Penn State hopes to overcome distractions and Indiana


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Tight end Garry Gilliam began the week a little upset, naturally. Penn State had lost to Nebraska, a questionable call making matters worse, and he vented Saturday night.

He posted a picture of the controversial fumble on Twitter, writing, "looks like a touchdown to me." By Sunday night, his tone had changed: "Let the past make u better not bitter," he wrote.

It's been a week where it's easy to forget that Penn State is actually playing a game (today at noon against Indiana, in case you forgot). From coach Bill O'Brien answering questions about NFL coaching jobs to the NCAA website mysteriously finding itself incapable of selling Penn State merchandise for half a day, to the sting from the Nebraska game, the distractions have piled up. Penn State insists it has moved on.

Of course, distractions have been the theme this season. Actual football lagged behind topics of moving on from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, the sanctions and transfers at the beginning of the year. For a while in October, during a five-game winning streak, football was again the driving point behind Penn State conversations.


Scouting report
  • Matchup: Penn State (6-4, 4-2) vs. Indiana (4-6, 2-4), noon today, Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa., Penn State is favored by 17 1/2.
  • TV, Radio: Big Ten Network; KQV-AM (1410) and Penn State Sports Network; www.Go-PSUsports.com.
  • Penn State: Wide receiver Allen Robinson needs one reception to set a Nittany Lion single-season record with 64. ... Quarterback Matt McGloin is six completions from breaking the single-season record with 235. He also is 328 yards away from the single-season passing yardage record. ... Running back Zach Zwinak has rushed for 100 yards or more in four of six Big Ten games.
  • Indiana: The Hoosiers have scored 27 or more points in seven of their 10 games. ... On other hand, they rank last in total defense and rushing defense in the Big Ten but fifth in pass defense. ... Employs a quick-moving offense that sometimes goes without a huddle.
  • Hidden stat: Penn State has gone for it on fourth-down four times in the past two games and one of those attempts came in the final minute against Nebraska. The Nittany Lions did not convert any of those attempts.

Then, the Nebraska game happened, and a fan base and a quarterback erupted after a goal-line stretch by tight end Matt Lehman was ruled a fumble. Matt McGloin was not made available to the media this week, but O'Brien responded to his quarterback's comments.

"At the end of the day, it's a free country and Matt can say what he wants, and that's what he did," O'Brien said. "He's an emotional kid but, look, it's time to move on to Indiana, and that's it."

He had to answer non-football questions of his own, starting with the possibility of him being offered an NFL job after the season ends. His not surprising answer? O'Brien was flattered but said he was thinking about Indiana.

"Offensively, they run a very, very fast tempo, I mean ultra fast, and they try and run between 90 and 100 plays in a game, so that's a huge challenge for our defense this week and special teams," he said.

But even talking about Indiana had become a stretch by the end of week. Looking ahead to Saturday even became too much.

Thursday, tight ends coach John Strollo said nothing was on his mind aside from the Indiana game. He quickly changed his statement, saying he wasn't even worried about Indiana yet. All he was worried about was the day's practice.

Likely for the better. Penn State has learned as well as anyone in the last year that looking too far ahead or dwelling too much on past grievances don't do you any good.

psusports

Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com and Twitter @mdent05.


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