Penn State Plays for More than Titles or Bowl Games


By Dave Jones, Harrisburg Patriot News

In every sport, timeout huddles are known for being as much about breathers as about planning. That’s true in most places.

Especially on the periphery of the huddle, you’ll see reserves staring into the crowd, chatting with each other. And you might see starters leaning over to a cooler to sip water or receive some sort of nominal treatment on some minor scrape.

That’s not what you see this year in a Penn State huddle. Not when Bill O’Brien is in the middle of it.

What you do see is every conceivable member of the offense – on the road that’s about 32 guys – with his facemask pointed directly at the man in the middle with the playcard and the headset. Nobody is moving. Nobody is fidgeting. Everyone appears to be listening.

Which tells you two things about the 2012 Penn State Nittany Lions, one pretty apparent at this point and one I should’ve concluded before now:

First, they pay rapt attention to their head coach. It’s not the kind instilled by fear, either, but by respect.

“We have a resilient bunch of kids,” said O’Brien after a resounding 38-14 win in a Kinnick Stadium they quieted with expert precision. “They love to play for each other. And I think they enjoy playing for this coaching staff.”

And second, this team wants to be as good as it possibly can be.

So, it just may be that there won’t be any off day this season, that usually inevitable one where a team comes out flat. With unbeaten Ohio State on deck at Beaver Stadium, it’s a question that certainly needn’t be addressed in coming week.

This team is motivated. Not in the usual way, juiced by short-term adrenaline on the junk food of superficial week-to-week stimulus. They are powered for the long haul by all the reasons you can imagine and some that aren’t so obvious: A rebuttal to the many of us who said they couldn’t possibly compete at a championship level. Probably some retribution toward the NCAA. And a pent up frustration about all that’s happened in the last year over which they had utterly no control and for which they held zero responsibility.

And now, on top of all that, they have confidence. They’ve done what O’Brien and his staff has asked and it has worked in spectacular fashion.

So, they believe in their leader. They have confidence in themselves. And they are eager to prove a lot of people wrong and get a few people back.

What that all adds up to is a quest. This has become an effort worthy of some anthem or motto except that would be too hokey and superficial. It’s more organic and genuine than that.

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