No Time For Reflection

Penn State receiver Deon Butler will worry about all of his new records after his senior season. For now he is focused on the Buckeyes.

Pretty soon, Deon Butler will almost certainly become the leading receiver in Penn State football history. It might even happen on Saturday.

Butler has 162 career catches in his career, six fewer than Bobby Engram. He's got 30 catches this year and has been one of the keys to the Nittany Lions' offensive onslaught with a team-best 486 receiving yards.

But with Ohio State looming dead ahead, Butler hasn't been giving much thought to personal accomplishment. When he was informed by a reporter Tuesday of his proximity to the record, he wasn't even aware that he was so close.

“It'll definitely be something I can look back on when I leave here,” he said. “But I think right now the focus is on this season. I would much rather be remembered as a guy who was part of an undefeated team that played for a national championship.”

To do that, he and his teammates will have to prevail at Ohio Stadium, the only Big Ten venue in which they haven't won since joining the conference in 1993. It surely won't be easy. Ohio State boasts one of the country's top cornerbacks in Malcolm Jenkins, a four-year starter and second-team All-American as a junior. And as a team, the Buckeyes are second in the Big Ten in pass defense (168.2 yards per game) and interceptions (12).

“They're a great defense, they flow to the ball real well,” Butler said. “Everybody knows about them because they're the same guys who got all that preseason hype. They have one tough loss, but they're still the same team. … It's definitely going to be a big challenge, a lot of mental games going on out there as well as physical games.”

The Nittany Lions have gone through phases in which they haven't fared well on the road. In 2006 and 2007 they went 4-6 in road games. Joe Paterno has attributed the losses to strong opposition and bad officiating. Said the coach, “I wouldn't put that rap on the teams that played here.”

Regardless, this year's team has been every bit as dominant on the road as it's been at Beaver Stadium, defeating Syracuse, Purdue and Wisconsin by a combined margin of 123-20. Butler cited the team's experience when asked why it's been so much more successful on the road this year than in years past, noting that “no one's going to panic” in the midst of a tense situation.

But this won't be just any road game. It figures to be the toughest hurdle of the regular season, one that will either catapult the Lions toward a possible national championship or remove them from contention. The high stakes and hostile surroundings figure to make for a pressure-packed environment, and Butler said it's going to be important for the Lions to avoid getting too excited.

“It's still just a football game,” he said. “[The Buckeyes] are going to be just as amped up as we are. This game is going to have a lot of hype, and their crowd is definitely going to be amped up. I think we older guys have to take it upon ourselves to calm the younger guys down. Instead of too much yelling and getting hyped before the game, we need to just focus on what needs to be done. … If you can't get hyped for an atmosphere like this, I don't even know why you're playing football.”


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