NITTANY NOTES: Pressing Questions

Get answers to various questions as the Nittany Lions turn their attention to Michigan. From injury updates to player performances and preparations, get exclusive answers here.

Penn State managed a solid 20-0 shutout victory over over Minnesota Saturday. However, even with the victory, PSU is facing questions as it heads into Michigan week and prepares to hit the road to Ann Arbor.

A.J. Wallace had a great game shutting down Eric Decker. What sparked his play?

According to observers, defensive coordiantor Tom Bradley got on Wallace the week leading up to Minnesota, talking up Decker and asking him if he was going to "man up" and "play him tough." Wallace responded in drills and "worked his tail off."

In fact, he got nearly triple the balls tossed at him through the week and any other DB and he "kept the intensity up." He apparently was very determined to show Bradley and his teammates that he could play Decker tough.

Clearly he answered the call, although as one observer said, "I am not sure anyone really expected him to blanket the guy and limit him to one catch. Let's hope he keeps it up."

Sean Lee only saw limited reps in the game. Is he OK?

Although he was not expected to see extended action against the Gophers, Lee did "tweak" his knee, but told FOS he feels fine. We'll keep an eye on his practice participation this week.

Why did Penn State hold a rare practice last Friday?

Two reasons, really.

The coaches were concerned with weather and opted to get extra work on kick coverage and also strip drills to "address the turnovers."

The squad managed to eliminate turnovers, which was impressive given the cold, wet conditions, but the team is expected to run similar drills, since "turnovers killed this team against Iowa."

But of greater importance was that about 10 key players had academic tests late Thursday afternoon/early evening and had to leave practice early. A creature of habit, Coach Joe Paterno was riled up because he did not have prior knowledge that he would be losing the players in question before the practice was scheduled to wrap.

Paterno was clearly angry at the end of the session. But, on reflection, he realized the team had just come through with a "great" practice and felt bad that he ended the session on a negative note. That is why, when asked on his Thursday call-in show how he felt, he said "I've been better."

He got back to a positive tone in the short Friday session and obviously the Lions responded in kind against the Gophers.

Why was the defense so successful against the Gopher offense?

According to observers, PSU's defense went into this game with a plan to key on Decker, who was Minnesota's primary weapon. "They played him in bracket coverage and forced Weber to look elsewhere to move the ball."

Also, observers give a lot of credit to the front line who "ate up the run" and "made them one-dimensional" despite limited blitzing.

Stephfon Green left the game with an injury, how is he?

Green is said to have an ankle sprain which sidelined him against the Gophers. Observers expect he will be limited in drills at least early this week to allow him to rest and so the staff can see how he recovers.

It is unclear whether he will play against Michigan at this point, but one observer said it depends on how he feels as the week progresses and how the weather is in Ann Arbor.

What is the defensive plan heading into Michigan?

The Lion defense is said to be focused on getting a "consistent surge to disrupt and contain Tate Forcier." As one observer said, "He moves out of the pocket a lot — even when he doesn't have to — so the front seven knows he's going to move and improvise on the run.

The defense is expected to work its blitz packages, but the coaches are hoping they can get "good pressure on the pocket with the front four. The staff would like to keep the 'backers back since they like to use screens."

And what about the offense? Will there be additions to the playbook?

"I don't think you'll see too many major additions, maybe some expanded plays, but you may see some sets that they haven't used in recent weeks," one observer said. Other practice observers feel that the impressive showings Derek Moye has had will demand "extra attention" from Michigan's secondary, "which could open things up."

As another observer said, "This will be a tough game, but I would expect to see variety from the passing game; with guys like [Derek] Moye, [Andrew] Quarless, Chaz [Powell] and Evan [Royster], you have a lot of weapons who can do a lot of different things. I am not sure you'll see anything dramatically new, but I think we can expect to see the ball getting spread around."

What are the major focal points in practice this week?

The team is expected to maintain its standard practice routine, however, as one observer explained, "You can probably guess what they will spend extra attention on.

The consensus is that the coaches will have the units focus on kick coverage, ball protection, field goals, read-react drills, "getting off the line cleanly" and snapping.

What is the general attitude of the squad?

The consensus is that the team is upbeat and players feel that "they are coming off their most complete performance — at least the second half [of the Minnesota game]. But [the players] know that needs to be built on and they have to bring that momentum to Ann Arbor."

There is also a lot of excitement for this game. "Everyone seems to be anxious. There were a lot of guys after the [Minnesota] game saying "Michigan time," and "Ann Ar-bor" and some other choice statements.


Fight On State Top Stories