Since preseason camp began last month, the phrase has popped up throughout the program. Plastered on walls. Hung up in lockers. Repeated on the practice field.
So it came to be that the words ‚??CHARLIE MIKE‚?Ě were emblazoned on the wall of Penn State‚??s refurbished weight room. It‚??s a military saying that stands for ‚??continue mission.‚?Ě
It was the central theme of a speech that Navy SEAL and former Penn State player Rick Slater delivered to the Nittany Lions before the season began. And it‚??s something coaches and players continue to repeat as they try to rebound from an 0-2 start, headed into today‚??s game against Navy on Military Appreciation Day at Beaver Stadium.
Slater was enlisted for eight years before coming to Penn State in 1997 at age 28 to walk on to the team. After college, he returned to his career as a SEAL following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Penn State coach Bill O‚??Brien tabbed him to come back and talk to the team during preseason camp, part of a group of motivational speakers who spoke to the team.
Slater struck the biggest chord of all with players.
‚??That speech was just phenomenal,‚?Ě said Lions fullback P.J. Byers, a Navy dive specialist attending Penn State as part of the officer training program. ‚??I always wanted to meet him because I‚??d heard stories about him from the coaches. Me and him shared the same route how we got to Penn State. ‚?Ľ We related a lot on the same level.
‚??His speech, he gave me a copy and I keep it on my locker. I‚??d love to use it as an officer with my guys in the future.‚?Ě
The morale gained from the summer was put to the test this past week. The Lions gave up a late score and missed four field goals in a one-point loss to Virginia. Starting receiver Shawney Kersey left the team.
And with Navy being one of just two teams on the schedule that did not play in a bowl game this season, it‚??s an opportunity for a win that the Lions can‚??t afford to miss.
‚??So far we haven‚??t proved the critics wrong,‚?Ě senior cornerback Stephon Morris said. ‚??We‚??ve gotta do a better job as a whole. Getting off the field on third down. Finishing games. We always start off well. Then for some reason in the fourth quarter, we collapse.
‚??This Navy game can be a big confidence booster for us. Just so we can get some confidence and get things rolling.‚?Ě
The Midshipmen had an extra week to prepare for this one after opening the season with a game in Ireland, losing 50-10 to Notre Dame.
Penn State could have used some extra time themselves to get ready for a Navy offense that is unlike any other team they will face this year.
‚??I didn‚??t schedule Navy,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said with a laugh.
Though they threw the ball 19 times against Notre Dame because of the lopsided score, the Mids will stick to the ground for most of the game, running the triple option out of their ‚??flexbone‚?Ě scheme.
It‚??s something difficult to emulate in practice and defending it won‚??t apply much to the rest of the games this season.
‚??Navy is so good at what they do,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??They‚??re attacking your discipline and they‚??re attacking your toughness. ‚?Ľ It‚??s very difficult to practice it because you‚??re talking about cut blocks and triple-option and triple-option play-action. What we do is we get our (scout team) offense out there a little earlier and they run through the plays they‚??re going to run with our defense.
‚??So hopefully it‚??s executed when they come out for practice, and they can see a picture of what they‚??re doing. It‚??s a difficult team to play against.‚?Ě
Strategically, the Mids will look to grind the game out and run the clock. In their first two games, the Lions averaged 11.5 possessions on offense. O‚??Brien said they expect to only get eight or nine in today‚??s game, and have to plan accordingly.
Though quarterback Matt McGloin (elbow) is expected to be at or near 100 percent for the game ‚?? ‚??He‚??s a tough kid. He‚??s from Scranton,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said ‚?? the offense as a whole could be shorthanded.
Two starters in tailback Bill Belton (ankle) and left tackle Donovan Smith (foot) are not likely to play. Backup tailback Derek Day has limited in practice. Add in the departure of Kersey, and the Lions have some adjustments to make.
Navy at Penn State
TV: 3:30 p.m., today. ABC, WNEP-16
Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park.
Last Meeting: Navy defeated PSU 7-6 on Sept. 21, 1974.