Seniors preparing for final battle

Jordan Hill found himself spending a lot of time around the Lasch Building this week. Sure, with classes canceled for Thanksgiving week, he had some extra free time, but he could have used it to go anywhere. Instead, the big defensive tackle just lounged around in the place he has spent so much time in during the last four years, a place he already knows he is going to miss.

Jordan Hill, Matt McGloin and Matt Stankiewitch are approaching Senior Day in different ways.

The final game for Hill and more than two dozen other Penn State seniors will be played Saturday in Beaver Stadium when the Nittany Lions host Wisconsin. It will mark the official end of a long and trying journey, the last few legs of which have been far different from the paths the seniors' predecessors took.

Those seniors reflected in different ways this week. All agreed that Saturday is going to hit them hard.

"There's going to be a lot of people that's going to be emotional," Hill said. "I know I'm going to be one of them. Everything we've gone through our whole careers is coming to an end. ... I'm going to try to fight back the tears as long as I can, but I know it's not going to happen."

Hill cried when his high school football team won the state championship, not because of the accomplishment but because he knew it marked the end of that career. He had two chances to leave Penn State early -- he could have turned pro after last season and could have transferred this summer -- but called his decision to return the best one he has made in his life.

Stephon Morris admitted earlier this season he didn't know if he wanted to return after 2011 ended. He wound up convincing several of his younger teammates to stay (at least for the time being, anyway) while enjoying his best season as a player. Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, the cornerback believes the decision of the senior class to stay together -- only one senior, Justin Brown, left during the summer -- kept the entire team from crumbling in the wake of the NCAA sanctions.

"You can't run away from adversity," Morris said. "You've got to look it eye-to-eye. We're not trying to run away from anything. We have a lot of guys that look up to us. If we would have broke this thing apart, who's to say Penn State would have had a team this year?"

Other veteran Lions were asked this week about what legacy they might leave, how they want this class to be remembered. Some wanted to put off those kinds of statements while there is still work to be done this season.

"We hope to be remembered with eight wins instead of seven," center Matt Stankiewitch said.

The game against the Badgers, a team that smoked the Nittany Lions by 38 points last season, will cap an up-and-down but what most regard as an ultimately successful season. Just how successful might depend on Saturday's result.

"The main thing for our senior class is to send the season out on a high note and make everybody feel good about the season and next season," quarterback Matt McGloin said.

McGloin has repeatedly said the time to think about the season and legacies and memories will be after Saturday's game. At least one of his teammates knows it might take even more time to process all they've been through and all they've accomplished.

"It might not hit me for a couple years," Hill said. "I might not notice until my kids or my grandkids ask me 'How was it?'"

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