NITTANY NOTES: Pressing Questions

Penn State rebounded from a tough loss to Iowa with a road win over Illinois. While the season is back on track for the 4-1 Lions, questions remain. We answer them.

Fresh off an easy road win at Illinois, Penn State now sets its focus on FCS opponent Eastern Illinois. Here are some of the questions facing the Lions:

What was with the slow start in Champaign?

"There was a lot of concern about that," one observer said. "A lot of guys were moping on the Iowa loss. The coaches were pushing them all week to snap out of it, so I think they needed to come together and stop feeling sorry for themselves."

Another observer felt that this team takes its cues from its leaders. "Daryll [Clark] was dwelling on the loss and still shoulders a lot of the blame. He was apologizing for letting [the players] down, when he should have been getting them focused. I think that was a learning experience for him -- for all [of the players]."

What sparked the second-half surge?

The consensus is that a lot of players "got it" at halftime and "realized they were just going through the motions." According to one observer, "A few coaches were fired up -- Larry Johnson was on the defense asking if they were going to just roll over into mediocrity. He can fire anyone up."

As another observer said, "I think a lot of [players] looked at each other and said [expletive] it, we're better than this. The challenge is keeping it up into this week."

Is Clark going to run more now?

"Not this week," one observer said. "Actually, if the staff plays its cards right, I think they are looking to get Kevin Newsome some more significant time."

Most observers feel that the coaches know Clark is more than capable of being a big running threat, and if the defense opens things up for him they'll let him make some runs, "but they are also looking to keep him strong and healthy."

How is the offensive line doing?

Observers feel that if the Illinois game did one thing for the unit, it was to give it a mental boost, saying that "it was a shot of confidence in the arm." Some feel the unit was dragging and needed a good performance.

"Illinois may not be tearing up the conference, but that is the type of play that could help [the offensive line] start to turn the corner," an observer said.

This week, the line is said to be having a good set of early practices. "They are pulling more cleanly, quicker to their assignments and sealing lanes better. It's just got to be more consistent as a group," an observer said.

Why is Newsome not seeing more game reps?

No question pertaining to the team baffles observers more than this one. "I have no clue," one said. "[The staff] had a perfect opportunity to give him some solid drives last weekend and they opted to keep Daryll [Clark] in. That is exactly how Sean [Lee] got hurt; playing mop up time.

"Newsome needs reps and practices cannot make up for real game snaps."

As another observer said, "If Newsome doesn't see some major drives this week I think there is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed."

How is the squad approaching Eastern Illinois?

Most feel the team is "confident, but cautious," saying they are "not taking anything for granted." Many observers feel that the early "cream puff" games might have built an "overconfidence" in the squad which had them unprepared for Iowa.

"This team doesn't have the luxury to take anyone for granted," another observer said.

How is the health of the team?

PSU is dealing with some injuries currently:

Sean Lee: Still recovering from a sprained knee, the LB is running, but limited in his drill participation and not expected to see action this week.

Brandon Ware: The DT is recovering from a broken foot sustained during the preseason and is expected to start working some weight on it. But many feel he is still a few weeks away from participating in meaningful drills.

DeOn'tae Pannell: The OT is practicing, but taking his drills with a minor ankle sprain currently.

Devon Smith: The freshman WR is still sidelined and getting tested for a concussion sustained against Illinois.

Nerraw McCormack: The OT is dealing with an ankle injury that is expected to keep him sidelined for this Saturday's game.


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