Penn State looking to get better in week two
The Nittany Lions are already off to a better start than they were in 2012, defeating the Syracuse Orange 23-17 at MetLife Stadium last weekend.
At this time last year, Penn State was 0-1, under a black cloud of controversy. This time around however, Penn State sits at 1-0 and they will play their second game of the season at their very own Beaver Stadium.
Week two has the Nittany Lions matched up with Eastern Michigan (1-0) from the Mid-American Conference (Noon ET, Big Ten Network).
Some Penn State fans weren't thrilled with the Nittany Lions week one performance and my question to them is why? Yes, it wasn't a thrilling, high scoring affair, and Bill O'Brien didn't unleash the NASCAR offense all that much on the Orange, but look at the circumstances.
PSU started a true freshman quarterback at an NFL Stadium against a decent non-conference opponent. Their most lethal weapon on offense didn't play the first half in Allen Robinson, due to a coach's decision, and don't forget they still only have 65 scholarship players (67 to be exact).
Considering all that, Penn State came out and got the "W", so what more can you really ask as a fan?
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien also made it evident to the media in his weekly press conference that it's important for everyone to realize exactly what they're up against when they take the field every Saturday.
"We went into MetLife Stadium with a true freshman quarterback. I think it was 104 degrees on the field throughout the game. We didn't have our best wide receiver in the first half of the game because of what I decided to do there," said O'Brien. "Defensively, we put the defense in some tough situations, we did this with 65 scholarship players. We've got a tough, resilient football team. To me, I just think we should be talking about that a lot. I think what's going on here, look, it's just one game but I think it's an important subject to make sure that we all understand how, again, we've got a great bunch of kids that have stayed committed to Penn State and I think it's great fun to be around them."
A big concern for Penn State coming into the game was the quarterback position, being that Christian Hackenberg had never thrown a division one pass. He made some mistakes, like most freshman would, but overall played well. He finished with 278 yards passing, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions. With "Hack" the goal will be for him to continue to get better every single week.
"He's got good poise, he's a smart guy. Like I said after the game, it's one game and he needs to make improvement," said O'Brien. "We spent a lot of time in the film room yesterday showing these guys the tape and personally I spent a lot of time with Christian, showing him the mistakes that he made and where he's got to improve week to week. He's got a great demeanor, great poise, smart guy, fun to coach and he'll improve."
On the defensive side of the ball defensive tackle DaQuan Jones set himself apart from the rest on Saturday afternoon. He was a terror for the Syracuse offensive line to handle and he disrupted the Orange backfield on multiple occasions.
"DaQuan Jones had a great game. We use the phrase "Next Level" when we talk about football, and there is a prime example of a guy that did it," said O'Brien. "He played very physically in the game and made a lot of really key stops for us; had a fantastic sack, where he split a double team. He's going to be tough to handle this year, because he's powerful, he's strong, he's smart, and he's worked extremely hard to get to this point."
Now, back to Penn State's week two opponent, the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
The Eagles defeated FCS school Howard last week by a score of 34-24. Needless to say, the Nittany Lions should run away with this one. They're a 24-point favorite to do just that, but let's take a look at some of the Eastern Michigan players that are expected to make an impact.
Eagles' running back Bronson Hill rushed 28 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns last week. His backfield mate Darius Jackson ran seven times 64 yards and a score. Behind center for Eastern Michigan will be Tyler Benz, who was 19 of 26 for 210 yards and two touchdowns a week ago.
For Penn State, it's just a lot about not making mistakes on the defensive side of the ball. The Nittany Lions' "D" only gave up 260 totals yards to Syracuse last week, so a strong performance is expected this afternoon.
O'Brien had this to say about the Eastern Michigan football team.
"Defensively they pose problems scheme-wise.They line-up in different fronts and coverages, and they're going to pressure you. They play tough, they have some kids that can really run and you better be on your P's and Q's because they're going to come after you."
"I think offensively it's similar to what Syracuse was. You're going to see spread gun run type things and schemes that try to take advantage of your schemes."
"Special teams is going to come in and play extremely hard and throw some stuff at us. We better be on our toes for all kinds of things in special teams. This is a game where we have to have a great week of practice and we've got to be ready to go."
Lastly, I think you'll see O'Brien open up the offense a little more this this week and the Nittany Lion fanbase will get to see a full game of the Hackenberg and Allen Robinson connection.
My Pick for week two is Penn State 38, Eastern Michigan 6.