STATE?COLLEGE?- Running back Derek Day called it "water under the bridge," which can be interpreted one of two ways from the Penn State perspective.
Either the Nittany Lion coaches and players truly have forgiven and forgotten about Illinois coaches coming to town to try and recruit their players after the NCAA sanctions came down.
The PSU camp is choosing to keep its answers simple and politically correct regarding the biggest topic of the week to prevent giving the Illini any bulletin-board material.
"We've really gotten over it," defensive tackle Jordan Hill said. "We don't care too much about it because it wasn't like they were the only people trying to contact us."
Illinois is a Big Ten member, however, so some believe that's crossing the line, compared to a USC or California actively seeking PSU transfers.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien gave no indication Tuesday that having a fellow conference school recruit his players bothered him.
"It takes a lot to bother me," O'Brien said.
It certainly bothered linebacker Michael Mauti, who in August ripped the NCAA and had some choice words about the process that made PSU players free agents.
"There's been coaches hounding our players, man, like 10-12 calls a day, coming on a visit, on our campus, outside of our apartments, outside of our classrooms," Mauti said then. "To me it just doesn't seem right. Even some coaches from this conference. ... I've got a problem with that."
It's unclear if Mauti still has a problem with the Illinois aspect since he won't be made available to the media this week. But it's a good bet that he and other Lion players will have some extra motivation for Saturday's game.
"Nobody's out there really seriously hating these guys," Hill said of Illinois. "It's really for extra motivation."
The motivation could turn out to be a good thing if channeled the right way, or it could hamper the Lions if they let their anger at the Illinois coaches get the best of them.
"When it affects you in a negative way on and off the field, then you know that it's going too far," Hill said.
O'Brien isn't concerned about his players' focus being in the wrong place.
"No, not at all," he said.
One Penn State player transferred to Illinois, offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki, and his presence could give the Illini a strategic advantage. Nowicki went through spring drills with the Lions and knows O'Brien's offense, which Illinois coach Tim Beckman undoubtedly will try to use to his advantage.
Nowicki's parents did not return a phone message from the Mirror on Tuesday seeking insight into why he decided to transfer and how the decision has affected him.
Beckman has said repeatedly that he doesn't think he did anything wrong by recruiting PSU's players -- who were and continue to be fair game for all other schools -- plus he noted his assistant coaches didn't go on PSU's campus during the process.
"I'm sure it has a little bit of an effect on this football game," Beckman acknowledged Tuesday about the recruiting issue.
Depth at RB
The Lions are getting healthy in time for Big Ten play, particularly at running back.
Bill Belton (ankle) and Day (shoulder) are expected to return Saturday after missing two games, and Curtis Dukes (thigh) also should be ready after missing Saturday's game against Temple.
Michael Zordich suffered a left knee injury late in the win over the Owls and did not practice Monday but is expected to be able to play.
"I took a hit, that's all really," Zordich said. "I got banged up, but I'll be good to go, and I will be on the field on Saturday."
With everyone healthy, the question now becomes which running backs will see action. O'Brien said it's tough to play all five backs and added two or three likely will be used.
"I went into their meeting [Monday] and told them, 'Hey, look, guys, we got five guys that are good players, tough guys, love coaching them, so let's go out and practice well and we'll as a coaching staff decide who's going to play on Saturday,'" O'Brien said.
Along with the running backs, left tackle Donovan Smith (ankle) and defensive end Sean Stanley (back) are expected to play Saturday. Defensive end Pete Massaro (knee) probably will not, O'Brien said.
Cornerback Adrian Amos took a shot to the head against Temple but is OK.
"Adrian didn't really get his bell rung on that one," O'Brien said. "His helmet just came down. He's fine."
Paterno's last game
Joe Paterno's final game as head coach was against Illinois last season at Beaver Stadium. The Lions won, 10-7, for Paterno's Division I record 409th victory, of which 111 were later vacated by NCAA sanctions.
Penn State held on as Illinois had a tying field-goal attempt hit off the right upright as time expired.