Preview: Notre Dame at Penn State

Notre Dame will try to bounce back from a tough game this weekend. The Irish will face another tough challenge as they match up with the Penn State Nittany Lions. IrishEyes takes a look at this weekends game.

 Notre Dame vs. Penn St.
Fighting Irish   Nittany Lions
Saturday, September 8th
Beaver Stadium, State College, PA.
6:00 EDT

 If you were surprised that Notre Dame lost to Georgia Tech in the opener, you shouldn't have been. Frankly, it just wasn't a good match-up for a young Irish offense. Now the manner in which they lost, was a surprise. Still there is no reason to walk the plank. After reading some of the message boards, there are 'fans' out there that should be embarrassed by their behavior. Folks, its a football football game. Notre Dame didn't have a good game plan. They didn't execute, but the Notre Dame coaches found out an awful lot about their team on Saturday. Hopefully that will translate into something this weekend against Penn State.

Penn State is a much better match-up for Notre Dame than Georgia Tech was. It will be difficult to walk out of State College with a win, but you should see a better performance out of the Irish this weekend. In week one, Penn State rolled up a big win over Florida International, 59-0. FIU began it's Division I football program all the way back in 2002. FIU is 15-42 since that point and last season they finished 0-12. I believe 13 of their 15 wins have come against non Division I football programs. they may not have any wins against DI teams, I just keep forgetting if Louisiana-Monroe is a DI program.

Notre Dame fans could learn something from Penn State's 2006 season. Notre Dame pounded Penn State last season. The Nittany Loins ended up getting off the mat and finishing 9-4, with a win over Tennessee in a bowl. Everyone should have known that there would be ugly moments for the Irish this season, unfortunately several of them came in the first game. 

Penn State On Offense:

PSU Offense '07 Rank Per Game ND Defense '07 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense #29 236.00 Rushing Defense #103 265.00
Pass Offense #13 313.00 Pass Defense #22 121.00
Pass Eff. #30 149.27 Pass Eff. #29 88.15
Total Offense #12 549.00 Total Defense #77 386.00
Scoring Offense #5 59.00 Scoring Defense #89 33.00

Anticipated Depth Chart.

  Anthony Morelli, Sr. 38-23-295 3/0 60.5
  Daryll Clark, So.* 2-2-18 0/0 100.0

Most college football fans know the knock on Morelli (6-4, 231 pounds) is that he has a tough time reading defenses and he gets flustered as the game wears on. Although he did play well in the Outback Bowl against Tennessee and in the opener against FIU, he is only one bad throw away from slipping back into the shaky QB most have seen. Morelli has a solid arm and he is just mobile enough to avoid the initial rush. Overall last season Morelli completed 208 of 386 passes for 2,424 yards (53.9 completion percentage and 186.5 yards per game). He threw 11 touchdowns against eight interceptions. 

Daryll Clark (6-2, 232 pounds) is a solid back-up and might do a terrific job leading Penn State once Morelli moves on. He's a thick kid with a solid arm. He can run as well as he can throw. good athlete. When he came into the ND game last year, he lead the Nittany Lions' offense on a well orchestrated 83-yard drive for a touchdown.

  RB Hgt/Wgt Att - Yards - TDs
  Austin Scott, 5th. 6-0, 212 11-47, 2 TDs
  Rodney Kinlaw, 5th 5-9, 199 8-67 1 TD
  Evan Royster, RS-Fr. 6-1, 211 8-70 1 TD

Austin Scott has been slowed by injuries almost his entire career. He missed the entire 2006 season with an ankle injury, although it is as likely that Paterno held him out last season, so Scott could play this year. Scott has 1,021 career rushing yards and 10 TDs. He probably had his most impressive game of his career against Florida State in the Orange Bowl after the 2005 season. He's a solid runner, but he isn't going to carry a team. He needs his line to block well for him to have a solid day.

Rodney Kinlaw is your career back-up tailback. This is the reason Paterno wanted to have Scott in the backfield...because there weren't many other options. Kinlaw did have 37 yards on seven carries against the Irish last season, but the damage had already been done and the game was in hand. Kinlaw is a special teams player, and a third-down college running back. If he's doing damage to the Irish defense, ND is in trouble.

Evan Royster is probably the most dangerous runner on the Nittany Lion roster. He has good speed and he's elusive. Royster had an impressive game against FIU, where he raced for 80 yards on seven carries. Notre Dame recruited Royster out of high school, but Evan ended up in State College.

  FB Hgt/Wgt Att-Yards
  Matt Hahn, Sr. 6-0, 235  - -
  Dan Lawlor, RS-Jr. 6-2, 239 5 -27, 1 TDs

Matt Hahn isn't going to 'Wow' anyone with his ball carrying skills, but he is as solid of a fullback as you will find. He isn't overly powerful, but he is an outstanding blocker in both the running and passing game. He can get the tough yard if needed and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. 

Dan Lawlor would probably be playing at almost any other school, but Hahn has kept Lawlor on the sideline in the past and he will likely do so this year as well.

  WR Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Derrick Williams, Jr. 6-0, 189  4 rcpts/31 yds/0 TDs
  Deon Butler, RS-Jr. 5-10, 170  3 rcpts/66 yds/0 TDs
  Jordan Norwood, Jr. 5-10, 164  5 rcpts/92 yds/0 TD
  Terrell Golden, 5th 6-3, 212  2 rcpts/9 yds/1 TD
  Brett Brackett, RS-Fr. 6-6, 243   - - -

Derrick Williams is a very good receiver, but he never got on track against Notre Dame last season. Williams finished with three catches for 12 yards. Paterno tried to get him involved by allowing him to attempt an end-around pass. The only thing Williams earned out of that play was a facemask full of turf courtesy of Irish safety Chinedum Ndukwe. A candidate for the Biletnikoff Award this year, Williams will have a target on his back this season, and in order to be successful he'll need the other receivers to step up their game. His 40 receptions for only 440 yards and one touchdown last season are more of a reflection of the inconsistent play at quarterback than they are of his ability.

Deon Butler is a nice player, but there is a considerable drop-off in talent from Derrick Williams. Butler is an effort guy. He is a former walk-on that has earned a scholarship, and has now led the Nittany Lions in receiving for the past two seasons. He really isn't a guy that will hurt you deep, but you can't forget about him either. Butler will do most of his work underneath and then break through the secondary if you don't get on him. Butler was held to two receptions and 14 yards last year against the Irish. Overall in 2006 he had 48 receptions for 637 yards and two touchdowns.

Jordan Norwood is just about the same type of player that Butler is. He's smallish, with very good hands and the ability to nickel and dime a defense. Last season he had 45 receptions for 472 yards and two touchdowns. Agains the Irish Norwood had 6 receptions for 91 yards. 

Terrell Golden, Chris Bell, James McDonald, and Brett Brackett are the supporting cast. Bell was a big-time high school player and the Irish offered him. He has very good speed... he's silky smooth with soft hands. The Irish nearly had McDonald on the roster, but Notre Dame fired Tyrone Willingham.

  TE Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Mickey Shuler, RS-So. 6-4, 250  4 rcpts/54 yds/ 1 TDs
  Jordan Lyons, 5th. 6-5, 241  - -
  Brennan Coakley, RS-So. 6-4, 255  - -

Mickey Shuler has good size, but he's been more of a fullback than a tight end. He's a solid blocker, but probably won't cause the Irish too many headaches.  Returning starter Andrew Quarless was suspended 'indefinitely' by Paterno prior to the season, leaving a hole at tight end.

Jordan Lyons is a career back-up and a former high school quarterback. He has very limited experience. Brennan Coakley is behind Lyons. Neither player should be much of a factor.

  Offensive Line Hgt/Wgt Experience
  LT Gerald Cadogan, RS-Jr. 6-5, 309 18 Starts
  LG Lou Eliades, RS-Fr. 6-4, 304 18 starts/ Limited Exp
  C A.Q. Shipley, RS-Jr. 6-1, 293 18 Starts
  RG John Shaw, 5th 6-4, 299 26 Starts
  RT Dennis Landolt, RS-So. 6-4, 300 28 Starts

The offensive line has most of the returning starters back, but that isn't always a good thing. While they all have playing experience, they did struggle to establish the running game at times last season. the loss of Levi Brown will hurt the line overall. Cadogan supposedly is ready, but FIU wasn't a good test. Lou Eliades surprisingly passed returning starter Rich Ohrnberger (6-2, 289 pounds).

Although Shaw and Landolt are returning starters, they really only held their starting spots for stretches last season. What will help Notre Dame is that I don't think this is a big powerful line, then again, neither was Georgia Tech. Still, I think Penn State will have trouble establishing the run and they will eventually need to protect Morelli.

PSU On Defense:

PSU Defense '06 Rank Per Game ND Offense '06 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense #2 -3.00 Rushing Offense #113 -8.00
Pass Defense #19 117.00 Pass Offense #94 130.00
Pass Eff. #25 84.00 Pass Eff. #64 117.84
Total Defense #3 114.00 Total Offense #110 122.00
Scoring Defense #1 0.0 Scoring Offense #104 3.00

Anticipated Depth Chart. 

  Defensive Line Hgt/Wgt Stats
  DE Josh Gaines, RS-Jr. 6-1, 265  2 tackles/ 0 sacks
  LT Jared Odrick, So. 6-5, 295  3 tackles/ 1.0 sacks
  RT Chris Baker, RS-So. 6-2, 298  2 tackles/ 1.0 sacks
  DE Aaron Maybin, RS-Fr. 6-4, 251  2 tackles/ 1.0 sacks

Josh Gaines is the lone returning starter from last season and along with Odrick, Baker, and Maybin got the start against FIU, and did a solid job, but Notre Dame should be ready to see a full rotation of Maurice Evans (6-2, 257,So), Phil Taylor (6-4, 335, So.), Ollie Ogbu (6-1, 287, So) and Jerome Hayes (6-2, 236, RS-So)

This is a unit the young Irish line should be able to match up against. They aren't particularly powerful, or athletic and frankly they're young and inexperienced. Notre Dame should be able to establish the run and then settle into a balanced attack, something they never did against Georgia Tech. 

  Linebackers Hgt/Wgt  Stats
  SLB Tyrell Sales, 5th 6-2, 236  3 tackles
  MLB Dan Connor, So. 6-3, 237  5 tackles/ 1.0 TFLs/1 sck
  WLB Sean Lee, Jr. 6-2, 232  7 tackles/ 2.0 TFLs/1 sck

Tyrell Sales, Dan Connor and Sean Lee are a very solid group of linebackers and they'll be charged with the responsibility of backing the young and inexperienced defensive front. Connor is probably the best of the bunch. He's a complete player that is likely Penn State's best run stopper, best backer in pass defense and probably their best linebacker coming on the blitz and pressuring the passer. great instincts... he has everything.

Lee was overshadowed by Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor last season, but he can play. Last season Lee had 90 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. Like Connor, he's a complete player. 

Sales is the new guy, but he has plenty of playing experience and he can cover some ground. The top back-ups are Navorro Bowman (6-1, 230 pounds, RS-Fr) and Dontey Brown (6-2, 238 pounds, RS-Jr.) Both can play, but with the talent in front of them, they'll likely see little of the field unless either team is up big.

  Defensive Backs Hgt/Wgt  Stats
  CB Lydell Sargeant, Jr. 5-10, 190  39 tackles/ 1 INTs
  CB Justin King, Jr. 6-1, 200  39 tackles/ 2 INTs
  FS Tony Davis, RS-Jr. 5-10, 197  48 tackles/ 3 INTs
  SS Anthony Scirrotto, Jr. 6-0, 186  52 tackles/ 1 INTs

This is a talented group of that will likely live up to the preseason hype. Lydell Sargeant is lone question mark, and he's been impressive thus far in camp for the Nittany Lions. Sargeant is a converted wide receiver so he isn't long on experience. A.J Wallace will also see time, especially if the Irish are able to pick on Sargeant.

Justin King is supposed to be all-world, but the Irish weren't afraid to go at him last year. then again Notre Dame doesn't have Quinn, McKnight and Samaradzija on the roster. King is a year older and he'll likely shut down anything the Irish try to get going on his side.

Davis and Scirrotto have impressed a lot of people, but I'm still undecided about the duo. I don't think this unit isn't very deep either. They may shut ND down, but I'm not sure that indicates that they are an elite secondary. I think they are vulnerable, I'm just not sure ND is a team that can expose them.

Listen, the Georgia Tech game was last week against a team that was just a terrible match up for them. This week the Irish play a team that they match up much better with. I think the Notre Dame secondary can hold down Morelli and the Penn State receivers. The Irish offensive line will have a chance to get their feet against a inexperienced defensive front. Notre Dame will have a better gameplan this week. they will work to find a balanced attack regardless of who plays quarterback. On defense the Irish are facing a solid, but not powerful offensive line. Austin Scott and his mates aren't nearly as good as the back ND faced last week.

Despite that, I still think the Irish will have trouble winning this game. I'm not sure the defense can keep them in the game long enough for the offense to gain confidence. Last week's game didn't need to play out like it did. That is on the coaching staff. I place full responsibility on the staff this week as well. they dug the players a huge emotional hole to get out of, now they need to put the players in position to win.

Notre Dame 22 - Penn State 18 Top Stories