Last updated: February 19. 2013 3:25PM - 192 Views

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INDIANAPOLIS -- If the loss didn't remind them, then the turn of the calendar did the trick.

Penn State's best stretch since scandal struck last fall was abruptly snapped last week by Ohio State. Five days later, the school was back in the headlines as former president Graham Spanier was indicted for allegedly covering up reports of child abuse.

Now the team's seniors find themselves entering November with just four games left in their college careers.

The countdown begins with today's game at Purdue. So what would ordinarily be a sleepy road trip sandwiched in between games around Ohio State and Nebraska has picked up some extra meaning for the Nittany Lions.

Particularly for the seniors who have shouldered much of the burden from these past 12 months.

For us seniors, we understand we only have four games left, quarterback Matt McGloin said. And we're trying to leave this place on a high note and keep it where it belongs.

For a brief time, that high note was sounding again for Penn State. The team won five straight games over six weeks, and the national narrative about the program shifted to one of revival.

In July, Sports Illustrated's cover was an all-black background sporting the title We were Penn State. This week, one of its regional covers features Beaver Stadium's whiteout crowd last Saturday as a backdrop for the words We still are Penn State.

How this next month goes for the Lions will shape the program's perception going forward.

At Purdue. At Nebraska. Home against Indiana and Wisconsin. And then the first of four holiday seasons without a bowl game.

There's no December for us, McGloin said. So November is our last as Penn State football players. We're definitely aware of it.

But at the same time, we're focused on Purdue. We're going to prepare as though Purdue is our last game, and that's how we'll prepare for the rest of the season.

The spotlight has died down a good bit this week after the loss to Ohio State. When Disney was hashing out its TV schedule this week for college football, the Penn State-Purdue game was shuffled down the list onto ESPNU.

But when Bill O'Brien got his team back at practice on Monday, he was impressed with their drive to start a new win streak.

We have a resilient bunch of players, the Penn State coach said. And like I've said every single week, it's led by a fantastic senior class. A bunch of guys that have a passion for playing football for Penn State, for going to school here at Penn State. And they realize that there are only four games left.

They understand that they have four shots left, and it's been really neat to come to practice this week and watch these guys practice with great effort, with passion and compete against each other.

They may have to create some of their own energy for today's game.

Penn State goes from playing in front of a sellout home crowd of more than 107,000 -- loud enough to disrupt both teams' offenses -- to a deteriorating environment in West Lafayette.

The Boilermakers have lost four straight games, most recently by blowing a lead in the final minute against Ohio State and then getting crushed by cellar-dwelling Minnesota.

They are winless in Big Ten play and their only victories are against Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan and Marshall.

According to The Exponent, the school's student newspaper, Purdue is expecting a crowd of approximately 37,500 -- 60 percent of capacity at Ross-Ade Stadium. The report cited an associate athletic director.

On StubHub.com, 50-yard line seats 19 rows from the field are listed for $20. End zone seats are available for as little as $4.99.

In other words, the Lions are going to have to find a spark from somewhere other than the atmosphere.

Four games left, senior Sean Stanley said, is motivation enough.

Penn State



3:30 p.m. today


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