Guarding Against Letdown

Nittany Lion senior says the defense needs no added motivation to prepare for Youngstown State. To him, the key to rebounding from the loss at Notre Dame is quickly refocusing and working harder than ever in practice.

Northwestern may or may not have done Joe Paterno a huge favor last Saturday by losing to New Hampshire, 34-17. Paterno cited the game at his Tuesday news conference as evidence that Division I-AA opponents can pose risks to unwary favorites. The Penn State coach loves to caution the media not to downplay any of his team's opponents, but the real question is whether his players need such a reminder.

It's possible that they don't. To hear senior defensive end Tim Shaw tell it, the Nittany Lions are well aware that they can't afford to take Saturday's game against Youngstown State lightly.

“We know this is no week off,” Shaw said. “These guys are good. I've seen them on tape.”

Coming off a disappointing performance of their own, the Nittany Lions are aiming to show their resilience. Their 41-17 loss to Notre Dame, a game in which the defense wore down after being on the field nearly 20 minutes in the first half, has led to concerns about the possibility of a letdown Saturday against the seemingly overmatched Penguins.

Shaw doesn't see it happening, and not just because Paterno has some rhetorical ammunition in the form of Northwestern's loss.

“That hasn't needed to be brought up, because we're so fired up after that loss last week,” Shaw said. “We know we need to get back on a winning way and focus this team up and do what we need to do to win.”

Shaw has been working even more diligently than usual this year after moving to a new position in preseason practice. He's been stationed at defensive end after playing most of the past two seasons at inside linebacker. It's been a challenge, and Shaw is his own toughest critic, rating his play so far as “less than average.”

“I've got a lot of improving to do,” he said “I've got a lot of learning to do. I need to be more aggressive. I need to make more plays. I'm not happy with the level of my play, and I'm working really hard to pick it up.”

Though he's not a captain, Shaw is acknowledged as a team leader. As such, he has helped set the tone as the Lions have tried to get over their loss in South Bend.

“You have to get a group of guys who really want to work,” he said. “We talk about some goals that we have, championships and things like that, and we have to work for that type of stuff. We can't just say it. To avoid a letdown, we have to focus that much more and work that much harder and make sure your partner is working that much harder, too. As a defense, we are definitely doing that and making sure we practice faster than we have been and practice more intensely. That's the type of thing we're doing to make sure there's no letdown.”


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