September 16, 2010

PSU perspective

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Penn State had high hopes for the 2010 season. Last weekend the Nittany Lions
suffered a tough 24-3 loss at Alabama and now look to get things back on track
with a win over Kent State this weekend.

Nate Bauer, a Penn State beat writer from provides
his perspective on some of the big questions facing the Nittany Lions this

1. Penn State suffered a disappointing loss last week at Alabama. Can the
Nittany Lions rebound this week and why?

The Nittany Lions don't have much of a choice.

The aspirations at Penn State are always high, but this year among the Penn
State faithful, I think it would be safe to say that just about everyone tempered
any type of expectation for a Big Ten championship or national title. Losses
at Alabama, at Iowa and at Ohio State are to be expected, with a potential
loss against Michigan at home floating around some circles as a possible additional

That said, this game against the Golden Flashes is not one of them.

It seems like the Lions' loss against Alabama stung this team maybe
even more than it should have. While knocking off the No. 1 team in the country
would have been an incredible feat for these guys, and they would have certainly
acknowledged it as such, they seemed to be pretty upset about the way that
they lost more than that they simply lost. Dropped passes, a porous defense,
and turnovers were the stories of the game, and all are outside of the realm
from the hallmarks of a typical Penn State team.

The response this week has been to find the mistakes and correct them while
keeping in mind the positives from the performance against the Crimson Tide.

2. Offensively, what are Penn State's strengths and how will they try to exploit
Kent State's defense?

The offense has actually been the surprise of the Nittany Lions' young
season, for a variety of reasons, good and bad.

The bad news for Penn State fans is that the expected issues between Evan Royster and his scrambled offensive line are glaringly obvious right now.
The offensive line isn't giving Royster very big holes to run through,
and to make matters worse, Royster, the probable all-time career rushing holder
at Penn State before this is all said and done, has looked sluggish and unmotivated
to this point in the season.

The good news for Penn State fans is that true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden is the real deal. No one is going to argue that Bolden is perfect--his
two interceptions last week were bad decisions on his part and amounted to
total killers, both coming in the red zone. But, all things considered, the
kid has performed beautifully for the Lions. He throws a great ball, has an
excellent rapport with his wide outs already, and is poised and confident in
the pocket. There are huge things ahead for this kid's future.

On Saturday, considering Kent State's ability to stuff the run, I don't
think it will come as any big surprise that Bolden will be key to a Penn State
win. If he has time in the pocket--which he has been provided from his offensive
line throughout the first two games--and can find his tall and speedy receivers,
he could put up some pretty big numbers.

3. Which quarterback can Kent State expect to see the most and what does
he need to do to be successful?

No doubt about it, Bolden. In fact, Joe Paterno was asked earlier this week
if the quarterback competition was still on going and he was definitive, saying
that Bolden was the team's quarterback.

I still think that there could be some Wildcat-type plays featuring Kevin Newsome eventually, but assuming Penn State plays up to its capabilities
this week, I doubt the Lions' coaching staff will unveil many new wrinkles
offensively in this one.

For Bolden to be successful, he really just needs to do what he's been
doing so far this season. He needs to stay poised in the pocket, progress through
his reads and connect with his open receivers. Even against Alabama's
defense, Bolden was able to spot the open man throughout the night. Even on
his two interceptions, quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said that Bolden had
made the right read on the throws, he had just gotten hit while throwing the
ball both times in a collapsing pocket.

If Bolden has time to throw, he will continue to improve with his decision-making,
and the mechanics are already there.

4. Kent State is going to bring pressure up front. How will Penn State's
offensive line handle the pressure and which linemen should be counted on
to do the most damage?

Penn State's offensive line has already been pretty successful at giving
Bolden time to throw--he hasn't been sacked this season--but now that
Johnnie Troutman has been named the starter at left guard (taking
the position away from DeOn'tae Pannell), I think that Penn
State fans can expect even more success there.

Stefen Wisniewski is an All-America right guard, and he's next
to an expected all-Big Ten performer at right tackle in Lou Eliades.
The left side of the line is still suspect with Quinn Barham manning
the left tackle position, Troutman taking over at left guard, and fifth-year
senior Doug Klopacz continuing to clog the middle.

To be honest, Penn State's pass protection has actually been a pretty
big surprise so far. Now all the Lions need to do is figure out a way to get
the running game going.

5. Penn State certainly has a huge home field advantage in this game, but
will the fans be as loud and boisterous as they would have been had Penn
State entered this game 2-0 instead of 1-1?

I don't think the issue is 2-0 vs. 1-1.

Around here, Penn State fans are notorious for taking games like this lightly
because of the opponent. I'm not saying that they should or shouldn't
take Kent State more seriously, but you have a situation here where it's
a noon kickoff against a MAC opponent, so the expectations for a great game
just aren't there.

Plenty of Penn State fans are selling tickets already on the Blue White Illustrated
message boards, and I won't be surprised at all to see a good number
of empty seats in the stadium as well as dirt-cheap tickets selling outside
before the game.

That said, as it was for the Youngstown State game the first contest of the
season, the atmosphere at Beaver Stadium will probably be pretty ho-hum, unless
the Golden Flashes give them a real scare, in which case I would expect stunned

6. Give me three or four guys that must perform well in this game and why
for Penn State to score the victory.

Bolden is a no-brainer, but I would include a handful of players on Penn State's
defensive side of the ball that really need to make improvements on their performances
last week.

Offensively, I think Penn State can win whether Royster gets going or not.
However, I think Penn State could find itself in a game if Spencer Keith gets going with his wide outs (Sam Kirkland and
(Tyshon Goode) and running back Jacquise Terry.

Penn State's defensive effort last week was simply not up to par, even
when considering the expectations that come with playing against one of the
best offensive teams in the country. Tackling was poor across the board, and
the Lions' secondary had trouble stopping the pass, particularly over
the middle at the safety spots.

Both Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay need to start making some
plays at the safety spots. It is not going to be good enough to simply make
the tackles (which they are both solid at) when a receiver is making the reception
10-15 yards down field. The Lions haven't forced any turnovers this season,
and need to get on the board in this one.

The Lions also haven't gotten any quarterback sacks from their starting
defensive ends. Both Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore need
to start getting more than just pressure on the quarterback, and actually make
some big plays to get him to the ground.

If the Lions fail to do either of these two things, I think the Golden Flashes
could have more success offensively than Penn State fans are prepared for.

7. Where's the best place to eat after the game? (That's one for our fans!)

Depends on what you're looking for, but I love downtown State College
on game days, so I would recommend heading into town, stashing the car at a
parking garage, and walking around to take it all in.

At the heart of the downtown, you have the Corner Room, which is a place with
average food, but a great location and decent prices. Upstairs is the Allen
Street Grille, which is a tad pricier but has better food and some nice ambiance.

If you're looking for ribs, check out Prospectors out on West College
Avenue. If you like micro brew beer, check out Otto's on North Atherton.
Great Italian food at Faccia Luna on South Atherton. And, my absolute favorite
restaurant in town, Cozy Thai, a little place on South Allen Street right downtown
with the best Pad Thai you'll eat anywhere near here.

Those are just a few of the places I like, but give Google Maps a whirl and
I'm sure you'll find some others that I didn't mention. There
are definitely plenty of options.

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