Penn State Football: What Nittany Lions Must Do to Continue Great Run

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 06:  Matthew McGloin #11 of the Penn State Nittany Lions rolls out to pass against the Northwestern Wildcats during the game on October 6, 2012 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  The Nittany Lions defeated the Wildcats 39-28.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Penn State has turned around its season with four straight wins after an 0-2 start. More importantly, it has the ability to keep this momentum going.

Navy, Temple and Illinois were all struggling teams before facing the Nittany Lions. However, Penn State's 39-28 win over Northwestern proves that this program is not going away anytime soon.

Still, Penn State must key in on a few things in order for this good play to continue.


Keep Pounding the Ball with Zach Zwinak

Zwinak had very little to show for his collegiate career three games into his sophomore season. However, in the last three games he has totaled 315 yards with three touchdowns. Last game, he also added six catches and 52 yards through the air.

There are a number of great run defenses coming up on the schedule. The only way to counter is by giving the ball to the best talent.

He is not a big-play threat, but Zwinak is incredibly solid and a big part of the reason that the offense has exploded in the last couple of weeks. The coaching staff needs to make sure that he receives over 20 carries per game to ensure this type of production continues.


Force More Turnovers

It is difficult to win games against good teams without winning the turnover battle. Penn State was able to dominate Illinois after forcing two interceptions and a fumble, but the Week 1 loss against Ohio proved what can happen when the squad has a negative-three turnover ratio.

Quarterback Matthew McGloin has done a solid job of holding onto the football on offense. Now, the defense must remain opportunistic and get the ball to him as often as possible.

The defense has been outstanding this year, ranked No. 15 in points allowed. However, it could be even better if it starts forcing turnovers with more consistency.


Do Not Trust Sam Ficken

The kicker has struggled all year long and is now 3-of-9 in field-goal attempts. The worst moment came in the game against Virginia where the sophomore missed four field goals and an extra point in a one-point loss.

He has been used less frequently in recent weeks, but still missed two field goals against Illinois. One was blocked, but it still could hurt the team if it was a closer contest. 

If Penn State gets into a situation where it has to kick a long field goal, it will be better off either going for it or punting. This is not an enviable strategy, but it is better than simply giving the other team good field position after a miss.

In addition, if the offense has a chance to win the game with a field goal, the staff needs to stay aggressive and go for the touchdown. It is the only way to feel safe with the game on the line.