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
“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
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
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
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
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.