Penn State's players have been going after it for a few days now, but the media corps is back at it full force after the bye week today. First order of business: A chat with a candid linebacker Nate Stupar.

Honestly, there wasn't much to discuss other than the big topic, which was how Penn State is going to respond after a disappointing start to the season and the fact that the team is going to have to get much better just to reach bowl eligibility.

Last week, the coaching staff eschewed the traditional first team blue jerseys and second team white jerseys during practice, opting to put every player in the same color. It was a sign that no job is safe, and the hope was that it raised the intensity in practice.

Here's what Stupar had to say about it all, including his views that the intensity wasn't where it needed to be during the first half of the season:

--Stupar started by detailing the last week and a half since the Illinois game for the team. They practiced a little last week, took the weekend off (many players opted to go home and visit family), and came back ready to work like a normal game week on Sunday.

"I thought we had some good, enthusiastic practices," Stupar said. "I think morale is up. We're just ready for the last six games, and we'll see where that takes us."

--Stupar said the difference between practices now and practices before the Illinois game is simple.

"More passion," he said.


"I think over the last few games, we lacked a little enthusiasm. We really focused on that the last few practices, coming out with attitude, a little swagger, really feeling blessed to go out there and play. ... Football is an emotional game. You have to bring that to have fun and do well. I think we finally realized that."

And from there, a whole new line of questioning obviously ensued...

--Injury-wise, the entire linebacking crew is back. That includes Gerald Hodges, who practiced yesterday and looked good, according to Stupar.

--Here's the question most had about the enthusiasm point: How can you work on that in practice? And really, where has it been the last six weeks? Stupar had some thoughts:

"I don't think there's much you can do to get someone emotionally up," he said. "All you can do is play it up and make players realize that. It's not anything (coaches) did, except point it out. Do this, or you're not going to get any better."

What started it all?

"Just how the season was going. People were feeling a little down and kind of lost -- How can I say it? -- lost their way, I suppose, of forgetting how football is a fun game. It's not fun to lose. Losing games, mistakes happening, it's not a good feeling."

"As players, we have to decide to come out, work hard and fix the problems," he continued. "People came here to play football. It's just about having the right mindset with the right passion."

--Stupar was asked about an evident lack of passion defensively against Illinois -- which was interesting, considering that just as easily could have been explained away by the sheer amount of injuries that hit the team that day. I mean, they were using a true freshman defensive tackle at defensive end, two freshmen at linebacker, a new safety, etc. If there was one area Penn State could have been cut some slack, it was the defense in the second half. Stupar kind of agreed with my take, saying passion wasn't the issue with the defense.

"Our part, on defense, is that we didn't execute," Stupar said. "I don't think it was heart or passion. It was just not executing what we practiced all week."

Which is understandable, considering the players on the field weren't the ones who got the most practice reps during the week.