Penn State Nittany Lions
DAESEAN HAMILTON: … the way he’s after that first day is the same exact way all the way to my four years after playing for him. So, yeah, what people see out of Coach Franklin is really what you’re going to get. He’s been a great leader for us and he’s been able to put Penn State in a successful position.
Q. When you came to Penn State obviously there were a lot of things going on. Now it’s like a complete — the world has done a 180 for Penn State. Did you feel like you were taking a chance on Penn State back then?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: Yeah, back then, really just coming to the school like Penn State, obviously when the sanctions had it and the situation that the school had been in, it was a gamble. But really when it comes down to it, guys, they came to this school and guys in my class and even the seniors, the true senior class, they came to this basically to be part of a family, not necessarily worry about what was going on with the outside factors, things like that, that have nothing to do with the football team, nothing to do with the players that are coming in.
All we want to do is come in and live our dream and play college football and basically let the rest take care of itself. And that’s all the guys, that’s the true guys and true character of the guys on this team. That’s why basically we have guys like Jason Cabindas and Mike Gesickis, Marcus Allens, things like that because they’re just true, genuine guys, they care about what they’re doing and the people around them. They’re not worried about anything else on the outside.
Q. When you come to these things, you kind of laughed when you saw Saquon over there and the 8,000 cameras around him. Is that a positive for you, because I know you don’t love having 8,000 cameras necessarily?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: Saquon can have all that. And obviously it’s rightly deserved. You see that, and I’m used to it. He’s obviously going to get that for the rest of his life. That’s fine for him, he can have all that. I have no problem with it.
Q. One game left in your career. Has it sunk in?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: Not yet. I think it’s going to sink in when I step out on that field. Basically just go through my normal pregame routine and finally just getting used to everything and seeing basically that this is my last time dressing up in the blue and white and being out there with my brothers and my teammates.
I think that’s really what’s going to hit home for me. And really just making me take a look back on all my years here and basically all the things we’re going through.
Q. You guys have hit the one-game-at-a-time mantra. Do you look at this as just another game knowing it’s going to be your last game?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: Absolutely not. I see this as one of the biggest games of my college football career being my last I want to go out with a bang, want to go out with a win and I want to play as well as I possibly can for my team so we can be put in the position so we can get a win at the end of the week.
But, yeah, it’s a monumental game, at least in my eyes. And I know a lot of the seniors feel the same way especially with the type of season we had, all the ups and downs, all the types of careers we’ve had, all the ups and down. So this final game will be the nail in the coffin. It’s going to mean a lot to the guys.
Q. We’ve seen all the guys who played receiver this year, but can you give us a scouting report of some of the ones redshirting and some of the DBs, too, we haven’t seen?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: I know guys like K.J. K.J. is going to be a real big weapon for Penn State in the future.
Q. How come?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: Because he’s just so fast and really people are going to be intimidated by his speed. He’s learning — I’m basically taking him under my wing. He’s learning the ropes and learning things fast. And once he’s able to get adjusted to the speed of college football he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.
A lot of young receivers are going to be good — Mac Hippenhammer, Cam Brown, he’s a really smart kid. He reminds me of Chris when he was a freshman. He’s learning the ropes of college football. Once he gets his stride he’ll be good as well.
And Mac, Mac is going to be really good because he reminds me of DeAndre back when DeAndre was a freshman, just like a little bit ahead of his time and his game. And Mac he’s really smart as well. He knows how to use all his tools and basically all the skill sets and puts them in a good position to make plays as well.
Once those guys basically hit their college football growth spurt, I guess, and basically learning the game a lot more, they’re going to be really good.
Q. Tariq and Lamont played (indiscernible). Who are some of those guys on that side of the ball that were on the scout team causing you guys some trouble?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: Yeah, I’d say Donovan, Donovan he’s actually a pretty fast. He guards DeAndre basically every day in practice. But Donovan, he is a funny kid, but he’s going to be really good. He’s really fast, really smart.
Jonathan Sutherland, I talked about him before, he’s going to be really good. I see basically a lot of Marcus in him. He just loves to hit and basically loves playing safety, loves what he’s doing. He’s having fun with everything he’s doing as well.
So I’m really excited to see, especially those two, basically mature. Lamont obviously has been getting his feet wet, playing in a few games. And Tariq is going to be really good, a long corner. Kind of reminds me of Christian. And that, basically that whole secondary, getting coached by Coach Smith, all those guys are going to be great in the future, just as long as they’re taking their coaching and basically just learning the game, like I said, for the receivers. As long as they learn the game and basically come into their own they’re going to be really good.
Q. What’s your experience been so like in Arizona?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: We haven’t done too much yet. It’s been Christmas, a lot of things were closed. We’ve just been hanging around, practicing, doing meetings and things like that. It’s been nice. The hotel is fantastic. A lot of the guys enjoy the hotel.
The weather, we obviously, like I said before, the weather is really nice. It gets really hot out here and really cold at night. But we enjoyed everything we’ve been doing, and then throughout the rest of the week we’re going to get basically a lot more bowl events and the dinners and stuff like that. So I’m really looking forward to that, too.
Q. Can you talk about some of the (inaudible)?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: I mean, it was obviously I was really excited, going to be a New Year’s Six game and against a really good Washington team. So I was looking forward to that game as well. And then, yeah, Washington is also one of those teams you just see you hear about all season long. And us being able to face up against them and play in a game like this is going to be really cool and really exciting.
But other than that, really just looking forward to the game. It’s going to be really fun. Going to be too high power teams going at it and it’s going to be really exciting to see.
Q. What have you had to watch out for as you prepare for this Washington defense?
DAESEAN HAMILTON: Really just the physicality of the defense. We faced defenses like them before, but they’re really basically a sound defense. They played together for a long time and they’ve got a lot of chemistry with one another and things like that.
So really just we just got to be on our Ps and Qs. We have to bring our A game, just like they have to bring theirs. That’s about it, go out there play our best game.
Penn State Nittany Lions
COACH RAHNE: Yeah, you know we got out here a little bit earlier. So we’re able to give the guys the first couple of nights to go out and have fun, but now it’s business. And it’s, Christmas is over. Everyone’s fat and happy and now we’re ready to go and get through the normal game week, through our normal preparation on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And then on to the game on Saturday.
So feel good about that. Been able to adjust to the time change and things like that. So I think that’s the main thing is we got out here early enough, enabled our guys to have fun but now get down to work.
Q. Topgolf, how is your golf?
COACH RAHNE: My golf game is not very good. It was actually much better when I was younger. Our head coach does not play golf so that usually limits the ability of the assistants to be great golfers. We will actually be not there. So I’m very jealous of our players because I would love to go to the Topgolf, especially to see some of the swings of some of our guys, which I gotta imagine it’s just terrific.
But I’m a baseball grip guy, grip it and rip it. I’m a little bit bigger guy, see how far I can hit it. If it goes the right way I’m pretty jacked.
Q. Do you feel you guys have an advantage getting here a couple days earlier?
COACH RAHNE: I think it does. For us, we’ve got to get a little adjusted to the time change, two hour difference and that sort of thing for us, just climate change and things like that. And then also allow our guys to go have a bowl experience and have a little bit of fun and be able to enjoy this great town and everything that it has to offer.
So I feel like it’s a good advantage for us just to be able to get everything squared away, know where our meetings are, know where practice is going to be, know all that sort of stuff.
Q. What does it mean to be able to (indiscernible) Penn State and being in the Fiesta Bowl and have a chance to bring home another victory?
COACH RAHNE: Yeah, I mean, I love the history of college football and being able to coach the Fiesta Bowl for Penn State. That’s a pretty special thing. Obviously it’s been 21 years since we’ve been here. But there’s some great history here, three in five years and that sort of thing.
It’s a great opportunity, just as a football coach in general, to be able to coach at a place like Penn State where all the history behind it and a chance to win championships there, that’s something that you dream about all the time. So it’s a great experience for me and my family. Helps that my wife’s from Pittsburgh, to be able to keep her close to her family as well.
So being able to be at Penn State, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me that I hope lasts a lifetime.
Q. How have you been enjoying Arizona and how has the Fiesta Bowl been treating you guys and the players?
COACH RAHNE: The Fiesta Bowl has been treating us unbelievable. We’re staying at a great place and that sort of thing. I know that — but I haven’t really enjoyed Arizona probably as much as I can. I’m trying to get prepared for games, that sort of thing.
My family has. I know my wife’s riding horses and doing things now. I think they’re going to Sedona later. She’s trying to take advantage — she’s never been to Arizona before — so she’s trying to take advantage of it as much as humanly possible.
But it’s been a great experience so far. Great place. If you’re not going to have Christmas at home this was a heck of a place to have Christmas. So far it’s been a great experience.
Q. Can you talk about the preparation for this Washington defense?
COACH RAHNE: Great defense. They do a nice job of playing fast. They’ve recruited some great players. And then they’ve coached them very well. They have great fundamentals. They use their hands very well. They play physical. They play fast.
So it’s a great opportunity for our guys to go against some future next-level players and test our skills against those type of guys. And I’m just excited because I know I’m going against some great coaches on the other side and it’s always a challenge to do that. And have nothing but respect for Coach Petersen and his staff.
Q. What does it do for you guys from a coaching standpoint — obviously you guys are competitive, a lot of former players, but to have stellar coaches on the other side obviously Petersen knows what it takes to win here? What does that do for you guys?
COACH RAHNE: It’s always going to be a challenge when you go against a top 10 program. But when you know you’re going against a coaching staff that has as much experience as they do, a coaching staff that’s won big games like they have, it’s exciting because you know you’re going to be able to test yourself against some of the best in your business. And that’s something that you’re always looking forward to, just like I know our players are excited to go against their guys.
So going against the best is what drives all of us. We’re all competitors, so it’s a nice challenge for us and I’m sure they feel the same way.
Q. Obviously sitting here, did you ever think back to the day as we’re shooting for some, Ithaca, actually, did you sit back, think about how far you’ve come since those days?
COACH RAHNE: It’s been a long journey. Quite frankly, I never thought I’d go into coaching, just because you pay all that money to go to an Ivy League school and I’m from a very middle class family. So you pay all that money. I just finished paying off my school loans not too long ago.
So you never think getting into coaching; you feel you have to be on Wall Street or be a lawyer or something like that. I got some great advice my senior year and things like that. And I didn’t take it for a couple of years but I got some great advice if you’re going to go to a place like Cornell, make sure you do whatever you want to do in life because that’s the opportunity that’s given to you.
And I’ve been able to do that. And there’s nothing in the world I’d rather do than coach football. And quite frankly there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather do it than Penn State. I’m excited to be here. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for me and my family and it’s just great to be around — I’m also lucky I get to coach with some of the best people in the world, you know what I mean — be around guys like Josh Gattis, Matt Limegrover James Franklin, Brent Pye, Sean Spencer, all those guys, that’s unbelievable for me.
And those are some of my best friends in the world. And I get to come to work every day and do something I love. So it’s pretty special.
Penn State Nittany Lions
SAQUON BARKLEY: It’s been amazing. Obviously it’s different from State College, Pennsylvania. A little warmer. But it’s been a fun experience. Obviously we just got here a couple of days ago, but got to explore a little bit, see the town a little bit. And the resort we’re staying at is beautiful. So it’s been an awesome time so far.
Q. The arrival date, it’s nice to be out here because you’re away from the early signing period, you can practice and focus on the game. How have you guys gone about that the first few days?
SAQUON BARKLEY: The first day we got here, obviously we just got here and got situated, got everything in our hotel, like our room, stuff like that. The next day we practiced, had a light practice. I was able to, like I said, go out and explore the town and stuff. And then for Christmas we had off. We only had meetings a little bit.
And obviously kind of sucks not being home for Christmas, but I think we did a great job of being together as a team and eating breakfast together and having an amazing dinner that the hotel put together for us.
So we’ve kind of been relaxed, but today we kind of crank it up, we get on our normal schedule. Our Tuesday practices are pretty fun and we get to go compete and bang heads a little bit.
SAQUON BARKLEY: Yeah, it’s a lot different, especially this time of year. It’s not as hot as I thought it was going to be. But it’s perfect for me. I don’t like it too hot. I don’t like it too cold and this is just perfect temperature for me.
Q. (Indiscernible) you guys played in this game?
SAQUON BARKLEY: It’s amazing. Especially representing blue and white. We have a lot of history with this bowl game. I think we’re like 6-0 in this bowl game. I’m pretty sure we won a national championship in this bowl game.
So it’s an honor to represent those that came before us and to represent the guys that’s going to come after us and to be able to play in such a prestigious bowl like the Fiesta Bowl.
Q. Being 6-0 in the bowl, does that give you a chip on your shoulder to not be the team that puts that blemish in there?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I wouldn’t say it gives a chip on the shoulder. Obviously we know there’s some history with this game, but you can’t let that fuel you or you can’t let that motivate you because then you’re kind of taking yourself out of the game plan and out of the moment.
And whatever happened in the past is in the past and that’s kind of how we go about just our season with games we lost or games we won. You can’t get too high or too low on it. Can’t get too focused on it and we can’t get too focused on the record here that we’re 6-0 and that we haven’t lost in this bowl game because if we start worrying about stuff like that then we’re not focused on ourselves.
We have to focus on coming out going against Washington, and they have a great defense, a great front seven. Their safety play is amazing. They can hit. They come down and they hit pretty well. So we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and focus on the game plan and focus on attacking the Washington defense.
Q. When you look at their defense, top ranked rush defense in the nation, how do you approach that? And is that kind of a fun challenge for you?
SAQUON BARKLEY: Yes, it’s a fun challenge. The same way you approach that is the same way you approach every other game, especially in the Big Ten. I think in the Big Ten we’re well known for rush defense. Going against like Ohio State and Michigan and Michigan State and those teams week in, week out, I think they helped us prepare for this moment.
And like I say, their front seven is really good. Their “D” linemen are really good. I’m pretty sure you guys are all aware of Vita Vea and stuff like that. But we approach it watching the game plan and seeing how they attack it and how they attack running backs different.
I talked to Bryce Love out in Atlanta and see how he attacked them. And continue to watch film and get a good feel for them and when it comes to game time you just have to execute.
Q. What advice did Bryce give you?
SAQUON BARKLEY: It wasn’t really advice, because me and him are, our offensive styles are completely different. So even when you watch the game you can’t really watch how they attack them because the personnel is different. We have completely different personnel.
So I just asked him how he attacked the defense. What was his mindset? Was it more speed? Was it more power? And if you watch the game, he uses a lot more speed. And he had a really good game, had success against that defense.
So I wouldn’t say it was advice but he did give me some tips and some things to help me come into this game that I’ll definitely pass along to the other running backs.
Q. As for the game prep, did you go over some of the Big Ten games to try to pick out things to prepare for Washington?
SAQUON BARKLEY: For me, after the season, obviously once we found out what our bowl game was after the season, I kind of go back and watch every single run that I had this season — see the good things I did, see the bad things I did and the things I need to improve on and see how defenses attacked me and attacked our running game because some teams had success stopping our run game. So if it worked, if it worked why not try it again?
And then compared to how Washington plays and watched their game films and obviously they played a lot of games too, but not every team played the same type of personnel we played so you have to watch it for the personnel and watch how they attack people and watch how they attack players.
Sew I guess you can say I did use a couple of Big Ten games to get me ready for this game, but I was more just kind of just watching myself and watching our run game and watching our pass block and seeing my flaws and seeing what I need to improve on because this game, you put it all out there on film so they have every single game. And you could see different ways they’re probably going to attack you.
Q. Have the Fiesta Bowl people been treating you right? What’s your experience been like so far?
SAQUON BARKLEY: It’s been amazing. It’s been amazing. Like I said, Arizona, the weather is a lot different than State College. And we’re staying at an amazing resort. And I don’t know, it’s just a different feel. When you’re flying over here, I was actually able to look out and see the mountains. We were like flying over mountains and that was a cool experience.
I’ve never been to Arizona. So just so far it’s been amazing and I’m thankful for the Fiesta committee for allowing us to come out here and allowing us to enjoy our time.
Q. (Inaudible) who in today’s game do you look up to?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I’m a big believer in trying to stay true to yourself, and so I watch a lot of backs and I try to take part of their games and add it to mine. But I never try to be like another back. And there’s so many backs that you can say, that’s playing right now, that are having an impact on the game.
But a guy that sticks out to me would be Le’Veon Bell. I love the way he plays the game. And Todd Gurley, Todd Gurley also. I think the other day he was the second player to have 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in a long time.
Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell, those are two backs, they’re not just downhill runners and only do one thing, or they’re only coming in on third down; they’re every single down back. They catch the ball at the backfield, they block, they run.
And as a running back that’s what you want to be, you want to be an every-down back. You don’t want to come off the field and be able to have impact on your team in different ways. I think those backs do.
Obviously I don’t try to be like Todd Gurley or Le’Veon, but I do watch their film and games and try to add pieces and parts of their games and put it to mine.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Q. X and O-wise, what do you see in Washington’s defense, are they like any Big Ten team you played this year?
MIKE GESICKI: I think that in a way you can kind of compare them to maybe like an Ohio State just because of how effective they can be at stopping the run. But ultimately each team’s different.
And their front — I mean, their defensive front and those linemen, they’re big guys. And it’s obviously going to be a challenge for us up front. They’re definitely going to try to focus in and stop the run.
And on the back end they’re long; they’re athletic. So ultimately you’re not ranked the 11th team in the country for no reason. So they’re going to have a lot of talented players. And it’s something that we’re excited about.
Q. (Indiscernible) have you been sending texts to anybody?
MIKE GESICKI: Yeah, I’ve been Snapchatting my friends back home, my girlfriend and family, all that kind of stuff, sending them pictures of the pool. And they’re sending me some snow and cold weather, it’s like eight degrees back home.
It’s definitely been a nice little get-away to be able to come out here in Arizona and enjoy the nice weather and everything they have to offer for us.
Q. For you knowing this is going to be your last game ever, does this make your feeling towards this game maybe a little different, maybe a little more bittersweet than you’ve experienced?
MIKE GESICKI: Yeah, absolutely. I think obviously I’m not going to change my routine or how I prepare or anything like that that goes into it. But when I’m out on that field I’m going to take everything in.
I’m not going to take a play for granted or take anything for granted when I’m out there. I’m going to cherish each and every moment. When that clock hits zero and it’s all over, I can hang my head high and just know that I gave it all and I’m proud of everything that my team has done these past four years for Penn State.
Q. When you look back to the calendar year, with the program you came from to one that’s now been to the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl, did you ever imagine when you walked in this door that you’d be sitting here today having a conversation (inaudible)?
MIKE GESICKI: When I first committed to Penn State, they were — everything was out and I wasn’t going to go — my team wasn’t going to be playing in any bowl games for the next four years.
So to predict that we would be Big Ten champs and be playing in the Rose Bowl and playing in the Fiesta Bowl, back-to-back New Year’s Six bowls, I can’t say that I predicted it, because at that time we weren’t permitted to be doing any of this kind of stuff.
But ultimately everything worked out for us. And now we’re sitting here at the Fiesta Bowl with a great opportunity playing a great opponent on Saturday. And it’s something that I’m really excited about.
Q. We talked about having to bounce back after (inaudible). One thing I’ve noticed is you’ve adopted is —
MIKE GESICKI: Absolutely.
Q. Could you explain that a little bit?
MIKE GESICKI: Back then, obviously especially for our team as well, people were hopping off the Penn State train. And at that time they were hopping off the Mike Gesicki train and all that kind of stuff.
I started doing that when I scored my first touchdown against Kent State my junior year, every time I’m doing this, I’m saying the train’s left, but there’s still seats open but we don’t want anybody else coming because it’s too late. So that’s kind of what I’m saying each and every time. And it kind of tells a deeper story about myself and about this team ultimately where we are now compared to where we were back when when some people were counting us out.
Q. You’ve been talking to Jesse James about combine stuff. Did you have that discussion a few weeks ago?
MIKE GESICKI: If you know anything about football, he can catch a ball, reach out, he’s got possession of it. So there’s obviously some — everybody’s kind of confused about the whole rule and this and that.
But Jesse is having a ton of success up there right now and I know that he’s going to continue to make plays and ultimately they just picked up a win yesterday. So I’m happy for them. I’ll be keeping tabs on Jesse.
Penn State Nittany Lions
TRACE MCSORLEY: To be where we’re at now with an opportunity to win the Fiesta Bowl and send these guys out on a high note, some that knew we kind of cement their legacy at Penn State, having been the guys that came here when the sanctions just came out, to last year winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl. And that not working out for us.
But to be able to look back at last year, we won the Big Ten. And no one in their right mind would have thought that would have happening when they were coming here. And now to be able to go out, on a high note, winning the Fiesta Bowl, is something that would complete those guys’ legacy.
Q. You mentioned legacy. Saquon, his decision to go to the NFL after the game. 20 years from now, when somebody asks you: What was he like? Are you going to think of him as a football player, making these exhilarating wow plays, or are you going to think of him as a character person?
TRACE MCSORLEY: In 20 years, if someone asks me, first thing that will come to mind is the type of player he is and the once-in-a-generation talent that he is.
But the more you kind sit back and think about it, he’s an extremely high-character guy, something it’s been a pleasure to get to know him and be in the backfield with him over the last couple of years, and I think that’s something that I’ll be able to kind of cherish with me throughout the rest of my life is, one, the tremendous player that he is.
But then to be able to know him as a person, how he carries himself, and being able to tell my kids one day you’re watching the highlights of Saquon Barkley at Penn State and be amazed by him, but you don’t know he was one of the best guys I’ve ever been around in my life.
So to be able to have that is something that’s going to be really cool in the future.
Q. How does that experience pay off for you in a game like this week?
TRACE MCSORLEY: I think being at a bowl game and the experience we’ve had so far, it’s really important for you to stay present. When you’re out at the different bowl events, when we go to Topgolf later, when we go the Brazilian steakhouse tonight, being able to enjoy that, enjoy it with your teammates.
Like I said, a lot of the seniors will be moving on, you won’t get this time back with them. So to be able to enjoy that, enjoy hanging out in the hotel in the PlayStation suite where guys are arguing over Madden and getting in fights like that and being able to enjoy those times.
But when you get into meetings and practice, being focused there, getting the most out of every single meeting and every single practice.
When you’ve got free time laying in the room, you’re being able to watch film, get extra film sessions in and be able to review the practices again and be able to see some more game tape of Washington, being able to do film studies and stuff like that.
I think being present and taking advantage of the free time that you get and enjoying the experience. Really ultimately we’re here, we want to get a win. And that’s kind of the overarching goal and overarching theme this week. I think being present is something that’s really going to help us to achieve that goal.
Q. When you look back at your tapes and whatnot, do you watch both the good and the bad and what affects you the most?
TRACE MCSORLEY: You watch the whole season as it’s kind of a whole. And the bad definitely does stick out to you more because those are things that you want to improve and you want to get better at.
So I think the bad things stick out to you a little bit more. But being able to kind of see the good things and understand why the good things happen: Was it protection adjustment that allowed us to be able to hit this open guy down the field? Or how, as a quarterback, how we were able to right a handoff to get the guy to try and jump and be able to pull it and get a big gain on the ground is something, being able to understand why good things happen and be able to replicate that more and more as well as knowing how to improve the bad things is something that can really help you as a player and as a team take your game to the next level.
Q. The Rose Bowl was such an amazing game. What did you take away from that game? And can you apply some of that to this game?
TRACE MCSORLEY: I think the biggest takeaway as a team we can take away from that game is it was a tremendous game, one that will go down in Rose Bowl history as one of the most exciting games to watch.
But coming out on the losing end of that is something that it kind of makes the entire Rose Bowl experience for us not as exciting because it’s always going to be dampened with, you know, great experience but we lost.
So that’s kind of one of those things we’ve talked about this week, is winning the game makes the entire experience that much better. The food tasted a little better. The sky was a little bluer that entire week, when you look back at it because you won the game.
I think that’s something that being able to take that away from the Rose Bowl, it was a tremendous experience but it didn’t play out how we wanted it to, so it ended up not being as enjoyable for us was something that we were able to take into this week.
Q. Washington players said kind of the same thing. We got to the final four last year but we didn’t win. So you’re left with kind of an empty feeling at some level, even though it was a great accomplishment.
TRACE MCSORLEY: Yeah, exactly. I understand what you’re saying, not saying didn’t like going to the Rose Bowl. Going to the Rose Bowl is one of the greatest things as a college football player you can experience. Granddaddy of them all, that great tradition.
But it definitely does kind of give you an empty feeling having not come off with a win. You don’t go into the offseason on a high horse, kind of come in a little bit upset, not wanting to have that happen again.
Q. Talk about Barkley. As a quarterback, to have a Heisman caliber running back there in the backfield with you, how reassuring or how much comfort does that give you to be able to just give the ball to a guy like that?
TRACE MCSORLEY: It’s huge. As a quarterback and being able to share the backfield with him, one, you can see it in how a team’s trying to attack us.
A lot of teams have tried to add seven, eight, nine guys to the box, to try to stop the run and contain him. And that’s left us with really good matchups outside one-on-ones or being able to take advantage of some things there. And then, I mean, the passing game, he’s become a tremendous receiver for us.
And as a quarterback, knowing, go through all your progressions, finding the checkdown. But when that guy is checked down, having to go against Georgia State, find the checkdown and he went 85. And that’s the easiest 85-yard touchdown pass I’ve had in my life.
For me as a quarterback to be able to understand that you can work through progression. You don’t have to try and force it down the field to a guy that might be a little bit covered, might be tightly covered. If you can work down through the progression, if nothing is open, being able to find him or run the ball. For me, it’s something — it really is a huge comfort level for us.
Penn State Nittany Lions
BRENDAN MAHON: Absolutely, I’m always a smiling, always-trying-to-have-fun kind of guy. Coach Rahne and those kind of guys have really made it apparent that live in the moment. This is a bowl game. It’s a great — it’s such an amazing opportunity to be here.
But when it’s time to have fun, go out and have a good time. Go out do the Topgolf and all that, and be in the moment for that. But when it comes time to be here for practice, it’s time to practice, time to put the preparation in, because at the end of the week you want this bowl game to be topped off with a win and nothing else because that’s what we came here to do.
Q. What stands out to you in Washington, and how do you prepare for it?
BRENDAN MAHON: Big, athletic. Great players. They’re great up front. They’re a great defense. Like I said, they’re a little bit of everything. We’re excited. We’ve been preparing really hard for them, the scheme, and just as an entire offensive line. And their front seven is amazing.
They’re a great team. I’m not going to take anything away from them. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been prepping really hard. And I think we have a great game plan down to kind of get the ball rolling, because it’s going to start up front.
And as one of the leaders of the offensive line I know that, and we know that as we get the game start, and then it starts with us. And we’re willing to put that burden on our back and kind of take it to wherever we need to be.
BRENDAN MAHON: Easy. No, words can’t describe having him back. Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley, blocking for those two guys over the past two, three years has been a blessing.
They’ve really — they can make a little run go big really fast. And when you see 2-6 or No. 9 up in the open field you know it’s going into the end zone and that’s an even better feeling.
Q. You mentioned growing as a unit. One of the guys we covered in high school was Connor McGovern. How has he come along in the two years he’s been there, started as a true freshman. Not too many linemen —
BRENDAN MAHON: I started next to Connor at right tackle last year when he was a right guard. From last year to this year, I’ve moved to right guard, and he’s now the center.
He’s really stepped into that role. And there’s a leadership role there at center. And he’s been doing a fantastic job. He puts so much time into it and studying film and in the weight room. He’s a strong kid. I’m really excited for him for the next two years here and I know the sky’s the limit for him.
Q. You have Saquon over there. He has a big decision to make. Let him do that on his own terms. But when somebody asks you 10, 15 years from now what was it like to block for a guy like that, are you going to think about his great skills or the type of person he is?
BRENDAN MAHON: Both. Absolutely. I like to say he’s the best on the field and he’s even better off the field. And he’s a great guy. Real caring. And just a great guy to have around, great guy to have in your locker room, and even greater guy back to be able to block for.
And the experience as an offensive lineman to have a guy like that in the backfield, and I love to say it, but when you see 2-6 in the open field as an O lineman in front of you, you know he’s going to the house. So he’s made our lives a lot easier, and we’re very thankful to have him on the field and off.
Q. When you look at the successes and even some of the failures over the years, and you take a look at the team you’re going to be playing, do you feel they’re that vastly different from anybody you’ve played, or do they stand out as like some of the teams you’ve played?
BRENDAN MAHON: Sure. You know, I think they’re definitely a little different style than the typical Big Ten. But there’s a lot of the same aspects that they bring to the table.
It’s definitely a mix of different teams we’ve played. And their defensive line is incredible. And they do a great job. And we’ve prepared over the past couple of weeks for what they’re going to throw at us and as an offensive line and I know as a team we’re excited for Saturday to come.
Q. Does it change how you prepare?
BRENDAN MAHON: I’d like to say no. But when you have higher caliber opponents, you like to reassure yourself with some extra film and breakdowns and definitely going through some things with a little more of a fine-tooth comb. I think we’ve done a fantastic job in our preparation. And as we continue to prepare this week, I think we’re going to be ready for Saturday when it comes because we know as an offensive line it starts up front.
Q. What would you say the biggest or best thing so far over the past week has been in preparation for this?
BRENDAN MAHON: I think the big thing is we got here nice and early and kind of got used to the time change and kind of hang out and kind of enjoy the area for the past two days. And now today get rolling into practice and kind of putting the foot on the pedal and getting ready to go.
Q. Do you think adjusting to the Arizona cold is going to be a big thing?
BRENDAN MAHON: Yeah, it’s going to be such a big deal (chuckling). We’ve only — it was 30 when we left. It’s 65, 70 now, and I don’t hear anyone complaining.