|JoePa faces tough questions about PSU offense after another loss|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 01 October 2007 00:29|
After two straight losses, he likely isn't happy with the results.
It was back to the video room Sunday for the Penn State coach as he tries to figure out how to fix his reeling offense - again.
``I haven't got the slightest idea,'' Paterno said Saturday when asked where the 27-20 loss to Illinois left his team. ``I'm going to have to go back and look at the tapes, spend some time with the players and staff and go from there.''
The loss left Penn State (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) tied for last in the conference and out of the AP Top 25 two weeks after peaking at No. 10.
The Nittany Lions have lost two straight for the first time since 2004, when back-to-back defeats at Wisconsin and Minnesota started a six-game skid.
Against Illinois on Saturday, moving the ball between the 20-yard lines wasn't as much of a problem as in the sluggish loss to Michigan the previous week. Playmaking wideouts Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood and Deon Butler got involved early.
Maligned quarterback Anthony Morelli helped orchestrate some nice drives to keep Penn State in the game after Illinois raced out to first-half leads of 14-3 and 21-10. The defense had trouble early shutting down the Illini rushing attack.
The defense rallied in the second half, but then a familiar problem arose for the offense, trouble in the red zone. Penn State scored on just three of six trips inside the opponents' 20.
Penn State could muster just one field goal from three consecutive third-quarter drives that started in Illinois territory. Morelli, a senior captain, had turnovers in crucial situations.
Trailing 24-20 late in the third quarter, Morelli's pass from the Illinois 20 appeared to be underthrown to the end zone, and Illinois linebacker J Leman made a leaping interception.
``Defense is a funny thing,'' Leman said. ``We just need to come out with more energy. Defense is all about emotion.''
Later, Morelli fumbled near the Illinois 9 after scrambling out of the pocket and trying to dive for a first down on a fourth-and-long with two-plus minutes left.
``Obviously, we weren't effective down there,'' Paterno said about the red-zone woes. ``It's something we're going to have to address.''
Morelli finished 21-of-38 for a career-high 298 yards with three interceptions and a touchdown. He didn't speak with reporters after the game.
``We came out ready and eager, we just couldn't capitalize on some key plays and the turnovers hurt,'' cornerback Justin King said about the second half.
Morelli walked off the field with his head down after his last turnover, an interception off a wobbly pass with nine seconds left, and filed silently past Paterno as Illinois celebrated on the other side of the field.
Asked specifically to evaluate Morelli, Paterno said he couldn't comment about anyone's performance until he studied the videotapes.
Perhaps a bit of good news for Paterno is Penn State is home this weekend against Iowa, which is also winless in the Big Ten.
After that, however, the remaining home schedule is brutal with No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 23 Purdue.
Notes: Backup LB Navarro Bowman, a redshirt freshman, was on crutches after the game with a sprained ankle. He is considered week-to-week. ... LB Sean Lee's 17 tackles were a career-high. ... LB Dan Connor had 11 tackles, moving into third on the school's career list with 323. He is behind Greg Buttle (343) and Paul Posluszny (372). ... Iowa and Penn State will meet for the first time since 2004 - an ugly 6-4 win by the Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium.