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Blue/White Roundtable Week 2 - Penn State vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Blog mob...ASSEMBLE!

(via vickgallagher)

You are looking LIVE! at the Blue/White Roundtable, marching to Scott Stadium with Charlottesville natives Dave Matthews Band to watch the Nittany Lions take on the Cavaliers of the University of Virginia!

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 Wednesday, 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, Tim Johnson 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!

We used to be concerned with the team starting slow out of the gate. On Saturday, there was plenty of energy in the first half. The same could not be said for the third quarter. What was the reason for the change?

Kevin: Simply put, Ohio was more prepared physically for the 60 minute grind. Credit the Bobcats, and also respect the fact that this Ohio team is a solid team capable of doing some good things this season. Penn State's defense just never seemed to be able to create much pressure on Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, and when he has time to think and check down on receivers the odds are pretty good he will connect with someone. Throw in the fact that Penn State's secondary is trying to find themselves, and that just is not a good combination for the Nittany Lions right now, as seen Saturday.

Was Penn State not in shape? I'm sure that is something that will come in to question with a new coaching staff and training routine. It could just be an adjustment for everyone involved, but it was clear that Penn State needs to be more physical if they want to win some games this season. And watch out now. If the lack of physicality continues against Virginia and Temple, Penn State could easily be 1-3 heading in to Big Ten play.

Rowlff Dogg: Saturday was an anomaly. Never has a team experienced a more difficult offseason than what the Penn State players endured over the past nine months. As extreme as their emotional high was, it was bound to wear off. It is easy to pinpoint the fluke interception-turned-touchdown as the catalyst, but it's impossible to expect to ride emotion for an entire game. Perhaps the more concerning aspect was, why couldn't they find a spark to reignite the passion in the second half?


Matthew: The defense getting worn down was a popular answer in most post-game analysis. I struggle with that based on the conditioning program implemented in the off-season was supposed to be a big upgrade. From the team, I think Bill O'Brien simply did not keep up with the adjustments that Ohio's Frank Solich made to start the 3rd quarter. The energy level in the stadium was deflating. Guido D'Elia's absence is going to have a effect on this program. There were hardly any of the pump up videos played during the game. The overall feel of the crowd was muted by the start of the 2nd half.

J Schnauzer: Depth. You know how MAC teams generally keep it close until the 3rd quarter until their starters wear out and are replaced with players that don't have the skills to match up with Penn State players? In a fateful quirk, PSU found itself in the reverse position against a team from the Mid-America Conference. This will only be compounded as an additional 10 scholarship spots are removed in 2013.

Tim: Somewhat of an emotional crash could have been expected after the first couple drives, but to my knowledge, football games have always consisted of four quarters and sixty minutes, and the coaches and players both should be aware of that fact. The second half playcalling and execution was some of the least inspired I've ever seen out of a Penn State team. What did everyone talk about in the locker room at halftime?

What kind of flaws did Saturday's loss to Ohio expose in this Penn State team? Was there anything you were surprised to see?

The Underdogs: I should first note that I forgot to set the DVR so I haven't reviewed the game sober. Based on memory, there was nothing that shouldn't have been somewhat expected. I would have liked to see more of a push from both lines. Other than that, McGloin's inability to scare or even test Ohio deep led to Ohio smothering the short stuff, which we had a good amount of success with early in the game. Even while things were going well, I suspected McGloin was too quick on his check downs and didn't give adequate chance to let the first and deeper reads reveal themselves. I'm left to wonder if this was a bit of over-coaching, much like when the previous staff drilled into Stephfon Green to not bounce outside that he would never bounce outside even when that's where the daylight was. They were clearly concerned about McGloin playing too risky and in particularly in the second half we probably needed him to be.


Other than that, I was particularly dismayed by the defensive play calling that seemed to get frustrated with a lack of pressure on the QB, which was itself a product of the scheme which didn't seem too interested in covering the flats and zones where the blitz was coming from, leaving acres of space between the pass rush and the DBs. Tettleton simply recognized the blitz and threw directly at it as he should. New D-Co Ted Roof appeared to be in full-on Madden mode, blitzing wrecklessly when the better strategy was probably to keep everything in front of the LBs. Or at least play more aggressively with the DBs and force Tettleton, who didn't seem to have the strongest arm in the world despite his generally good decision making, to beat us deep. Just a bad mix of aggressive front 7 with passive back 4. It needed a less schizophrenic, more concerted mindset, one way or the other.

Oh, and Belton's breadloaf carrying style.


Cari: I was surprised at what seemed like a different game plan in the second half. Ohio seemed to make adjustments in the locker room, and we didn't--on defense, at least. Our offense seemed much more vanilla in the second half as well, and I'm not sure whether we can attribute that to more conservative play calling, better defense on the part of Ohio, or what...but I wasn't happy with it. We seemed on fire, both in play calling and execution in the first half, and in the second we just seemed like the wind had gone out of our sails.

Saturday showed our problems with our secondary, which was a concern of most who follow the team going into this season. I think special teams will be an issue; I think the staff isn't as confident in Ficken as they would have been in Fera, else we may have attempted some field goals in the game. I was also a bit disappointed in the run game--I expected more from Belton than what we saw, and I'm again not sure whether to attribute that to play calling or execution.

Something I was PLEASANTLY surprised in was McGloin. I know he's had many detractors, and many people didn't like what they saw on Saturday. I'm not one of them. I thought he did a serviceable job (and, yes, I realize that the numbers don't necessarily reflect this) but I definitely don't think QB play was a factor in our loss. The quarterbacking didn't lose this game for us, hands down. I'm not sure that a "better" quarterback couldn't have won it for us, definitely, but this one didn't lose it. This was a different McGloin, especially from the 2010 bowl loss versus Florida, which was almost single-handedly lost by the same quarterback.

Bill: I was surprised that our DL was taken out of the game. This is very concerning going forward. Like everyone else, I was surprised by the headscratching decision to line up Gerald Hodges as a return man. I was also surprised by some things we didn't see, like Akeel Lynch and the Nickel.

Ali: For flaws, I will most definitely go with depth. What a difference it made when Donovan Smith and Bill Belton went out for this offense. Same thing for the defense, I don't think I saw one nickel package the entire game. Something tells me that they're going to address the pass defense in short yardage situations, and maybe play a smarter zone scheme on third downs until they develop some depth.

Rowlff Dogg: I think I speak for everybody when I say I was surprised to see Gerald Hodges returning punts/kicks. Here is how it must have gone down.

John Butler: "Here's what we're going to do on special teams. Play this guy, that guy, him, oh...and I've got Gerald Hodges returning punts and kicks."

Bill O'Brien: [interrupts with game-show buzzer sound] eeehhhhh! I'm sorry, your time's run out! What do we have for the losers, judge? Well, for our assistants, it's a life time at exotic Lock Haven University! And, for Coach O'Brien, that's right, it's a comparison to past idiots like Jay Paterno! Yes, Johnny! After falsely putting a highly decorated linebacker in the ridiculous position of returner, Coach O'Brien will have a long and prosperous career coaching... junior varsity badminton at the Rocco Globbo School for Women! Thank you for playing "Should we or should we not follow the advice of the galactically stupid!"

Butler storms out of room and walks home in the rain.

O'Brien follows him in his car. He gets out and pleads for Butler to listen to him.

BOB: "I'm gonna put Hodges in to return kicks and punts."

With Mike London firmly entrenched at the helm, Virginia has become a team on the rise. What should we expect from London's team this weekend? What memories do you have from the 2001-2002 series with the Cavaliers?

The Underdogs: I honestly have no idea.

(ed. note - Good thing we have this guy...)

Kevin: Mike London has Virginia playing better football on both sides of the football since he has taken over, and he turned this program around in quick fashion. They are still not going to be a team that competes (seriously) for an ACC title but they have the ability to keep any game close with their defense. I would expect Virginia's defense to create some problems for Penn State but part of me thinks that Ohio may have been able to cause as many, if not more, problems for Penn State. Virginia is balanced on offense and not one that excels in any particular area. If Penn State fixes their defensive operations, they should be to keep this game within reach for a young, developing offense.

You are talking to the president of the Matt Schaub Fan Club (went to high school with him), so naturally I was very interested in those two games. Of course, the first game was rescheduled for the end of the season after having the Thursday night game postponed following the September 11 attacks. By the end of that year Schaub was not the guy under center due to some injury and inconsistent play. Penn State was close to taking full control of that 2001 game though before the killer fumble return by Virginia following a strip of Zack Mills. If the Penn State had held on to score at least a field goal, they would have gone bowling that season.

The following year I finally got to see Schaub go up against Penn State and he actually had a decent game but Virginia was not able to slow down Penn State's offense. It was a good home-and-home series and I would like to see Penn State and Virginia play more often if possible, although I'd love to see Virginia Tech get on the schedule even more.

Matthew: Plenty of offense. Cavalier quarterback Michael Rocco (son of former Nittany Lion Frank Rocco Jr and grandson of former Penn State assistant coach Frank Rocco Sr) passed for 311 yards and completed 68% of his passes in Virginia's 43-19 win over Richmond. The Cavalier offenses also benefited from 184 rushing yards. If Ohio's offense gave the Penn State defense problems. I have concern that Virginia will have similar success. What memories do you have from the 2001-2002 series with the Cavaliers? The 2001 contest was pushed back to December because the game was originally scheduled for Saturday September 15, just days after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The Zack Mills non-fumble that the Cavaliers' Art Thomas returned for a touchdown. After that, it was all UVA. The 20-14 loss dropped Penn State to 5-6 and ended hopes of a bowl game following a dreadful 0-4 start to the season. What game in 2002? According to the NCAA there was no game in 2002.

Tim: After a deplorable few years of football, Virginia's improvement last year in Mike London's second year was meteoric, as they beat both Miami and Florida State on the road and made a halfway decent bowl game. They struggled a bit with Richmond last weekend, but that's expected, as no team should know London's gameplan better than his previous employer. I'd look for another respectable, if uninteresting, season out of them this time around. The 2001 Virginia game got pushed back to the end of the year in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. It was an up-and-down season, but with a win over UVA, the Lions would get a shot at a bowl. At one point during the year, this idea was nothing short of miraculous, but come game time, I thought it was was a foregone conclusion. My memory fails me somewhat, but I think this was about the time when Zack Mills' left arm started its four year transformation from rocket into glass, and we continued our descent into the early 2000s dark ages (2002 and its drubbing of Matt Schaub's Wahoos notwithstanding).

J Schnauzer: The missed opportunity of having one of the greatest turnaround seasons in history. Forget the 2004 Iowa game, PSU football was at its lowest point* in late October 2001. The team was 0-4 and behind late against Northwestern. Upstart freshman Zack Mills guided this team to a 5-5 (nearly 6-4) record into Charlottesville. A win would have earned PSU its most unexpected bowl season ever. Sadly, a mis-timed pass by Mills kept this from happening. I also remember Virginia's breakout wide receiver Michael McGrew. One of the finest.

*football-related lowest point

Bill: I expect to see exactly what Ohio did in the second half; quick slants on offense forcing us to go to the Nickel and tighter coverage on defense which could lead to more McGloin struggles.


Cari: Unfortunately, I think UVA will be too good for us this week. I'd like nothing more than to be proven wrong, but I think their quarterback will look to show why he should have been recruited by Penn State (he grew up a PSU fan). I'm thinking around 31-17, Cavaliers.

Kevin: I think Penn State puts together a stronger performance this week after being humbled last week. I think Virginia poses another serious threat though. I think Penn State finds a way to sneak out of there with a low-scoring victory, but it certainly won't be easy as far as offense is concerned. Penn State 17, Virginia 16

The Underdogs: 24-13 UVa.

Rowlff Dogg: A hard-fought, character-defining 23-20 win for the Nittany Lions.

J Schnauzer: 38-31 Penn State. This will be the first time Evil Awful Penn State hits the road. More than anything I hope both sets of fans try to represent their respective schools in the best possible manner.

Matthew: Virginia 31-17.

Bill: Everyone is counting us out of this one and hopefully the Cavaliers are as well. I think Penn State can win this with a few turnovers and a little luck. But you don't make predictions based on luck so I will say we go down 24-14 for the second straight week.

Ali: You might think I'm crazy, but I'm going with Penn State in this one with a score of 27-17. I still think UVA's defense is a year away in terms of depth/experience, and I think PSU has an advantage in terms of mindset. With Penn State looking to rebound, UVA possibly looking ahead to Georgia Tech, this could be one that benefits Penn State in the end.


Tim: The PSU coaching staff needs to recreate whatever product it put on the field in the first half (sans turnovers), add a few bells and whistles, and find a way to sustain an honest effort throughout the full 60. I've seen enough of McGloin over the last few years to know he can make some big throws, and I expect him to do so. However, our team is still too young and volatile to put together a complete game, and until we do I'll have a hard time predicting it, especially on the road. After Scott Stadium offers a warm Southern reception to Penn Staters making the trip, the Hoos take down the Nits 20-14 in a reprise of the 2001 season-ender.

Zach: Being a Penn State student, it pains me to say that I think UVA is going to win this game. What I saw last Saturday against a good Ohio team was nothing that would inspire confidence that they are getting better, not worse. UVA is an even better team than Ohio and we have to go on the road to play them all of which makes it a tougher game. Current line sits at +8.5 for Penn State and I think that is about right. Unless BOB worked some magic this week and got his game plan perfected on Offense and Defense, I think UVA wins 24-14.

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