Pregame Intel: Penn State Nittany Lions

Lots of storylines here: Oldest Coach vs Youngest Coach, First year QB vs First Year QB, improving defense vs improving defense, and both teams coming off a 3 Interception loss, that they feel they could have won. NU Starts the Big 10 2006 season in Happy Valley, looking to beat the Nittany Lions of Penn State...

Poor JoePa:
He had to leave the Ohio State game in the 2nd quarter because he had the flu. His lions are 2-2, they've lost to two national powers on TV, Notre Dame and Ohio State, by some fairly lopsided scores. [41-17 and 28-6]. His bout with the flu, and the OSU loss have raised questions about his future in Happy Valley.

Then he gets slammed by a safety and tight end [2 guys] during practice, goes horizontal in the air and lands flat on the ground.

According to Guido D'Elia, PSU's director of communications, he then got up, dusted himself off resumed practice
Everyone, the players included, just gaped. And this guy just brushed himself off and finished practice.-- [USA Today]
But this is a game full of "meetings with meanings."
A first year coach - the youngest in Div IA - takes on a head coaching legend, the oldest, 80 year old Joe Paterno - you know a guy who had a whole bunch of wins before Pat Fitzgerald was born.

But more than that, one of Fitz's position coaches, Ron Vanderlinden, is now the LB coach of the Nittany Lions.

Then there's the "meeting" of two 2-2 teams possibly breaking in first year QBs [Mike Kafka or Andrew Brewer vs Anthony Morelli - right]. Both starters had interception problems last week - both were picked for 3.

Both teams are showing a little strength on defense [the meeting of two Linebacker U's ?].

Its also a meeting of two pretty good running backs - NU's Tyrell Sutton and PSU's Tony Hunt.

The problem with PSU's last game?

Turnovers in the 4th quarter. Sound familiar?
This club has been really easy to coach," Paterno said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. They have been easy. They listen. They're trying and they just have to play.

They have had two tough football games to play on the road. They have come close, but it hasn't been good enough. I really don't have any problems with the team outside that we have to get better. Nobody is saying, 'Why don't we do this, why don't we do that?' They go out there, go to work and try to get it done.
And Dan Connor told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette];
"We matured by playing these games. Having that experience under our belts goes so far."

Offense
They're led by a first year QB Tony Morelli - but the real power so far appears to be elsewhere in the backfield...

10 Lions, led by senior RB Tony Hunt [left], average 191 yards per game rushing compared to Morelli's 163+ ypg passing. Hunt is the rushing leader with 135 yds on 24 carries against OSU, he's averaging just under 100 yds per game, and 5.7 per carry
"If it wasn't for him, who knows where we'd be? He was running the ball great; he kept us in this game," Anthony Morelli said [Daily Collegian]
For one thing, PSU fans would be yelling for backup QB Daryll Clark more, altho they are already, but Morelli takes it all in stride because [according to his father] ....
Anthony thinks he's better than everybody," Greg Morelli said [Collegian], "and he's eventually going to show people that."
But Morelli also admitted he didn't make enough plays, and at times threw too hard or behind the receivers.

But don't lay it all on the QB - the Lions play calling was questioned - too much running and short passing, especially on short yardage plays and a poor FG kicking game added to the Lion's woes against the #1 Buckeyes.

You can count on JoePa and his offensive guys to work on fixing Morelli's passing game, and adjusting the play calling to use his long ball potential.

Defense
Anchored by the linebackers and led by Paul Posluszny [right], the Lions have 6 interceptions, but only one QB hurry. They have 128 yards on tackles for loss however.

Still, the PSU defense is getting good reviews, especially from NU Coach Pat Fitzgerald. So far their D has allowed just 328 yards rushing and 731 yards passing, total in 4 games.

Cornerback Justin King picked the Buck's Ted Ginn and with 3 tackles, helped shut down the potent OSU offense. Also mentioned in stories were LB Dan Connor, LB Sean Lee and DT Ed Johnson.

Special Teams
Good Punting - senior Jeremy Kapinos has a 50.5 yard per punt average.

Bad Field Goal Kicking - Soph Kevin Kelly has had a few problems, especially last week [2 misses]

Injuries:
Only one reported; RB A. Scott  who is reported day to day with an ankle injury.

Overall:
Both sets of "cats" are coming off a loss where they feel they should have won. For the Wildcats....
Last game, we definitely shot ourselves in the foot a lot by turning the ball over, but I felt everybody opened up and starting playing Northwestern football the way [it] should be,' wide receiver Shaun Herbert said [Sun-Times].
Manwhile, in Happy Valley - Talking about last week's loss to the Buckeyes, Senior RB Tony Hunt had this to say....
Minus a few plays -- I know it's kind of fake to take out a few plays. That's hypocritical -- but you take away a few plays, and we played a good football game. [Daily Collegian] We've got to win the rest of them, Tight End Kevin Darling said [Pittsburgh Post Gazette]. That's our mind-set. We have to go 8-0. That's the way we feel. We have two setbacks. We have to put them behind us and move on.
And this from the PSU Coach Joe Paterno...
We just haven't been able to put the ball in the end zone because of mistakes we have made, Paterno said [Sports Illustrated]

I just told them, `Hey, keep your heads up. We played a good, solid football game and couldn't make a couple of plays and they did.

We killed ourselves...
Sounds familiar, right?

What the Cats Have to Do:
  • Take the Ball away - they had 3 interceptions last week. Our D keeps talking about causing turnovers.
  • Don't Give the Ball Away - we had 3 interceptions last week.
  • Whichever QB Starts for NU, we have to generate offense through the air - the Nittany Lions have a long tradition of shutting down the run.

  • TV - ABC - Mark Jones (play-by-play), David Norrie (analyst) and Stacey Dales (sideline)
  • Radio - It will be on WGN, Dave Eanet and Ted Albrecht, WNUR, and XM Satellite
We'll be chatting at the same spot


Purple Wildcats Top Stories

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