PSU Coaching & Intangibles

Last season, Adam Taliaferro attempted a tackle on Ohio State running back Jerry Westbrooks during a Sept. 23 clash. Westbrooks pushed himself off the turf. Taliaferro remained motionless on the field. That day, Taliaferro began a long arduous task of learning how to walk again after partial paralysis.

Just one week after the Ohio State game, the Nittany Lions played with their hearts on their sleeves, beating back the potential Heisman run of Purdue's Drew Brees. State showed it had the heart of a Lion in the 22-20 upset victory.

Nearly a year later, Taliaferro plans to walk onto the field prior to the Miami showdown. Beaver Stadium will rock like it never has. Teammates will storm onto the field hungry to hit the nearest Hurricane and continue the practice until about 11 p.m.

Beside Taliaferro stands the father of present college football, Joe Paterno eager to return a winning brand of football back to Penn State. Since 1966, Paterno has had few poor seasons in the losing sense of the word. In '66, the Lions lost five games and responded in '67 to win eight games and tie Florida State in the Gator Bowl. In 1984, the Lions again lost five games, but returned to the top of the college football world and played for the national championship against Oklahoma in the '86 Orange Bowl. Paterno's first losing season, 1988, energized the Lions to eight wins in '89. Now, 12 years later, the Lions play for respect once again. Undoubtedly, Paterno has plans for at least eight wins this season. There's no better time to start than Saturday, against one of the preseason national championship favorites.

To help Paterno in his quest this season, he added three coaches to the staff, all without Nittany Lion ties, an unheard of practice in recent years. Kenny Carter guides the wide receivers to resurgence after the departure of Kenny Jackson. For every dropped pass or each missed route, the receivers grasp the turf on their hands a knees and commence a series of pushups. Carter means business. The turnaround phenomenal, the drops were absent during the Blue-White Game in April. Two days from now under the bright lights of Beaver Stadium, the receivers mean business.

Ron Vanderlinden continues the rich tradition of Linebacker U. With plenty of talent at his disposal, Vanderlinden will utilize his aggressive style that rebels against the grain of former Nittany Lion defenses while maintaining the integrity of coordinator Tom Bradley's schemes.

Brian Norwood assumes the responsibility of fixing a secondary that graduation decimated each of the past two seasons. Taking advantage of talent shifted from wide receiver, Norwood has the athletes; he simply needs to mold them into cornerbacks and safeties.

Regardless of records or previous laurels, the game will still be decided on the football field. It simply comes down to a question of who wants it more. Does Miami want to prove it belonged in the national championship game a year ago? Does Penn State want to show the country it is still one of the elite programs in college football? It's a test of wills: who will impose their own over the opponent.

Saturday signifies the opening of the new Beaver Stadium, a state-of-the-art facility normally only seen in Hollywood fictional tales or NFL facilities. The house that Joe built will send tremors throughout Central Pennsylvania after the addition of 10,000 more seats. More importantly, the additions force the raucous sound created by the students to deflect back onto the field. Ken Dorsey should practice his silent count now.

After a full day of celebration, and no one celebrates like a Nittany Lion, the steel structure will roar with spite and vengeance. It's Penn State against the world this season. The fans know it. The players know it. Coach Paterno knows it. By the time the last tick of the clock occurs, Larry Coker will know it.

Brian K. Hall is a sports editor for "The Collegian" – Penn State's official newspaper – as well as a full time PSU student. Check out the latest news on the Nittany Lions at http://www.collegian.psu.edu or send all comments and correspondence to Brian at bkh129@psu.edu

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