Penn State Football 2012: Week 2 Story Lines
With the beginning of this emotional and tumultuous season finally behind them, it's time for the Penn State players to get back to what it is they came to do: win football games. Week 1 saw the Lions lose a tough, emotional home game to the Ohio Bobcats.
Week 2 brings a trip to Charlottesville to face the Virginia Cavaliers. This will be a chance for the Nittany Lions to bounce back and show how resilient they are.
Bill O'Brien and his coaching staff will need to prepare and figure out what adjustments need to be made in order to be successful against the Cavs.
There are several story lines that will be in play when the Lions take the field in Virginia.
This list looks at five areas that fans will want to pay attention to during the game.
Who Will Be Returning Kicks on Saturday?
In a move that had fans scratching their heads in the stands on Saturday, Bill O'Brien had starting linebacker Gerlad Hodges back to return kicks.
Hodges took the opening kickoff from halfway in the end zone and ran in out to the 12-yard line. Hodges also fumbled a fair catch on a punt that led to an Ohio field goal.
Kick-returning was a clear problem area for the Nittany Lions in Week 1. The Lions were constantly left with a long field after every kickoff.
At Virginia, it's probably a safe bet to say that Hodges will not be back there when the ball is kicked off. Look for Alex Kenney and Adrian Amos to handle the return duties in Week 2.
Will Bill Belton Be at Full Health?
Bill Belton left the Ohio game with a sprained ankle in the second half. His status is still up in the air for the game at Virginia.
If Belton can't go, or is limited, the Lions' running game could really struggle. The main problem will be depth. Behind Belton is senior Derek Day and redshirt junior Curtis Dukes. Dukes did not see any time at running back during Week 1.
A strong running game will be important to take pressure off of quarterback Matt McGloin. If Belton is not available, McGloin may be asked to do more with his arm.
Fans will want to monitor Belton's status as the week goes on.
Can the Secondary Shut Down Quarterback Michael Rocco?
Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton picked apart the inexperienced Penn State secondary for 324 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. The Penn State defense was unable get key third-down stops, especially in the second half. The secondary seemed bothered by the short, quick passes that Tettleton used so effectively.
Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco is coming off a solid Week 1 performance against Richmond (311 yards and a touchdown). Rocco showed that he has the ability to throw the ball all over the field and could cause many issues for the Penn State defense.
Making the situation even more difficult is that fact that starting cornerback Stephon Morris was injured against Ohio and may not play in Week 2.
If the Penn State secondary is unable to improve in Week 2, they could be in for a long day on Saturday at Virginia.
Can Matt McGloin Cut Down on the Mistakes?
Quarterback Matt McGloin has been prone to the interception in his college career. McGloin needs to cut down on the turnovers and poor reads in order for Penn State to be successful in 2012.
His performance against Ohio in Week 1 was pretty decent. McGloin threw for 260 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. His biggest issue was accuracy—there were several times when he missed wide open receivers.
If McGloin can improve his play he could keep Penn State in the game against Virginia. He needs to lead the offense by making the correct reads and improving his accuracy.
Fans should be able to gauge how the game is going based on McGloin's performance. The chances are pretty high that if McGloin is making smart reads and good throws against Virginia, Penn State should be in the game.
Will Tight End Kyle Carter Continue to Be a Large Part of the Offense?
Perhaps no one has benefited from Bill O'Brien's arrival than tight end Kyle Carter. Carter is a big and athletic tight end who fits the mold of what O'Brien had during his time in New England.
Carter quickly became a reliable target for McGloin, catching six passes for 74 yards against Ohio. He showed that he has good hands and an ability to run after the catch.
As more tape becomes available on Kyle Carter, it will be interesting to see if teams start to focus on him. It became clear on Saturday that Carter is a key piece of the Penn State passing game.
Carter will need to have a big game on Saturday to help the Lions offense get rolling. A reliable tight end can be a quarterback's best friend. If McGloin can complete passes to Carter early in the game, his confidence as a quarterback should continue to grow.
Carter was the second leading receiver on the team in Week 1. That's a trend that Penn State fans will want to continue.