|Coastal Carolina has tough task at No. 22 Penn St.|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 28 August 2008 22:58|
And, to top it off, the Championship Subdivision school could go down Saturday as a footnote on Joe Paterno's lengthy resume since the Hall of Fame coach is one shy of the 373 victories owned by Florida State's Bobby Bowden for the most among major college coaches.
``I tell my buddies who play golf, it's like you're going out to play (PGA golfers Phil) Mickelson or Tiger Woods head-to-head. 'How would you do without a handicap,''' Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett said. ``There's no handicap involved with this.''
Coastal Carolina has had some success in its brief, six-year history of playing football, winning the Big South from 2004 to 2006. They were 5-6 last season. Penn State will be the program's first Bowl Subdivision opponent.
Knowing his squad is overmatched, the easygoing Bennett will start by aiming for small victories on Saturday, like getting key first downs, and making the Nittany Lions punt.
``You want to go up there, do well, win some battles,'' Bennett said. ``You don't want to go up there and just have them run roughshod on you. That's not good. That wouldn't be good.''
Unfortunately for Bennett, run defense is one of several areas in which Coastal Carolina appears to be outclassed.
The Chanticleers return eight starters from a 2007 defense that allowed 219 yards per game on the ground. Penn State has four veterans returning on an offensive line that could open holes for tailbacks Evan Royster and Stephfon Green.
Darryl Clark couldn't have asked for a better opponent to ease into his new job as starting quarterback in what could be the debut of the Nittany Lions' retooled offense. Paterno's son and quarterbacks coach, Jay Paterno, has dubbed it the ``Spread HD.''
``On the way to the stadium, I don't know, I'll probably be a little overwhelmed,'' Clark said about his starting debut after sitting for two years behind Anthony Morelli. ``It's a dream come true.''
What could make this year stand out more for Clark is if it turns out to be Paterno's record 43rd and final season on the sideline. Paterno is in the final year of his contract, and both he and university administrators have agreed to table talks about his future until after the season.
Both sides also say Paterno doesn't need something in writing anymore to keep his job. JoePa hasn't signaled that 2008 is the end, repeatedly saying he feels he could go at least another couple years.
He's still having fun coaching and getting ready for football Saturdays. Paterno often parcels out similar phrases to describe opponents, making teams like Coastal Carolina often sound like South Carolina.
``And when you look at the tapes of them, they've got some awfully good athletes,'' Paterno said. ``And as I said, they're very, very well-coached.''
There are a couple concerns, though not big headaches, on the Penn State defense. First, ``Linebacker U.'' is without a star linebacker this year after Sean Lee went down with a knee injury in spring practice. Paterno hopes senior Tyrell Sales can provide leadership for a young but otherwise promising unit.
The secondary, which took some lumps at times last year for more porous-than-usual pass coverage, wants to create more turnovers, safety Anthony Scirrotto said.
It might be bad news for Coastal Carolina quarterback William Richardson, though at least he has some experience with football in Happy Valley. His older brother, Wally, played quarterback for Paterno at Penn State in the mid-1990s.
To compare the programs, just look at each school's home fields. With Michigan Stadium under renovation, Beaver Stadium is temporarily the country's largest with a seating capacity of 107,000.
Coastal Carolina's Brooks Stadium holds more than 7,300.
``I told our guys don't look around with your mouth wide open,'' Bennett said. ``You could get embarrassed if you do that.''