PSU posted 221 points in its first four games.
Now the No. 12 Lions move into Big Ten play, and with that comes a boost in schedule strength. They open with No. 22 Illinois at Beaver Stadium Saturday night.
Penn State players make no excuses for their early schedule. In fact, quarterback Daryll Clark believes it allowed many of the new starters — including him — to get their feet wet.
I feel the schedule was fine and this is why: when you have a new quarterback or someone at a position where they haven't played before, they need a couple of games that aren't too difficult to get [themselves] ready for the Big Ten, Clark said. Those are confidence-building games and when it goes right, it makes you feel better going into the bigger games.
Perhaps the only test came last Saturday against Temple, when Penn State was held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time all year. But that was more due to the Nittany Lions' sloppy play than because of anything the Owls did.
Clark also said he thought Oregon State would have been a threat in week No. 2, but that idea went out the window after the Lions put up 35 points by halftime.
So what can State expect this week?
From watching filme, there is one thing Clark has seen from the Illini that he hasn't seen all year — an effective blitz. The Illinois blitzing scheme may cause Penn State to audible for the first time this season.
They bring at least one linebacker every single play, Clark said. Sometimes they'll mix it up and bring the safety, sometimes they'll bring the corner and then they'll have a defensive tackle or defensive end drop back into coverage. It's pretty tricky.
They do a lot of things our defense does as far as coverage. As far as blitzing, we haven't faced anyone yet. We haven't had any time where we've had to make an audible at the line or change protection at the line. But these guys are going to mix up a lot of things, so we're going to have do it.
While Clark handles the audibles for the offense, center A.Q. Shipley makes pre-snap calls for the line. When asked if he expects Illinois to be Penn State's first true test of the year, Shipley said he would not phrase it that way.
I don't know if it's our first real test, he explained. We've played against some good football players, good football teams, and they've thrown some different things at us. I think the non-conference schedule went well for us, we were able to get some things accomplished that we wanted to get accomplished. But I think Illinois is going to a provide good test.