Penn State enters the Week 3 matchup against Navy with a record of 0-2. The 2012 season has not started the way the Nittany Lions had hoped. However, a closer look at the Week 2 game in Charlottesville reveals a team trending in the right direction.
Regardless of what the scoreboard said at the end of the Virginia game, Penn State did a lot of things right. In spite of the injuries and the woes in the kicking game, the Lions dominated the Cavaliers on both sides of the ball.
If Penn State can continue to build on the things it did right, there is no reason to think that the season can't be saved.
Three specific areas of the Week 2 game at Virginia point to a positive result in Week 3 against Navy.
1. The Passing Attack
Quarterback Matt McGloin continues to learn the new Bill O'Brien offense. He looked comfortable in the pocket in Week 2 and even returned from an elbow injury in the game. McGloin passed for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson is the leading receiver on the year. Robinson had 10 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. Robinson clearly has a chemistry with McGloin, and that should continue against Navy.
Tight end Kyle Carter is also quickly becoming a favorite target for McGloin. Carter, a big body with good hands, had four catches for 33 yards and a touchdown against Virginia. The connection of McGloin to Carter should be able to hook up once again in Week 3.
Starting wide receiver Shawney Kersey left the team this week. While his leadership may be missed, Kersey had only six catches for 44 yards on the year.
2. The Offensive Line
After getting pushed around by Ohio in Week 1, the Penn State offensive line played a solid game at Virginia. Matt McGloin (and backup Steven Bench) were not really pressured all day. McGloin did take back-to-back hits on his elbow, but then was able to find time to make plays.
The Cavaliers were unable to register a sack in the game.
After rushing for 92 yards against Ohio, the Lions were able to eclipse the 100-yard mark with 121 total yards rushing. That doesn't sound very impressive, but keep in mind that the Lions had their backup running back, Derek Day, starting the game. Not to mention the fact that Day missed time throughout the game with an injury.
If the offensive line can carry over their play from Week 2, McGloin should have plenty of time to scan the field and make the correct reads.
3. The Defense
The Penn State defensive was embarrassed in the second half of their Week 1 game against Ohio. The Lions were pushed around and gave up 21 unanswered points in the second half.
The story was totally different in Week 2 at Virginia. The defense controlled the line of scrimmage and completely shut down the Virginia run game. The Cavs ran the ball 25 times for only 32 yards. The Nittany Lions forced three fumbles and had one interception in the game.
If not for a collapse late in the game that allowed the game-winning touchdown, the defense would have had a stellar performance.
Coming into their game against Navy, the Penn State defense has to feel good about the progress made from Week 1 to Week 2. The Navy triple option could present a challenge, but a few key adjustments should have the defense ready to handle it.
Penn State has a lot to feel good about from their first two wins. The areas that improved and showed promise at Virginia should have Penn State fans feeling confident heading into Week 3.