Nittany Lions Running on Empty

Tim KingCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2009

STATE COLLEGE - NOVEMBER 22:  Evan Royster #22 of the Penn State Nittany Lions runs the ball against the Michigan State Spartans on November 22, 2008 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Joe Paterno looked and sounded like a man who had awoken screaming from a very bad dream Saturday after his Nittany Lions dispatched Syracuse 28-7 at Beaver Stadium.  The 82 year old coach was hoarse from screaming all day and exhausted by the repeated failings of his offense to blow out a team that was reeling.   His post-game press conference left little doubt to those who know him that there would be more of the screaming to come this week in practice. 

While the Lions are 2-0 and hanging around just outside of the top five in this week's national polls their ground game has ground to a halt.  The best running back nobody voting for the Heisman has ever heard of, Evan Royster, had only 41 yards on 12 carries Saturday.  The entire team rang up the alarming total of only 78 yards. 

In short Joe has a big problem and only two weeks to fix it before the Big Ten season starts under the lights against Iowa and the sledding gets much tougher.  His defense is killing teams but the only wounds his offense is leaving are the self-inflicted variety. 

The Lions rebuilt the entire left side of their offense in the off season and moved highly regarded guard Stephan Wisznewski to center.  While Wisznewski has faired reasonably well over the ball in two games the rest of the offensive line spent most of the day barely holding its own. 

Everything else Paterno's staff has done in the off season is working brilliantly.  The new wide receivers are catching everything thrown their way, the first team defense with the entire new secondary has yet to yield a point and has given up a total number of first downs that you could count on one hand.  The kicking game was even reasonably solid on Saturday.

But if this team is really serious about playing in the second bowl game in Pasadena this year the offensive line has to stop being offensive and start opening holes.  The road to the BCS title runs right through them.