Penn State looks to get back on track
The Nittany Lions fell short last week against the Buckeyes in what was a loud and emotional Beaver Stadium. There were no big mistakes, no bad calls, well maybe one bad call on a defensive hold on an OSU punt, but it was simply that the Buckeyes were the better team.
The Penn State defense had a hard time handling the dynamic Braxton Miller and PSU also had a couple bad possessions in the redzone where they didn't convert possible touchdown scoring opportunities.
That was last week however, and as Bill O'Brien has been stressing all season long, the Nittany Lions must refocus for their ninth game of the year when they travel to Purdue later today (3:30 p.m. ET ESPNU).
Penn State is definitely looking to get back on track against the Boilermakers this week. The Penn State defense that has played strong for most of the season got beat up a little bit last week against Ohio State. The Nittany Lions defense let up 244 yards on the ground last week to OSU. Urban Meyer's option read attack fooled the PSU defense at times and Braxton Miller broke off some big plays that constantly put OSU in scoring position.
Purdue's rushing attack features the Akeem and Akeem show. Akeem Shavers has rushed for 432 yards this season and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, while Akeem Hunt has rushed for 328 yards and is averaging a stunning 9.6 yards per touch. The Penn State defense will definitely be challenged with the Purdue rushing attack, so the front seven will need to turn in a much better performance this week.
The Penn State defense will also be going up against Robert Marve the Miami Hurricanes transfer from a few years ago. Marve hasn't quite had the impact on the Boilermakers' program that Purdue faithful had hoped, but that's mostly due to injury. Marve has torn his ACL three times since transferring to Purdue and is playing on a bad knee this season. He has played well this year when he has gotten a chance going 60 for 92 for 597 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Purdue fans have been calling for the switch to Marve for most of the season and with the Boliermakers trying to snap a four-game losing streak it's no surprise Purdue coach Danny Hope is going with Marve. Marve will be starting over Caleb TerBush, who is 98 for 169 for 995 yards with 11 scores and eight picks on the year.
"We have a big challenge ahead of us," said O'Brien. "Offensively they're a varied, multiple offense. You're going to have to defend the field both horizontally and vertically, you've got to do a great job on third down, so it's a big job for our defense."
Another facet of the game Penn State definitely has to improve later today is their running game.
The Nittany Lions were held to a season low 32 yards rushing and 1.1 yards per carry against the Buckeyes and the task doesn't get any easier this week. The Boliermakers have some pretty big defensive tackles that will muck up the middle and Bill O'Brien and his staff are well aware of the challenge that lies in front of the PSU offensive line.
"I'll tell you, starting with our offense versus their defense, their two inside tackles are very, very good players with (Kawann) Short and (Bruce) Gaston," said O'Brien. "These guys are active, they're big, strong, physical, and they have a good size secondary and linebackers that are active."
The PSU passing game has been impressive this season, but the Purdue secondary has some big, fast, and athletic guys. Matt McGloin played another solid game last week passing for 327 yards and two touchdowns. That makes 16 touchdown passes to just three interceptions on the year for McGloin and the Penn State pass offense, which is a far cry from their dismal numbers in 2011. Allen Robinson kept his stellar sophomore season going, catching five balls against the Buckeyes. With 52 catches, Allen Robinson has now broken the Penn State sophomore season record of 48 - previously held by Bobby Engram (1993) & Deon Butler (2006).
Still, with all the PSU success in the passing game and the athletes they have at the tight end and wideout position, Coach O'Brien expressed his concern with the talent that resides within the Purdue secondary.
"(Lance) Feichter is a great player, one thing that stands out is his range. He's got really good range, he can run, he's got good ball skills, he's instinctive and I would say that about the whole secondary," said O'Brien. "You're also talking about Taylor Richards, good range, instinctive player. Josh Johnson, their corner, 6-feet tall, 200-pound guy, he's had a good season, an aggressive player and then Ricardo Allen and Frankie Williams, the guys on the other side have played well, too. It's a big challenge for our offense and for our receivers and our tight ends in this game, no question about it."
The third quarter has also been a problem for Penn State this season in the games that they've lost.
The Nittany Lions have been outscored 42-3 in the third quarter in those games. That's something that can be blamed not only on the players, but the coaching staff as well.
"That's definitely a problem, and I think that leads back to myself and coaching," said O'Brien. "We've got to do a better job of adjusting at halftime and coming out with a better plan for the third quarter. I think in some games meaning in our three losses, but obviously in our five wins we have done a better job of coming out at halftime, but that's a fair criticism and we have to make sure that starting this week we do a better job at halftime."
It will be interesting to see how the Nittany Lions react after an emotional loss to the Buckeyes last week. Any coach will say that they have moved on and they are preparing for this week's opponent, but a loss like that could definitely stick with a team for an extra week. O'Brien and his staff have done a good job of preparing PSU up to this point and a win at Purdue would show Nittany Nation that their football team can come up with a win after a tough loss.