A framed poster outside of the Saloon, a popular restaurant and bar in downtown State College, voices support for Penn State and contains the exhortation to “Remain Calm” and to “Fight On.”
Those were pretty much the words that senior leaders Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich delivered to their teammates, particularly the younger ones, following a 24-14 loss to Ohio.
“We just felt like everybody needed to stay together,” Mauti said of a players meeting that he and Zordich led at the beginning of the week. “We didn’t want this to carry over and affect our week of practice, which it hasn’t. We’re just going to continue to keep working and moving forward.”
That doesn’t mean Mauti and his defensive teammates have forgotten that they wilted in the second half of Penn State’s first season-opening loss since 2001.
“If anything guys are really angry and convinced that we didn’t really present a good image of what our team was,” Mauti said Wednesday. “If we could play (Virginia) today I think we’d go out and play because that’s kind of how we feel right now.”
Raw anger or emotion won’t carry the defense when it plays a Virginia team that has better overall skill than Ohio but may be a better match-up for Penn State since the Cavaliers run a pro-style attack.
One thing defensive coordinator Ted Roof has been emphasizing in practice is stripping the ball and defenders getting a helmet on the ball.
“That’s something we’ve been focusing on all week in every drill,” Mauti said. “That’s something I think you’ll see next week and the coming weeks.”
Penn State needs it to start this week.
The defense has forced one turnover in the last three games — it didn’t have any takeaways against Ohio — and that is a major reason why Penn State has lost all three games by double digits.
If Penn State is to beat a Virginia team that is favored by 10 points it has to be more opportunistic.
– Scott Brown