Josh Gaines couldnt have been more pleased or more surprised to learn that he has a chance to go down in history as a member of the first Penn State recruiting class to win two Big Ten championships.
I just got chills hearing you say that, he told a reporter during a conference call this week. I didnt even know that. Wow. Thats huge.
In 2005, his redshirt freshman season, Gaines backed up All-American Tamba Hali on Penn States Orange Bowl-winning team. On Saturday, he will be competing for his second shot at a Bowl Championship Series appearance. If the Nittany Lions win their season finale, the fifth-year senior defensive end will become a two-time Big Ten champ and will very likely find himself starting the Rose Bowl in his final college game.
But first things first. For the Lions to win their third title since joining the Big Ten, they must defeat Michigan State on Saturday, no simple task. The Spartans are averaging just under 27 points a game, thanks largely to tailback Javon Ringer, whose 20 rushing touchdowns lead the nation.
Gaines said the Lions defensive line is wary of both Ringer, who ranks third in the nation with an average of 140.7 rushing yards a game, and his powerful offensive line.
Hes strong, fast and explosive, and hes running behind a huge O-line, Gaines said. The plays Ive been watching on film, hes running behind those big guys and he sneaks into a gap and takes off. He has those big guys up front, and theyre real aggressive. And Ringer is a hard worker. Hes strong as an ox. Hes not just a little guy; he can hold his own. So we have to be ready, and we have to gang-tackle.
Gaines has lately been bothered by an ankle sprain. He started the Indiana game last Saturday but was pulled in the first quarter and didnt return. The coaches told him to rest up and get ready for Michigan State.
Gaines said he took part in noncontact drills Monday and Tuesday. He said his ankle feels OK when hes moving forward but continues to hurt when he tries to move side to side. Still, he said he has no intention of sitting out a game of such significance for the Nittany Lions.
Im playing Saturday, dont worry, he said. This is for the Big Ten championship, and Im playing for that.
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