Get an update from the practice field as Penn State prepares for this week's road action against Northwestern. We touch on the mood of the team, key injuries and some young players and more.
At 6-1, the overall mood of the Penn State
football squad is described as "generally good" and "high" by observers. The squad had practices on Monday and Tuesday, both of which were "at a pretty good clip" in terms of intensity. The squad is maintaining its "every game's a must-win" but "their confidence has gotten a shot."
The defense put in added film time on both its Purdue performance and on the Northwestern quarterbacks. "The staff made a point to review the gaps and breaks that let Purdue do some things [on offense]." The focus was on both Dan Persa and Kain Colter "who both can get out in space and move."
The front seven positions have focused on "containment" from the defensive ends and linebackers. As one observer said, "It's not just mobility, they are expecting a lot of short passes into the open gaps, there's been a heavy focus on that."
The defense has also worked scramble drills. The Boilermakers hurt the Lions off a couple of key scrambles, including one pass that went for a touchdown. There was no scramble drill work leading into that game.
There have been mentions around the program about the concept of "winning ugly." The staff and veterans are "just telling everyone winning is what matters, but also that they have to clean things up and sharpen their play."
In terms of the quarterback position, there is still growing frustration that a decision has not been made, but "I think we're at the point of reluctant acceptance."
As one observer explained, "Anyone can see that this is the setup they will stick with. No one is going to openly complain, aside from maybe Matt (McGloin), but it's sending the wrong message in my view."
Here are some notes from the practice sessions this week:
As noted earlier, the front seven have been focused on containment of the quarterback given the mobility of Persa and Colter — particularly Colter. To test them the staff has put freshman Bill Belton at quarterback on the scout team. "He's been good; he's got some nice misdirection that really has the [defensive] guys working."
The defense as a whole has put in additional work in the nickel given "the short passing game Pat [Fitgerald] likes to run." Safety Malcolm Willis has seen the bulk of nickel reps. This is similar to the approach the Lions took with Indiana.
As alluded to above, McGloin and Rob Bolden have continued splitting first-team reps. "It is what it is," one observer said.
Bolden has continued to show inconsistency with his short passing game and reading the rush. The coaches have him getting work in on "throwing on the run" and "overall timing" of his delivery.
McGloin was said to be complaining of possible concussion-like symptoms after the Purdue game. But he has practiced this week, according to head coach Joe Paterno. The coaches "spent time watching some of his forces against Purdue" and have put him in added situational sets to work his decision making.
With the tight ends, Kevin Haplea has seen an increase in his first-team work, although Andrew Szczerba has also continued to see work. "He's had a tough go lately, so I don't get the feeling they are applying a lot of pressure there."
While the staff was pleased with the offensive line after Iowa, they "lost some of that" against Purdue. The coaches "have worked them pretty hard this week."
Silas Redd and Curtis Dukes continue to see first-team work. Brandon Beachum has seen some reps as well. Although Stephfon Green made an appearances against Iowa and Purdue, the consensus among observers is that he's unlikely to get significant reps in the offense against the Wildcats, barring injuries. He is, however, seeing more and more action on special teams.
The linebacker lineup has seen action from Gerald Hodges, Glenn Carson, Nate Stupar and Khairi Fortt. It's not expected that the defensive coaches will "dial up a lot of pressure" against Northwestern, given "Persa's ability to step up and exploit the blitz with his feet or hit a screen or swing."
The staff is "playing it safe" with WR Derek Moye, who is still recovering from the foot injury sustained prior to Purdue. The sentiment seems to be that he may return now after the bye (for the Nov. 11 Nebraska game).
One aside, Mike Mauti recently had surgery on his knee and has started his rehab with that. He has not been around practice too much since that, but it said to be "in good spirits" and anxious to get back with the squad.