A Closer Look at the Nittany Lions

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Mark Dantonio and the Spartans head to Penn State for the second time in a row looking for a Big Ten title.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.
Mark Dantonio and the Spartans head to Penn State for the second time in a row looking for a Big Ten title. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

A Look at the Lions

 

           After dispelling rumors that 2010 is his last year, Joe Paterno leads his 7-4 squad into a season-ending clash with Michigan State. The Nittany Lions have had a tough season, as injuries have further hurt a Penn State team that is in a rebuilding year. With young players at key positions, the team has experienced major growing pains. Double-digit losses to Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio State have brought the team down. Yet, Paterno’s Penn State team is not about to bow down to the 10-1 Spartans. Michigan State has never won at Beaver Stadium, and with sophomore quarterback Matt McGloin at the helm, the Nittany Lions are looking to give the Spartans a good game. Keep in mind that this is the same Penn State team that lead by 11 at the end of the first half against Ohio State. Michigan State must be on its guard, especially against this dangerous, young quarterback.

 

  • Earlier in the season, Matt McGloin was the third string quarterback. Now, the sophomore is the starter a young 7-4 Nittany Lions team. McGloin is the first walk-on quarterback to start for Joe Paterno at Penn State. The young buck has not disappointed, compiling 1,025 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games. In the first half of the team’s game with Ohio State, McGloin was masterful. He settled down after an early three and out, leading the Nittany Lions down the field on a couple long drives that led to 14 points. His “moxy” was on display, and there was nothing the Buckeyes could do to stop him- McGloin completed seven passes in a row at one point. However, he was awful in the second half. McGloin threw two interceptions for touchdowns as Penn State fell apart and wound up losing, 38-14.
  • Lately, McGloin has shown more confidence. He was great in 41-24 win over the Hoosiers, completing 22 of 31 throws for 315 yards and two touchdowns. If he gets going against the Spartan secondary, look out.
  • McGloin’s go-to receiver is Derek Moye. The junior wide out has 741 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Moye has thrived with McGloin throwing the ball to him- Moye has caught a touchdown in five of the past six games. He will be a player to watch on Saturday.
  • The Nittany Lions’ top running back, Evan Royster, has been very inconsistent this season. There have been times when he has been brilliant, and others when he has been bad. The senior back has three 100 yard games this season, but has been underwhelming for most of the season. His performance will determine whether or not McGloin will be able to utilize one of his favorite plays, the play action pass. Royster needs to have a good game for Penn State to come out on top.
  • The experienced Penn State offensive line has been a strong spot for the team all year. Stefan Wisniewski, son of an NFL veteran, is a leader at right guard for this stellar line. Center Doug Klopacz will most likely be out for the game, however, leaving a big gap.
  • The Nittany Lions’ pass defense is second in the Big Ten. The unit only allows 189 yards per game through the air, so Cousins will have to find ways to carve up the Nittany Lions’ secondary. The rushing defense, however, has struggled. The front seven allows 164 rushing yards a game, which bodes well for Edwin Baker. The unit’s strategy must be this: stop the Michigan State offense early. If Penn State’s front seven can hold up early, it will be able to force the wounded Kirk Cousins to win the game and play into its stength: pass defense. 
  • The Spartans have a great shot to win at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. All Michigan State has to do is come out strong and shut down Matt McGloin. For the team to do this, they must not allow McGloin to throw the ball short, as he thrives on short passes to wide receivers such as Derek Moye and Justin Brown. However, if Michigan State can do all this, it will be able to beat the Nittany Lions (who have lost by at least 20 points to the three ranked teams it played) and reach a January 1st bowl game, cementing the team’s legacy.
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