|True to form, JoePa uncertain about No. 10 PSU as Michigan awaits|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 18 September 2007 22:04|
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -Confident one minute, cautious the next. Joe Paterno just doesn't have a good read yet on his Penn State Nittany Lions.|
One of the biggest tests to determine whether No. 10 Penn State is Big Ten title-material comes Saturday with a trip to the Big House to play Michigan.
``I've always said you never known how good a football team you have until you have to do things under a lot of pressure,'' Paterno said Tuesday. ``I think we're still in a stage of finding out how good we are.''
The Nittany Lions (3-0) have rolled to three lopsided wins so far, outscoring opponents 135-34. They haven't been tested yet, though last week's 45-24 win over Buffalo wasn't as easy as the final score may make it appear.
The defense, while solid overall, gave ground in the second half with the Bulls trying to rally from a four-touchdown deficit, often against second-teamers.
Several Nittany Lions said the team may have lacked focus in the second half, something linebacker Sean Lee said the team hopes to guard against Saturday.
``We talked about how we need to play with intensity the whole game, especially against the Michigan offense,'' he said.
Justin King, who developed a reputation last year as a shutdown corner after his play against Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr., and Tennessee's Robert Mechem, was burned a couple times by comparatively unknown Buffalo receivers like Naaman Roosevelt.
``I know my faults. Those games are going to come. You got to take them with the good ones,'' King said Tuesday when asked about criticism of his performance last weekend. ``That's the life of a cornerback. I could care less what people say.''
Now, King figures to draw a much tougher assignment on Saturday in Michigan's Mario Manningham, who missed last year's game against Penn State because of injury.
Regardless of whether it's injured senior Chad Henne or freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett throwing the ball for the Wolverines, there will be no problems with focus in Ann Arbor, King said.
``You have to gear up for them, or you'll get embarrassed,'' King said.
Michigan's losses to Appalachian State and No. 13 Oregon? Ancient history, said the 80-year-old Paterno, who stayed in form Tuesday in shying away from giving his foe any bulletin-board material.
Paterno is also worried about how well his top-ranked rush defense (17.7 yards per game) will handle one of the country's best tailbacks, Michigan's Mike Hart (167.3 yards per game, five TDs).
As for Penn State's tailback situation, Austin Scott is listed as the starter despite being replaced last week by Rodney Kinlaw following two fumbles against Buffalo. Kinlaw ran for 129 yards and a touchdown against the Bulls, but Paterno said both backs will play at Michigan.
JoePa might need both of them if he hopes to end an eight-game losing streak to the Wolverines. The Nittany Lions have played Michigan tight the last two games at the Big House, a 27-24 overtime loss in 2002, and a 27-25 defeat two years ago following a Henne-to-Manningham 10-yard TD pass as time expired.
Wideout Deon Butler, who played in that 2005 game as a freshman, said Penn State's veteran receivers learned a lot from that game, despite the loss.
``I don't think we have a lot of pressure on our shoulders. We've been out there when it's been its rowdiest,'' Butler said. ``It's not a super overwhelming place to play at so, I think ... when the ball is in the air, we'll be ready to make plays.''
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