Penn State vs. Navy Football: Complete Game Preview
Penn State and Navy are two historic football programs, but they have not faced each other since 1974. This week, old acquaintances will be reunited at last in Beaver Stadium while both programs look to pick up their first victory of the season.
Last week at Virginia, Penn State put together a performance that was worthy of a victory if not for special teams concerns. But they managed to keep the game close with solid defensive play and a roughed-up, still developing offense.
Navy comes off a bye week after losing to Notre Dame in Ireland in the season opener, 50-10.
Game Day Information
Depth Chart for Penn State
QB: MATT MCGLOIN, Steven Bench or Paul Jones
RB: BILL BELTON or DEREK DAY
FB: MICHAEL ZORDICH, Pat Zerbe
WR: ALLEN ROBINSON, Eugene Lewis or Matt Zanellato
WR: Matt Zanellato or Trevor Williams, Brandon Moseby-Felder, Christian Kuntz
WR: ALEX KENNEY, Evan Lewis, Malik Golden or Jonathan Warner
TE (Y): GARRY GILLIAM, Jesse James
TE (F): KYLE CARTER, Brian Irvin
RG: JOHN URSCHEL, Eric Shrive
RT: MIKE FARRELL, Adam Gress, Kevin Blanchard
C: MATT STANKIEWITCH, Angelo Mangiro
LT: DONOVAN SMITH, Nate Cadogan
LG: MILES DIEFFENBACH, Angelo Mangiro
Update (September 12): Wide receiver Shawney Kersey has left the team, leaving his starting receiver position up for grabs.
DE: DEION BARNES or PETE MASSARO, Anthony Zettel
DT: JORDAN HILL, Kyle Baublitz
DT: DAQUAN JONES, James Terry, Austin Johnson
DE: SEAN STANLEY, C.J. Olaniyan
OLB: GERALD HODGES, Mike Hull
MLB: GLENN CARSON, Nyeem Wartman, Michael Yancich
OLB: MICHAEL MAUTI, Ben Kline
CB: ADRIAN AMOS, Jesse Della Valle
SAF: MALCOLM WILLIS, Ryan Keiser
SAF: STEPHEN OBENG-AGYAPONG, Jake Fagnano
CB: STEPHON MORRIS, Da'Quan Davis
Depth Chart for Navy
QB: TREY MILLER, Keenan Reynolds
SB: GEE GEE GREENE, Bo Snelson
FB: NOAH COPELAND, Prentice Christian
WR: CASEY BOLENA, John O'Boyle
WR: SHAWN LYNCH or JONATHAN GAZAILLE, Brandon Turner or James King
LT: RYAN PAULSON, Andrew Barker
LG: JOSH CABRAL, E.K. Binns
C: GRAHAM VICKERS, Tanner Fleming
RG: JAKE ZUZEK, Thomas Stone
RT: BRADYN HEAP, Andrew Barker
LE: WES HENDERSON, Josh Dowling-Fizpatrick
NG: BARRY DABNEY, Travis Birdges
RE: EVAN PALELEI, Collin Sturdivant
OLB: JORDAN DRAKE, DJ Sargenti
ILB: BRYE FRENCH, John Michael Nurthen
ILB: MATT WARRICK, Cody Peterson
OLB: KEEGAN WETZEL, Obi Uzoma
BCB: PARRISH GAINES, Kwazel Bertrand
ROV: TRA'VES BUSH, James Britton
FS: CHRIS FERGUSON, Wave Ryder
FCB: JONATHAN WEV or QUINCY ADAMS, Shelley White
What Happened to the Nittany Lions Last Week
Penn State stepped things up with their defense a week after letting a game slip away from them at home against Ohio. On the road at Virginia, Penn State's defense forced four turnovers which was much more representative of Penn State's defensive model.
But the offensive depth held the team back from taking firm control of the game. Special teams struggled mightily with kicker Sam Ficken missing four field goals and an extra point as Penn State dropped to 0-2 with a 17-16 loss.
What Happened to the Midshipmen Last Week
Navy had a scheduled bye last week after opening the season in Ireland against Notre Dame. The Mids were dominated by a bigger, more physical and athletic Notre Dame team that pulled away with a 50-10 victory over their traditional rivals.
Quarterback Trey Miller showed some promise with an accurate arm when he was able to get a pass off, but Navy was not as effective as they have been in recent years getting their triple option going.
What It Means to Both Teams
This is simple: get a win. Both teams enter this week's game looking to score their first win of the season, with Penn State dropping their first two games of the season and Navy losing their only game so far.
Bill O'Brien is looking for his first head coaching victory after starting his new career with an 0-2 record.
Penn State leads the all-time series 18-17-4, with Navy winning the most recent meeting by a score of 7-6 back in 1974. Some long-time Penn State faithful may be looking for some long-awaited revenge. The series dates back to 1894.
While Penn State is ineligible for postseason play, Navy is not. In fact, the Midshipmen already have a bowl arrangement lined up as long as they end the season eligible for postseason play. Navy needs to win six games this season in order to qualify for their reserved spot in the 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
Key Player for Penn State
Penn State lacks a true go-to wide receiver, but Allen Robinson may be developing in to the guy to handle that role. Through two games this season, Robinson has accumulated 186 yards and one touchdown. Only a sophomore, Robinson is doing what he can to step in to a leading receiver's role following the dismissal of Devon Smith and transfer of Justin Brown.
Robinson has plenty of potential, but the offense will need him to find a way to take one more step forward this week.
Key Player for Navy
Navy is known for their ability to run the football and for having quarterbacks who can run, but Trey Miller appears to have the ability to bring some passing to the offense as well.
He may lack the kind of running ability that previous Navy quarterbacks have had, but if his accuracy and production against Notre Dame was any indication, Navy could have a suitable passer this season. Against a Penn State secondary that continues to find themselves this season, this could play in to Navy's favor if used correctly and if Miller is given protection. It may not be enough to finish things off in an upset bid, but it could be enough to keep things interesting.
Penn State Will Win If...
They stick to what they are doing and fix the kicking game, at least a little bit.
Penn State is the more athletic team despite some key personnel losses to transfers, and the Penn State defense appears to be suited to be able to ensure a triple option offense does not hurt them too much. Navy's offense does have the ability to wear down Penn State and with depth and durability a concern for the Nittany Lions, this certainly may not be easy.
Penn State's offense should have an upper hand and that should be evident pretty early on against an overmatched Navy defense. Of course, the special teams will have to avoid a second straight catastrophe as well.
Navy Will Win If...
They keep it close in to the fourth quarter.
Penn State's offense has been a work in progress the past couple of weeks and could still be trying to figure thing out a little bit this week. Having scored 14 and 17 points in their first two games, Penn State is clearly lacking the ability to finish off their opposition. If Navy can keep things close going in to the fourth quarter, then they should be able to have a more than a decent chance to sink Penn State to 0-3.
Heading in to this week's game it looks as though we could be in store for another tight game for Penn State. Navy may be lacking in the physical toughness but Penn State is not exactly a powerhouse right now. The offense is a continuing work in progress and the defense will have to stay well conditioned against an offense that could put them to the grind on the ground all afternoon.
Look for Penn State to try and get out to a fast start, but even if successful it will be vital to keep the proverbial foot on the gas against Navy. The way the last couple of weeks have gone, there is no way Penn State will want to be playing a close game after halftime.
Final Score: Penn State 24, Navy 20
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.