Penn State Football: Adjustments Nittany Lions Must Make to Beat Virginia

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 01: Quarterback Matthew McGloin #11 of the Penn State Nittany Lions talks with head coach Bill O'Brien during the first half at Beaver Stadium on September 1, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Penn State Nittany Lions can erase the sting of defeat with a victory over the Virginia Cavaliers in Week 2, but that's not just going to happen by itself.

Adjustments must be made if the maligned program wants to avoid a disastrous start to their 2012 campaign.

Bill O'Brien and his coaching staff shouldn't be completely unsatisfied with their team's effort against Ohio in Week 1. Matt McGloin looked comfortable behind center, Allen Robinson emerged as a potential No. 1 receiver and tight end Kyle Carter showed the expected nuances of O'Brien's attack.

But a loss is a loss, and a few things must change in order to avoid attaching the word consecutive to that dreaded term.

Let's take a look at three adjustments the Nittany Lions must make against the Cavaliers in the season's second week.


Avoid Turnovers

Turnovers will haunt football's best teams, let alone mediocre squads. If Penn State wants to even their record up against Mike London's Cavaliers, they must cut down on the three giveaways they had in the opening week.

The first turnover really sticks out. Penn State came out clicking on offense, but Bill Belton coughed the ball up deep in Ohio territory. He got caught carrying the ball by his hip like a wide receiver, as opposed to cradling the rock high and tight like running backs are supposed to.

No matter, a turnover is a turnover.

The second mistake was worse in a way. Putting linebacker Gerald Hodges on punt return duty was bizarre to say the least, and it proved idiotic when he muffed a punt at the Penn State 13-yard line in the second quarter.

McGloin also threw a pick, but most Penn State fans would be happy that he limited himself to just one mistake.

The Nittany Lions are going to have trouble scoring this season, and turnovers aren't going to help anyone.

If they want to beat Virginia in Week 2, that number has to be reduced.


Tighten Up The Secondary

Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton runs a frenetically-paced "pistol" offense, and the Nittany Lions struggled to stop it for the majority of the game.

They surrendered 324 yards through the air and gave up 499 yards total. All in all, it was a poor defensive effort.

Virginia's signal-caller Michael Rocco doesn't run the same offense, but he did attempt 37 passes in Week 1. He eclipsed the 300-yard mark, and he will hurt the Nittany Lions if they don't make a schematic change.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof was expected to play tight man-to-man coverage, but that wasn't the case for most of the game. Ohio's Tettleton was able to complete nearly eight yards per pass because Penn State's secondary gave the Bobcats receivers a ton of room to breath.

If they do that this week, Tim Smith and Darius Jennings can do some damage. Stephon Morris did leave the match-up versus Ohio with an injury, but he's expected back against the Cavaliers.

Penn State's defense is supposed to be a sticking point for this team, but their secondary is an expected weakness.

In order to avoid an 0-2 start, Roof must get his men up tight on Virginia's wideouts. Allowing separation off the line made things too easy for Tettleton, and the same will be said for Rocco if it happens again.


Finish What You Start

This doesn't point to any particular statistic, but it was the deciding factor. Penn State allowed 21 unanswered points in the second half and failed to generate any sort of momentum after heading to the locker room.

O'Brien must make sure his team is ready to play 60 minutes of football. Their first-half performance earned them a 14-3 advantage at halftime, but they let off the throttle in the second half.

Part of that was due to injuries, but part of that also comes with mental toughness. They stopped attacking the Bobcats defense, and the Nittany Lion defenders seemed overwhelmed by Ohio's fast-paced assault.

Virginia is going to play hard for four quarters on Saturday. Everyone is gunning for Penn State, and they should expect to take every team's best shot.

If Penn State hopes to avoid a disappointing start, they must be focused on the final goal. That requires four quarters of competent football.


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