Growing Pains

A frustrating loss to Maryland followed by another in a series of defeats to Penn State raised concerns about what the Owls can accomplish this season as they ready for their return to the Big East. But after Saturday's 24-13 loss to Penn State, coach Steve Addazio is taking the positive view, saying he saw enough progress against the Nittany Lions to be excited about the possibilities.

A frustrating loss to Maryland followed by another in a series of defeats to Penn State raised concerns about what the Owls can accomplish this season as they ready for their return to the Big East.

But after Saturday's 24-13 loss to Penn State, coach Steve Addazio is taking the positive view, saying he saw enough progress against the Nittany Lions to be excited about the possibilities with the conference opener against South Florida less than two weeks away.

"We've been hampered by a lot of injuries across the board, it affected our play against Maryland," said Addazio. "We're a very young football team. We're playing two freshmen offensive linemen, three freshmen wide receivers, we have three sophomore or redshirt freshmen playing on offense, four on defense.

"I thought we improved last week. The statistics don't bear that out, but the film does. We have to continue to grow and address issues, but we have great determination and we'll slowly get better."

Will they get better in time to be competitive this year in the Big East Conference, a league which is more balanced than the Mid-American Conference which they left? That question will start to be answered when the Owls come off their second bye in three weeks – a result of joining the Big East in March with little preparation time – for Homecoming against the Bulls at Lincoln Financial Field.

"We wish we were playing this week, but we'll take advantage of it," said Addazio. "The mood is we can't wait to get back to practice and get better. We knew we would have this (transition) period. There's a lot of bright-eyedness to this group. They have to develop, but we knew that. We're competitive, but we're not clean enough yet and we need to get there."

The Owls came back from 26-3 down to almost steal the game against the Terrapins. The Nittany Lions were in control for most of Saturday's game, but Addazio noted it was 7-3 before Penn State scored to make it an 11-point game right before the half.

"We've played two good football teams, two good defenses," said Addazio. "If they were mauling you a little bit, (I'd be concerned), but we just have to get a little better, get a little more consistency. We have to do a better job on third down on both sides of the ball. We have to throw and catch better. We have to steady the boat."

Part of the plan is to continue what he started heading into Penn State, which is to have hard, physical practices. He wants to see his starters going against each other as much as possible.

"We're going to go good against good, 1 ‘O' versus 1 ‘D' (in practice) to speed up the process, even though we run the risk of injury," said Addazio. "We've got some good, young players we're excited about. We're not really that far off. We're in a foot race in the conference to develop our team as fast as we can to win as many games as we can."

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