Last week's game against Minnesota was a little too friendly for Derek Moye. Gophers defensive backs complimented the Penn State wideout on the field after several of his catches -- he had six for 120 yards and a touchdown -- and their pleasant demeanor didn't do much to fire him up.
That shouldn't be a problem this week.
When they arrive in Ann Arbor, the Nittany Lions will be stepping into the most inhospitable environment they have seen this year. Michigan Stadium on Saturday will be a bubbling cauldron of maize-and-blue hostility, with the Wolverines seeking to avenge Penn State's 46-17 romp last season and also looking for a victory over a ranked opponent, a feat they failed to achieve two weeks ago at Iowa. The Lions can expect little hospitality from a crowd that never wanted Penn State in the Big Ten to begin with.
All of which is just fine as far as Moye is concerned.
I think sometimes an away game can be more fun than a home game, said the redshirt sophomore. You've got their fans out there yelling at you, trying to talk to you and get in your head. When you make a big play, it's satisfying to have the crowd be quiet.
With his quick feet and sticky hands, the 6-foot-5 Moye is emerging as a big-time playmaker for Penn State. His graceful second-quarter touchdown catch against the Gophers -- so improbable it was initially ruled an incompletion before the call was overturned on review -- seemed to stamp him as a player on the rise. And if that didn't impress, the statistics certainly do: He is fifth in the Big Ten with 67.4 receiving yards a game, and his average of 17.5 yards a catch is best among the league's top 10 pass-catchers.
Moye said he had big expectations coming into the season. I didn't really anticipate that I would be the go-to guy, he said, but I knew I had a chance to go to camp this summer and prove myself, because the three leading receivers [from last season] were going to be gone, and there were going to be voids to fill.
Moye was recruited by Rich Rodriguez, among other coaches, coming out of Rochester High near Pittsburgh. At the time, Rodriguez was coaching at West Virginia, and Moye was a four-sport standout with worlds of football potential.
But Moye wasn't interested. His older brother Jermaine had played for Rodriguez in Morgantown and didn't feel as though he fit in with the program. He ended up transferring to California (Pa.), and while Moye said his brother's disenchantment wasn't related specifically to Rodriguez, who is now at Michigan, the experience did steer the blue-chip prospect away from West Virginia.
[Jermaine] didn't like it there too much, Moye said. That kind of turned me off.
This weekend's game won't be Moye's first visit to the Big House. He was on hand for Penn State's trip in 2007 because the coaches hadn't made a final decision about whether to redshirt him. The Nittany Lions lost that game, 14-9, after managing only three Kevin Kelly field goals. Moye didn't end up playing, but he remembers the experience well.
It was a good college football environment, he said. They definitely made it rough for our offense with the crowd and everything. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to play there.