ESPN's John Congemi took some time to answer a few questions as he prepares for his duties as the color analyst for Saturday's clash between Penn State and Purdue.
Jared Slanina: Purdue had high hopes entering this season, and many were predicting the Boilermakers to represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship game. What do you think has caused Purdue to struggle so much thus far this season?
John Congemi: Purdue has lacked consistency period! They haven't had consistent play from the quarterback position and as a team, haven't finished games against quality opponents they had chances to win down the stretch. ( Notre Dame lost 20-17 and Ohio State in OT 29-22)
JS: What does Purdue do well that could potentially hurt Penn State on Saturday?
JC: Special teams should be a concern because of the ability of Purdue's Allen Hunt. Hunt had a 100-yard kick-off return against Ohio State and Penn State needs to improve in this area. Also they have been very good at turning turnovers into points, so it's imperative that Penn State plays a clean game. PSU started fast in this area against OSU last week by blocking a punt but need to get more from their return game.
JS: On Tuesday, Danny Hope stated that he is optimistic that DT Kawaan Short will be able to play on Saturday. What does Short bring to the table and how would it impact the Boilermakers if he is unable to suit up?
JC: Kawaan Short is a beast in the middle for Purdue's defensive front. He's good against the run with nine tackles for loss on the season (43.5 in his career) and can get to the quarterback with 4 sacks and 16.5 in his career. It will be a challenge for the offensive line to limit his impact on the game.
JS: After reviewing the Penn State- Ohio State game, what were your main takeaways on why the Nittany Lions were not able to pull off an upset? What lessons can the Nittany Lions carry with them after Saturday’s defeat?
JC: In all games there's always a couple plays that you would like to say define a game or if you make them, can change the outcome. Penn State played even with Ohio State but didn't make the plays in the second half to separate from a quality team. PSU was outscored 28-16 in the second half and that was the difference between winning and losing.
JS: When preparing for this game, Which Penn State players jump out at you that you may not have known much about beforehand?
JC: I think McGloin has grown under Bill O'Brian and it shows in his play and the way he directs the offense with confidence. He now has a presence about himself and that can be contagious to the players around him. TE Kyle Carter is a quality tight end and hopefully he's healthy enough to play on Saturday and all three linebackers play downhill and complement each other.
JS: Which match-ups are you looking forward to watching on Saturday? Are there one or two in particular that you think could determine the outcome of the game?
JC: I'm not really looking at matchups in this game but I feel that Purdue is going to try and start fast at home and change the tempo early. Remember they have lost four games in a row and need to come out blazing on Saturday. Pressure defense, trick plays, etc to try and steal the momentum early to give them confidence. If Penn State can withstand the first quarter and control the tempo like they usually do with long offensive drives, it could take the steam out of the Boilermakers!
JS: How do you see this game playing out?
JC: I can't make any predictions but I look for Purdue to try and come out fast, trying to sustain an up tempo pace and see where it takes them. Penn State is a quality team and they need to take Purdue's best shot, and make plays of thier own after both teams settle in because Purdue hasn't been able to close out a game against a team with equal or slightly better talent.
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