Connor Focused on Spartans

Penn State's senior linebacker and team captain is more concerned with winning a big game than winning a really big trophy.

Another year, another shot across the bow of the most reviled trophy in college sports.

This time, it's Dan Connor's turn to heap disrespect - or at least ambivalence - on the brass-encrusted tree stump that is the Land Grant Trophy. Asked at his Tuesday morning conference call whether players talk about/know about/have even a passing interest in the LGT, which has gone to the winner of the Penn State-Michigan State game since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993, Connor made no attempt to conceal his indifference.

“To be honest, not really,” the senior linebacker said. “It doesn't come up. Maybe it will on game day or the day before the game.”

Connor conceded that Penn State might not have the same appreciation for Big Ten tradition that other schools, steeped in decade upon decade of conference lore, probably have. He added that his tendency to dwell on on-the-field matters might have blinded him to the popularity of the Land Grant Trophy within the wider Penn State community.

“It may be a bigger deal than I know,” he said. “But I'm not focused on it. It's not something the players particularly look at.”

Connor and his Penn State teammates are trying to filter out of a lot of the background noise surrounding their regular-season finale, from their opponent's mediocre record (6-5 overall, 2-5 Big Ten), to their own bowl hopes (in flux now that Ohio State won't be playing for the national championship), to the emotions of the seniors as they take the field for the final time in the regular season. And

Connor said the Lions are wary of Michigan State despite its record. He said he's been impressed with what he's seen of running backs Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick, who have combined to average 182.9 rushing yards a game.

“I don't think their record does justice to how good they are and the type of players they have,” he said. “They haven't been as successful as you might expect, but they can really hurt you. … They're a good football team. They can definitely go out and beat us.”

Connor said that while everyone on the team is dealing with the various aches and pains brought on by a 12-week season with no bye week built in, he's been feeling better physically of late. He had developed a problem at midseason with fluid building up in his knee, but he hasn't needed to have it drained in recent weeks.

The leading tackler in school history, Connor said he hasn't been feeling particularly nostalgic as he prepares to close out the final regular season of his college career.

“I don't really get carried away,” he said. “After the game it'll all sink in I guess.”


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