Seniors revitalized Penn State program
ORLANDO - The mugs of Penn State's captains don't appear on the cover of the football media guide, only the front and back of their bodies wearing home uniforms stained by blood and mud.
Yet quarterback Daryll Clark and linebacker Sean Lee have played major roles in giving the Nittany Lions a facelift over the past five years, a span in which they have won 50 games after winning only 26 in the previous five.
They hope to end their respective careers by leading No. 11 Penn State (10-2) to its third 11-win season in five years when the Lions play No. 13 Louisiana State (9-3) at 1 p.m. today in the Capital One Bowl.
Clark and Lee were pivotal members of a recruiting class that helped return Penn State to prominence after the Lions struggled to records of 3-9 in 2003 and 4-7 in '04 and four losing seasons in five years. Clark owns six school passing records, while Lee ranks fourth among the school's tackles leaders.
Lee credits former captains Michael Robinson and Paul Posluszny for prompting the turnaround, as Penn State ended a six-game losing streak to win the final two games in '04, then finished 11-1 the following year.
"You could sense in the summer of '05, when we got there that they were going to refuse to lose, and would do whatever it takes to win these games and bring Penn State back on the map," Lee said. "And I think they kind of passed that leadership on to us, and we continue to pass that down, and that's why we're so successful."
The 2005 class included starters Justin King, Lydell Sargeant, Anthony Scirrotto and Derrick Williams --
all of whom have since graduated -- All-Big Ten performers Clark, Lee and Dennis Landolt and major contributors Jerome Hayes, Mickey Shuler and Knowledge Timmons.
"When we first started to be recruited to go to Penn State, and we knew about the record and knew about how they were struggling, we just wanted to be a class that was able to make a difference," Clark said.
"I felt like we've done that. We put that all aside, it didn't sway us either way to the point that we didn't want to go here because of how they were playing those two years. Once we came through, we bonded together and made sure we worked hard and stayed focused on the task. When we got our chance, we did what we could to make a difference. I feel like we've done a good job with that, along with everybody that's been a part of this class."Additional Information:
Penn State is 50-13 since 2005 and can complete a third 11-win season in five years with a victory over LSU in the Capital One Bowl:
Year -- Record -- Bowl, Result
2005 -- 11-1 -- Orange, Beat Florida State, 26-23 (3OT)
2006 -- 9-4 -- Outback, Beat Tennessee, 20-10
2007 -- 9-4 -- Alamo, Beat Texas A&M, 24-17
2008 -- 11-2 -- Rose, Lost to Southern Cal, 38-24