'Assassin' is back at State College
Chris Harrell adds a heavy hitter to the Nittany Lions' secondary.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- One big hit knocked Penn State safety Chris Harrell out for the 2004 season. One big hit got Harrell feeling comfortable on the field in his first game in two years.
"After the first big hit, I felt really good after I made contact with the guy. I felt all types of energy through me," Harrell said Tuesday about his return to the field last Saturday for Penn State (1-0) against South Florida.
"As I walked back to the huddle, a lot of guys walked up to me and said 'You're back. You're back,' " said Harrell, who finished with four tackles and a key interception against the Bulls.
Harrell, known as "Assassin" to teammates for his hard hits, sat out last year after suffering a neck injury during spring practice in 2004. Besides a tough rehabilitation regiment, Harrell said the grind of not being able to play football weighed on him.
"Early on, especially emotionally, there were a lot of tears. I wasn't really sure that football was a game I should be playing after a neck injury," he said.
But in the time spent off the field, Harrell said he "had a chance to learn and fall in love with the game again."
Harrell is part of a quartet of senior starters in the Nittany Lion secondary.
"With Chris back, we have a heavy hitter," said linebacker Paul Posluszny. "He's a huge guy to have back there."
Too much time
Posluszny said the defense got a little tired in the second half last Saturday after being on the field for awhile. While Penn State jumped out to an early 17-0 lead, the Bulls were able to move the ball at times after the first quarter while the Nittany Lions' new-look offense struggled.
The defense will try to correct that before this week's game against Cincinnati (1-0), Posluszny said.
"We can't afford to have those really long drives on the field," he said. "When it gets to third down, someone needs to make a big play to get them off the field."
Offensive players must play more consistently and execute better, receiver Terrell Golden said.
"We can't keep going three-and-outs. We have to give them a chance to rest," Golden said about the defense. "We need to get those 13- and 15-play drives to win the game."
Focus on little things
As he has in the past, coach Joe Paterno said his team has to concentrate on the little things to gain more consistency. He reserved judgment on the play of his offensive line, saying they were "all right," but did criticize some players -- without naming names -- for some of the pressure that quarterback Michael Robinson felt against South Florida.
Robinson was sacked three times, including one play in which the quarterback was tackled from behind and then fumbled the ball.
"We did a terrible job. I won't mention names, but somebody thought it wasn't important," Paterno said. "As a result, when we had the chance to put the game away, we didn't put it away."