Lions see benefits of extended bowl stay

You don't have to sell Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti -- a native of Mandeville, La. -- on the pros of the team's traditional extended trip for bowl games.

"I never in my life will get used to snow," Mauti said. "It’s unlike anything I've ever experienced. I'll practice in the sun for three weeks if it means avoiding another week in the cold."

Mauti and his Penn State teammates will escape the deep freeze this weekend as they head to the Sunshine State to begin final preparations for their Outback Bowl matchup Jan. 1 against Florida. Players and coaches must report to Clearwater, Fla., by Sunday for the first of several practices to be held at the Philadelphia Phillies' training complex.

Penn State's extended bowl trips are a unique tradition under coach Joe Paterno. Most bowl-bound teams spend about a week on the road and do so only at the bowl site. Penn State, meanwhile, typically finds a training location near the bowl site to hold several practices before heading to the bowl site.

The Lions' bowl trips typically last about two weeks.

"My freshman year, I used to say, ‘Why are we practicing so much?'" defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu said. "But as a senior, you realize how many games we've won at our bowl site and you realize we’re going down there to work. Those two weeks, it’s there for us to get better.

"I love it now. I love going down there early and getting that moxie about ourselves. We're coming there to work and prove everybody wrong."

Penn State held several practices earlier this month before final exams. Paterno then allowed players to return home for several days before the trip to Florida.

Once the team reassembles in Clearwater, the focus turns to football.

"Coach Paterno really knows what he’s doing in situations like this," quarterback Matt McGloin said. "But he also believes that it's a bowl trip, you’re down there to have some fun, too. He does a great job of getting us in practice, getting us in the film room and also giving us some free time to see the city and stuff like that.

"It really is a nice team trip."

An extra week in the sun hasn't deterred Penn State from the ultimate goal of the trip. The plan is working, and Paterno's record 24 bowl victories serves as proof.

"People might look at it and say, 'Oh, that’s hurting you guys because you’re down there on a vacation for two weeks,'" senior guard Stefen Wisniewski said. "But when you look at the fact that our coach has the most bowl wins ever, that argument’s kind of crushed."