"If I had my way, on a day like today, we wouldn't practice," he said. "But I don't know how to turn all these people away."
For the second year in a row, the Nittany Lions' spring scrimmage took place in miserable weather. Last year, a persistent drizzle reduced attendance to a hardy band of poncho-clad survivors. This year, rain, fog, wind and chilly temperatures forced many in the estimated crowd of 18,000 to take shelter underneath the upper decks in both end zones.
Those who either braved the elements or subscribe to a cable system that carried the game were treated to an afternoon of encouraging football from a team that has many questions to answer heading into the 2006 season.
One of Penn State's big question marks going into spring practice likely starting quarterback Anthony Morelli looked impressive right from the start, performing efficiently despite the dreadful field conditions.
On the first drive of the game, Morelli hit Jordan Norwood in stride as the sophomore receiver sprinted down the right hash mark, resulting in a 36-yard gain. It was the first of several formidable throws by Morelli, who attempted only 33 passes in his first two seasons of eligibility.
I thought I did all right, said the junior quarterback, whose Blue team defeated the White, 17-0. You can always do better, but the spring went well. I [developed] timing with the receivers and the line blocked great.
Morelli certainly appeared to have a good rapport with Norwood. Later in the first quarter, the two hooked up for a 31-yard gain to the White 2-yard line. Norwood finished with eight catches for 154 yards, both game highs.
Morelli had an impressive stat line of his own: 13 completions in 16 attempts for 191 yards and no interceptions. His arm looked every bit as strong as advertised. The only real blemish was a fumble at the White goal line in the first quarter, on which he appeared to fall prey to the slick field conditions.
The effort apparently didn't come as much of a surprise to Paterno. Speaking before the game, the veteran coach expressed satisfaction with his quarterback's showing throughout the off-season drills.
I thought Morelli had a really good spring, Paterno said. As did Paul [Cianciolo]. That was one area we tried to emphasize coming into the spring. We felt we had a lot of talented skill people, some people who can really run in the secondary, and the wideouts, so we tried to emphasize that and put Anthony through a lot of tough situations to get him ready for what might happen in the fall. It sounds like I'm writing a poem to them, but both of those kids, I thought they did very well.
Paterno was also happy with the performance this spring of Rodney Kinlaw, saying the third-teamer and Red Worrell Award winner has a chance to be a really good tailback. Penn State's backfield has been in flux with Tony Hunt coming back from an ankle injury and Scott suffering a knee injury in practice. Scott's condition was thought to be serious enough to threaten his availability this fall, but Paterno said he probably could have played today if I pushed him.
We're fortunate we have three good tailbacks, Paterno continued. I think we have three kids who can play.
The Lions also might have filled at least one of their vacancies on defense with the emergence of Jim Shaw at defensive end. The senior had an impressive Blue-White Game with two tackles for loss among his four total tackles, including 1.5 sacks. Paterno lauded Shaw, a transfer from Rice, in his pregame remarks.
But the Lions didn't accomplish everything they wanted this spring. Paterno said the defensive tackle position opposite Shaw remains unsettled.
We probably have three or four guys who have potential who have to understand what it's going to take, he said.
Paterno also said the Nittany Lions didn't get as much done in the kicking game as he had hoped. Starting place-kicker Kevin Kelly and punter Jeremy Kapinos are established in their positions, but the Lions still haven't decided who will be returning kicks and punts, nor did they devote much time to coverage issues.
We didn't get a lot of things done that we wanted to get done in some areas, Paterno said. But not because of a lack of effort by the players.
Derrick Williams looked sharp in his first game action since his left arm was broken at Michigan last October. The sophomore receiver caught three passes for 58 yards and carried once for 17 yards. He also threw two passes in the third quarter. The first landed in Norwood's arms for a 6-yard gain. Then he got greedy, looking deep downfield for Deon Butler. The ball fell incomplete. It was supposed to be a short pass, Williams said. But I got into the huddle and said, 'Forget all that, I'm throwing the ball today.'
Senior offensive tackle Levi Brown did not dress for the Blue-White Game. He did not scrimmage much this spring after the coaching staff decided he didn't need the work.
Brown and linebacker Paul Posluszny were named team captains.
It has now rained on five of the past six Blue-White Saturdays.
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