Saturday's Keys

For the second straight Saturday, the Notre Dame football team will be tested, as No. 19 Penn State comes to town this weekend. The fourth-ranked Irish will have to play a complete game against the Nittany Lions in order to walk away 2-0.

Here are the keys to the game.

Eliminate the penalties and mental mistakes from week one's 14-10 victory over Georgia Tech: Eleven penalties, dropped passes and failing to pick up the blitz will result in a loss this week, as Penn State is a better football team than the Yellow Jackets. Nine penalties on offense and dropped passes killed several potential scoring drives. If the Irish are able to eliminate the miscues, protect Brady Quinn and hold onto the football, the offense should have no problems posting 30-plus on the scoreboard against a unit with seven new starters.

Get a lot of pressure on Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli: This should be the game the Notre Dame defensive line busts out and gets four or five sacks. All the hard work the Irish put towards the pass rush during spring and fall camps should pay off. The Nittany Lions had to replace four starters along the offensive line. The sophomore Morelli didn't deal with any pressure during his first career start, a 34-16 home victory over Akron last Saturday. The Irish need to fluster the youngster and force him into making quick bad decisions. If Morelli is able to get the ball into the hands of his speedy receivers, the Irish could be in trouble.

Do not let running back Tony Hunt get rolling: If the Nittany Lions are able to pound their senior all afternoon, that means the game is close, the ball is kept away from the Irish offense and the game is taken out of Morelli's hands. The Irish want Morelli to beat them, not Hunt who is close to rushing for 2,000 yards in his collegiate career. Behind the inexperienced offensive line, Hunt only rushed for 36 yards on 14 carries, including a five-yard touchdown against Akron. However, the Zips played with eight guys in the box most of the afternoon. Notre Dame's personnel is better and they won't load up against the run. Not only will the defensive line have to put constant pressure on Morelli, but they need to eliminate Hunt and the Penn State running game.

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Penn State 17: The team everyone was expecting to see last week against Georgia Tech shows up Saturday for the home opener.

Offensive MVP: Brady Quinn (I promise I won't always pick him): Quinn bounces back from throwing zero touchdowns in game one to tossing four this week. The Heisman candidate threw for nearly 350 yards per game at home last season.

Defensive MVP: Ambrose Wooden: Morelli, feeling the constant pressure from the defensive line, will toss a couple interceptions. Wooden will be the benefactor of those while also being all over the field to make tackles. Remember, he was the team's top returning tackler heading into the season.


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