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Nittany Lions Preview Clash at No. 18/16 Nebraska

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Malcolm Willis

Nov. 7, 2012

Penn State Football Press Conference
November 6, 2012

No. 10 - Malcolm Willis, Junior, Safety

Q. Had everything not come down last year, do you guys feel like you would have beat Nebraska and are you excited to face them again this week?
A. At the end of the day, regardless of what happened, we came out to play football and unfortunately we were on the losing end of it. We feel like we were in the game and we wanted to win the game just like it was any other game. It was just unfortunate that these circumstances came down, but we still wanted to win the game.

Q. You have faced a number of dual threat quarterbacks. When you are gauging the play, what are you looking for so you don't bite on the fake?
A. On any given down at safety, you have your ideal run-pass keys, whether it be a tight end or an uncovered lineman. Usually with lineman, you can see them pass set or run blocking and that allows you to take your read to the next level and determine whether you need to come up in the run game or drop back for the pass. In certain defenses, there are certain keys like in one of our base defenses, I am looking at the line of scrimmage or I am looking at the tight end. As a defensive back, you never want to have your eyes get in the backfield because that's when big plays occur.

Q. How important is it to play fast when [Taylor Martinez] had over 200 yards rushing last week?
A. It is very important because dual threat quarterbacks want to get the defensive backs' eyes in the backfield and take them off their keys and that's when big plays happen but as a defense, we have to be able to trust each other and know everybody is going to play 100 percent.

Q. Both teams play a really fast paced offense. Who is it more difficult in keeping up with? Is it the offense or the defense?
A. I would say the defense just because it is a big challenge for us. They have a very up-tempo and fast offense and we have an offense that runs the NASCAR that we go against everyday in practice, but when its game time, it's a whole different speed. It is like warp speed. As a defense, we have to prepare for that this week and we have to make sure that we do a good job with our assignments.



Q. How would you be able to slow the game down?
A. Really, slowing the game down just comes with reps and when we understand our reads and understand what you need to do as a defensive player and me as a safety, what slows the game down is me knowing what I have to do on any given play.

Q. How has Stephen Obeng-Agyapong progressed since week one and how is it playing alongside of him?
A. He has made a lot of strides in the right direction. He has been making big plays, whether it's forcing fumbles and causing turnovers and things like that. He is also one of my roommates so we talk about things like this all the time. From week one till now, you can just see his work ethic has gone through the roof. He understands his role and he just makes plays when we need them.

Q. Before the season, there were a lot of questions about the secondary. Do you feel like you guys have answered the critics especially in Big Ten play?
A. As a competitor, naturally, everybody in the secondary, we take offense to those things, but we just have to come out and play every game regardless of what people say about the secondary, how we are young and inexperienced. If the coach was going to have a problem with us, then we wouldn't be on the field.

Q. How exciting was it that Purdue challenged you guys and what do you think you improved on in particular?
A. Our coaches challenged us earlier in the week last week because of the amount of skill players they had since they make a lot of guys miss in the open field. The coaches challenged each and every one of us to make open field tackles and play the ball when it's in the air. We stepped up and did that last week.

Q. How happy were you to see Brandon Moseby-Felder finally score that first touchdown?
A. He is another one of my roommates and up until last week, he would make the big catch and make the run after the catch but never make it into the end zone, so we would tease him about it that, telling him that he lost his speed and little things like that, but it's all fun and games. When he scored Saturday, he came right over to me smiling and said "yeah, I still got it" and it's fun.

Q. Do you think its going to be hard for the players to stay focused on these next three weeks since there is no bowl game to look forward to?
A. We have a lot to play for. Just because we are not going to a bowl game doesn't mean we are any less of a team than we would be if we were. We come out every week playing hard and we want o make a statement every week. This week isn't any different because we are going against a huge Nebraska team that is more than capable of putting big points on our defense, so we just have to make sure that we know our assignments.

Q. Ho does the team overall like the competitiveness at practice for starting positions?
A. Coach O'Brien said every position is up for grabs each week and the coaches look at our practices and that's who plays, whoever is more productive in practice. Everybody on the team has a role and Coach O;Brien really stresses that and he says how everybody needs to have a role on the team and understand that role and whether that's a starter or a core special teams guy, it's a really a big part of our operation that we need to do and as a competitor, you like a coach like that who wants to play the best players and it doesn't matter if you are a freshman or a fifth-year senior. If you are making plays and doing what you need to be doing within your role, then you are going on be on the field.

Q. How hard is it to go up against a guy like Martinez pursuit-wise, when he is always a threat to pitch the ball?
A. It is very important and not just because he's a dual threat quarterback, it's each and every week. What you put on film is who your team is. That is what Coach Roof always stresses to us on the defense. If were making big hits and getting after the ball every play, teams see that. Last week was a big step in the right direction in terms of our pursuit to the ball. We had nine or ten guys to the ball every play so it was really good to see that.

Q. What's the biggest thing you have taken from practicing against the high-speed offense every day in practice?
A. The biggest thing I can take from that is conditioning. When you have to get ready to play, you have to make sure you are in the right shape and be able to get after the ball since that is a big part of our defense. Also another big key is communication. In the secondary, we have multiple signals that we have to give each other and make sure we all know what the call is and even if a linebacker doesn't get the call, as a safety, we have to make sure the linebackers get the right call so the whole play isn't a big bust.

Q. How much does it help living with Stephon (Morris) and Obeng-Agyapong in terms of communication?
A. It helps a lot because we watch film together and we don't necessarily have to go to film room to watch film with Coach (John Butler), we can just do it in our home. With us being defensive backs, we can all relate to each other and tell each other what we are studying and the tendencies we see and we help each other when it comes to watching film.

Q. Coach O'Brien said that the secondary was one of the most improved positions this year. Why do you think he said that?
A. In practice, we practice really hard every day and Coach Butler has us doing multiple cone drills everyday and it's showing up in the games. We are constantly going after the ball in practice, trying to force fumbles, recover fumbles and get pass break-ups. Coach Butler always says what you do in practice shows up in the game and we have improved a lot in those areas.

Q. Do you see any similarities between Braxton Miller and Taylor Martinez? What lessons did you learn against Ohio State that you could apply this week?
A. They are very similar guys. They are both very fast and both great athletes and both able to make plays with both their feet and their arm. That is just the nature of their athleticism and the nature of the position they are playing. One thing that we learned going into this week is that we have to be disciplined and play assignment football. If every guy on defense does their assignment, then we will come out good.

No. 28 - Zach Zwinak, Sophomore, Running Back

Q: How much do you like November football? Does that fit your running style?
A: When it gets colder out, it gets tougher to pass. Running the ball is always fun, regardless of what the weather is.

Zach Zwinak

Q: Talk about the emergence of the running game for you guys; you have caught fire lately.
A: The line has picked it up since the beginning of the year. We're executing as a total offense. Matt's (McGloin) pass game has opened up the run game and the run game has opened up the pass game. We're just executing more than we did at the beginning of the year.

Q: Bill O'Brien has spoken about you guys being focused on what you're doing, but Nebraska's a team that has a shot to go to the Rose Bowl. Does that make this game any more significant in your minds to play the spoiler role and make a statement?
A: We come in each week focused on that team. Nebraska's just another team. We focus on what we have to do and not where they are in the rankings. They're a good team, but we have to do what we have to do and it's just another game.

Q: Does the competition and switching at running back each week bother you?
A: It doesn't bother me at all. It makes us better as a running back corps. We go out and push each other. We help each other get better in that sense. When we come out in the game, everyone has their role and they play their role.

Q: With all of carries you've gotten over the last few weeks, has Craig Fitzgerald done anything differently with conditioning for you?
A: No, it's the same. Conditioning, lifting is all the same. We're trying to keep everyone going, keep getting stronger as the season goes on.

Q: In the up-tempo offense that you guys run, how hard is it to get hit and then get up and run a play so quickly?
A: In the spring, when Coach introduced it, it was a little different. Now, after we get tackled, we try to get up and keep moving to try to keep the defense on their toes. Now it's nothing, just get hit and give the ball to the ref so that he can spot it.

Q: How does the competition within the position impact your teammates?
A: I can't really speak for them. We go out and help each other; we coach each other. Coach (Charles) London coaches us and we learn from each other.

Q: Do you think your increased playing time this year is a result of your improvement or do you feel that you were overlooked last year?
A: I've definitely improved a lot since the beginning of the season. At the beginning of the season, there were some injuries to young guys. Those were unfortunate, but I felt that I stepped up and played the role that I had to at the time.

Q: Nebraska's defense is allowing close to 200 yards per game rushing. Do you and the other running backs look at that during the week and think that you could be a focal point for the offense in this game?
A: When we start watching the film, Coach London and Coach O'Brien tell us what they're seeing. They're going to gameplan around what they feel is an opening. They're a great defense and a great team; they wouldn't be where they are if they weren't. We're going to find out more about them as the week goes on.

Q: With the up-tempo offense that they run, is there more pressure on you to slow the tempo down a little?
A: There's really no pressure. The only pressure is to execute the plays the way that we plan them. Whether it's passing or running, we just have to execute. They're a great defense and if we run our plays right, we'll see what we can do.

Q: In the Big Ten, you guys have played well on the road. What's your mindset when you travel?
A: We travel well, but when we travel the most that we have is our team. We play for each other and we stick together because that's what we need. We create our own excitement and that keeps the motivation going.


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