Penn State looks to avoid the big game hangover this week as the Wildcats of Northwestern come to Happy Valley. Rodger from Sippin' On Purple was very excited to answer a bunch of our questions. The Cardiac Cats almost defeated the Nittany Lions last year, so this game should be interesting.
And. Here. We. Go.
QBSneak12: Pennsylvania's own, Dan Persa has done an outstanding job for the Wildcats this season (completing over 74% of his passes). What does Persa bring to the table that doesn't show up in the stat sheet?
Sippin' on Purple: Tough to say, because of how ridiculous Dan Persa's stat sheet is. He's insanely accurate on short passes - hence the completion percentage - can hit guys on deep balls without throwing many bad passes - hence the 12 touchdowns to only three picks - and can create plays with his feet, sometimes throwing on the run and sometimes scrambling - hence the fact that he leads our team in rushing yards. He is our offense. I don't have kids, but if I did, I would want Dan Persa to be their father.
QBSneak12: Who is a player Penn State fans will find out more about come Saturday?
SOP: Our running back, Mike Trumpy, because we're finding out about him every week. Since Tyrell Sutton graduated in 2008, NU has been searching for running backs, having gone through five different starters. Trumpy got his first shot at the starting gig on Saturday and busted out 110 yards, the first 100-yard outing since the 2008 Alamo Bowl for an NU player. Some of our guys were too slow, some were too good at running backwards after getting options, Trumpy just goes north and south and gets yards after contact.
QBSneak12: As a Penn State fan, we've had to deal with the Joe Paterno is retiring rumors since 1980. Northwestern has a similar situation with Pat Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald seems to be on the short list for just about every University that has an opening. Give us your thoughts on the job Pat has done and do you think he will ever leave Northwestern, or will he become the midwest's Joe Paterno?
SOP: Remember earlier when I said I wanted Dan Persa to be the father of my children? Scratch that. Make it Pat Fitzgerald. It's common coach speak for somebody to say that they love the place that they work and have no intentions of ever leaving ever, but with Fitz, I'm tempted to believe him: NU was the only school that recruited him out of high school, and he's done everything he can to pay them back.
In a hypothetical world, I'd like to say that he'd stay at NU even if other schools were offering him more money, but to be honest, I think NU knows what they have in him - he is the face of NU's program and has completely, totally revitalized it in a very short amount of time. He's already one of the winningest coaches in program history, the fans love him, and he promotes the school amazingly - even if he was a crappy coach, NU would be silly to not pony up when he wants cash.
QBSneak12: Is Bryce McNaul a clone of your head coach Pat Fitzgerald?
SOP: Same number, same position, less likely to murder somebody with sheer intensity.
QBSneak12: The Wildcats have played in close games all season (except Illinois State), including a now surprising loss to the walking wounded that are the Purdue Boilermakers. What is it going to take for Penn State to beat Northwestern (PSU is a 6.5 favorite)?
SOP: NU likes the Cardiac Cats nickname and does everything it can to maintain it. We play great teams to within five points, we play Vanderbilt and Central Michigan to within five points. Penn State probably won't blow out NU. The way NU stays in games against better teams is often just being smart with the ball and not turning it over. Penn State holds onto the ball, and Matt McGloin doesn't toss any picks, NU could be in trouble.
QBSneak12: If Dan Persa can't go on Saturday, what can we expect to see from his backup, Evan Watkins?
SOP: We don't know. He has seven career passes. If you ask some people - like me, or, uh, this guy (Fake Evan Watkins) he's the greatest player of all time and will destroy people with his picture-perfect passing, 6'6' frame, dashing speed, and overwhelming charisma. If you ask anybody who has watched him play football, he's, like, kinda inaccurate and not that great. But I hate those people. Evan Watkins is the best of all time and always will be.
QBSneak12: How do you feel about the Big Ten divisional alignment?
SOP: It's weird. They make sense. Normally things don't.
QBSneak12: Dan Persa is the leading rusher on the team. Is it a situation (like Michigan), stop Persa and you can beat Northwestern?
SOP: His ground game isn't pivotal to NU's game like it is for Denard Robinson. Saying he leads the team in rushing doesn't say a lot, because nobody else on the team has more than 307 yards, through, uh, eight games. But it's there. He's not going to bust out for 50, 60 yard runs like Denard - nobody on our team can - but if he drops back to pass on 3rd-and-4, and nobody is open, it's still probably a first down.
QBSneak12: Northwestern came pretty close last season to defeating Penn State (if Kafka didn't get hurt, NW would have won). Do you think the game will be as close as last year or is this NW team completely different?
SOP: NU's team is different. Also completely different: Penn State. This year these two teams are way more evenly matched. Last year, NU was lucky to hang in against a much better team for three quarters, they needed everything to go right, and it did, besides Kafka coming out. This year it isn't unreasonable to expect an NU victory.
QBSneak12: Jeremy Ebert has put up some pretty impressive stats receiving stats this season (678 yards, 7 TDs). For those of us that have not had the opportunity to see Ebert play, what type of playmaker is he for the Wildcats?
SOP: Ebert works out of the slot, which isn't what you typically expect out of a dominating receiver, but he's come to own it. Receivers 2-infinity for Northwestern just haven't been there. So it's been Ebert. He has been open all day, every day on every play, both for short ins and deep bombs - he's NU's only consistent deep threat. He's speedy with good - sometimes really, really good - hands.
QBSneak12: Penn State finally got its ground game of the ground against Michigan, due in large part to the offensive line finally creating some holes. What does the Wildcat defense do well? What era could Penn State possibly exploit?
SOP: Not much. You're probably looking at how many great things I've said about the offense and wondering where the catch is... well, it's a pretty big one. The run defense has stepped up in the past two weeks, holding Michigan State's two great running backs to next to nothing (for them) and doing the same with Indiana, whose run game is worse than ours, but, considering it's less than a month since Purdue's running game Tecmo Bo Jackson'ed us, I won't make any promises.
QBSneak12: What's your prediction?
SOP: I'm gonna flip-flop on this over the next few days, but I'll give Penn State a close win. Call it 27-24. Either team could win, depending on maybe whether our quarterback can be less concussed than yours come Saturday.
Thanks Rodger for giving us insight from the Big Ten's top GPA boosting program (Ohio State should send you some chocolates).