Hunt: Key Now is Staying Grounded

Tailback Tony Hunt kicked off the parade of Penn State football player conference calls Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. sharp. But if there is truly a different feeling within the team following its re-entry into the AP Top 25 for the first time in three years and with a huge matchup with Ohio State looming, you could not detect it in the junior's voice.

After being asked the first question, he yawned loud enough for everyone on the phone line to hear. Catching himself, he said, “Sorry, it's early.”

Following a stirring, come-from-behind win at Northwestern Sept. 24 and a thumping of then-No. 18 Minnesota at Beaver Stadium last Saturday, Penn State went from being unranked to No. 16. For a program that has suffered through four losing season in the past five years, it was big news.

In anticipation of the sixth-ranked Buckeyes coming to Happy Valley for a night game this weekend, as well as the appearance of the ESPN GameDay crew, PSU students began camping out near the gates of Beaver Stadium Sunday evening.

“I couldn't believe it when I heard it,” said Hunt, whose 6.8-yards-per-carry average is the best among the Big Ten's top five rushers. “But I think it's kind of cool to have things like that going on around here again.”

While campus is buzzing, Hunt said he and his teammates can't get caught up in the hype. Not with powerful Ohio State (3-1) coming to town. Taking a cue from Lion coach Joe Paterno, who said, “I think we are better, but I wouldn't get carried away,” Hunt believes the key to staying undefeated is staying the course.

“The biggest thing we have to do now is remain level-headed and do the same things we did last week, as if nothing happened,” Hunt said.

He was speaking of how the team should act in the days leading up to the game. Once the action starts, the offense, which pounded out 364 rushing yards in the 44-14 win over Minnesota, may have to change things up a bit.

Ohio State enters the fray with the nation's top-ranked run defense, allowing 41 yards per game. The Buckeyes also lead the Big Ten in total defense (249 ypg) and scoring defense (12.8 ppg).

An outstanding linebacker corps, led by All-American A.J. Hawk, is the key to the defense. The Buckeye 'backers average 251 pound per man.

“They are a tough group of fast guys,” Hunt said. “They'll definitely be one of the best defenses we've faced. [The linebackers] make a lot of plays. They are big guys who can run. It will be a challenge.”

How does Penn State go about attacking such a talented defense? Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, theirs has been an amazingly balanced offense, one that has generated 1,123 yards on the ground and 1,162 through the air.

“We know what we need to do,” Hunt explained, the implication, of course, that no wake-up call will be necessary.

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