Forty-eight hours before the Rose Bowl, the talk seems to be all about the quarterbacks. Particularly, the backups.
In an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jeff McLane compares Thursday’s Rose Bowl to the Trojan War and Penn State quarterback, Daryl Clark, to Achilles.
McLane claims Clark "would appear to have a Homer-sized bull's-eye planted on him."
Homer? Achilles? Bad analogy.
But if McLane and the Penn State coaches are so worried about Clark, then just make sure he wears ankle pads. They do make ankle pads, don’t they?
In any case, I don’t think Rey Maualuga will be shooting off any arrows. However, the Trojan quarterback, Mark Sanchez, may be launching a few missiles.
The gist of the article focused on backup QB Pat Devlin transferring and the fact that there is no one with any kind of experience to replace Clark should he get injured.
McLane emphasizes that Clark was knocked out of the Ohio State game, and Devlin came in to engineer a 13-6 victory over the Buckeyes. But now Devlin is gone.
So, McLane reasons that "It is no secret that when Penn State meets the Trojans on Thursday in the Rose Bowl, Clark will be under siege."
Then he quotes quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno: "They're (USC) very aggressive, and they're going to find out how tough a quarterback is. I don't think there's intent. But football is a physical game."
He doesn’t think there’s intent, but he maybe he can plant the threads. Penn State’s version of a Trojan Horse, I guess.
McLane goes on to quote Paterno: "Everybody knows the most important position on the field is quarterback. You knock the guy out of the game (I'm not saying that's what they're trying to do) but they're going to try and make you sore."
Hm? Does it sound to you like he is trying to invent a defensive scheme for Nick Holt, USC’s defensive coordinator? It sure does to me.
Come on, Nick, blitz! Send your guys hard every down. If you knock Clark out, the game is yours. We have no one to replace him.
Actually, they do. Paul Cianciolo, a fifth-year senior, is the backup, and wide receiver Derrick Williams, who played quarterback in high school, could also step in. But neither one has very much experience at this level, especially against a team like USC.
Paterno, along with offensive coordinator, Galen Hall, both understand that the USC defense is fast and overly aggressive. If they do have a weakness, that is it.
Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga personifies this weakness. Although Maualuga has been named the Defensive Player of the Year, he has been known throughout his career to overrun plays.
If Penn State can get the Trojan defense to focus on Clark and go at it him hard, they can counter with misdirection and reverses as well as option tosses.
Then there is one other weakness in the Trojan defense. Penalties.
While USC has the top defense in the nation, they also are one of the most penalized teams in college football. Almost every game they spot their opponent an additional 50 to 80 yards, due to their aggressiveness.
And the bulk of these penalties are called for late hits, especially on the quarterbacks. And often on third downs to keep opponents’ drives alive.
McLane quotes Penn State quarterback, Daryll Clark: "They're real intense. Sometimes they hit late and let you know that they're there."
Hit late? Isn’t that a penalty? Calling all zebras! Joe Paterno would like you to note that USC is armed and considered late-hitters.
While McLane is helping Penn State call attention to the fact that the Nittany Lions don’t have an experienced backup at quarterback, Pete Carroll has made some changes of his own in that department.
Over Carroll’s tenure, or I should say reign, at USC, the coach has always used the practices from between the end of the regular season and the bowl game to take a close look at his younger players and how they compete against the veterans.
This year was no different. And one younger player who has stood out in practices is third string quarterback, Aaron Corp. So, just announced for the Rose Bowl, Corp will be Mark Sanchez’ backup, surpassing Mitch Mustain, who drops to the third spot.
NEWS FLASH: USC fullback Stanley Havili, one of the most versatile players on the team and a key part of the Trojan offense, has been declared academically ineligible for the Rose Bowl.