"The guys are up, but that shouldn't be surprising because they won [against Purdue]," one observer said. "This squad handles winning very well, but losing is another story. It's easy when you're winning, but a loss requires leadership to focus the troops and get them back. The [team] is doing something right because they have shown they can pull out of the nose-dive after a loss, but the week after a loss isn't too pretty."
The overall mood of the team this week is described as "upbeat," "relaxed," and "relieved." As another observer said, "The [Purdue] win means a lot to [the players]. [The team] wanted to send the seniors out with a win, but getting a New Year's Day bowl is what is really important now."
Redshirting freshman offensive lineman Quinn Barham sustained a severe ankle injury in practice Tuesday, according to multiple observers. "It was nasty; his ankle was practically at a right angle," one said.
The injury occurred when Barham, who was seeing scout-team reps, was involved in a pile up. Defensive tackle Chris Baker apparently landed on Barham, causing the injury. It was just one of those freak injuries that sometimes occurs in football. "It sucks, but it happens. One guy rolls on another wrong and you're out," an observer said.
The Derrick Williams' end-around run or a score against Purdue has created a buzz in practice, with many observers interested in seeing more. On the play, quarterback Anthony Morelli faked a handoff to tailback Evan Royster. Williams came around for the reverse and scored rather easily.
There are, obviously, an number of options the team can run out of that set — including giving the ball to Royster, and faking to Royster and Williams and then throwing.
"There are so many possibilities when you get a guy like Derrick and Evan Royster out [on the field] at the same time. You could even toss in A.J. Wallace, which is a long shot at best, or Stephfon Green."
Some observers wondered why the scheme was not used after the Williams' touchdown run, with one saying, "I figured the [staff] would have at least put the set out there to see how Purdue reacted to it. They're working it a bit more this week, so we'll see if [the coaches] try to get it down pat against Temple."
Penn State has also worked in a few split-back sets this week with Royster and Rodney Kinlaw in the backfield. "I doubt we see that set up — I really think it is more to get Royster added work on his blocking skills. They're also getting him some more reps on catching balls [out of the backfield]."
When asked about Royster's success as a redshirt freshman, several observers have pointed to three things as being key:
Fundamentals: "Evan is going to fumble, but look at the film and watch how he holds the ball. He protects the nose and gets the butt of the ball under his wing. That's been half of the issues we've seen [with fumbling] this season," one observer said. As another explained, "His running style is tight. He sits low, squares his shoulders and gets forward on the run. This helps him to run downhill and makes him tough to bring down — he keeps his body tight and gets a lot of momentum in the lane."
Vision: "It's probably the most cliche thing said about running backs, but Evan sees things before the snap," one observer shared. "He watches the adjustments the defense makes and makes adjustments with his runs to take advantage of the shifts." Royster has been consistently praised for his ability to not only see a lane open up, but also anticipate its movement. "He is so fluid with his stride he can easily shift direction when the opening moves."
Attitude: Described as "quiet in the huddle" and "determined," Royster "brims with confidence. He knows when he is going to break open a run." He is also said to be very humble and focused on improving his game. "He'll talk with Galen [Hall] regularly trying to understand what he needs to do to raise his level of play."
In the past, Penn State has taken a bus to Philadelphia for games with Temple and then flown home immediately after the game. This year, however, the Lions will fly both ways.
The flights themselves will take less than 25 minutes each way. Getting on the jets, however, is another story. The FAA now requires security checks of all baggage and people traveling on charter flights.
With more than 100 people in the PSU traveling party and at least as many bags, it figures to take significantly longer simply to board the jets than actually make the flights.
Penn State is staying at the Renaissance Philadelphia Hotel near the Philadelphia Airport.