Penn State Team Report

September 15, 2010 04:29 EST

Turnovers and tackling. Fans and media have been breaking down Penn State's 24-3 loss at No. 1 Alabama last Saturday from all angles, but the Nittany Lions themselves, as they try to shrug off the loss and prepare for this week's meeting with Kent State, are boiling it down to the simplest mistakes.
The Nittany Lion offense averaged a modest 4.6 yards per play against the Crimson Tide but self-destructed in scoring territory. Three of Penn State's four turnovers came inside the Alabama 30-yard line.

"We moved the ball on them," said right tackle Lou Eliades. "The holes were there. (If) we don't make some mistakes it's a closer game."

The way Greg McElroy, Trent Richardson and the Alabama offense were moving the ball early on, the Nittany Lions (1-1) might have felt fortunate to surrender only 24 points. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said after the game he estimated his players totaled about a dozen missed tackles -- and he probably found at least that many more when breaking down the game tape the next day.

"We were just blowing assignments," cornerback Stephon Morris said. "Everyone blew assignments. And it was on plays we've been doing since the springtime."

Morris said the Penn State first-team defense will focus on "driving through" its tackles during practices this week. The Golden Flashes (1-1), who lost to Boston College 26-13 last week, won't provide the same kind of challenge as Alabama but could give the Nittany Lions some trouble if they can't shake last week's game.

"You can learn from last week," safety Nick Sukay said, "but it's in the past."

--Penn State is one victory from 500 wins since 1950, the same year Joe Paterno joined the coaching staff as an assistant under Rip Engle.
--The Nittany Lions have won 34 of their last 38 games in Beaver Stadium, including each of the last 20 home non-conference games.

--Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, the FBS career leader in coaching victories, is five wins shy of 400.

SERIES HISTORY: Penn State leads 2-0 (last meeting 2003, Penn State 32-10)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Penn State has moved the ball well through the air this season against both the light defense of Youngstown State and the athletic defense of Alabama. Freshman QB Rob Bolden has been accurate with the football and made mostly good decisions. WR Derek Moye, Brett Brackett and Devon Smith have been his favorite targets; senior WR Graham Zug is still without a catch after two games. The running game has left more than a little to be desired. Two-time 1,000-yard rusher Evan Royster is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Tackling has been a problem for Tom Bradley's usually fundamentally sound defense. The Nittany Lions were shredded for 144 yards rushing by Alabama's Trent Richardson and also spent a lot of time unsuccessfully chasing the Crimson Tide's wide receivers. Defensive ends Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore have not generated a consistent pass rush and opponents have found the cracks in Penn State's zone defenses. CB Stephon Morris could miss some time Saturday as he recovers from a minor foot injury.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We didn't come out with the aggression that we needed to match the amount of aggression that they had. We were just outplayed from the beginning." -- Penn State S Nick Sukay, on the Nittany Lions' 24-3 loss at Alabama last week.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Kent State at Penn State, Sept. 18 -- The Nittany Lions will look to rebound from a humbling 24-3 defeat at No. 1 Alabama against a mid-level MAC opponent. Penn State coach Joe Paterno is 41-1 against MAC opponents.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Nittany Lions must show they can consistently and effectively run the football to give balance to their offense and avoid the turnover troubles that plagued them last week in Tuscaloosa. The defense has to do a better job of getting pressure on the quarterbacks and getting the ballcarrier to the ground.


WR Devon Smith -- Small (5-foot-7, 157 pounds) but incredibly fast, the sophomore hauled in a career-high five passes last week against Alabama and showed he is dangerous out of the backfield or in the flat. Even the threat of Smith's speed can open things up for other Penn State receivers.

RB Evan Royster -- His senior season is off to a slow start (20 carries, 72 yards in two games) and many Penn State fans want to see more of freshman Silas Redd. How Royster, and his offensive line, respond this week will be huge for this offense going forward.

DE Pete Massaro -- After missing last season with a torn ACL, the redshirt freshman is finding his way into the regular rotation, seeing snaps at both end and tackle. Massaro had a sack and three tackles in the loss at Alabama and should continue to see ample playing time.


--LB Gerald Hodges will miss up to five weeks with an unspecified injury, believed to be a bone bruise, to his left leg. He sustained the injury on the opening kickoff of the Alabama game but had been expected to see significant action.

--CB Stephon Morris missed Monday's practice with a minor foot injury that he had sustained against Alabama and is day-to-day.

--LG Johnnie Troutman, who came off the bench to play the majority of the snaps against Alabama, was listed alongside starter DeOn'tae Pannell on this week's depth chart.