PSU veterans say team lacks desire
If you think the situation at Penn State (3-3) can't get any worse, you're wrong. In fact, it's happening every day, right in front of the coaches' eyes.
With an 0-3 record against the best teams on the schedule, the season is spiraling out of control. Worse, the problem may have grown roots at one of the most important venues in football - the practice field.
To hear seniors Stefen Wisniewski and Evan Royster tell the story, the Nittany Lions lack intensity during the week.
"I think we have to practice better," said Wisniewski, a right guard from Central Catholic. "We have to go at it with an attitude that we are going to work our butts off every day and not be complacent with how good we are."
Added Royster, a running back who is 93 yards shy of setting the school career rushing record: "It is kind of like a lifestyle. You have to get it in your head before you can go out to practice. It's a certain want-to that you have to have, and we'll find out who has it."
Asked if the players are showing enough desire in practice, Royster said: "I don't think so. Obviously not. We have to get a sense of urgency, and get out there and stop complaining about long practices.
"The coaches know what's best for us. So, we need to get out there and just stop complaining and just do it."
Royster and Wisniewski are key components of a running game that has slipped to 85th among 120 teams in NCAA Division I, with zero rushing touchdowns against Alabama, Iowa and Illinois.
"It's tough to bounce back from something like this," Royster said of PSU's start.
The team conducted a players-only meeting last week, but Royster believes another might be in order before traveling to Minnesota on Oct. 23.
"I think it got some people going," he said, "but there were other people who maybe it didn't affect as much. Now, I think we are going to have to do it again and try to get some people to want to win as much as some of us do."
Penn State has played in the postseason every year after 2004, but the Nittany Lions need to win three of their final six games against a difficult schedule to become eligible this season.
To Royster, however, there is more at stake.
"We have to fight hard to get to a bowl game and try to get some respect.
"This one hurt," he said after the Nittany Lions recorded only seven first downs in a 33-13 loss Saturday to Illinois. "You think you are at a certain point and you come out and lose like this. It's a bad thing. It hurts your season. It hurts you. It hurts inside.
"I wish I could go out there and play every position and, you know, have the desire that some people don't have."
Wisniewski said the older players must set the tone.
"The older guys were around when we had these great teams," he said. "They know what it takes. We just have to set the pace at practice and encourage the younger guys to follow.
"I think we have to practice better. We have to practice every day with real intensity and a desire to get better. This has got to be a matter of will."