UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
A new era of Penn State Football will kickoff when the Nittany Lions open their
126th season on the gridiron against Ohio on Saturday at noon (ESPN).
Head coach Bill O'Brien and the Nittany Lions have met every challenge
face-to-face with hard work and a determined attitude since he was hired on
Jan. 6. Since that day, the team has
circled Sept. 1 for months, eagerly anticipating a return to the finely
manicured sod and a boisterous crowd inside Beaver Stadium.
After countless hours in the weight room, meeting rooms and on the practice field, the wait is over. The 2012 team is filled with dedicated players who have stuck with the program during its toughest times. Saturday, each player will have the opportunity to run out of the tunnel for the university and football program they love. Welcome to the first gameday of a new era.
What to Watch For - Penn State
1. Senior quarterback Matt McGloin said he has been thinking about what the feeling will be like running out of the tunnel on Saturday morning for a long time. He is not alone. Every player on the roster is going to be excited beyond words to take the field following a very difficult offseason. The scene inside Beaver Stadium will be a memorable one for every coach, student-athlete and supporter of the program, but the team still has a job to do. Managing emotions will be a big challenge for the Nittany Lions as they take the field. Without question, the team has every right to be amped up for Saturday's opener after the offseason it has endured. Once the ball kicks, though, it will just be a game. Be in your seats early for what should be an energy-filled pregame.
2. Coach O'Brien will call all of the plays on Saturday, as he has done on the practice field, but McGloin is the field general. The senior quarterback is responsible for getting the offense into its correct formation, making checks at the line of scrimmage and executing the plays. The Scranton native has a lot on his shoulders, but he is well prepared to lead the Nittany Lion offense. He has done a superb job with command at the line of scrimmage throughout preseason practice. McGloin has a long list of weapons to work with on offense, as well, including Bill Belton in the backfield, rising sophomore receiver Allen Robinson and a corps of talented receivers and a stout group of tight ends. Avoiding turnovers is the top priority for the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
3. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof has stressed the importance of keeping elusive Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton in the pocket on Saturday afternoon. That task starts with the play of the Jordan Hill and the Nittany Lion defensive line. Additionally, the linebacker trio of Michael Mauti, Glenn Carson and Gerald Hodges will need to tackle well in the open field. Coach Roof also said the secondary will need to make plays on deep balls. Ohio's up-tempo pistol-style offense likes to keep the chains moving. Penn State's defensive unit needs a solid tackling day and a disciplined effort from its front four to slow down the Bobcat offense.
What to Watch For - Ohio
1. Tettleton is a challenging player to defend. Son of former Detroit Tigers great Mickey Tettleton, the Ohio signal-caller was a 3,000-yard passer in 2011. He is a dangerous player with his feet and arm. Look for Tettleton to use his legs to create opportunities (both running and passing) when he is outside the pocket. There is no question that for Ohio's offense to have a big day, the Bobcats need an efficient performance from Tettleton.
2. Ohio's offense is a veteran group that has played a lot of football together. In all, nine of the 11 probable starters are fourth or fifth year players. The final two starters are third year players. The Bobcats played in the MAC title game in 2011, and they have bigger aspirations for 2012. Head coach Frank Solich will have his veteran team ready to play on Saturday.
3. On defense, Ohio's defensive end duo of Tremayne Scott and Corey Hasting are key players to watch. Both Scott and Hasting are fifth-year players with talented skill sets along the front four. Ohio's defense will be looking for a big day from its two ends to disrupt the timing of the Penn State offense.
Kickoff: 12:06 p.m.
TV: ESPN - Dave Pasch (PBP), Brian Griese (Analyst), Tom Rinaldi (Sidelines), Mark Schwarz (Sidelines)
Radio: Penn State Sports Network - Steve Jones (PBP), Jack Ham (Analyst), Loren Crispell (Sidelines)
Stadium: Beaver Stadium (106,572) - Natural Grass
Coaches: Bill O'Brien - 0-0, 1st season
Frank Solich - 50-40 at Ohio (108-59 overall), 14th season
The Series: Sixth Meeting
The Final Word:
The countdown clock is at zero and the Nittany Lions are set to take the field for the first time under Coach O'Brien. The players and coaching staff have been energized and motivated for this game for weeks. Penn State will be spirited when it takes the field shortly after noon on Saturday, but the Nittany Lions need to remain grounded and stay focused on the task at hand. Execution of the gameplan on both sides of the ball and special teams, an area the Lions have spent a lot of time on, is essential against a very good Ohio team that is picked to win the MAC in 2012. Look for a big day from Penn State's senior class, which is a group that played an instrumental role in keeping the team together as one during the offseason.
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