Planning for success: Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Senior center Ty Howle can feel his time in Happy Valley winding down.

He knows Saturday will be his final game inside Beaver Stadium. It'll be his last opportunity to ring the victory bell, the last time he runs out of that tunnel in a blue jersey and the last time he hears a fiery Bill O'Brien address the team from his own locker room.

He knows all that. But he just doesn't want to think about it.

"It's bittersweet," he said. "We're looking forward to the opportunity to play Nebraska and play in front of Beaver Stadium again. But it's going to be tough knowing this is our last opportunity."

If Howle wants to end his final collegiate season with a winning record, it sure seems as if Saturday is the Nittany Lions' best opportunity. PSU has just two games left -- Nebraska this Saturday, Wisconsin next -- and the Badgers will be heavily favored.

So, this is the game PSU will have to win to clinch a winning season. Two losses put them at .500.

"I came here to win," Howle said. "That's one of the reasons I came to Penn State because, at Penn State, you're going to win. It means a lot."

The main player standing in the seniors' way for a positive sendoff is the Cornhuskers' Ameer Abdullah, a shifty 5-foot-9 tailback who's amassed 1,336 rushing yards (6.5 ypc) and is making his case as the Big Ten's offensive player of the year. Nebraska boasts a mediocre passing game and an OK defense -- but Abdullah?

He's basically Nebraska's answer to Penn State spark-plug Allen Robinson.

"A player of his caliber, it's really hard to stop a player that is as explosive as he is," safety Malcolm Willis said. "We just have to try to contain him. We have to make sure we're a very good tackling team come Saturday."

Willis, also a senior, is another one of the 17 players who will be honored Saturday afternoon. It'll also be his final time inside Beaver Stadium. And, like Howle, Willis reflected on his career and said time has flown by in Happy Valley.

He wants to go out a winner -- but there's that whole issue of first getting past Nebraska, whom these seniors have yet to beat.

"I don't think it's hit us yet that it's our last game at Beaver Stadium," Willis said. "But I'm sure all of us will be really, really emotional come Saturday."