Against Triple-Option Navy Offense, Penn State Has But One Option: Win

Against Triple-Option Navy Offense, Penn State Has But One Option: Win

Penn State returns home this weekend to host Navy, with both teams looking for their first win of the season (3:30 p.m. on ABC / ESPN 2). 

Penn State’s season has gotten off to a rough start and the Nittany Lions look to avoid their first 0-3 start since the 2001 season. A week after a special teams meltdown at Virginia, which saw Sam Ficken miss an extra point and four field goals – the fourth miss sailing wide left as time expired in a 17-16 loss – the team looks to regain something positive to reflect on.

One positive that can come out of the agony of defeat last week on the road was the much-improved play of the defense, which forced four turnovers against the Cavaliers. The defense was the unit that allowed a season opening win slip away from them, first by seeing a lucky bounce go Ohio’s way and then watching as the Bobcats clawed back and snatched a win. The unit, led by senior linebacker Michael Mauti, took on the responsibility to step up their game and did a good enough job to pick up a win last weekend.

The offense, of course, remains a work in progress, and key players are already banged up. Quarterback Matt McGloin left last weekend’s game with an elbow injury but did return to help move Penn State into position for a last second field goal. He should be back and ready to go after not even appearing on the injury report in Penn State’s weekly game release. But sophomore running back Bill Belton continues to be listed as possible with an ankle injury, which means Derek Day may get a good amount of playing time out of the back field.

One offensive player who has taken advantage of the opportunities left by transferring players has been sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson enters this weekend leading the Big Ten in receptions and receiving yards. Is it safe to say he has become the team’s go-to wide receiver? Probably, especially now that starting wideout Shawney Kersey decided to leave the team this week. 

The loss of Kersey likely means a chance to play for freshman Eugene Lewis or sophomore Matt Zanellato. Again, young players are filling Penn State’s key positions now, and growing pains could come with it. But if there is a bright spot here it is that many of these younger players will get playing time and perhaps help build and sustain this football program through the four years of sanctions.

Penn State’s job this week will be to slow down the Navy triple-option offense, which they should be able to accomplish without too much trouble. But this may not be the same sort of Navy offense we have seen in recent seasons, as the Midshipmen have a quarterback in junior Trey Miller. The Georgia native had a fairly productive performance against Notre Dame but his consistent passing efforts were not enough to keep Navy in the game against a bigger, more physical Notre Dame team in week one over in Ireland.

One thing we have seen in the first two weeks is that Penn State’s defense struggles to get off the field. If Navy can pick up a few yards here and a few more there using their run-heavy offense, Miller may have more than enough to sustain a number of drives with a good eye in the pocket. This means Penn State’s defensive line needs to see the defensive line break through and breath down Miller’s neck.  One underrated aspect of Navy is their somewhat larger than normal offensive line. Navy did allow three sacks against Notre Dame, so look to see if defensive tackle Jordan Hill can have a big performance for Penn State.

This is almost a must-win game for Penn State, if just for a bit of a confidence boost. Wins ultimately mean nothing for Penn State this season of course, but after two heart-breaking losses these players need something to celebrate. And with Temple coming to Happy Valley next week after a bye week, the pressure is starting to mount for Penn State to get something going now.

One final note, the game can be seen locally on ABC, but if you’re watching from elsewhere on the country, you’ll find it on ESPN 2.

Keep up with Kevin’s college football coverage on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

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Eagles' Brandon Brooks gives father touching gift

Eagles' Brandon Brooks gives father touching gift

How’s this for an awesome deed?

Eagles offensive guard Brandon Brooks took to Twitter to show a heartfelt message, that included a photo of a new car he purchased for his father.

In the tweet, Brooks revealed the mindset his father has instilled in him growing up, not wanting to be average and more.

Nice gesture, Brandon.

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH -- The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” said Sidney Crosby. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”