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December 31, 2008Penn State sophomore defensive end Aaron Maybin marveled at the situation he'd been put in.
Two weeks ago, Maybin had never been to Disneyland. He'd never seen the Los Angeles skyline or the Santa Monica Pier.
The dude had never even seen the Pacific Ocean.
"I would like to think that everybody on the team is really taking all of this in," he said. "I hope we've all been thankful and grateful to make it out here. We're getting to see things we've never seen"
Maybin and the Nittany Lions now will have to wait for 24 more hours to see the USC Trojans on the field, and the all-American sack master is psyched.
"It's extremely special. The tradition in this game is so such special. It's an honor to play in this great game against such a great team with a great coach and some great players. We're anxious. We can't wait.
"I think everybody's taking it all in and having a great time."
There's little question whether or not Penn State is excited about playing in the Rose Bowl. The Nittany Lion defense is excited to show the country that it belongs in the conversation when people talk about the nation's most dominant.
"We're fine with not getting national attention," Maybin said. "It's never been our style to be too flashy."
Maybin, like Trojans Mark Sanchez and Taylor Mays, will be forced with a decision after his season, and like Sanchez and Mays, Maybin's not tipping his hand.
"I'm not thinking about the NFL," he said. "My focus is completely on USC. That won't change until after the game."
Daryll Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve
When you're the quarterback of one of the two teams playing in the Rose Bowl, you spend time talking about the game - lots of time.
Instead of being exhausted by the barrage of questions, Clark said he's enjoyed the extra attention.
"You just take it in and enjoy it," he said. "You're hearing all this hype, but you have a lot to do with it. They're talking about you and USC.
"I'm enjoying it and enjoying California, but now I'm ready for the football game."
Clark said he's been watching games around the country, and he's been caught off guard with the thing he's heard most.
"I'm just anxious. This is the Rose Bowl," he said. "The hype is almost as big as the national title game. I haven't even heard anything about that game."
While the nation seems excited for the Penn State-USC match up, Clark's excited to see if his team's scouting of the Trojan defense will pay off.
"We've seen stuff. Every defense has some," he said. "Coach Jay Paterno, our quarterbacks coach, has brought that to our attention in each film session. We'll do what we have to do to exploit it."
Still, he knows that won't be easy.
"They haven't changed. They're really coming together and become a better defense," he said. "When the time is right and they need a stop, they get it. A couple of games down the stretch, they really made some big plays to blow some games open."
Instead of sulking about Penn State's fate, missing out on a chance to play for the BCS National Championship by a single point, Clark said he knows what's at stake Thursday.
"For this football team, for Penn State, this is our national title," he said. "You hear so much about it and you just can't wait for that first kick."
When coaches were recruiting Derrick Williams, a former five-star athlete and the top-rated player in the 2005 recruiting class, his versatility had the coaches dreaming up ways to use him.
"Every school that was recruiting me had something special in mind," he said. "They saw I could play quarterback, that I could throw, that I could run, that I could catch. Everybody had their little secret plans."
Williams has been taking snaps at quarterback in the Wildcat formation during Rose Bowl preparation and could be in the backfield come game time.
Add that to his duties as a return man, receiver and part-time running back, and it's clear Penn State wants to put the ball in his hands.
"I always think that I'm the X-factor in the game," Williams said. "Every time I touch the ball, I'm trying to make things happen.
"I feel comfortable doing it."
Williams said he's been impressed with what he's seen from the Trojan defense.
"They don't have any weaknesses at all," Williams said. "It's a great defense. Thursday, we'll just have to go out there and take care of all the little things - then big things will happen."
Instead of using the time off to scheme for what USC does on defense, Williams said Penn State's been more focused internally.
"We're just trying to do the things we can control," Williams said. "We never look at a team and say, 'you do this and we'll counter with that.' We've never played off of anybody.
"That's how we're going to handle it Thursday."