Penn State safety Anthony Scirrotto acted a bit out of character on Saturday following the Nittany Lions' 45-14 win against Oregon State. Typically a silent leader, Scirrotto rallied the team after the game with a speech.
Scirrotto sat down to speak with the media yesterday morning to discuss the speech and a host of other topics.
Read the complete transcript of the chat session below!
*** Transcript ***
What areas do you think the defense improved from week one to week two and what areas do you think still need to be solidified?
I think the total defense improved overall as a whole. We knew that the difference between week one and week two, how good we got between those two games would be a big part in the success of our season. We worked hard all week. We knew we were going up against a great opponent in Oregon State that had a lot of different threats passing and running. So, we just tried to tighten things up in both aspects to be able to defend them in any way.
How do you think Astorino played at the nickel?
I think Drew is a great fit at that position. He is a great open-field tackler and that position demands you to be able to tackle and play in the box. He's a strong kid and he likes to stick his nose in there. At the same time, he also has very good pass-defense. He's just a well-balanced athlete and at that position it just spreads our whole defensive secondary out.
How good is it to see your offense clicking so well right now and how much pressure does that take off the defense?
It's awesome to see the offense doing as well as they are. Putting points up on the board like that does take a lot of pressure off of us. It enables us to just go out there and play and have fun when we don't have to worry about a tight game or close games. I'm sure we'll have that in the future because we have a tough schedule coming up but with the way they're playing, we know we can rely on them putting points on the board so it just comes down to us stopping the opposing team.
Is it difficult to get a feel for exactly what you guys have defensively because of all the injuries and suspensions?
No, not at all. I think we have guys that at any time can fill in for anyone at any position. I know the depth seems pretty low but as you saw, I think we played very well up front without Maurice and Abe. I don't think a lot of people expected that. I think a lot of people expected us to struggle up front but I think we did a great job up front. Like I said, our depth and the athletes that we have on this team, anybody can play at anytime.
How aware is the team of the history of the rivalry between Penn State and Syracuse?
To be honest, I'm not very familiar with the rivalry. Before practice yesterday, coach Paterno talked to us about how big this game is. From their standpoint, there's going to be a lot of people there, very famous people. Jim Brown's going to be there. It's going to be a packed house. He mentioned other names that I don't really remember but he said it's going to be a big game. It's going to be very loud. It's a big stadium. It's going to be packed. It's going to be exciting. We're looking forward to something new. We haven't been there in a while and we're just excited about the opportunity.
How do you and the team view them now? Just as another team or a regular game?
Yeah, it's a regular week and it's something new. We haven't seen them on our schedule since I've been here, at least and I know the year before I got here, we didn't play against them as well. It's just a new face to see. It's a surprise to everyone; we really don't know what to expect because we've only played two games so we're breaking down some film and they have a new offensive coordinator so it's hard to tell what they could throw at us. But, we're excited. It's exciting for us.
When did you realize how good Evan Royster could be and is right now?
Last year in the Alamo Bowl, actually a few games, I saw him make some amazing runs and I was like, 'Geeze, this kid is going to be good.' Then this past preseason in camp, he was just all over the place. He had a great camp and then that followed right into the season. It's real exciting to see him because he's been behind some great running backs the past couple of years and hasn't really gotten his shot but now he's got his shot and he's shining. Everybody's getting a good look at what he's bringing to the table.
Why do you think he's so effective?
I don't think people realize how fast he is. He's got great strength and great vision so he can pop through that hole and then when he gets into the open-field, he's usually a guy that doesn't get caught. He's got great breakaway speed and I think it's deceiving to most people.
Growing up in the Philly area, did you know much about Curtis Brinkley, the Syracuse running back and what do you expect out of him come Saturday?
To be honest, and this is no disrespect to him, I didn't really know of him from Philadelphia. But, our coach has mentioned him yesterday in meetings about how he's a big body, he's a big kid, he's a great athlete. He's had over 100 yards or so the first two games. He's a guy who runs up the middle and gets downhill. He'll lower his shoulder and run it and punish it if he has to. He poses a lot of threats and we'll just have to work extra hard this next week to prepare for him.
Can you put your finger on any reason why this team has been so good the past few years staying focused through off-the-field distractions and turmoil?
I just think it's the type of people we have on this team. Obviously, people are going to make mistakes and it happens all over the country. When you can pull together and play through adversity, it just shows the character of the guys on the team. We're real focused. I know some things during the season you would rather not have to handle or have distracting you but that stuff happens. It just goes to show our character and all in all, it makes us closer as a team, too.
Do you get a sense if Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma will be back and when they'll be back and are they practicing?
To be honest, I have no idea about that. Coach hasn't addressed us with any of those issues.
Is there any sense that you haven't faced any tough tests yet? How will you handle it when it's tough in the fourth quarter?
We're expecting that this coming week. We were expecting it last week to be a battle and to be a game won in the fourth quarter. We always prepare each week as if the game is going to be won in the fourth quarter. I think that contributes to the success we've had in the past two weeks. I know the games haven't been as close as people might have thought they'd be or even if not but we're always prepared to play four quarters as hard as we can. I think we'll be ready to go when that time does come because we know it's going to happen. We know not every game is going to be a score like that 45-14 or whatever the first score was.
You gave a speech to the guys after the game on Saturday. Can you just share with us what you told the team?
Well... I just told them we have something special going on this team. We have the players and the coaching and everything it takes to be a great team and to not take it for granted, to be smart and responsible. Just, take care of each other because I feel like we have what it takes to be a contender at the end for a title.
What prompted you to do that?
It's just something that I was feeling at the moment. It kind of just came out.
Have you ever done that before or was that the first time?
I'm not usually a vocal guy. I usually don't speak much at all, actually. I leave that to the other captains and the other seniors on the squad. It's just something that came from the heart and I was feeling it at the time.
How long did it last? A couple minutes?
No (laughs) Yeah right, I can't talk that long... maybe 30-45 seconds.
What has the initial reaction been to losing Jerome?
Disheartening... the kid is just a warrior and a soldier. For me, he's one of my best friends on the team. I was right out on the field after it happened and to see him in the shape he was, it was really upsetting. It was upsetting for all of us. But he's a soldier and he's the type of guy that's going to work through it. He's going to be ready to go. Whenever he's ready, he'll be ready to go. It's tough to lose a guy like that but that's the sport we play and things like that happen.
Have you had a chance to talk to him at all?
Yeah, I went and visited him the night after the game, me and Lydell Sargeant went over there and hung out with him for a little bit. I saw him yesterday in the locker room. He's looking good. It's tough, the second knee injury, you'd think that could be tough on you mentally. But, he's taking it well and he's just going to rehab until he's gotta get surgery and do what he has to do to get it done.
What do you think the importance is of going and getting a good start to the road schedule on Saturday? Can that help you later in the season?
I think it's real important to set the tempo on the road and I think in order to do that, we've just gotta play like it's a home game for us... take that mentality into the game that this is our field and if we can do that, if we can come out this year on top of and winning the away games, I think we'll be sitting pretty by the end of the season.
Do you think the Alamo Bowl may have helped this team's confidence on the road a little bit?
Yeah, I think that helps. It's tough to say. Bowl games are different. My freshman year when we went to Florida and played Florida State, that was like a home game for them in a way. But, we bring so many fans to those types of games, it's kind of evenly matched.
What has coach Paterno's reaction been around the team to the latest incident?
It's frustrating and it's understandably so. It's frustrating for everyone. But, to us, it's just been... he hasn't really stressed on it much. It's just been putting it behind us and focusing on what we have to do. Last year, not so much the year before, but we had too many distractions that took an effect on us. For him to have to worry about things like that isn't fair to him. During the season, our focus should be one thing and that's to play games each week, each Saturday, and take care of that. I think he's approached it in that way, too. Now, what he does on his own time, we don't really know. But that's how his approach has been with us.
What has your approach been as a captain to handling the disciplinary problems and the injuries?
It's tough to say. It comes to a point where you have to just put that behind you and you can't really worry about it because the thing is, you have to learn. In the past couple of years, with everyone getting in trouble, you would think people would learn from other people's mistakes. Now, it could be just misfortune or whatever. But, now we're to the point where we'll be there and we're going to help as much as we can and do whatever we can to help you guys but our focus is more on our team and our success. I don't know. That's what our focus is.