Youngstown St.-Penn St. Preview

Chasing another milestone, head coach Joe Paterno is back for a

45th year. A number of key changes has Penn State trying to reclaim

the Big Ten title.

The 19th-ranked Nittany Lions look to get their quest for a

third conference championship in six years off to a strong start

when they host overmatched Youngstown State on Saturday.

Paterno’s return to the sidelines is constantly in question.

Instead of fielding questions about potentially retiring, the

83-year-old Hall of Fame coach has been subjected to speculation

regarding his health due to various surgeries and ailments over

recent years.

“I have one request; Please, don’t ask if I’m going to die.

Believe me, I got a few more days left,” said Paterno, the all-time

leader among coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 394

wins.

Entering his 61st year on Penn State’s staff, Paterno will try

to join Eddie Robinson (408) and John Gagliardi (471) as the only

coaches to surpass the 400-win mark. That honor means little to him

at this point.

“You know, when I’m down and looking up, are they going to put

399 on top of me or are they going to put 401,” Paterno said. “Who

the hell cares? I won’t know.”

Paterno will be more concerned with getting the Nittany Lions

back atop the Big Ten after tying Iowa for second last year and

going 11-2 overall. Penn State last won the conference in 2008.

The iconic coach finally made a decision on his starting

quarterback Tuesday, tabbing freshman Robert Bolden. A school

spokesman said it is the first time the Nittany Lions will open the

season with a true freshman at quarterback and the first time

Paterno has started a true freshman under center since Wally

Richardson in 1992.

”Based on what we have seen to this point, Bolden has a slight

edge right now, but we are confident all three quarterbacks are

ready to go and hope to give them an opportunity to play until we

settle on the one that gives us the best chance to win,” Paterno

said.

Paterno did add quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Kevin Newsome

could be starters at some point during the season.

The lack of clear-cut No. 1 quarterback means the offense could

rely heavily on running back Evan Royster, a preseason candidate

for the Doak Walker Award. Royster finished last season second in

the conference with 1,169 rushing yards, a 5.7 average per carry

and six touchdowns.

The senior is 481 yards shy of the Nittany Lions’ career rushing

mark of 3,398 yards held by Curt Warner, and Royster has bulked up

in anticipation of more carries this season.

“You don’t want to bring in a new quarterback and be throwing

the ball 40 times a game,” Royster said. “I expect to take more of

a bigger workload this year, take more carries, and the hits.”

Royster is also expected to be more involved as a receiver. He

has 360 yards and two touchdowns on 36 catches over three

seasons.

Defensively, Penn State ranked third in the nation last year,

allowing 12.2 points per game. The unit, however, is dealing with

major losses after All-America defensive tackle Jared Odrick and

all three starting linebackers left for the NFL.

Not so, said senior defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu, one of the

team’s more vocal leaders.

“I would say we’re not losing anything … It’s going to be the

same physical play we have here,” he said. “It’s one of those

things where one piece comes out, one piece comes in … the

machine keeps on working.”

Ogbu and junior defensive end Jack Crawford will be important

keys to the defensive line. Ogbu had two sacks and three forced

fumbles last season, while Crawford was second on the team with 5

1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for a loss.

Penn State is in good position to start the season with a

victory against Youngstown State from the Football Championship

Subdivision. In 2006, the Nittany Lions won 37-3 at Beaver Stadium

in the only meeting with the Penguins.

Youngstown State has also lost three consecutive season openers

by a combined score of 119-9, including 38-3 last year at

Pittsburgh.

The Penguins finished 2009 at 6-5 and tied for fifth with

Missouri State in the Missouri Valley Conference.

They’ll have Kurt Hess at quarterback after he beat out fellow

freshman Najee Tyler and junior Marc Kanetsky after the departure

of Brandon Summers.

Youngstown State’s run defense might have difficulty with

Royster. The unit allowed 137.5 yards per game and 18 touchdowns

last season compared to 184.0 through the air with 11 scores.

The Penguins been outscored 156-33 while losing all four

meetings against ranked opponents since 1996.