In Search of a Happy New Year

Senior defensive tackle Ed Johnson sees one last shot for redemption, but the Nittany Lions must make a Jan. 1 bowl to get it. And that means taking care of business against old Eastern rival Temple this weekend.

With Temple a decided underdog heading into Saturday's game at Penn State, it's only natural to dwell more on the Nittany Lions' state of mind than on the matchups.

Are the Lions still haunted by their 13-3 loss at Wisconsin, which dropped their record to 0-4 against ranked opponents and put head coach Joe Paterno in a hospital bed with a broken leg?

Are they apt to overlook the Owls, who head to Beaver Stadium sporting a 1-9 record in their first season under Penn State alum Al Golden?

Ed Johnson doesn't think so.

The senior defensive tackle called the loss to the Badgers “devastating,” but added that he and his teammates have moved on.

“You only have one day to sulk,” Johnson said. “You have to get ready for the next opponent. So yes, I'm over it.”

As for the Owls, Johnson said Penn State won't overlook them because of their record. Though he was blunt when asked to rank Temple's offense in comparison to the others Penn State has faced this season, he didn't think the apparent mismatch would cause players to slack off in their preparation.

“Obviously they're not high,” he said. “But we're trying not to underestimate them. They're going to come in here and they're going to try to win this football game just like we are.”

If the Lions win their last two games against Temple and Michigan State, their most likely postseason destination is the Outback Bowl, where they would face a Southeastern Conference opponent.

It's possible that such an opponent would be ranked in the Top 25. That might not be a good omen given the team's recent history, but players are thirsting for one last chance to prove themselves against a ranked foe.

“I would love it,” Johnson said. “We're not ranked and people don't think we're that good, so that's challenging. When I have a challenge in front of me, I love it. I raise my game, and the guys who play with me as well. So I would love to get another chance at a ranked opponent.”

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