You are looking LIVE! at the Blue/White Roundtable, heading back to State College accompanied by the United States Naval Academy Glee Club to see the Nittany Lions take on the Midshipmen!
Here's how this goes - every week, yours truly will pose a variety of questions to Penn State bloggers from every corner of the Nittany Lion internet. We'll post the greatest hits here each week, but make sure to check out our blogging brethren for their full responses every week!
Say hello to this week's panelists - our own Cari Greene, Ali Soheilian, Bill Engel, Matthew Pencek, Michael Canzoneri, Carole Kirkpatrick and Zach Fegely from PennLive's 50-Yard Lion Blog, Kevin McGuire from The Nittany Lions Den, and all of the D-O-double-G's from JoePa's Doghouse!
Saturday's loss to Virginia was pretty painful. How did you think the team played overall? What are your thoughts on Ted Roof's defense after week 2?
Cari: I actually found it much less painful than the loss to Ohio. I thought the team (overall, kicking aside, pretty obviously) looked significantly improved, especially on defense. I thought the offense looked adequate, and there was obviously a difference when McGloin was in-he made a third down throw right after being re-inserted in the third quarter. The defense was much, much better than last week-as evidenced by the four turnovers (and three points off turnovers). I was very rough on Roof after the Ohio game, not without reason; this game was much more of what I was hoping to see. The defense put us in a position to win, but the offense and special teams simply couldn't capitalize (sound familiar?). In actuality, I was more pained by the awfulness that was getting out of the parking lots garage by Scott Stadium than the actual product on the field.
Kevin: Having now been able to watch the game on film I think the team did show some improvement, most notably and obviously on defense. The secondary is going to have some big and key plays made against them all season long but there was no doubt in mind they played much better than they did the week before. I give credit to Ted Roof first for tightening things up, as well as the senior leadership of Michael Mauti for leading by example on the field. Four turnovers does not happen by accident.
The Underdogs: Scoreboard aside, PSU was the better team on the field, with significant improvement particularly on the defensive side of the ball. However, giving up 18 of 20 3rd down conversions in the 2nd half of games this season is more than a pattern. It's a problem. On 3rd down, perhaps we let discretion win out over valor from here out? Also, I haven't reviewed the game (though I did record it), but it certainly seemed like UVa picked up a key or two that was tipping off our plays. They were very quick to react to run/pass.
Rowlff Dogg: Even though it was a loss, I saw a lot of positives on the field Saturday. Offensively, Penn State keeps finding little ways to shoot itself in the foot. If the wide receivers can learn how to catch the ball and the offensive line can learn how to pick up a blitz, this offense will be dangerous. The red zone playcalling could use a little tweaking too.
Defensively, I loved the forced turnovers. The d line played a great game, which allowed the linebackers to enjoy more freedom. Let's face it- the secondary is going to be a problem spot all year. Their success is predicated by the ability to generate pressure with the front 7. As someone who really hated the previous regime's vanilla defense, I really like what I have seen so far.
Michael: Although painful to watch at times, there were a number of improvements over the Ohio game. The most obvious was the defense, but I have to admit that when Penn State went for it twice on 4th down, I was excited. It seems some of the short passes worked very well, but the play calling would regress to the running game, which at times couldn't get going.
Carole: I think the overall performance Saturday at Virginia was good. We need more production in the red zone and not just by the kicker. So many takeaways by the defense and so few points to show for it. I thought the defense was so improved. They were warriors out there. TFLs and sacks. Everyone was involved. McGloin was terrific taking the team down the field for the last field goal try under the clock.
Sam Ficken's dreadful afternoon has been recapped ad nauseum. Can he rebound from it and be productive?
J Schnauzer: Absolutely. Remember Alexis Serna? In 2004 he was a walk-on freshman kicker for Oregon State who missed three PAT's in a 22-21 loss at LSU. He later became a Lou Groza finalist for best kicker of the year. A year later he won the Groza Award. Closer to home, Robbie Gould infamously missed two field goals, including a 25-yard chip shot in the 2004 Iowa game. He's had a steady NFL career since 2005. Look at the whole of his resume. He knocked in a 52-yarder and was solid inside 40 yards back in high school. Ficken isn't as bad is he looked. When the snapper, holder, and kicker get together this week they'll make the corrections needed to perform well for the rest of this season. I predict Ficken will win one for Penn State later in the season.
Michael: Only if the dregs of our fanbase still giving the kid a hard time and stop acting like some infamous Eagles fans. The game wouldn't have been in his hands if Penn State could move the ball without an act of God taking place.
Zach: I think he can. He came into practice yesterday after having one of the worst games in recent memory of any player and kicked over 300 Field Goals. He literally spent all practice yesterday just trying to get better. He has a good leg, just have to work on the accuracy and the mechanics (had trouble with his plant foot direction on Saturday) and I think he will be great.
Cari: That depends on Sam Ficken. It seems like his teammates are behind him, and are encouraging him-undoubtedly so are the coaches (unless they can find a better option, of course). If he can sense that, brush this off and refocus, he should be okay. The fans will follow if he can turn it around. He had a great kickoff right after he (finally) made a field goal, so he has the ability-it's his mental state that needs resetting. Hopefully the staff can work on that this week.
Ali: To be honest, I think he can rebound from it, but if he struggles early next game, I think we've got to give another guy a shot at kicking for this team. Whether its from bad snaps, where he puts his plant foot, or the mental aspect, he needs to get it corrected fast.
Navy comes to town with a intriguing offense that tends to give teams fits. In their only game this season, however, they were taken to the woodshed by Notre Dame. What do you expect from the Midshipmen on Saturday? How will our defense work against such a different style of offense?
The Underdogs: This game won't be won or lost between the Navy offense and the PSU defense. This will be one of the rare occasions where PSU will be stronger and faster at the point of attack. Furthermore, Navy's ability to get 3rd and long won't be much of an issue for such a run-first, run-second, and run-third offense. Navy will move the ball a bit by the very nature of the offense, poking and prodding the defensive wall searching for weak points, but PSU really only needs to generate one 3rd and long each drive to survive without giving up TDs. I expect that to be the case. On the flip side, the game will be decided by whether the PSU offense can put up a few 6s.
Kevin: I expect Navy to come out with a good intensity and confidence that their week one peformance was not representative of the kind of team they will be this season. But the Mids are undersized and inexperienced more so this year than in recent years, and while everyone is focused on that running game Navy has, don't overlook the play of quarterback Trey Miller, who was accurate against the Irish in week one and has that kind of potential to be a steady performer if given time to work with against Penn State's secondary.
I think Penn State's front seven has to take charge in this game and attack early and often. Navy's offensive line is not built to handle that kind of pressure we think Penn State's defense is capable of.
Bill: I think we have the front seven and the speed in the secondary to contain the Navy attack. The offense will score on Navy. The team doesn't want to be 0-3 and Navy is going to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Carole: Ah, the triple option. It will be fun to watch if the Lions can shut it down. Judging from the comments out of University Park, they have studied film and are practicing the scout team before they do against the defense. It sounds like assignment football. As long as the players are blocking well, being patient as the play unfolds, and keep to their assignment I think they will be okay. It is a very young Navy team that visits Happy Valley Saturday. 13 freshman.
Rowlff Dogg: Navy's defense is the perfect tonic for what ails Penn State. I expect that the athletic mismatches will give Penn State's playmakers a shot of confidence that translates into some big plays/scores.
The triple option is going to be annoying until Mauti or Hodges rattles Navy's quarterback with some big hits. Getting their offense into 3rd and long situations will do 2 things. First, it'll force them to pass, which is out of Navy's element. That will, in turn, give Penn State's maligned secondary a chance to get some much needed swagger.
Cari: We'll score more points this week-whether off field goals or not is another story. I think we limit their offense somewhat, but they still get a few scores. 28-17 PSU.
Kevin: I think Penn State finally pulls out a victory. It won't be pretty, but a win is a win. Defense will b the key for Penn State. If they do not wear down and the offense can crack Navy's defense the way Notre Dame did, the Nittany Lions pick up O'Brien's first career win.
Penn State 24, Navy 20.
The Underdogs: 23-16. The PSU offense gets just enough TDs to get the job done.
Rowlff Dogg: This will be the "take out our aggression on the opponent" game that most expected the Ohio game to be. The offense starts to click en route to an easy 41-17 PSU win. Bonus: Sam Ficken 2-2 FG, 5-5 PAT.
J Schnauzer: Penn State 44, Navy 9
Michael: I will continue to curse at the TV every time they mention the Jerry Sandusky Scandal, which will start 30 seconds into the game as it did last week. I think Penn State wins this week, but there will be some issues remaining with Game Management and the offense will not click as the defense has the last week. However, I don't' think they will be as dramatic as they were in the prior two weeks. The offense is bound to click and when it does, we fans will be very happy with what the coaching staff has put in place.
Bill: Ficken makes 2 - 3. Oh and wins PSU 41 - 17
Zach: Penn State is getting closer to getting its first win but I don't think it happens this week. Just need to see more before I can expect them to win a game. I think this game is very winnable but it is hard to know what kind of Penn State team we are going to see on a week to week basis. I fully hope that Penn State does beat Navy but I think Navy comes out on top 24-17.
Carole: I am not doing very well in the predictions department. The team we expected week 1 did not show up in the second half. After watching the team run out of steam and the absence of TFLs and takeways in week 1 made me doubt the Lions could pull it together in week 2 on the road. Plus, looking back in time to the last time Penn State and Navy met in 1974, the Lions kicker missed 4 field goals. I am not kidding! Back in the present, the Midshipmen have a better record when they score first. They tend not to be a come from behind team. If McGloin and Co. can get off to a fast start and find the end zone, Penn State gives Bill O'Brien his first win. Penn State 24, Navy 10
Matthew: Time to ring the Victory Bell for the first time this season. It won't be pretty. Bill O'Brien may be forced to keep Matt McGloin and company on the field if they face a 4th down from anywhere inside the 35 yard line due to Ficken's problems. They won't be able to convert all those chances, but they will on enough of them to get O'Brien his first win. Penn State 28 Navy 17.
Ali: Penn State finally has a big day on offense. I think this will be the first game this season that we will have a 100 yard rusher, and I think if McGloin plays, that we can have a 300 yard passing effort from him as well. This Navy team just doesn't match up well with this Penn State team. In the end, Penn State finally proves to be too much for an opponent this year. Penn State 31-13 Navy.
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