|Penn State's spread HD hopes to rebound|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 12 November 2008 13:11|
The offense has had some struggles of late, hampered by slow starts, tough defenses and dropped passes. Quarterback Daryll Clark hasn't accounted for a touchdown the last two games.
``Better execution'' is the mantra this week in Happy Valley as the No. 7 Nittany Lions (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) refocus their sights from a BCS title to the Rose Bowl following last weekend's disheartening loss to Iowa.
``It all comes down to a lack of execution,'' Clark said. ``If you don't execute, that kind of stuff happens.''
The offense had been the talk of the Big Ten for much of the season, sporting an impressive collection of playmakers such as receivers Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood, and tailback Evan Royster.
It's a big reason why Penn State can still lock up the Big Ten's automatic BCS bid with wins the last two weeks against Indiana and Michigan State.
in his first year as starter. Early leads allow the Nittany Lions defense to play more aggressively when they hit the field.
``Obviously you can if you are scoring a lot of points,'' linebacker Tyrell Sales said Wednesday. ``Regardless of what our offense is doing, the way we can play defense, we can stay consistent whether we're scoring points or not.''
But things haven't gone entirely their way recently on both sides of the ball.
The offense struggled to get going against Michigan, including a Clark fumble that foiled a first-half drive in which the Nittany Lions trailed 17-14 at halftime. Penn State ended up bowling over the Wolverines in the second half en route to a 46-17 victory.
Penn State has scored 36 points combined in its last two games against two of the Big Ten's best defenses - Ohio State and Iowa. That's about four points less than its season average.
The Nittany Lions didn't have a turnover or penalty and were able to ride their defense to a 13-6 win over Ohio State. Clark was knocked out of that game in the second half with a mild concussion, and Penn State scored its only touchdown on a 1-yard sneak by backup QB Pat Devlin in the fourth quarter.
But Penn State was stopped at the 2 on one of those drive and had to settle for a field goal. Another first-half drive deep into Iowa territory stalled after a holding penalty, and the offense settled for another field goal.
Plus, there were several dropped passes, and Clark finished 9-of-23 passing for 86 yards and one interception, by far the worst outing of his career. Paterno had Williams at quarterback against Iowa at times in part to keep Clark from getting big hits on designed runs.
Deep shots over the middle haven't been taken as much as earlier in the season, whether because of weather, mistakes, injuries or opposing defenses' adapting coverages.
Penn State does script about the first 10-15 plays of a game to try to probe defenses ``so that you're really building the background for what you may have to do in the clutch when you've really got to put it to them,'' head coach Joe Paterno said. ``But, hopefully what you put in early works.''
Execution needs to improve no matter what the script, center A.Q. Shipley said. After looking at film this week, ``we did everything we could to get everything corrected and move on.''
The Hoosiers this weekend might be the perfect tonic for Penn State.
Indiana's defense gives up almost 33 points and 415 yards a game, and the Nittany Lions are looking forward to playing at home for the first time in a month.