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DeAndre Thompkins | Jr. | Wide Receiver
Q. It's Homecoming, and homecoming for you guys, talk about being back in Happy Valley and Beaver Stadium?
DT: There's no environment like here. The fans are great. The environment is great. We feed off it as a team. We do a great job at home, as you know. It's just good to get back to your bearings. And being in an environment that you're comfortable playing in.
Q. Can you talk about the challenges that you're preparing for Rutgers and what you guys are looking forward to?
DT: We approach it just like every other week. Just practice, capitalize on opportunities you get, eliminate mistakes, and just go out there and execute.
Q. Head coach James Franklin told us after the game that he wanted to make sure every single person in the building made sure they knew they were going back to your formula. What was different about Saturday when you reconvened as a team, and went over corrections and things of that nature?
DT: I would say mostly just understanding what mistakes that we've done, why they happened, how can we capitalize on them and eliminate them going forward. And then after that just erasing it. It's already done. Nothing you can do about it and just attack the next week, one week at a time.
Q. Is there anything that you saw on film that says ‘hey, we're good, we can keep this going,’ and James said you guys lost by four points total the last two weeks, can you use this as a motivation factor?
DT: Even before the season started I knew our team was going to be great. We were going to do great things. It's not something that you kind of figure out in the middle season. It's something that you declare before the season starts. So I kind of knew before going into the season that we had a team that could go really far and do big things.
The fact that we've lost a total of four points in the last two games just doesn't really mean much to us. The games are in the past. Losses are in the past. Wins are in the past. What matters now is Rutgers.
Q. Head coach James Franklin said against Rutgers defense, there needs to be adjustments in your offense. Can you explain more specifically what those adjustments need to be?
DT: Each week we analyze the defense to figure out what coverages they play, what tendencies they have. Each team is different. Some teams are kind of similar here and there, but others have a little wrinkle in their game. And as an offense we have to find out what that wrinkle is and attack it.
Q. When Saquon Barkley is unable to gain positive yardage, what is the impact from the offense? Does that impact you guys emotionally at all? How do you think he's handled that the last several weeks?
DT: Saquon [Barkley] is a good player. We all know that. When he has the ball in his hands he can do great things, but teams know that. Everybody knows that. Everybody in the country knows that, so they're going to set out to stop him. Once they kind of figure out they think they stopped him, that's something, as other skilled players on the team, we really have to step up and accept that role to make big plays for the team and makw sure he's not just pounding Saquon, pounding Saquon. We have other players on the team that are great in Trace [McSorley], Ham [DaeSean Hamilton], Juwan [Johnson], I can name all of them. We have other pieces to the puzzle, so if you think you stopped Saquon, we're not really worried because we have a plethora of other players who can make plays.
Q. And then the second question, about how Saquon has handled that individually?
DT: He's one of those guys that he understands the game of football. He knows that you're not going to have a break out game every game. He knows that the type of player he is, teams are going to set out to stop him. And one thing that I admire from him is he's a team player, he's not one of the those guys that goes and demands the ball. He knows the type of players we are as receivers. He knows the type of player Mike [Gesicki] is at tight end, he knows Trace [McSorley] and et cetera. But that's one thing that he handles very well. He knows he's not the only piece to the puzzle and he's willing to sacrifice that for the success of the team.
Q. Can you describe what you saw on the fourth down pass to you, the pass was maybe a little high. Is that a ball you feel like you have to come down with?
DT: To be honest with you, yeah, that's one of those passes that as a receiver you have to catch. I own that mistake. It is what it is. I've watched the film a countless number of times, and that's just a mistake as a receiver. You have to catch the ball.
Q. Have your teammates been there the last couple of days to pick you up? What’s that been like?
DT: We have each other’s back. We know that although it may look like it, one play does not define the whole game. I was kind of upset about it after the game. But guys like Saquon [Barkey], Trace [McSorley], Ham [DaeSean Hamilton], are guys who have been in tough positions. And not necessarily I make that play every time. Ham, with the Pitt game, he kind of reminded me, you know, the type of situation he was in. And I look up to him. He's like my big brother. So that's one thing that I took into account. So I watched the play. It happened and I'm on to the next week.
Q. Just curious, after you take a couple of losses, is the leadership on the team all the more magnified, concerned with guys just maybe not being as invested as you were say two weeks ago?
DT: That may be the case for other teams, but I truly don't believe that for our team. Our guys are here to play for each other. We're here to play for things outside of our team. And I think our leadership, no matter if we had losses or not, is going to step up throughout the season. So it's not really a question of leadership or if guys are committed to the team, because each week and every day we make sure that every guy in the locker room, and even any person in the Lasch Football Building, makes sure that they are in the same mindset that everybody else is.
Q. Coach Franklin said earlier this year that he thought the blocking on the perimeter has been one of the best things that you guys have done this year. And Josh Gattis of course highlighted your blocking, and we saw it on Saturday on one particular play. How much did you emphasize that when you got here and understanding that you needed to improve there to see the field?
DT: Coming in you kind of know your weaknesses. And my first year, my redshirt year, it kind of exposed a lot of things that I needed to work on. Blocking was one of those, from the jump. Once you improve on your biggest mistakes, or your biggest problems, you kind of start developing, getting a role for how can you better yourself as a player. And I knew that the biggest thing coming into D1 football is blocking. People are big, they're strong, and I'm not that big. I'm not that strong, but blocking is all about heart. That's one thing Coach Gattis tells us, is you can train all you want, blocking drills, all this and that, but it comes down to, ‘do you want the person behind you with the ball to score?’ And I want everybody who touches the ball on offense to score. I go all out for blocking and my teammates.
Q. What was the mood like when you met for your film study session yesterday? And what do you see from Rutgers?
DT: The mood is similar to every day that we go in to watch film on the next team. We respect them as a program and as football players, but we don't fear them at all. So we're going to go in and look at the little details, the techniques that they use. And we're going to try to see how can we attack them, how can we be successful.
Q. Who is Rutgers similar to?
DT: They like to run kind of a four scheme with pressing the off man with the corners. Kind of similar to Pitt. Of course they have different players on the back end, but for the most part their scheme is kind of similar to Pitt.
Q. These tough losses have brought a lot of outside noise that you guys are trying to ignore. How does that bring maturity to you guys hndlinging that and ignoring it moving forward?
DT: One thing I would say is that even though it's a tough loss, you also learn from wins, as well. Just because you win a game doesn't mean you didn't have mistakes. Whether it's a win or a loss, with maturity you come and you know, even though we've won, ‘hey, I did not play a perfect game. There's things that I need to work on and improve.’ And that just comes with, like you said, maturity. That's something we have as a team, is we know that no matter how much we win by or how much we lose by, the mistakes will show. And that's something that you have to take into account, understand what happened, why it happened, and then just go on to the next week.
Steven Gonzalez | So. | Offensive Line
Q. It's Homecoming this weekend, also homecoming for you guys, as well, coming off a two game road trip. Talk about being back.
SG: It's great, to be back in Happy Valley, you know, just being back in front of the home crowd, especially after being on the road for two weeks. Coming back to this atmosphere is something else in Beaver Stadium. So definitely, it will be huge for us to bounce back, coming back home.
Q. Today and after the game Coach Franklin talked about the people in the trenches needing to be more physical. How much of a challenge do you take that? You're known as a guy who likes to play a physical style of ball?
SG: I think it's a huge challenge not only for me, but for the rest of the offensive line. And I think that's the real emphasis this week to try to improve that. And that's what we do every week to try to improve our physicality. So I think that will be our mindset this week, and just try to be as physical as we can against Rutgers.
Q. In the recruiting process you were offered by Rutgers. At the time as a recruit, your perspective on the differences between Penn State and Rutgers, the two programs?
SG: I just felt like it was a fit here, when I came to Penn State. I felt like everything was right for me, not bashing Rutgers. Rutgers is a great program, and they have their successes academically and football-wise. But I just felt like Penn State was the better fit for me.
Q. Talk about Rutgers and what they face, their defense, and pass rush. And talk for you guys in the trenches, what's that going to be like?
SG: It's a challenge every week to try to face a defense like them. They're physical. They're a big group. And they're coming off a few games where they've won. Obviously they're coming off a hot streak. It's always going to be tough. And they're going to come in and try to knock us off. And they're going to come in with a lot of momentum, so we just have to be prepared for it.
Q. What exactly changes at practice for you guys to get more physical?
SG: It's just our mindset and the way we approach the practice. I think we just have to approach the practice today and for the rest of the week and the rest of the season of a more finishing mindset. Trying to finish every play, don't stop until the whistle. That will be the mindset we'll be implementing more and more as the weeks go on.
Q. Curious about Ryan Bates being out. How is he handling being on the sidelines, I imagine he'd like to be out there every single snap. How is he doing?
SG: He's handling it pretty well. He's doing what he has to do to get back as fast as he can. And we're keeping his spirits up. But he's doing just fine. And he'll be back soon hopefully. We'll see what happens.
Q. Rutgers has those two linebackers, over 150 tackles. What do you see from those two guys?
SG: From what we've seen they're pretty physical. They're quick. And obviously they have a sense of where to go when they see the ball. The challenge for us is to get movement up front and try to push the D-line to be in their face, just to disrupt them a little bit.
So I think our challenge, obviously, like I've been saying, is just to be physical and to get to the second level as fast and physically as we can.
Q. I'm curious your thoughts as a lineman, you're obviously a big, tough guy. To have your offensive called a finesse offense. Do you take any exception to that? What do you think when your head coach calls your offense a finesse offense?
SG: Don't really take any meaning to it. We do a lot of finesse things. We do run-pass options, things like that, nice little dress up schemes to make the defenses see other things. But at the end of the day it just comes down to the grit and physicality of the game and that's what us as an offensive line we pride ourselves on.
Q. It seemed like you guys were better able to maybe impose your will on some other teams with your running game last year. What are you guys seeing? Are you coming off the ball in the same way that you did last year?
SG: I think we are, I just think teams know what [running back] Saquon [Barkley] is about and our running game is all about. So they're going to load it with more than what we can handle. So I think that's just kind of somewhat the issue for us. But I think we have a good game plan going into this week, and I think we're going to have it solved for Rutgers.
Q. Just going back to that when you say guys load the box. What challenges does that specifically present to you? Obviously it changes stuff for you?
SG: We still have to account for our guys, our guys are basically whoever they have on the D line, but it does bring a challenge to us when they start moving around and start blitzing and doing twists and stunts and things like that. It does bring a challenge. And plus it's bringing more people than what we can block. So that's a real challenge.
Q. Who is the most difficult defensive tackle you've ever faced?
SG: There's been quite a few. Maurice Hurst is a great player from Michigan. He was tough. Going back to last year, the D-tackle from USC, (Stevie Tu'ikolovatu) he was a big guy. He was tough to move. And there's been a few guys that have been tough to play against.
Q. What have you learned this season about yourself or about your game?
SG: I think I've just gained more confidence in my game. I think last year, I mean towards the beginning I wasn't really confident. And it took a while to build it up and I wasn't really clicking with the offensive line, I was kind of a lone wolf. And I think this year I just made a lot of changes. Obviously with my faith, obviously just believing in the process and believing in my abilities, and just the confidence grew. It's a product now. And I've been playing pretty decently.