|Penn St. seniors hope to end careers at Rose Bowl|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 November 2008 14:18|
Derrick Williams and his fellow seniors committed about four or more years ago to a school that had been reeling from four losing seasons in five years.
They will depart after this season having won at least 39 games since 2005, helping to restore the luster to coach Joe Paterno's proud program.
Now they want to finish their careers in style - a win Saturday over No. 17 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) in the regular season finale will send the Nittany Lions (10-1, 6-1) to the Rose Bowl.
``When I came here, I wanted to make a difference with the program,'' Williams said. ``I definitely think I made a difference with my teammates, I guess putting Penn State back to where we were.''
claim two league titles since the school joined the Big Ten in 1993.
``Time just flew by so fast,'' Williams said. ``Everyone wants to win out in their last game.''
Williams gets the most attention in the class, having arrived in Happy Valley with the reputation of an all-purpose athlete who could immediately spice up a then-vanilla offense.
He hasn't quite lived up to his recruiting hype as one of the best high school players in the country, though Williams has still had an enormous impact on offense and as a dangerous return man.
Williams' commitment led other top recruits to consider Penn State as a possibility once more. His work ethic and determination sets the tone for current teammates.
``When he practices, he carries people with him on the practice field,'' Paterno said. ``He can just about do anything you want him to do on the football field.''
He and the rest of the seniors have had to endure some ups and downs through their careers.
Williams, fellow receivers Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood, and kicker Kevin Kelly were first-year starters on the 2005 team that won the Orange Bowl. Williams, though missed the last four games of the regular season and the bowl game with a broken arm.
Center A.Q. Shipley has been a fixture on the offensive line since he was a sophomore, anchoring a unit that has steadily improved since his arrival.
erged in 2006 with six interceptions, though his involvement in an off-field fight in 2007 drew unwanted headlines.
The title run this season has erased the stinging memories of the Nittany Lions' off-field woes. Paterno has given much of the credit on keeping the team focused to his senior leaders, which include captains Williams, Shipley, Scirrotto and defensive end Josh Gaines.
``It's hard to find words to describe how it feels, running through that tunnel, seeing the stands,'' Scirrotto said when asked about his thoughts of playing at Beaver Stadium for the last time. ``You realize how much support, how much people take pride in our football team.''
Lately, the scuttlebutt around the Nittany Lions has been about the offense, which has struggled early in games over the last month.
In that span, first-year QB Daryll Clark hasn't played as well as he did in the first half of the season when Penn State's spread HD offense marched down the field on opponents with ease.
Clark has admitted his confidence has been shaken at times. His 240 yards passing and two touchdowns last week against Indiana were balanced out by two fumbles and an interception.
Some players have been questioning play-calling among themselves, leading Butler and Shipley to speak recently about the need to eliminate the chatter as a distraction. The concerns had not been directly addressed to the coaching staff.
``I just think guys need to relax and calm down, get back to your old ways, a lot more confidence, a lot more swagger,'' Butler said. ``During practice, I think we'll get it.''
As they have for much of their careers, the seniors smoothed things out on their own.