Offense Takes Flight

Passing game shines as White edges Blue in Penn State's annual spring scrimmage. For the game, QBs complete 33 of 50 passes.

“Beautiful Day” by U2 blared from the public-address system Saturday as Penn State players filed into Beaver Stadium for the autograph session prior to the Blue-White Game. If you were one of the school-record 76,500 fans on hand, soaking up an afternoon of sunshine and summer-like temperatures, you probably agreed with the song's rousing chorus: “It's a beautiful day/Don't let it get away.”

If you were a Penn State quarterback or wide receiver, you definitely agreed.

In the Blue's 21-16 victory, the two teams combined to complete 33 of 50 passes for 388 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, indicating that the Nittany Lions are either a lot deeper at quarterback and wide receiver than Joe Paterno has been letting on, or are a lot thinner on defense. This being a scrimmage, it was hard to tell exactly which proposition was closer to the truth. But if nothing else, the fans who draped a “Zug's Thugs” banner from the railing beside the south end zone in honor of projected starting receiver Graham Zug left happy. Zug was one of 16 players to catch a pass, leading all receivers with four catches for 62 yards.

“I think the [coaches] probably wanted to please some of the fans, show the fans that they don't have to be worried about us next year,” said receiver Derek Moye, who had two catches for 29 yards. “There have been a lot of question marks about us, but it's something we're willing to deal with. We're willing to show people that we can play.”

Chaz Powell was eager to show that as well, especially with so many people pointing to the receiver corps as one of this team's potential weaknesses.

“We're going to go out there and make plays,” the redshirt sophomore said. “Hopefully we'll get the opportunity to make it to the national championship. Right now, I can't really say that we can be better [than last year's receivers], but we're going to work hard.”

To no one's surprise, returning starter Daryll Clark picked up where he left off in winning first-team All-Big Ten honors last season, completing 10 of 13 passes for 123 yards against the first-team defense and leading the Blue to a touchdown on the game's first possession. Clark wore a red jersey signifying that he was not to be tackled, and after the first quarter, he retreated to the sideline and didn't return.

True freshman Kevin Newsome led the White offense. He's been characterized as a work in progress, but he showed plenty of elusiveness and arm strength in his public debut at Penn State. On his first play, he eluded the pressure and heaved a deep pass on the run that hit James McDonald on the chest. McDonald couldn't hang on, but Newsome persevered. He showed nice touch on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Brett Brackett in the second quarter to tie the score, 7-7.

Redshirt freshman Matt McGloin came out throwing as well, completing a 22-yard pass to Andrew Quarless on his first play. He ended his first drive with a picture-perfect pass to Zug behind Shelton McCullough in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown.

By the end of the second quarter, even freshman walk-on Shane McGregor was getting into the act. The Ebensburg, Pa., native floated a 29-yard pass into the arms of Brackett to set up a 3-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Gino Raneri.

There's been much speculation that the passing game will suffer this year with Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood having departed. Moye has heard the concerns, but he isn't buying the contention that Penn State's passing game will unravel with three of the best wideouts in school history now gone. Far from it. Said the redshirt sophomore, “I think we're going to be a good group of receivers. Honestly, I don't think the fans have a lot to worry about.”

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