Lions Anxious to Hit Road

At Outback Bowl Media Day, Penn State players say they look forward to facing the challenge that awaits in Tampa.

Penn State's Media Day for the Outback Bowl was a time to reflect on an early retirement and assess the season that had been.

Among the topics discussed by the Nittany Lion players and head coach Joe Paterno on a snowy Friday afternoon in University Park were their thoughts on Florida coach Urban Meyer's resignation, what a “road victory” vs. the Gators on Jan. 1 would mean and how they would grade the team's season.

The most commonly asked question of the day involved Meyer's sudden but not overly surprising resignation. Paterno spoke of how he had opportunities at Meyer's age, 46, to do “other things,” but noted that, “I was a short Italian guy with a big nose. (Meyer) is tall and handsome. He's had to make some tough decisions, but he's a family man and he's doing what's best for them.”

Quarterback Matt McGloin added that he was a bit shocked by Meyer's decision and said it was a “bit ironic” that Meyer was resigning at his young age because he feels burnt out. McGloin's head coach will soon turn 84.

In terms of the game itself, the Lions spoke of how playing Florida in a New Year's Day bowl in Tampa would likely create a home-field advantage for the Gators. Although it may not be a dream scenario, the players tried to view the situation in a positive light.

“Playing a team the caliber of Florida is going to be tough,” wide receiver Derek Moye said. “Getting a free trip to Florida is always nice, though, and getting to play football while we're there is a double bonus in my mind.”

Cornerback Drew Astorino added, “We're approaching it like a road game because we're staying in a hotel and we're not in Pennsylvania.”

Linebacker Chris Colasanti believes 7-5 Penn State can redeem itself for the team's trio of frustrating road losses this season.

“It's a home game for them,” Colasanti said. “It's only a couple of hours away from home for them so it'll be their atmosphere. It goes along with the trend of tough road games we've played this season. We want to show we can go on the road and win a tough game.

“The Ohio State game is always in the back of my mind,” Colsanti added. “And I know as a senior the Michigan State loss left a bad taste in our mouths. I don't want that to be my final memory as a Penn State player. We can't finish the season with a loss.”

The Lions will spend the two weeks leading up to the bowl game in the city of Tampa. Until then, the players will focus on their scholastic lives as finals are scheduled to take place next week. Paterno said he does not expect any players to be ruled academically ineligible for the game.

As the players discussed their finals schedules, they were asked to grade the team's performance this season.

McGloin and Colasanti said they would give the Lions a “B,” while Astorino was less generous and gave the squad a “C,” although the team “never gave up and kept fighting.” Moye, on the other hand, could not commit to a letter grade yet, stating the team's season was “incomplete” at this point. He did note though that the team could significantly boost its final grade with a New Year's Day victory.

“If we beat Florida in the Outback Bowl, I'd say our grade goes up at least a full letter,” Moye said. “That would be a big help and a big boost for everyone.”

SHORT SHOTS

• Moye and defensive tackle Devon Still -- both juniors -- are in the process of submitting the paperwork needed to get evaluations for their status as it pertains to the 2010 NFL Draft. Both said they are doing it to see where they must improve and that they fully intend to return to PSU next season.

• Linebacker Michael Mauti, who was limited late in the regular season by a shoulder injury, said he is already back at 100 percent.

• Quarterback Kevin Newsome was back at practice Friday. Earlier in the week, sources said he told teammates he intended to transfer. Paterno asked him to practice Friday and Saturday, and the two will meet to discuss Newsome's future next week. Newsome was with the scout team Friday.


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