It is time once again to openly discuss a couple questions regarding Penn State's next game. Coming off a tough setback at Virginia the round table searches for hope. Will we find it? Be sure to check out the round up later on Black Shoe Diaries, but here are my responses to this week's questions.
(1) Saturday's loss to Virginia was pretty painful. How did you think the team played overall? What are your thoughts on Ted Roof's defense after week 2?
Having now been able to watch the game on film I think the team did show some improvement, most notabley and obviously on defense. The secondary is going to have some big and key plays made against them all season long but there was no doubt in mind they played much better than they did the week before. I give credit to Ted Roof first for tightening things up, as well as the senior leadership of Michael Mauti for leading by example on the field. Four turnovers does not happen by accident.
(2) Sam Ficken's dreadful afternoon has been recapped ad nauseum. Can he rebound from it and be productive?
Can he? Absolutely, but in the limited sample size we have of Ficken going back to last year there is no evidence that he will yet. But again, we have seen very little of him overall. I'm sure that performance will sit with him for a while. I respect the way Bill O'Brien has shown a desire to gamble on fourth downs in the early going, after all what does Penn State have to lose, but if I were faced with a fourth and short somewhere I feel a field goal is makeable I would put aside any idea of going for it and opt to try a field goal. Maybe Ficken makes it, maybe he doesn't, but I think it would send a bold message from O'Brien to Ficken that he still has faith in him even after last week. Right now O'Brien needs to sell the message that he will not shy away from players who give their all. That respect, in some ways, can go farther than whether or not Penn State makes a field goal or wins a game.
(3) Navy comes to town with a intriguing offense that tends to give teams fits. In their only game this season, however, they were taken to the woodshed by Notre Dame. What do you expect from the Midshipmen on Saturday? How will our defense work against such a different style of offense?
I expect Navy to come out with a good intensity and confidence that their week one peformance was not representative of the kind of team they will be this season. But the Mids are undersized and inexperienced more so this year than in recent years, and while everyone is focused on that running game Navy has, don't overlook the play of quarterback Trey Miller (pictured), who was accurate against the Irish in week one and has that kind of potential to be a steady performer if given time to work with against Penn State's secondary.
I think Penn State's front seven has to take charge in this game and attack early and often. Navy's offensive line is not built to handle that kind of pressure we think Penn State's defense is capable of.
I think Penn State finally pulls out a victory. It won't be pretty, but a win is a win. Defense will b the key for Penn State. If they do not wear down and the offense can crack Navy's defense the way Notre Dame did, the Nittany Lions pick up O'Brien's first career win.
Penn State 24, Navy 20
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