Was it a good week off for you? Do you feel re-energized?
Bollinger: Yeah, we did what we wanted to do in this off week and that is get a jumpstart on Penn State, get healthy, get everyone feeling 100 percent. As far as me personally, I feel great right now. I feel like all the bumps and bruises are pretty much out of the way.
Do you notice any difference heading into a Big Ten game as opposed to a non-conference game, in terms of intensity and that sort of thing?
Bollinger: No question. (Monday) was our first game-week Big Ten practice, and there's no doubt the intensity level will be picked up for a lot of reasons. But No. 1 is it's Big Ten, and it's time to get the conference season rolling.
How intense was your very first Big Ten game?
Bollinger: Well it was really intense. Michigan was the first one that I played in, so it was big for a number of reasons. But I think there's no question that the whole week, it's at a different level.
Do you feel a different level of tension or nervousness on the field?
Bollinger: I think it's all about the same once you get to that point. You're just trying to take care of what you prepared to do all week and execute the gameplan and stuff like that. You want to go out and compete the same as you do every other week. But I think there is that much more on the line.
We always talk about the benefits of a bye week, but do you concern yourself with losing sharpness as well?
Bollinger: I think there's definitely two sides that people look at the bye week. It just depends how you handle it, how the team handles it and how we go out this week, and execute things on Saturday will tell us how we handled it. But Coach (Alvarez) had a good plan for the stuff that we did in the bye week, and I think it puts us in a good position to take full advantage of it and make it a positive for us.
Did you learn anything watching the Penn State-Iowa game on TV Saturday?
Bollinger: Yeah, I watched it, but it's hard…I've already watched quite a bit of film, but it's hard when you're watching the TV copy to see a ton of stuff that happens. But I think they're both good football teams.
Do you talk to the younger players about how to get up and prepare for a Big Ten game?
Bollinger: It's not a question of getting them up or getting them more excited. That's probably natural for them. I think, kind of the opposite is true, to keep them calm and hey, `Just keep doing what you have been doing. We have the same kind of gameplan, well, different wrinkles or whatever, but just keep doing what you've been doing and stay calm. Just because it's a Big Ten game and all that, you don't have to play outside yourself.'
Do you have to remind yourself that as well?
Bollinger: I think so. I think you get those bigger games, and you have to remind yourself not to do too much because it's exciting, and it's fun to play in these big games. Especially when you get older and you realize you don't have a ton left, playing in games that really mean something like that. They're just so much fun to play. It's just like you're in the backyard, throwing and catching. Don't make it too difficult.
What concerns you the most about the Penn State defense?
Bollinger: Well it's obviously a school that has a ton of athletes all over the place, and talented at every position obviously. Their d-line is a strength for them. They have a lot of good players up there. It's something that, I know the guys up front will be working extra hard this week. Pretty much all areas. We just need to execute, and try to find places where we can take advantage of them.
Were there any moments during the non-conference season where you felt like you really learned something you can take into Big Ten play? I think you saw a little bit of everything in the non-conference.
Bollinger: Definitely, and that's good. You can look at a game like Northern Illinois, winning a close game, and even Fresno State. Just being able to, things not going necessarily great, but finding ways to win football games is a big thing we take out of the non-conference season. On offense, again we showed spurts of being explosive. We definitely need to build on that, have explosiveness along with consistency. I think we showed the consistency we need in the Arizona game. That's definitely one thing I know we'll try to carry on for the rest of the year.
Can you talk about how difficult it is to go through the grind of the Big Ten season, particularly eight consecutive weeks without another bye?
Bollinger: It's definitely a physical game every week. There's not a week where you know going in you can roll your helmet out there and get handed a game. It's a physical dogfight every week, and that's something that I think, this bye week everyone took a deep breath and said okay, the first five are over. We're getting ready to go through a run here that's going to be challenging mentally, physically and everything. You're going to have to really be focused and ready to go starting this week.
Is there anything you can do to help minimize the week-to-week pounding that you get off the field, to help control those cumulative physical effects?
Bollinger: Yeah, as you get them you try to really take care of them as much as possible and get into good treatment. I really try to work on flexibility as much as I can, even when I am feeling healthy, just to try to prevent some of that stuff. But you know, some of the stuff there's not much you can do about. You've just got to try and work out the kinks after the week's over.
How will this offense be able to continue being productive without Lee Evans in the lineup?
Bollinger: Well I think it's just a matter of other people stepping up. Like I've said before, no matter who goes down or who we're missing, there's going to be someone there, or in this case, more than one person who has to fill in the best they can and keep it rolling. Obviously it's not the same offense it was with Lee. You give and take a little when you lose someone like that. So it's different, but it's successful and that's the important thing. Hopefully when Lee comes back we can put it all together and make it really work.
Was that something that was talked about at the beginning of the year, that people are going to need to step up in Lee's absence?
Bollinger: I think I remember it being said in the locker room after the Spring Game. It's not something that started when the first game came, or when camp came. It was something that had to be understood as soon as Lee got hurt. Through the offseason and stuff, guys had to work extra hard and prepare themselves for this situation. They didn't just show up on the day of the Fresno State game and say, `Okay, I'm going to do my best to replace Lee Evans.' It's just been a long process and it's made those guys that much better, and it's made us as an offense much better when Lee does get back.
Is winning the Big Ten title on the forefront of everyone's mind right now?
Bollinger: Well right now, it's so early. It seems like it's later in the season than it actually is. We're just playing our first Big Ten game. It's kind of crazy, but it's hard for me and a lot of the team to look any further than Penn State right now…I think this game is just so big for us, to get this second season rolling.
Brooks Bollinger Q&A
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