touched the ball on your first series. Was that by design or was that just what they were giving you?
That's what the defense was giving us. We were legitimately trying to get him the ball. Obviously, with a guy like him, you want to get him going early. I felt like with our reads, the defense was just taking them away and opening the holes for our offense in other areas.
Q. How important is it for other players to be able to step up? Does it look like you have just all sorts of running room here when everybody is focusing on him or how does that kind of play in?
It really helps on our offensive line to be able to create holes when guys are flying out of the box and running with him. Even when guys are being run into the box, we've got guys on our outside that can be weapons for us and make plays and get the ball into their hands, so I think we were very complementary today. It was very good.
DeAndre Thompkins | WR | JUNIOR
Q. You broke a streak. It was almost 10-years-old -- no punt
returns for TDs for this program since 2008. Did you know that
coming in or use that as motivation at all?
Actually, my redshirt freshman year, I had a big return against Buffalo, and throughout the whole program from there to today, that's always been something that's been talked about. Who's going to break it? Who's going to break it? So going into this game, I knew I had a good chance, and I trusted my guys a lot. So I had that chip on my shoulder that I knew that I had to break it this game, and I just wanted to break it this game. Everybody did their job, and they showed up.
Q. Coach [Franklin] had said earlier this week that he thought you
had a chance to be a complete wide receiver, and even a complete
punt returner. Is it gratifying that you went out and proved him
right with the punt return and then another one of 42 and another
one of 15?
It's always exciting to gain the trust of your head coach, and what I would say is, it's not just exciting to have him believe in me, but also just (to believe in) myself. To go out there and know that I'm a complete receiver, a complete punt returner, and a complete football player, to go out here and prove it to myself, that holds more value than anyone can ever believe. So I go out there to try and prove my best to myself, and then whoever comes after that comes.
Q. What did it feel like when you crossed the goal line? When you
scored that touchdown, what's kind of going through your head?
Just a sigh of relief to know that all of the work that you put in in the offseason, all the punt return catches that you did when nobody was around, just all the training, all the film and everything, just knowing that that came to a touchdown on the scoreboard. It's just a sigh of relief once you pass the goal line.