UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the spirit of spreading some holiday cheer,
'tis the season for a Penn State wish list pertaining to its fast-approaching TicketCity
Bowl clash with Houston. As you fight
through crowds to do some last minute shopping to fulfill the wish lists of
family members and friends, make some time to sit down and enjoy
GoPSUsports.com's version of a list of holiday gift ideas for the Nittany
Lions. Items are listed in no particular
Get Off to a Fast Start
Aside from Chaz Powell's season-opening kickoff return for a touchdown, Penn State scored just two touchdowns on its opening drives this season. Playing the top scoring offense in the nation at the bowl game, there is no better time to hang seven points on the board early in the first quarter. The Nittany Lions can ill afford to fall behind early against an offense averaging 50.77 points per game. Throwing the first punch will take some pressure off the defense. So, I'm asking for a touchdown or two in the first quarter. Is that too much to ask for? Nah, not with Silas Redd in the backfield and Derek Moye lined up on the outside after a month of rest.
Make Special Teams, Special
Penn State's special teams started fast in 2011 with a return for a touchdown on the opening play of the season, but the return game has been quiet since. Penn State has not had a punt return for a score since Derrick Williams took a Wisconsin punt to the house at Camp Randall Stadium in 2008. A touchdown return would have been nice earlier this fall, but I will gladly accept a score in the bowl game. With a tremendous offense on the other side of the ball, a special teams touchdown could be a big boost. Raise your glass to a special effort for Penn State's special teams.
Turnovers, What turnovers?
The Lions were minus-6 in the turnover margin during their three losses in 2011. Penn State committed a total of eight turnovers in its setbacks to Alabama, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Like special teams play, turnovers are critical in big games. Winning the turnover battle is an area that could also be a big boost against the Cougars. Houston is ranked No. 7 in the nation in turnover margin. Cougar quarterback Case Keenum has thrown for 45 touchdowns and 5,099 yards with just five interceptions. The Nittany Lion defense has forced 22 miscues in 2011. A couple more forced turnovers could go a long way against the high-powered Houston offense.
White New Year's
Children around the world are dreaming of a white holiday season. As is the case every bowl season, I am dreaming of a white New Year's. The Penn State faithful has become famous for its white-clad environments in Beaver Stadium. Here's hoping the Penn State fans take that theme on the road in the Cotton Bowl Stadium to give the Lions an added boost from the 12th man. Houston's campus is just 244 miles from the stadium. Houston's fans will travel in large numbers, but I am dreaming of a Penn State white New Year's.
Big Game, Big Plays
Two teams with a combined record of 21-4 will clash inside the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2. Houston is no stranger to big plays on offense. This year's Cougars are the seventh highest ranked scoring offense in NCAA history. The Nittany Lions have tallied 38 plays of 20 or more yards from scrimmage in 2011. Additionally, the Lions made 81 tackles for a loss and 29 sacks on defense during the season. Putting pressure on Keenum will play a crucial role in the game. Blitzing from the linebacker corps and pass rush from Devon Still and the front four could lead to a big play or two. So, throw a couple big plays on the holiday wish list.
Carry the Blue and White Banner
Penn State was one game away from playing in the Big Ten Championship Game earlier this month before its setback at Wisconsin. The season did not finish how the players wanted it to. No group has faced more adversity than the Nittany Lion student-athletes have in 2011. The senior class deserves a proper sendoff on Jan. 2. After countless hours of work on the Penn State campus, the seniors have one more opportunity to put on one of the most iconic uniforms in college football. Make it count.
Happy Holidays from GoPSUsports.com
See you in Dallas
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