Penn State's football program remains enthusiastic

PENN STATE

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As long as the sanctions last, the question will continue to come up: Just how much does the Penn State football team care?

If there is no postseason and there is no official way to win the Big Ten and the season wears on you at the end like it does for every team, can the Nittany Lions match their opponent in terms of motivation?

After Saturday's 45-21 victory against Purdue, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien addressed this topic. And he wasn't entirely happy about it.

When the word morale came up in a question, O'Brien spoke with greater fervor.

"Our team is enthusiastic," he said. "They are proud. I don't know. They love to play football. They love to play for Penn State."

While linebacker Mike Hull never directly talked about morale, he did say earlier in the week that he wanted Penn State to show more intensity. He wanted to see players take pride in their accomplishments on the field and thought that showcasing more energy would have a contagious effect.

Saturday was like that. Though the victory came against Purdue, Penn State had a bounce to it that has been missing since the Michigan game. With two games left, against Wisconsin and Nebraska, Penn State can change the complexion of the season by winning both. O'Brien insists they'll be plenty motivated.

"We don't have one problem with morale, not one problem with morale and never have since I walked in the door here," O'Brien said.

Career firsts for Wartman

The linebacker position has been a rough spot for Penn State this season. All along, O'Brien said they lacked depth there and it only got worse with injuries to Ben Kline and Hull. Penn State has also had to let redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman develop.

It hasn't always been easy for Wartman. He has 29 tackles and has been an off-and-on starter, but the Purdue game was one of his best efforts. Wartman picked up his first collegiate sack and first forced fumble.

In the right corner

Defensive back Adrian Amos has been playing cornerback rather than safety for Penn State since the Illinois game. It has been a productive move. In the past three games, Amos has 22 tackles, almost half of his season total of 45. Against Purdue he led Penn State in tackles with eight and 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He still talked about wanting to improve on his pass defense, especially against screens.

"Just going to get it, being aggressive and going to get it," he said.

Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.


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