Amid upheaval, No. 20 PSU 1 win from title game

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STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - Penn State receiver Derek Moye is trying to ignore questions from outsiders. Safety Drew Astorino has leaned on his family for support.

Yet for all the anger, tears and upheaval in Happy Valley following child sex abuse charges more than two weeks ago against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the 20th-ranked Nittany Lions find themselves in a remarkable position entering Saturday’s regular-season finale at No. 15 Wisconsin.

One win secures Penn State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) the Leaders Division title and a berth in the inaugural conference championship game.

“I was in the equipment room the other day and some of the players were asking the equipment managers how they were doing,” interim coach Tom Bradley said Tuesday at Beaver Stadium. The players “are more concerned with how we’re doing. They’re a resilient group. They’ve stuck together. They’ve unified from this.”

Sticking with a team-first message, the Nittany Lions have vowed to try to block out the distractions and media frenzy that has enveloped Penn State since Sandusky was charged Nov. 5.

Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno was fired four days later by school trustees _ he had announced his retirement hours earlier and bid farewell to his team in an emotional meeting _ and Bradley was picked to replace him. Paterno faced pressure from the state’s top cop and university trustees for not having done more about a 2002 abuse allegation allegedly witnessed by a graduate assistant in the team showers than pass on the report to his superior.

The graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, is now the receivers coach but on administrative leave. Paterno has said specific details alleged to have occurred in a grand jury report about the Sandusky investigation were not relayed to him. Prosecutors have said Paterno isn’t a target of a state investigation.

In the aftermath of Sandusky’s arrest, the trustees, federal Department of Education and the NCAA have all said they are launching their own investigations.

Another shocker came last Friday, when Paterno’s son, quarterback coach Jay Paterno, told Bradley on the team plane on the way to Ohio State that the 84-year-old Paterno had been diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer. Bradley said he hasn’t spoken to his former boss since the diagnosis.

“He wants us focusing on going to school and going to class,” right tackle Chima Okoli said. “He doesn’t want anyone going back to him. He doesn’t want any sympathy.”

Astorino’s family, including uncles and cousins, has helped guide him through this stormy period. He and the other current players have been caught by a scandal involving accusations that have nothing to do with them. Sandusky retired in 1999.

“I know my parents have been there, especially the last couple weeks,” said Astorino, a senior. “I’ve had more support than I’ve ever had.”

Nearly everyone Moye has encountered on campus wants to talk about the situation. He tunes out their questions.

“As far as being on the players’ minds, it’s not a big deal for us going out there,” Moye said. “We have goals that we set at the beginning of the year.”

One of those goals was winning the Big Ten championship. Back in the preseason, long before the program descended into turmoil, that idea seemed a little far-fetched.

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