PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will travel to Virginia in preparation for
Saturday's matchup against the Cavaliers on Friday.
As the team puts its final touches on the gameplan, GoPSUsports.com sat down with running backs coach Charles London in his office to talk about his unit as the Lions prepare for UVa.
GoPSUsports.com: What is your overall evaluation of the way your unit played on Saturday against Ohio?
London: "I think the guys when out there and played hard. Obviously we had a few mistakes; we had a costly turnover on the first drive. But overall, the guys made a great effort, played hard, and I was pretty much pleased with what they did."
GoPSUsports.com: What was your message in the film room?
London: "We just have to get better. We have to protect the football, we can't just turn it over, and we have to be a little more crisp on our pass routes. That's just one game, let's move forward, let's focus on Virginia and get the job done this week."
GoPSUsports.com: With Bill Belton day-to-day, how is the overall depth behind Bill that will step up, if need be?
London: "Well, if Bill's not available to go, Derek Day will be available - I thought he had a solid game the other day. He came in and it was probably the most carries he's ever had since he's been here, so he came in and did a good job. Then the other guys, someone will have to step. There's Curtis Dukes, there's Zach Zwinak, there's Akeel Lynch, so if need be one of those guys will have to step up and provide some depth. As we always talked about in that room it's next man up so we'll see who comes forward."
GoPSUsports.com: How has Akeel Lynch progressed since he got on campus?
London: "Akeel has done very well. He's a bright kid with good football instincts. He understands what we're trying to do in the run and the pass game. He's coming along nicely. He's going to be a good player for us here at Penn State."
GoPSUsports.com: What types of things do you do on the practice field to make sure the players are well-rounded backs?
London: "We ask the running backs at Penn State to do a lot. Being a pro-style offense you can't go out there and just be able to run the ball. You have to be able to understand blitz pick-ups, run good routes, and be a complete player. So we try to focus on everything during practice. We'll do specific drills to address the run game. We'll do specific drills for pass protection. We'll go catch routes with the quarterbacks. So we need well-rounded players who can do it all."
GoPSUsports.com: What have you seen from Virginia's defense on film?
London: "Well, they're a big, physical defense. Their defensive front's tall - 6-4, 6-5 - long guys who look like basketball players. They have three pretty good linebackers who run well. They are a little inexperienced in the secondary. They play hard and have some athletic guys. It will be a challenge for us this week."
GoPSUsports.com: You've been to Scott Stadium in the past, what type of atmosphere can the team expect?
London: "It will be loud. It's a pretty crazy place. It's not the biggest stadium in the ACC but certainly one of the loudest, especially being the first road game of the year. We can expect a challenge. We practice with crowd noise and do things like that because we'll need it this week.
GoPSUsports.com: Coach O'Brien has talked a lot this week about wanting to keep a balance between passing and running. But the offense will do whatever is necessary to win, if that means running ball 50 times or throwing 50 times. What do you think about that, in terms of doing what's necessary to win but also keeping in mind the balance?
London: "Balance is something we've talked about a lot this week in our offensive staff room, and I think if we can run the ball effectively, it'll open up some things for us in the pass game as well. It won't put as much pressure on Matt (McGloin) and some of those guys. You have to walk a fine line. At times you have to throw it to win and at times you need to run it to win. Coach O'Brien does a really good job of trying to balance things up. I know to be successful on Saturday we're going to need a big performance from the running back group and I look forward to seeing them compete."
GoPSUsports.com: What has Derek Day's journey been like? What type of guy is he?
London: "Derek's great. He's great in the room, one of the older guys in the room so I tease him about that a little bit. He's solid. You know what you're going to get from Derek everyday. If I ask him on a run play - here's your steps, here's your aiming point, here's where you have to be, you know it's going to get done the way it's suppose to be coached. He's very smart and knows his pass protections. He's been around a while and played some football. He's really a special teams ace for us, he's been on all four of the special teams and does a great job on there. He's just a guy that I have no problem putting in the game at any time because I know he's going to get the job done."
GoPSUsports.com: What are you keys to the game? What does your unit need to do well on Saturday?
London: "First and foremost we have to protect the football. We can't have costly turnover that's going to cause us to lose momentum. We need to run the ball some - we need to be effective there and make sure we're aware of their blitz pick-up and our guys and things of that sort, too. We have to be ready to play."
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