Nittany Lions out to avoid letdown
Following any gigantic win, one of the inevitable questions in sports is always about the possibility of a letdown the following week.
Penn State’s players and coaches are very aware of that this week after Saturday’s stunning 24-21 win over then-No. 2 Ohio State.
“If we turn around and lay an egg against Purdue, then what good is that victory last weekend?,” cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said Tuesday while filling in for James Franklin on the Big Ten coaches teleconference.
Smith made that remark unsolicited, without even being asked about the potential of a letdown during this week’s trip to Purdue. So clearly it’s something the coaches and players have already addressed.
“Coming off a big win like that, some people can kind of get caught up in all of that kind of stuff,” tight end Mike Gesicki said. “But we got into our offense meeting on Sunday, and once we turned the film off, we jumped right into Purdue.”
“We try to focus on every week, on upping our focus and our attention to detail,” cornerback Jordan Smith. “We’re going to approach (this game) like any other week, but have a different level of focus to make sure we come out 1-0 this week.”
Purdue fired coach Darrell Hazell last week, then went out to No. 8 Nebraska on Saturday and put up a good showing, leading 14-10 at the half before falling, 27-14.
The fact that the Boilermakers have an interim coach, Gerard Parker, and are a bit of a wild card at this point is only part of the issue Penn State faces this week. The Nittany Lions also have been a notoriously slow-starting program on the road, and they have yet to prove under Franklin that they can play consistently away from home.
“I think people are kind of disrespecting Purdue,” Gesicki said. “They gave Nebraska a tough time in the first half. I actually caught some of that game. They’re a very talented team. They’re in the Big Ten. We’re not preparing differently.”
Franklin could not take part in the Big Ten coaches call because of a family funeral, and his weekly news conference was pushed back a day to today. That left Smith answering questions for the program Tuesday.
“We’re going to approach (this game) as business as usual,” Smith said. “We work under the belief that the next game is the most important game, no matter who your opponent is.
“I think there is just a little bit more excitement. Our kids have bought into the process the entire year, and after a game like this past weekend, the process becomes — I don’t want to say easier — but the buy-in is even greater. Our kids are excited for this week. For us personally, we haven’t won a game on the road, so it will be a good test for us to get our first road victory.”
Interference or not?
On Ohio State’s last possession of the game, replay showed PSU cornerback Jordan Smith hit receiver James Clark’s right arm early on a deep pass down the left sideline. It was not called pass interference, but it could have been.
NBA star LeBron James, an Ohio State fan, voiced his displeasure on Twitter, writing, “That was pass interference man!!!”
Smith responded on Twitter, writing, “I think my play was clean King.”
Tuesday, Smith was asked the Twitter exchange with James.
“I first found out about the tweet when someone texted it to me,” Smith said. “When I found out, I was showing it to my teammates (in the locker room), and my teammates were telling me to respond to it. So I wrote the first thing that came to mind.”
ABC analyst Kirk Herbstreit defended the no-call on Twitter, saying that even though it looked like pass interference on slow-mo replay, that kind of call is rarely made in the game because of the speed of the play.
“Any time a play comes your way, that’s your opportunity,” Smith said. “All I want to do is take advantage of that opportunity and just help the team get a victory. So it was awesome. It was awesome to make that play.”
The scene was wild at Beaver Stadium during Saturday’s postgame celebration, with thousands of fans storming the field. Gesicki had the best line about what was taking place.
“I’m stepping on people, and I’m apologizing,” he said. “And they’re saying, ‘I’m happy you stepped on me.'”