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.

*

Follow The700Level on Facebook and Twitter.

Carson Wentz back at practice, frustrated he’s out for Eagles Thursday night

Carson Wentz back at practice, frustrated he’s out for Eagles Thursday night

Carson Wentz was on the fields at the NovaCare Complex wearing a helmet and ready to practice on Monday for the first time since fracturing his ribs on Aug. 11 against the Bucs.

He’s getting better. Just not quickly enough.

Despite being back at practice Monday afternoon, Wentz will not play in the Eagles’ preseason finale against the Jets on Thursday night. The original hope was that the No. 2 overall pick would be ready for the fourth preseason game.

“That’s a no-go for this week, but I’ll be ready for Week 1,” Wentz said.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said a CT scan on Wentz’s ribs showed one was completely healed, while the other was just 60 percent healed (see story).

Wentz said he expects to be fully healed by Sept. 11, when the Eagles open the season against the Cleveland Browns. But by then, he will have missed three of his four opportunities to play in the preseason. And, as the third-stringer, he won’t even be active on game days.

“It’s tough,” Wentz said. “With all injuries, it’s tough not being on the field, especially as a competitor coming in here, these preseason games were going to be big for me. It’s tough, it’s frustrating, but it just kind of is what it is.”

In his only game this preseason, Wentz went 12 for 24 for 89 yards and an interception. He also ran three times for 15 yards. During that game, he showed flashes of why the Eagles were so high on him, but it was just a taste.

After Thursday night, he will have spent the rest of the preseason as a spectator during games, taking mental reps instead of real ones.

Mental reps help, certainly. Wentz stands on the sideline and mentally inserts himself into the play. What would he do here? What would his read be there? What would he do with a certain protection?

“You’re really just trying to be locked in like you were the guy in the game,” he said.

Mental reps are great. But they don’t replace the real ones. Nothing does.

So while Wentz has been working to get better since going down with the ribs injury earlier this month, he’s lost valuable practice and game reps that he won’t get back. Pederson said once the season starts, the team can’t help him make them up because it will be too focused on getting the starters ready to play.

“You have to make the most of every opportunity you have in practice,” Wentz said. “I feel confident with where I am. Obviously, I missed the couple preseason games. I know when my number gets called, I’ll be ready.”

Pederson on Monday said he was less concerned about Wentz because Wentz is the third-string quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. That was the plan before Wentz’s injury. Then the injury cemented that plan.

Does Wentz have any hope that he’ll play during his rookie season?

“I’ll be ready to go,” he said. “It’s not up for me to decide. We’ve been talking about this forever now. I know I’ll be ready to go and I’m excited for when I’m back out there. Practicing today, I’m excited for that too.”

Tonight's lineup: Has the Ryan Howard showcase come to an end?

Tonight's lineup: Has the Ryan Howard showcase come to an end?

Showcase time for Ryan Howard has apparently come to an end.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin will go with Tommy Joseph rather than Howard at first base for Monday's series opener against Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark. It's an interesting decision because it likely means Howard will sit until at least the weekend. On Tuesday, the Phils face Max Scherzer, against whom Howard is 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts. On Wednesday, they draw lefty Gio Gonzalez.

Howard is 1 for 10 with four strikeouts in his last three games. He was hot after the All-Star break but the Phillies were still unlikely to be able to find a suitor for him because of the scarcity of American League teams in need of a DH. With just three days before Sept. 1, it seems extremely unlikely Howard will be moved. A player is not postseason eligible unless he's on a team's roster by Aug. 31. Thus, Joseph should get more playing time in September.

Jimmy Paredes gets another start in left field after striking the ball well three times on Sunday. Paredes has been productive lately, going 10 for 27 (.370) with two doubles and two homers in his last 14 games. He could be designated for assignment by the Phils soon if they need to clear a spot to add a prospect to the 40-man roster for a September call-up.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B (.895 OPS in last 230 PA)
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, LF
9. Jake Thompson

Eagles LB Myke Tavarres will join Colin Kaepernick, won't stand for national anthem

Eagles LB Myke Tavarres will join Colin Kaepernick, won't stand for national anthem

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines last week when he refused to stand for the national anthem during a preseason game, and an Eagles linebacker fighting for a roster spot says he'll do the same in their final preseason contest.

Kaepernick decided not to stand because of the divisive and violent racial issues that have been building in America. Tavarres has taken a similar stance, telling ESPN.com's Tim McManus on Monday that he nearly followed Kaepernick's lead by sitting out the anthem in Indianapolis.

"Oh, I thought about it. Believe me, I definitely thought about it," Tavarres told ESPN. "And usually I'm front and center on the line with the rest of the guys, and that's since pre-K all the way up. Saturday's game, I stepped back, I was in the background, and it didn't feel right to me at all, and so I will be taking a stand — or sitting down — for the fourth game.

"We've got an issue in this country in this day and age, and I feel like somebody needs to step up and we all need to step up. We've got that right. There's just a lot going on that people don't want to talk about, and I feel like us as athletes, we're looked at as role models. And I feel like with Colin Kaepernick, he's doing a great job for standing up in what he believes in, and most people may not like that, but that's his opinion, he's entitled to it, and I respect him for doing it."

According to the report, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had players express their feelings about the topic during a meeting Monday and Tavarres was one of the players who spoke, along with team leader Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Leodis McKelvin.

Jenkins discussed the topic with USA Today over the weekend.

"At some point, I think guys in multiple sports across the country, guys are starting to realize if we do want a change, it is something we need to get involved in at some point," Jenkins said.

“I have already done some things. I have spoken to the police commissioner of Philadelphia. We are trying to come up with some plans to do some stuff on the ground and get some work done. A lot of what is going on in the country is outrageous. I try to be careful. I ask myself what is the outcome that I want to see and how do I go about that?

"At the end of the day when it comes down to relationships of African Americans in this country right now, my entire family is black. I can sit on my stage and act like these things don’t apply to me but my two brothers, my dad, my mom, all of them are dealing with the same thing."

Tavarres, meanwhile, is not a lock to make the Eagles' final 53-man roster, but their lack of depth at backup linebacker has created an opportunity for him. Dave Zangaro had Tavarres on the practice squad in his roster projection Monday. 

"In this situation, I've really got nothing to lose," Tavarres told McManus. "I'm a rookie free agent, haven't signed any major contract, so there's not a lot of money on the line, I don't have any big endorsement deals on the line. Really what's at stake is my pride and what kind of man would I be and what kind of African-American would I be if I didn't stand my ground on this issue we have today?

"[It] needs to be done. Will there be backlash? Probably. I don't think anyone has bought my jersey yet, so I don't know if it's going to be burned, but it's a major issue and I'm definitely going to stand my ground for this one."