Possibly never before has there been so much attention to a game between two unranked opponents on college football’s opening weekend as Ohio at Penn State, which kicks off at noon Saturday.
Much of the attention, however, is not on what the final outcome will be or who will score the game’s first touchdown.
Rather, much of the focus centers on what will be going through the minds of Penn State players, as they take the field for a program that was spotlighted by the media this offseason after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested on child sex abuse charges.
A trial and eventual conviction of Sandusky ensued, former PSU coach Joe Paterno passed away and the program suffered unprecedented sanctions from the NCAA, including a four-year postseason ban, stemming from the failure of university officials to handle Sandusky’s alleged actions appropriately.
Due to countless storylines, reporters from ESPN, CNN and The Columbus Dispatch have anchored themselves down at State College all week. While there, they have been asking the school’s fans, coaches and players what they think about everything that has transpired.
But, what about the other guys?
The other team, the Ohio Bobcats, which took a six-hour bus ride Friday morning from rural Athens, Ohio, to a media circus in University Park, Pa.
“We know that there is a lot surrounding this game. We also know that the whole community is behind them. It is pretty much us against the world,” said senior wide receiver and Lakota West graduate Bakari Bussey. “But that is the way we play every game.”
For the sake of comparison, a typical Saturday afternoon in Athens, Ohio, there are about 15-to-20 media members who will request credentials to attend a game at Peden Stadium, a facility that holds a capacity crowd of 24,000.
Meanwhile, this Saturday, roughly 600 media credentials have been requested through the Penn State Athletic Department to attend this game at Beaver Stadium, which once hosted more than 110,000 fans for a game against Nebraska in 2002.
“We all know that it is going to be a crazy atmosphere,” senior defensive lineman and Milford graduate Corey Hasting said. “We understand that it is going to be very loud and hectic, but we have played at Tennessee, at Rutgers and at Ohio State.
“It will obviously be different than playing a home game in Athens, but it is not going to be anything new to us either.”
What won’t be new for Hasting is the reason he plays the game so hard.
In the spring of 2011, Hasting received word that his brother, Scotty, had been shot a total of 10 times while serving with the Army in Afghanistan. Scotty survived, but when he returned home, he was limited to a hospital bed, unable to walk.
Just a few weeks ago, Scotty was up and running for the first time and continues to train at an Army base in Kansas – working on getting his muscles back in his legs and arms.
“From where he was in the hospital bed unable to walk and where he is now – it really gave me motivation to push through my hard times,” said Hasting, who has gone from walk-on to starter. “I just push through even when I am hurting. I just want to make the next play, for him. Anything I do, I just try to make him proud.”
This Saturday on ESPN, Scotty will be watching his younger brother, who dons Scotty’s initials on his face and the rallying cry “for him” written on his sleeves on gamedays.
Maybe after the game, the attention will be briefly off Penn State and on Hasting and his story, who along with Bussey, help make up 12 of the Ohio players from Greater Cincinnati.
“Not a lot of people know about us,” freshman middle linebacker and Oak Hills graduate Ben Russell said. “But I think after this game everyone is going to know who we are.”
Besides Hastings, Bussey and Russell, local players on Ohio’s 2012 roster include sophomore defensive back C.J. Anderson (Moeller), senior left guard Vince Carlotta (Roger Bacon), junior DL Kendrick Davis (Mason), sophomore DL Tony Davis (Wyoming), sophomore LB Tim Edmond (La Salle), freshman DL Eric Price (Wyoming), freshman quarterback J.D. Sprague (Mason), freshman tight end John Tanner (Moeller) and sophomore LB and punter Nieco Teipel (Beechwood).