Nittany Notes: UW Q&A

The Nittany Lions are perparing for a stiff test against a single-loss Badger squad. Get some answers to questions about PSU's preparations for Wisconsin in what will be the final road game of the season.

With Penn State fighting for a New Year's Day bowl spot, the Lions are preparing to face a Wisconsin squad that has one loss this season and a No. 17 ranking. Questions continue to swirl about just what kind of team the 2006 version of Penn State is.

Is Dan Connor OK?

Rumors broke out earlier this week that Dan Connor was allegedly seen on campus with a brace or cast on his wrist. While we have not been able to confirm if he is actually injured, we can report that Dan Connor practiced Wednesday afternoon at full speed with the first team as expected.

Observers were unable to confirm that Connor is wearing a cast or has an injury, saying they were unaware of any problem or did not notice a cast on Connor.

As one observer told us, "He practiced like normal yesterday (Wedesday) and looked like he normally does. I didn't notice a cast or see anything that would indicate he had an injury. He was quick and aggressive in drills like he typically is."

What can we expect with the offensive line this week?

Coming off what many consider to be their best game of the season, the offensive line opened up 142 yards of runway for Tony Hunt this past week against Purdue.

"The line has seen the similar lineup as last week," one observer said, with the bulk of first team reps going to:

LT: Levi Brown
LG: Robert Price
C: A.Q. Shipley
RG: Rich Ohrnberger
LG: John Shaw

As the observer went on to explain, "Wisconsin's defensive front is not big but they are quick, so the [offensive] line has worked a lot on their footwork and picking up the speed blitz."

How has the defensive line prepared for the size of the Badger OL?

"There is no way of getting around the fact that Wisconsin's offensive line is flat out bigger than PSU's defensive front," an observer said. "The focus this week has been on leveraging the speed of the unit — making [it around] the corners and giving the opposing line an initial surge to create some break points in the line."

Individuals within the program feel this will be a major test for the defensive front. "All week the front four have worked on sharpness off the snap, making an initial punch and creating separation to get around the block."

Will the secondary have similar a game plan to last week's?

Against the Boilermakers, Penn State's defensive staff "pulled the defensive backs in tight" to pressure QB Curtis Painter and create some disruption in the passing attack. As one observer shared, "The secondary has continued the prep work they did against Purdue in practice this week. [John] Stocco is a smart passer, he doesn't make dumb mistakes. If the defensive line can't get pressure him the staff will likely pull in the secondary again to tighten up the coverage."

This approach is to cut off passing lanes and give the defensive front more time to "collapse the pocket."

What is the mood of the squad heading into Wisconsin?

The team has primarily been described as "focused" and "determined" this week. As one observer put it, "These guys know this is a big game — a defining point of the season. This is going to be a tough battle, but the guys are ready to fight."

Will the receivers get more involved this week?

Wisconsin has the No. 2 pass defense in the nation, giving up a mere 135.6 yards per game. Penn State has been "focused on the wideouts" in practice this week, running pass pull-in and knock-away drills to help the receivers pull in their passes.

"It's amazing that PSU has had some recent success without really using the wideouts, which is probably their most dangerous offensive weapon. Morelli has made some strides, avoiding turnovers and delivering some balls. The receivers need to focus on pulling them in consistently."

Receivers coach Mike McQueary has been stressing fundamentals all week — "hand position, body control, eyeing the ball in and protecting the reception," and observer said.

The consensus is that Penn State has been stressing a balanced attack in this game all week in meetings, which means the receiver unit has to come to play in order to achieve that.

Will Paul Posluszny break PSU's all-time tackles record this week? He needs nine to pass Greg Buttle.

A tough question, but we posed it to some observers. As one told us, "Paul is averaging just shy of nine tackles per game and he needs nine for the record. Wisconsin likes to put the ball on the ground with P.J. Hill, so the opportunity will be there."

As another said, "I totally think he gets it this week. He is primed for this game."


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