• Lions stay focused after news on Joe

    The 9 p.m. meeting Friday confirmed what many players heard as soon as they touched down in Columbus and checked their cell phone messages and turned on their televisions.

    Interim head coach Tom Bradley gathered his players to inform them of Joe Paterno’s health, and while the diagnosis is a treatable form of lung cancer, the Nittany Lions still haven’t been able to let it all process.

    “I don’t even think we’ve had a chance to reflect on it because we got the news so late,” defensive tackle Devon Still said. “When Joe was here he always taught us not to worry about distractions and to focus on the task at hand. Our job was to come out here and try to win this football game.”

    Senior Drew Astorino said the team will continue to keep Paterno in its prayers as it moves forward with the season.

    The discussion about giving their former head coach the game ball came up in the locker room and the captains said they planned to talk about it on the flight back to State College.

    Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno broke down in front of the team after the game, quarterback Matt McGloin said.

    However, the players said at this point they can only wonder what else can happen to them.

    “Just to lose coach Joe was tough enough and now with him being sick it’s just another blow to us,” left tackle Quinn Barham said. “But the way we responded to it is a lot better than what people would’ve thought.”

    Wildcat helps Lions

    The goal was to use the Wildcat formation to distract the Lions from all of the questions and uncertainties they faced once they step outside the Lasch Football Building.

    In the midst of the sex abuse scandal, practice has been the team’s place to get away from all of the distractions and its been the place where they’ve been able to bond the most.

    Installing the Wildcat wasn’t just another wrinkle to the Nittany Lions offense, it was their way of pouring their attention and focus onto something else.

    “Joe Paterno talked to me plenty of times about the Wildcat,” wide receiver Curtis Drake said, “and he always would come to me and be like, ‘Your leg, you look like you’re getting better. We’re going to put it in once you get there.’ “It’s just sad that he’s not here to see that.”

    The Lions used the formation approximately 10 times between Drake and versatile freshman Bill Belton and succeeded at keeping the Buckeyes on their toes.

    It was the same thought process Penn State used in 2000 when Joe Paterno decided to add the formation into fold after Adam Taliaferro was paralyzed in a game against Ohio State. This time, it was Jay Paterno and Galen Hall who were in favor of adding a dimension that’s gone over well with the players.

    “It’s wild, man,” right tackle Chima Okoli said. “You saw how it worked. It’s just a great change of pace and we have a lot of athletes on this team. This is a good way to incorporate all of our speed and athletes at the same time so I’m a fan or it.”

    Fera has career day

    Anthony Fera knew he had a strong leg, but the accuracy has been a work in progress. Saturday, in front of 105,493 spectators, Fera put it all together and put on a show.

    The Lions special teams ace turned in a career day as he hit field goals from 43 and 46 yards and also made the most of his two punts. Fera nailed a 40-yard punt that pinned the Buckeyes down at the 10-yard line and hit another that went out of bounds at the 3.

    “I teased him that he better get a lot of friends on the team because I said, ‘If you miss one you’re gonna need a vote to see if you get back on the plane,'” interim head coach Tom Bradley recalled. “He had a heck of a game. … I thought he was a big-time weapon.”

    Fera gave the Lions the edge with field position and his field goal at the end of the first half gave the Lions a six-point lead.

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