Penn State trains focus on football, not courts


Penn State trains focus on football, not courts

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Another milestone arrives for Penn State during the upcoming open week, but players have no plans to keep tabs of this event.

Ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, whose arrest last year sparked the scandal that plunged the program into turmoil, is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday. He'll likely spend the rest of his life in prison following his conviction in June of 45 criminal counts including child sex abuse.

Penn State players who had nothing to do with the scandal, but bore the brunt of the NCAA's wrath, have long moved on. They're focused on football and what's turning into a promising season - not the courtroom.

``No one pays attention to that,'' linebacker and senior leader Michael Mauti said Saturday with an icy stare after being asked if he would pay attention to Tuesday's proceedings. ``It has nothing to do with us.''

Not directly anyway. The NCAA punished the program with unprecedented penalties of a four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship declines for the school's handling of the scandal. Players were allowed by the NCAA to transfer right away, creating an offseason scrum in what amounted to college football's version of free agency.

In the end, more than 90 percent of the players stayed - and they're on four-game winning streak following the 39-28 victory Saturday over previously-unbeaten Northwestern. Next up is a trip to Iowa on Oct. 20

``You know what, I didn't even realize that it was coming up. I really didn't,'' defensive end Pete Massaro said. ``That's in the past. This program is moving forward.''

And with a dramatically different offensive philosophy, too, under first-year coach Bill O'Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.

The Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) ran 99 offensive plays against Northwestern - equaling the school record set in a 38-6 victory at West Virginia in 1966, former coach Joe Paterno's first season. Penn State outgained Northwestern 30-17 in first downs.

After a one-week visit at No. 24, the Wildcats dropped out of the latest Top 25 poll. Penn State received one vote in the poll - its first poll vote of the season.

Perhaps the starkest difference under O'Brien is play-calling. It's entertaining and bold, as evident by the 5 of 6 conversions on fourth downs including Allen Robinson's 6-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter with the Nittany Lions down 11.

But O'Brien wasn't done. Instead of going for the extra point to get Penn State within four, he decided to go for two. Michael Zordich rumbled up the middle into the end zone to get within 28-25.

Sparked by the fourth-down call, the Nittany Lions steamrolled over Northwestern from there in a 22-0 fourth quarter. For the year, Penn State leads the nation in fourth-down conversions (13) and attempts (20).

``We love it. It is an attitude kind of play,'' Zordich said about the fourth-down gambles. ``We want touchdowns. That is what this offense is about ... We love it because it gets your mind right.''

The defense loved it, too. Mauti's outside linebacker running mate, senior Gerald Hodges, gave his best performance of the year helping to shut down the Wildcats' potent attack to a season-low in total yards (247) a week after the Wildcats compiled a school-704 against Indiana.

The win was a huge confidence boost going into the bye week. The Nittany Lions will go through light workouts Monday-Wednesday, at least, and O'Brien will decide from there whether he'll run his team through any more drills.

There's still a lot upon which to improve, especially on special teams. A muffed punt by Jesse Della Valle at the Penn State 17 set up Northwestern's first score of the afternoon. Venric Mark's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Wildcats its short-lived 11-point lead late in the third quarter.

But the Nittany Lions rallied from adversity, like they have all season.

``Those things that happened over the summer and in the past are a lot bigger than football,'' O'Brien said. ``These kids are just having fun playing football right now and going to school.''


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Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

The relationship between Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal and Bullets legend Phil Chenier goes beyond your average friendship between a current and former player, or a current player and team broadcaster. Beal and Chenier are close to the point Chenier often offers advice as a fellow shooting guard who helped lead the organization to some of their most important accomplishments.

Beal is always open ears when Chenier is talking and took great honor in being the one to tell Chenier personally that his jersey would be retired by the Wizards. The day has come for Chenier's No. 45 to be raised to the rafters and Beal feels a unique sense of pride in seeing a man he reveres to the highest degree finally have his day in the sun.

"It's unbelievable. It's more than deserving," Beal said. "I was happy to be the one who told him about it. It's a special night for him. He's been a mentor to a lot of us for many years."


Chenier was a three-time All-Star for the Washington Bullets back in the 1970s. Following his playing career, he became a legendary broadcaster calling Bullets and then Wizards games for over 30 years.

Beal is now an NBA All-Star himself, having earned the honor for the first time this season. He is a shooting guard, just like Chenier.

Chenier was the color analyst for Wizards games for the first five years of Beal's career and Beal has always seen Chenier as a model to follow both on and off the court.

"It's always motivation for me to get better and I feel like this is the final touch of it, having your jersey retired by the franchise that you played a part in their success," Beal said.


The honor Chenier is about to receive is another goal to strive for. Beal wants to achieve a lot of what Chenier has accomplished in his life from winning a championship to making All-NBA to now having his jersey hang in the rafters at Capital One Arena.

"It definitely motivates me for that to be a goal of mine. Especially with the fact we both play the same position," Beal said.


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For more on Chenier's jersey retirement, check out our in-depth interview with him on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Ravens' Eric DCosta not ruling out taking a quarterback at No. 16

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Ravens' Eric DCosta not ruling out taking a quarterback at No. 16

And with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select.... a quarterback?

Assistant general manager, and soon to be general manager, Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility that the Ravens use their first-round pick on drafting a quarterback to eventually replace Joe Flacco. 

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of draft a quarterback in the first-round. 

Quarterback is just one of many offensive needs for the team. Joe Flacco's stats have been trending downward as the 33-year old is entering his 11th season.


Owner Steve Bisciotti though may disagree with DeCosta.

At his annual State of the Ravens press conference, Bisciotti said, "That’s not really something that we’re worried about right now. We’ve got bigger fish to fry, I guess. I don’t consider that a big worry," in regards to looking at life after Joe. Bisciotti also noted the team would be looking at all options in free agency and the draft for weapons for their QB.

From the sound of that, it appears the team's first choice would be a wideout, but the Ravens haven't drafted a quarterback since Joe Flacco back in 2008. 

The 2018 NFL Draft class has a handful of strong quarterbacks to choose from and not a ton of first-round wide receivers. 

Former Ravens scout, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has predicted the team with take Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield in the first-round. 

"It basically depends on our evaluation and how we feel about the guy, what we think he can become as a player and what we think his upside is and if he's there," DeCosta said

Backup Ryan Mallet is a free agent so the organization will have to find someone to fill the role, whether it's someone on a one year-deal, or the future QB of the franchise.