September 29, 2012 at 6:36 PM
It wasn’t business as usual for Penn State. This time, it was personal.
In the summer, Illinois head coach Tim Beckman decided to directly recruit Penn State’s players after the announcement of the sanctions, which allowed them to do so without punishment.
Senior cornerback Stephon Morris said the team was amped up all week long in preparation for the long-awaited showdown with Illinois. He added that the heated atmosphere on the field Saturday was certainly raised by the recruiting controversy.
“This game was personal,” Morris said. “Getting our first Big Ten win against a good team like Illinois, a big rivalry like that. This was personal. It was just brutal.”
The intensity peaked at halftime when many members of the two teams approached each other on the way to the locker room, engaging in a shouting match.
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill said the confrontation was mainly initiated by Illinois players attempting to get in the heads of the Nittany Lions and said he was proud of the restraint his players used in not retaliating.
However, linebacker Gerald Hodges said the halftime interaction definitely elevated the level of intensity even higher.
“It definitely revved the guys up because they felt as though [Illinois players] were still trying to take shots at them.”
Even for quarterback Matt McGloin, who has predicted this game would not offer anything more than a usual one, he said motivation played a role in the game.
“What they did or didn’t do, it’s still not right,” McGloin said. “And definitely we used a little bit of motivation for that.”
Yet, in the end, Hodges said the team couldn’t get wrapped up in the emotion of the game too much. They still had to focus on the true task at hand.
“It was definitely a personal week, but, like I said, we had to come out here and we couldn’t let our emotions take us too far," Hodges said. "We still had to play football.”