ShareThis Page

Penn State football finally gets back on the field

| Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, 11:59 p.m.
Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti has played a leading role in keeping the program united. Mauti said, 'We're going to look back years from now and see how special that really was.' (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti has played a leading role in keeping the program united. Mauti said, 'We're going to look back years from now and see how special that really was.' (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner and Barry Alvarez, his Wisconsin counterpart, have discussed creating a trophy for the Big Ten rivals' annual football game. It may be the only trophy Penn State plays for in the foreseeable future.

The Nittany Lions open training camp Monday under the weight of NCAA sanctions that include a four-year ban on postseason play and have cost Penn State several key players.

That Penn State didn't experience a mass exodus following the July 23 announcement of unprecedented penalties speaks to a widely shared belief among those in the program: The Nittany Lions are playing for something bigger than a bowl game or the Big Ten title.

“The revival of Penn State as a whole and the Penn State community is really sitting on our back,” junior tight end Garry Gilliam said. “If we come out and win each game and handle our business with class, that's really going to send a message to everyone in the nation and world that Penn State's still one of the top universities in the country. We have a lot riding on this season.”

That may be an understatement: Penn State will be the country's most scrutinized program this season and beyond.

The NCAA hammered the Nittany Lions in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal and punished the program for what president Mark Emmert said was a football culture run amok. The NCAA also waived traditional transfer rules for Penn State's current players, but the Nittany Lions suffered minimal losses, at least from a numbers standpoint.

Only nine players have left the program, and coach Bill O'Brien made it clear that those who take part in preseason practice are expected to stay for the entire season.

“The fact that we stick together through a time like this, that's going to go a long way,” senior linebacker Michael Mauti said. “We're going to look back years from now and see how special that really was. I don't think wins and losses are going to determine whether this season's successful. And believe me — I don't like losing. I hate losing more than I like winning.”

The loss of tailback Silas Redd, who rushed for 1,241 yards last season, and several other starters from 2011 won't be easy to weather. One intangible that should benefit the Nittany Lions is shared adversity has made the players closer. They also won't lack motivation, given the criticism the program has absorbed.

“We don't have a bowl game,” senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said, “but we'll treat every game like one.”

The start of preseason drills will bring a semblance of normalcy for players who have experienced anything but in the past two weeks. Senior fullback Michael Zordich said it will be a relief to focus on blocking and tackling.

“You train all year to play football and you go through all of this stuff, and then you're finally on the football field,” he said. “You just kind of let your hair down and go play.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.