Paxson Talks Michigan

Coming off the school's biggest victory in nearly a decade over No. 6 Ohio State last weekend, the Penn State football team hasn't had much time to celebrate. This Saturday, they head to Ann Arbor to face a tough, underachieving Michigan team that's coming off of a three-point loss to Minnesota. Fortunately for PSU fans, the veterans on the 2005 squad aren't finished yet.

"Pretty much every game is the season, especially in college football," senior defensive tackle Scott Paxson said. "Going into Michigan, that's just huge, it's what every kid dreams about, playing NCAA football on Playstation. You play at the big house and the crowd's crazy; I mean it's just something you dream about."

Paxson, who recovered the game-clinching fumble last week after Tamba Hali blindsided Ohio State's Troy Smith with less than two minutes remaining, is certainly happy about the resurgence of Penn State after several down years, as are most of the players who have been here for the program's recent slip-ups.

"I'm definitely enjoying it," Paxson said. "It feels great. What's awesome about it is how much the fans are buying into it and how much they're behind us. They really believe in us now."

While the fans certainly played a large role in whiting out the Buckeyes, Paxson knows that the fans at the Big House will be just as rowdy.

"We haven't really been in a road game that's real big like that," Paxson said. "What other teams are experiencing when they come to our place, that's what it's going to be when we get there."

Michigan (3-3, 1-2) was one of the favorites to win the Big Ten as well as the BCS championship coming into the season, however those expectations have proven to be too great for a very talented young team with a questionable defense. Mike Hart, the Wolverines' star sophomore tailback who last year gained nearly 1,500 yards in his freshmen season, missed three games earlier in the year with a hamstring injury, two of which were losses. Paxson and the rest of the defense will try their best to stop Hart the same way they stopped Minnesota's Heisman hopeful Laurence Maroney.

"He's a little different, a little more nifty, a little quicker," Paxson said, comparing Hart to the other tailbacks Penn State has faced thus far. "I feel like he reads his blocking well. He's not the biggest guy, but when you get to him you really have to wrap up, because he can spin out of things."

Hart won't be the only sophomore standout on the defense's mind come Saturday. They also have to worry about quarterback Chad Henne, who so far this year has thrown 11 touchdowns to only three interceptions.

"He's a great passer," Paxson said. "It's going to be important when they throw the ball that we get in his face."

This weekend's game will be the first meeting between the two conference foes since the 2002 season, when Michigan beat the then- No. 10 Nittany Lions 27-24 in the first overtime game ever at Michigan Stadium.

Paxson was there for that game, which he remembers less than fondly.

"From what I can remember it was a great game, both sides played well, we just didn't come away with it in the end," he said.

After smothering two top-notch running games in two consecutive weeks, the Penn State defense has reason to be confident heading into Saturday. However, Paxson thinks they've only just begun.

"I feel like were playing good football, I don't know if we're playing our best," he said. "Just talking about my self personally, I have a couple missed tackles here and there."

With only one seemingly easy game left on the schedule — at Illinois on Oct. 22 — the Nittany Lions hope to continue their winning ways and eventually play their way into the national championship picture. However, they do realize that they have a long way to go.

"We got a big win, but that's behind us now," Paxson said. "Let's keep the snowball rolling down the hill, let's keep building up on this. There's no turning back now."


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