Get answers to some pressing questions as Penn State gets ready to face the Midshipmen after a difficult 0-2 start to the season.

It's an understatement to say the Penn State football team has had a challenge 2012. And with the squad facing an 0-2 record as its turns its attention to Navy, there are growing questions on a variety of fronts. We turned to several program observers to get the inside perspective.

What's the general mood of the team?

"All things considered it's OK," one observer said. "The players are upset, frustrated, (ticked) — however you want to put it. But the coaches are challenging them to show what kind of people they are. They're telling them they know what they are made of and can pull it all together."

According to another observer, "I think this team is a pretty mature one. They're focused on fixing the issues. I think a lot of the problems in the Ohio game were fixed last week (at Virginia) and they are continuing that. A lot of that attitude comes from these coaches, though. There is a tremendous work ethic with this crew."

How is Bill O'Brien handling the situation?

"The guy is tough as nails," an observer said. "If you understand what he's been through with his son — he points to that and says, 'this is nothing.' He gets that he has a big job to do and he's committed to that. I think he's put a lot of the burden on himself, which isn't really fair, but that's the type of guy he is."

As another explained, "He's trying to get it together for [the team], but he's running uphill pulling a 200-pound sled behind him. He's been putting in even more hours (in the office). I think he feels the team is close and really should have won Saturday. He was really pleased with the final drive."

What's the focus been on with regard to field goals?

"They have been getting a ton of repetition in on every aspect — snap, hold and kicks," an observer said.

"A lot of these issues end up being mental, too," another said. "The players and staff have really supported (Sam) Ficken through this. There was certainly some frustration among players, but the staff snuffed that out pretty quickly."

Ficken, who missed four of five field goals and had an extra point blocked in the 17-16 loss to Virginia, is still THE man at kicker. In Wednesday's practice, he made five of five attempts during the period where the team worked on field goals.

How is the defense working to prepare for Navy's triple option?

"The players have been working several aspects of the coverage schemes since late preseason," an observer said. "A lot of it comes down to discipline. That is what they are focused on — 'trusting the guys next to you.' So, it's a change, but the staff has had an eye on this curve ball for a while."

According to another observer, "It's speed and discipline. They want to corral the ball to the sideline and leverage the linebackers. But everyone has to stick in their lanes, so it's a different mindset that they have been working on."

What has led to the defense's third-down issues?

"There's been a lot of debate," one observer explained. "Pulling back the pressure (on third down) had a lot of guys confused. It seems that they were trying to give the offense a different look, but it really gave them an opportunity. (The staff has) had some spirited discussions over the past few weeks about it."

Why the move of Paul Jones from QB to TE?

"P.J.'s got size and is athletic," an observer said. "It's a combination of wanting to get him into a role he can contribute and feeling that Steven Bench is a guy who could really grow and adapt to the offense quickly." Observers believe O'Brien was prepared to get Bench into action in short order, but was not planning to do it at Virginia.

Jones will continue to get reps at quarterback and will have some packages in the offense, but on the whole the staff has had him working with the tight ends to understand the scheme and position. He has also worked with the wideouts in practice to hone his pass-catching skills.

One observer said Jones "has been a big team player with this (move)." Another said, "His attitude has really impressed everyone so far."

As for Bench's showing in limited snaps when starting QB McGloin was out?

"(Bench) showed a lot in that game and (O'Brien) came away impressed, particularly given the situation he was thrown into. He's numbers were not great, but he showed he can see the field and make decisions. I think it's a different opinion among everyone if Allen Robinson catches that touchdown pass (that he dressed)."


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