Penn State trains focus on football, not courts

Associated Press Modified: October 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm •  Published: October 7, 2012
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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.

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