Room to Improve After Opening Win

Nittany Lions anything but comfortable after a sloppy opening victory over Akron. But it was not all bad news for Penn State on this wet day at Beaver Stadium, as the passing game helped make up for the mistakes.

Despite having a comfortable lead late in Penn State's 34-16 win over Akron, senior offensive lineman Levi Brown was not happy.

The Nittany Lions were in a short-yardage situation in the fourth quarter when sophomore quarterback Anthony Morelli handed the ball to Tony Hunt. After a minimal gain, Brown ripped off his helmet and jawed at the offense for failing to open holes in the running game.

“Words of encouragement,” Brown said with a grin.

Penn State rushed the ball for 76 yards on 27 carries. Special teams miscues and turnovers were also an issue.

Coming into Saturday's season opener, the Nittany Lions had to replace four starters on the offensive line, with Brown, a preseason All-American, the lone returning starter.

“They got their ears kicked in,“ Penn State coach Joe Paterno said afterward.

Meanwhile, PSU turned the ball over twice: once on a kickoff return by freshman A.J. Wallace where he had gotten to midfield and again on a fumbled handoff between Hunt and Morelli.

The field goal kicking unit also had trouble. Penn State was winning 10-0 with over eight minutes left in the second quarter when it faked the kick and holder Jason Ganter headed for the right edge. He slipped for a loss of four on the play.

With the Lions up 17-3 in the final minute of the first half, Ganter couldn't handle the snap and was promptly brought down by several Akron defenders.

But it wasn't all bad.

The wet afternoon did little to hamper the debut of Morelli, who went 16 of 32 for 206 yards with three touchdowns. On the first pass of the year, he connected on a 42-yard touchdown with Deon Butler at 10:02 in the first quarter. Jordan Norwood had a career-high seven catches for 61 yards and the team's second touchdown on a crossing pattern in the second quarter.

Sophomore receiver Derrick Williams grabbed a 20-yard touchdown pass as he ran a swing pattern out of the backfield for Penn State's third touchdown.

The offensive line held together for pass protection, as it did not allow a sack.

“I thought it was phenomenal,” Morelli said.

Senior linebacker Paul Posluszny saw his first live game action since a hit by Lorenzo Booker in the fourth quarter of the Orange Bowl took him out of the game. He recorded seven tackles. Junior outside linebacker Dan Connor led the defense with 13 stops.

Sean Lee, who replaced Posluszny in the Orange Bowl, saw significant playing time. Penn State showcased a 3-4 during the opening series and used it throughout the game. In several passing situations, Penn State used just two down linemen and loaded up with five men in the secondary.

“That kid [Luke Getsy] is a clever quarterback,” Paterno said. “We figured we were going to need an extra guy.”

Penn State brought four new starters into the secondary, with mixed results. Corners Justin King and Tony Davis struggled stopping the run and short-yardage passing situations, but safeties Anthony Scirrotto and Nolan McCready had interceptions.

Defensive tackle Jay Alford, who had a sack, graded the team's performance a C+, but Brown, when asked how much better the offensive line has to get before a trip to Notre Dame next weekend, was more critical.

“Something around 100 percent better,” Brown said.


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