College football players are taught that the games are the focal point. It's what they do all week, build to a crescendo for Saturday.

When the real world intrudes, it's difficult to put the distractions in a box, go out on a field and keep score.

But that's precisely what Penn State's players plan on doing.

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"You have to. I mean, what are we going (to do), come out and lose all of our games because of this?" offensive tackle Chima Okoli said Wednesday. "You know what I mean? At the end of the day, you have to own up as a man and take care of responsibilities, and that's what we're going to do."

In the midst of a scandal revolving around a former assistant coach having sex with young boys - and the cover-up that followed - Penn State's players will try to put aside a world of distractions and play a game against Nebraska on Saturday.

Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions' coach since 1966, told the players in a team meeting on Wednesday that he would step down at the end of the year. He was fired a few hours later.

"He just said that he was proud of us and that ... he didn't want us to get caught up in this," defensive end Jack Crawford, a St. Augustine Prep graduate, said in a televised interview with ESPN. "He felt like it was unfair that ... we had to go through a lot of this because of off-the-field issues. And he thinks that we've worked hard up to this point."

Other administrators and coaches are likely to be cut loose as well.

The players, meanwhile, will do their jobs. That means to play games at home against Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin over the next three weekends.

Linebacker Glenn Carson, a Southern Regional High School graduate, also plays for the Nittany Lions.

Crawford, Carson and the rest of the Nittany Lions were left to try to figure it all out while hanging on to some sense of normalcy by following their weekly routine of practice leading up to a game. Although there will not be much normal or routine about anything from now on.

"It is difficult, obviously," safety Drew Astorino said. "We'd much rather not have to deal with these distractions and just focus on the team and focus on this game. But this is something we have to do."

He has no worries that the Nittany Lions will come undone from a week of allegations, admissions and embarrassments.

"I think we're going to be OK on the field," Astorino said. "I love playing with these players, I trust these players, I care about these players more than I care about anybody right now. I think we're going to come together as a unit, as a group of guys, as we have done so far throughout a tough week. Saturday, that's exactly what we'll need to do and what we'll be able to do."

On his Twitter account, Nittany Lions quarterback Matt McGloin tried to compartmentalize the crazy things happening outside the locker room.

"i do not expect this dilema to alter our level of focus and accountability. Last home game of the year!! lets do it," he wrote.

Under normal circumstances, this had the makings of a happy weekend in Happy Valley. The 12th-ranked Nittany Lions, usually the pride of the campus, are having a banner year at 8-1 overall and leading the Big Ten's Leaders Division with a 5-0 record. This is Nebraska's first trip to State College as a member of the Big Ten. The game also marks Senior Day, the final home game.

On Tuesday, while fighting through a mob of reporters to drive his father to Penn State's practice, Scott Paterno was asked how the coaching icon was feeling.

"He's getting ready for a football game!" he said, exasperated.

Okoli said the responsibility to regroup lies with the kids, not the adult coaches. He said he and his teammates would have to make the best of a bad situation.

"In times like this, where you have outside distractions, all we can do is come together," he said. "All we have is each other."

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