Penn State Football: 10 Things Nittany Lions Must Do To Bounce Back
Rob Carr/Getty Images
For the second straight season, Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions were no match for mighty Alabama. Penn State kept the game close for a quarter, but it was clear the Crimson Tide was superior to the Lions in every aspect of the game.
This game does not need to spell the end of Penn State's hopes for a successful season. They need to bounce back quickly against the Temple Owls.
Joe Paterno has faced adversity plenty of times in his long coaching career. This early-season loss at the hands of Alabama will not be a death blow to the Lions' season.
The Lions will pick themselves up from the canvas and bounce back to contend for the Big 10 title, and here is how they can do it.
Focus on the Positives
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Believe it or not, there are some positive moments to be taken from this game. The final score, 27-11, would indicate the Lions did nothing right, but that is not the case.
Penn State was able to score on their opening possession. Although all they mustered was a field goal, their 16-play drive was impressive. They converted two third downs and a fourth down. The drive showed that Penn State would refuse to go quietly.
Silas Redd ran the ball well on this drive as the offensive line opened wide running lanes. This would prove to be the only extended drive Penn State would muster in the first half. Lions coaches can still use this drive as a means to keep their offense thinking happy thoughts.
The Nittany Lions defense has even more positives to draw from their performance against Alabama. Their offense really did not do much to help them out. They were on the field way too long.
Trent Richardson did pick up over 100 yards, but his average was way down from last year. Penn State made him work to get to the century mark this year.
Were it not for a questionable spot on a fake punt run early in the first quarter, Alabama would have opened the game with two three-and-outs on offense. That is certainly something to be proud of for the Penn State defense.
Get Joe Pa out of the Press Box
There was clearly a disconnect between the head coach in the press box and his assistants on the field. There can be no other explanation for Penn State burning all three of their timeouts on their opening possession.
Getting Joe Paterno back on the field will make the coaching staff's job much easier. If Paterno's health continues to limit him, the Lions will need to figure out their communication issues.
Ride Silas Redd
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Silas Redd is emerging as one of the top running backs in the Big 10. He has the ability to take over a game if given the opportunity.
Against Alabama, Redd carried the ball 22 times for 65 yards, but eight of those carries came on the opening drive. In the third quarter, when Penn State needed to muster any sort of offensive momentum, Redd was a forgotten man as the Lions continuously dropped back to pass.
Redd was the only reason Penn State was able to sustain a long drive on their opening possession. When they forgot about him in the third quarter, the Tide pulled away.
Penn State's quarterbacks are not good enough to carry the team to victory. From here out, Silas Redd will need to carry much of the offensive load.
Find Ways to Get the Ball in Derek Moye's Hands
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Derek Moye is Penn State's best threat at the wide receiver position. He is a huge matchup problem for college cornerbacks as evidenced by his near 1,000-yard season in 2010.
Moye's combination of speed and size makes him very dangerous, but he cannot make up for his quarterback's flaws. Penn State needs to find more ways to get No. 6 the ball.
Moye only had three catches against Alabama. He is too good to only touch the ball three times. Getting the ball in Moye's hands on receiver screens or on runs out of the backfield would be a very good way to take some of the pressure off Silas Redd and whoever happens to be playing quarterback at the time.
Continue Playing Disciplined Football
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Penn State's four senior captains—Derek Moye, Drew Astorino, Devon Still and Quinn Barham—have kept the Lions focused on the field so far in 2011. Penn State committed only three penalties against Alabama.
In 2010, Penn State was the second-least penalized team in terms of yards per game. Playing this type of disciplined football will help Penn State immensely.
They will not shoot themselves in the foot and kill drives or let an opponent off the hook by doing something silly after the whistle.
Turn Jordan Hill Loose on the Big 10
Jordan Hill is emerging as a tenacious presence on the defensive line for Penn State. He came on strong at the end of last season, filling in as injuries piled up for the Penn State defense. He is carrying that momentum over into this season.
Hill has a non-stop motor. He is currently third on the team in tackles with 13, an impressive total for a defensive lineman.
Penn State's run defense was pitiful last season. This year will be different. Jordan Hill is ready to be turned loose on the Big 10. He is a hard worker, and Penn State will benefit from his presence in the starting lineup.
Let the Offensive Line Gel
Joe Paterno does not need to make any changes to the offensive line. He must let his big eaters up front mesh to form a cohesive unit. That will be one of the biggest keys in Big 10 play.
The unit, which consists of Quinn Barham, Johnnie Troutman, Matt Stankiewitch, DeOn'tae Pannell and Chima Okoli, could actually be one of the team's strengths by the end of the season. Okoli and Barham played well in 2010, and Troutman has huge upside if he puts it all together.
Offensive line has not always been a strength for Penn State in the past few seasons. They have a talented group in place right now. The coaching staff just needs to be patient and let them come together as a group. The talent is there.
Get Geared Up for Temple
Hunter Martin/Getty Images
In the past, a game against the Temple Owls would not be reason for Penn State's players to get amped up. Temple, however, has come a long way from their days as a cupcake on Penn State's schedule. The Owls are capable of giving Penn State a game.
The Nittany Lions only won last year's game 22-13 and trailed 13-9 at halftime. As they travel to Philadelphia this weekend, the Lions have a great opportunity to bounce back from their loss to Alabama. The fact that Temple is much improved benefits Penn State.
Penn State actually has to be prepared for this game. Their focus must be on this Saturday's game against Temple. They cannot look back on the Alabama game. This is key, because it keeps Penn State focused on the present game and not thinking about their crushing defeat at the hands of the Crimson Tide.
Point Michael Mauti Towards the Quarterback
Michael Mauti is finally healthy in 2011. After missing 2009 with a serious knee injury and dealing with nagging injuries last season, Mauti is ready to be a force at linebacker.
Penn State's reputation as "Linebacker U" took a hit the past few seasons. In Mauti, they have a candidate to restore the luster to their reputation as being the home of the best linebackers in college football.
Mauti needs to be the heart and soul of the defense this year. He is the most talented player on the defense and needs to be used as such.
Penn State's defensive ends have not gotten after the quarterback well the past two seasons. Using Mauti on blitzes a few times a game could improve the pass rush and make Penn State's defensive unit much more fearsome.
Pick a Quarterback
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The two-quarterback system is not going to cut it once Big 10 play starts. It is quite possibly one of the key reasons Penn State's offense failed to sustain the momentum of its solid opening drive against Alabama.
Rob Bolden moved the offense very effectively on the opening possession. When Matt McGloin came in to run the offense, there was no movement. When Bolden came back in, there was no offensive rhythm and no chance to beat Alabama.
An offense needs to establish rhythm to work effectively. Receivers and quarterbacks need to be in tune. This system is not going to work because Bolden and McGloin are so different in what they bring to the field. The coaching staff cannot run the same plays with each.
Keeping only one quarterback on the field allows that player to get in the flow of the game and be effective. Standing on the sidelines for extended periods of time can dull a quarterback's focus and ability to move the chains.
Penn State has tried the quarterback by committee approach in the past, and it never led to much success. The biggest key to Penn State bouncing back and having a successful season from here on out is to settle on one quarterback and stick with him.