Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Sports

November 3, 2012

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Penn State offense looks for better communication

Nittany Lions look to get their season back on track against Purdue

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Playing at Beaver Stadium in front of loyal blue-and-white fans would seem to be the last place where Penn State would have a problem with noise.

It turns out that support was louder than even the Nittany Lions offense expected, leading to problems for the up-tempo offense against Ohio State’s front seven.

So quarterback Matt McGloin and the offensive line are focusing in part this week on improving communications when things get rough as Penn State (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten) looks to get back on track with a visit Saturday to struggling Purdue.

“We’ve tried to really work on that with the music, and with the loud noise during practice,” O’Brien said Wednesday at Beaver Stadium. “It really starts with me and coaching ... we’ve tried to coach it better and be more detailed with it this week.”

Some perspective might be in order first, though, between Penn State, Purdue and their respective venues.

Until Saturday’s sellout crowd of more than 107,000 for the 35-23 loss to No. 6 Ohio State, Penn State had averaged about 97,000 this year — and that’s considered low. Beaver Stadium can be one of the loudest venues in the country.

“Saturday was probably the only place in the country where at home you use a silent cadence,” McGloin said. “We really weren’t expecting that.”

Contrast this to Purdue, which hasn’t had a crowd at Ross-Ade Stadium larger than the 50,105 fans who showed up for a 44-13 loss Oct. 6 to Michigan. It was the start of a four-game losing streak that seemingly has the Boilermakers desperate. Coach Danny Hope might be under even more pressure to get things turned around.

The Nittany Lions are determined to avoid becoming Purdue’s first Big Ten victim.

“We know it’s going to be a tough environment going out there. They could easily have a few more wins than they’ve had,” McGloin said. He was probably referring to the 29-22 overtime loss to the Buckeyes two weeks ago.

“We have to continue to move forward and match their intensity.”

There’s no real magic fix to communications issues. In Penn State’s own loss to Ohio State, that miscommunication up front in part led to poor protection of McGloin, the Big Ten’s leading passer (264.4 yards). That, in turn, disrupted Penn State’s high-scoring offense.

So at practice, the Nittany Lions will continue to practice with loud music and work on silent counts. It was part of a broader problem of uncharacteristic unforced errors that tripped up Penn State against the Buckeyes, which also included penalties.

Right guard John Urschel said part of the problem for him may have been being too excited for the big game against the Buckeyes. He’s not using any of it as an excuse, though.

“The burden is on us to get things done,” Urschel said. “We need to make sure that we communicate with each other ... and make sure that we’re precise about these things.”

Actually, Penn State has been playing well away from home of late. After a one-point loss to Virginia in September, the Nittany Lions have built big leads in back-to-back conference road wins in October at Illinois (35-7) and Iowa (38-14).

Sophomore defensive back Adrian Amos said the leadership established by seniors like linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges have helped keep the close-knit team focused on the road.

“It might be easier for us away from home,” Amos said. “You don’t know anybody but your teammates.”

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