From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Following a lackluster performance, the 22nd-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions seek a rebound effort versus the Kent State Golden Flashes this weekend at Beaver Stadium.
Even before the season started, the Lions were focused on last weekend's opponent, as they had a chance to establish themselves as national title contenders with a win. Instead, PSU looked overmatched and suffered a 24-3 loss to Alabama, the top ranked team in the nation.
"I thought they (Alabama) had a very good football team. Well coached, they out-coached us and outplayed us. I thought we played better overall in the second half. I just think we didn't play with the kind of intensity early enough in the football game that you have to have against a team as good as Alabama. We came down here knowing how good they were and we didn't wise up to it," stated head coach Joe Paterno, who hasn't defeated a No.1 team since Notre Dame in 1990.
PSU, which opened the season with an easy 44-14 win over Youngstown State, is now just 4-11 all-time against No.1 ranked teams.
As for Kent State, it began a three-game road trip over the weekend with a hard fought 26-13 loss to a quality Boston College squad.
"We played a really good football team today - one of the perennial powers of the ACC. I'm really proud of our team and the way we fought down to the wire," stated head coach Doug Martin.
The Flashes, who took care of Murray State 41-10 to open the season, certainly gave BC some fits and they hope to do the same this weekend against a PSU club that has something to prove.
This is just the third meeting between the programs on the gridiron, with the Lions winning the prior two, including a 32-10 decision in the most recent clash in 2003.
Kent State could be in a bit of trouble this weekend if the offense can't protect or run the ball better then last weekend. Facing a formidable BC defense, the Flashes committed five turnovers, while managing just 17 yards on the ground. Some of the struggles on the ground were due to the absence of TB Eugene Jarvis, who suffered a groin injury against Murray State. A sixth-year senior, Jarvis has 3,400 career rushing yards to his credit, including 45 in this year's opener, but is listed as questionable. Jacquise Terry and Dri Archer, the two backs that filled in for Jarvis, combined for nine rushing yards versus BC and that simply won't get the job done.
Although he was picked off twice by the BC defense, QB Spencer Keith still did a good job in passing for 201 yards and a score on 23-of-36 tosses. The sophomore gunslinger continues to grow and has now thrown for at least 200 yards in six consecutive games.
Defensively, the Flashes have to be happy with their performance last weekend, especially in the first half, when they allowed just 19 rushing yards and six points to BC. A pair of muffed punts and an INT landed BC with good field position in the second half and that ultimately did in the team.
The unit though, could hardly be faulted after limiting BC to just 305 total yards, including 87 on 40 rushing attempts. Kent State even came up with a pair of takeaways, and Cobrani Mixon led the charge with 15 stops and one of the team's two sacks.
The Lions committed three turnovers on their first five possessions and that prevented them from getting any momentum going against a vaunted Alabama defense last weekend. Two of the team's four total turnovers came in the red zone and that is something that simply can't happen against the top ranked team in the nation.
QB Rob Bolden wasn't under heavy pressure, but the Alabama line did enough to disrupt the freshman, who completed just 13-of-29 pass attempts for 144 yards and two INTs. It was still a good experience playing such a talented team and Bolden should only get better as the season wears on.
While Bolden's performance was a bit disappointing, the Lions have to be even more concerned with the play of TB Evan Royster and WR Graham Zug. After consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns, Royster has yet to get going, posting just 72 rushing yards through the first two games. Zug, the team's top receiver from a year ago, has been even worse with no catches in either game. If the Lions are to remain competitive, they are certainly going to need more from these two players.
Stuffing the run had been a strength of the Penn State defense, that was until last weekend. After going 17 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, the Lions gave up 100 yards to Alabama RB Trent Richardson by the second quarter of last weekend's game. Richardson, filling in for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, finished with a career-high 144 yards. Alabama, as a team, totaled 180 rushing yards behind a 5.3 yard per carry. Clearly a disappointing performance by the Penn State defense.
The Lions didn't fare much better against the pass either, allowing Alabama to complete 16-of-24 attempts for 229 yards and two TDs. The defense, though, did keep the score respectable by holding Alabama to just a 3-of-10 effort on third downs. A better performance should be expected this weekend.
PSU is a better club then it showed last weekend and should bounce back nicely with a win over a Kent State squad that will find yards hard to come by against the Lions' defense.