Zack Mills was apparently ready to play on Saturday, as he led the Lions to a 48-10 victory over the ineffectual Akron Zips. In the process, Mills ran for one touchdown, threw two touchdown passes, and caught a touchdown pass. This is the first time the elusive triple has been accomplished during Joe Paterno’s lengthy reign as head coach.
The touchdown reception came with 42 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Michael Robinson took the snap and threw a fade to the corner of the end zone to Mills, who had lined up at wide receiver. It was Mills’ first career catch.
Their roles were reversed at 14:04 of the second quarter, as Mills hit Robinson over the middle for a score.
Notably absent in last year’s half-assed 3-9 so-called effort, the offense now appears to have returned. The receiving corps has returned this year with a new feature—they can catch! Tony Hunt and Austin Scott demonstrated the potential for a solid running game behind a newly energized offensive line (whose performance last year merited both definitions of the word offensive). Penn State rolled up 545 total yards, 353 of them on the ground and 193 in the air. It was a non-offensive offensive performance, at long last.
Robbie Gould’s kicking leg impressed this reporter, as his kickoffs sailed into the back of the end zone. Heyhey! I can’t tell you much about the punting game, as the Lions only had to punt once in the entire game and by that time, I was inebriated. It turned out to be a 37 yarder in the fourth quarter. We’ll need to see more from Kapinos before pronouncing this component of special teams play alive and well.
â€œIt would have been better if we had went against the No. 1 team in the country and did what we did,â€ said junior cornerback Alan Zemaitis, who led Penn State with nine tackles. â€œBut we did what we had to do out there against Akron and I feel like we made a statement.â€
Let’s not be delirious, Alan. Akron is no USC, Oklahoma, or LSU. If we “had went” against the number one team in the country, we definitely wouldn’t have did what we done did. (I did my English courses at Penn State, too.) But it was a great way to start the season, nonetheless. In JoePa’s words, spoken at the post-game press conference, “A win is a win.”
It was an entertaining game with a few unusual Paterno twists, most notably his decision to play true freshman quarterback Anthony Morelli. Noted for his penuriousness in playing freshmen, JoePa believes that Morelli will have a role with the team this year because the depleted receiving corps will necessitate using backup QB Michael Robinson as a wide receiver. â€œI think Morelli is a really good prospect, and I think that playing Zack and Robinson the way weâ€™re playing them â€” I think he needs to play so that if we got in some kind of a jam,â€ Paterno said. â€œNow, if the wideouts come along and they continue to get better, then the move with Morelli may not have been the smart thing to do, because then we can move Robinson back to quarterback. Right now, Robinson and Mills have to be on the field. If something happened to Zack, Iâ€™m not sure what route Iâ€™d go.â€
If Joe doesn’t know, The Turkey sure as hell doesn’t know, either. But to this large fowl, Morelli looks to have the right stuff. Don’t expect any immediate contributions, but watching him develop should be fun. Where does this leave Chris Ganter? He got into the game briefly in the fourth quarter, completing both of his passes for 20 yards.
Another notable freshman performance was that of Rodney Kinlaw, the red-shirt running back, who looked impressive in racking up 50 yards on seven carries.
All in all, this was a good, positive start for the season. Regardless of the opposition or lack of same, it provided an important psychological boost for a team that ended last season at such a low ebb. A win is a win.
Next week, the opposition will probably show up, as the mighty Lions travel to Bean Town. Another flawless game resulting in a victory over Boston College would seriously impress this turkey, who is not easily impressed. How great would a 2-0 start be!