Lions Must Shift Focus

After a "somber" morning in which they heard Joe Paterno announce his retirement, two key seniors said Penn State must regroup for the stretch run of the season.

Penn State guard Johnnie Troutman tweeted what a lot of people were feeling Wednesday.

“Sad day,” he wrote. “Never thought this would be the way Coach P would go out.”

Nobody could have thought this would be how it would end for Joe Paterno -- with him retiring at the end of this season, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

In fact, it's not completely clear that it will end the way he wants it to end. The school's Board of Trustees meets Friday, and there is still a chance Paterno will not be allowed to coach this season's final home game Saturday against Nebraska, that he will be dismissed beforehand.

But what we know now is that Paterno submitted his letter of resignation Wednesday, and that he told his players about it at an emotional meeting at 11 a.m. He broke down, and the players gave him a standing ovation when the meeting was over.

So if nothing else, that was the beginning of the end.

“It was definitely a somber mood,” offensive tackle Chima Okoli said. “There wasn't much else for anybody to say.”

“It was very tough to hear,” safety Drew Astorino said. “Everybody was obviously very emotional and upset.”

And while the possibility of Paterno departing had been mentioned more than once over the past several days, Astorino still said there was “an element of shock” when the announcement came.

Afterward there were positional meetings -- and yes, receivers coach Mike McQueary, one of the people who stands at the center of the Sandusky storm, was present -- and then everybody went their separate ways. The players plan to meet on their own before practice Wednesday afternoon, as they continue to prepare for the meeting with the Cornhuskers -- which happens to be Senior Day for Astorino, Okoli and several others.

“We'll be fine,” Okoli said. “What are we going to do, come out and lose the rest of our games because of this? At the end of the day, you have to own up as a man and take care of your responsibilities, and that's what we're going to do.”

“I don't really know what it's going to be like, to tell you the truth,” Astorino said. “But what I do know is that I'm going to be playing my last football game with some people I've spent my last five years with, people that I really, really care about. We're playing for each other right now. We're playing for all we've worked for the past five years. I'm not sure what to expect, but I know we're going to play together.”

A couple loose ends -- Okoli said he had never seen Sandusky in the practice facility. But backup linebacker Dakota Royer told Mike Gross of Lancaster Newspapers that he had seen Sandusky working out there as recently as last week.

And Astorino said the victims of Sandusky's alleged sexual assaults have not been forgotten.

“We think about them all the time,” he said.

As former PSU wide receiver Jordan Norwood tweeted, “My heart goes out to those young boys, young men, and their families affected by the actions of one, and the lack of action by many.”

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