NITTANY NOTES: Pressing Questions

Coming off a victory over the Akron, the Nittany Lions play host t Syracuse this Saturday. Despite the 31-7 blowout of the Zips, there are several questions surrounding Penn State. Get answers here.

Despite a 31-7 blowout over Akron in the opener, Penn State came out of the game facing any number of questions. Fight On State went to a various team observers to get answers on the pressing items as the squad prepares for Syracuse.

What was the hold up with the run game?

"[Coach Bill] Kenney had the [offensive line] guys get a lot of pass protection work in to protect Daryll Clark," one observer said. "They didn't get as many reps run blocking, but they'll get extra work there this week."

According to another observer, "The passing game has or had a lot of new elements with the line and receivers, and they worked a lot on pulling it together. I think it worked, but now they have to catch up some on the rest of their play."

Observers indicate that the coaches felt that tailback Evan Royster's "vision could make up for rusty run blocking." Most feel that was probably somewhat overestimated.

What happened with PSU's flat play in the second half?

The consensus is that the coaches let up some with a major lead in hand and the players followed suit and "got a bit -- I wouldn't say lazy -- just comfortable."

"The staff stripped all the color out in the second half and the guys kind of just went through the motions," an observer said. "Everyone has to shake that and get into playing 60 minutes of ball whether you're up or down by a few scores."

What aspects of the game pleased the staff?

Most observers point to the passing game as the high point on offense, particularly the emergence of Derek Moye and Chaz Powell as "ignition players." Some also mentioned Graham Zug, who could develop into a key possession target.

The defensive line got the most comments on the other side of the ball, particularly the variety of guys who were able to make significant plays, including Jared Odrick, Ollie Ogbu, Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham. "It could really become a solid rotation."

What aspects of the game concerned the staff?

Aside from run-blocking, which we mention above, kicking, kicking and kicking. Kickoffs were thought to be solid, but Collin Wagner's 1-for-3 field goal performance will get "added attention this week."

Freshman kicker Anthony Fera has been looking better now that he is healthy from an off-season groin issue. With solid range and improving consistency, the staff is likely to give Wagner another shot this coming week, but any shakiness could result in Fera getting a shot.

What happened on the 40-yard Akron TD strike in the third quarter?

"It was a misread on the zone coverage," an observer said. "Nick Sukay took a split second to make the read and sometimes that all it takes and he just didn't have the angle to catch up."

Observers feel Sukay will learn from the breakdown and it "will make him a better safety in the long run." There does not appear to be a lot of concern over the breakdown.

How is Penn State's injury situation?

Linebacker Navorro Bowman sustained a "minor groin injury," and put himself on the sideline early in the contest. Nate Stupar stepped in for him and grabbed 12 tackles. Bowman is expected to see light work this week to give him time to recover. It is unclear how much action he will see against Syracuse, but observers would not be surprised if his reps are limited in the game to ensure he is fully healed.

Safety Drew Astorino had a minor shoulder injury in the latter goings of the contest. The staff is expected to keep a close eye on him as the week progresses to see if there are any concerns. But all indications are that he is fine.

Tight end Andrew Quarless also took to the sidelines during the game, however he explained to FOS after the game that he was experiencing some cramping and is expected to be fine.

What else can we expect to see against Syracuse?

Not much in terms of the playbook. There could be an additional play or two tossed in for the receivers and to leverage Devon Smith's speed. Also, they could toss in some pistol variations as well as some split-back looks. But observers feel that the offensive scheme will be similar to what was showcased for Akron.

The defense is working on some variations on disguising up blitzes "to throw off Paulus." But as one observer said, "The front seven is just going to come fast and hard at him."

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