Tall Order For Sargeant?

Playing left corner and nickel, the Lion junior was not seriously tested in the season-opening romp over Florida International. The first-year starter says he is anxious for more action vs. the Fighting Irish this week.

Penn State allowed only 12 pass completions in its opening-day romp over Florida International. That hardly seems like an adequate test given that the Nittany Lions feature a partially rebuilt secondary and are about to go up against a Charlie Weis-coached offense Saturday. But Lydell Sargeant isn't complaining.

“It's a catch-22,” he said earlier this week. “You want to get the ball thrown to you so you can make some plays, but at the same time our defense was playing well and getting good field position for the offense, so it was good for the whole defense. If the defensive line succeeds [in pressuring opposing quarterbacks], the whole defense succeeds. It would have been nice to get some more action, but there are 12 weeks for that.”

Sargeant was making his first career start at cornerback opposite lifelong friend Justin King. He beat out A.J. Wallace for the position in preseason camp and is doubling as the team's nickel back on passing downs.

Sargeant expects to be tested this season, as opponents are beginning to demonstrate a healthy respect for King's coverage skills. Joe Paterno said he thought the junior from the Pittsburgh area (by way of Lompoc, Calif.) had a “solid game” against Florida International.

“We were playing an awful lot of nickel,” Paterno said. “When nickel happens, Wallace is in there with Sargeant. Sargeant has to learn two spots. He's playing a corner and he's playing a nickel, and I think he's doing a good job with that. I think we're all right. I thought the secondary played a solid football game [in the opener]. We'll find out this weekend just how good we are.”

The Fighting Irish will pose a more formidable challenge than the Panthers did, but their offense is not on par with the one that shredded Penn State for 397 yards in South Bend a year ago. True freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen will be making his first career start after the Irish floundered against Georgia Tech, amassing only 130 yards passing in a 33-3 loss.

Weis said Clausen, who completed 4 of 6 passes for 34 yards against Georgia Tech, gives Notre Dame its best chance to win at Penn State. “If I didn't think he was ready I wouldn't do this,” Weis said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. But if the blue-chip freshman struggles in what is likely to be a deafening atmosphere at Beaver Stadium, the Irish may be forced to call on deposed starter Demetrius Jones or backup Evan Sharpley.

No matter who's doing the passing, Penn State players expect the Irish to give them a much tougher test than the one they got in their opener.

“I think their quarterbacks are going to play a lot better this week,” Sargeant said. “They got those first-game jitters out of the way. We can't go on their performance last week. They're a great team and they have great coaches. They're going to coach them up this week, so we have to be ready to play our game and play to the best of our ability.”


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