The Youngstown State Penguins (2-0) come to Beaver Stadium this Saturday to face the #25 Nittany Lions (1-1), in what this Turkey hopes will be a bad day for birds. The Penguins were penciled in as a replacement for Louisiana Tech, who had originally scheduled this date but backed out due to scheduling conflicts.
Youngstown State is one of the premier teams in Division I-AA, currently ranked #6. They have a history of beating I-A teams, having a 19-19-1 record versus the top NCAA division. However, last year they were blanked by Pitt 41-0 and their last win over a I-A opponent was in 2000 at Kent State. Now they’re moving up in class, facing their first ever Big Ten team. In their first two games this season, the Guins put the big hurt on Slippery Rock 51-21, and then they clobbered Maine 34-14.
Statistically, Youngstown State shines beyond Penn State in just about every category. Wonder why? You have to put that in perspective, as Slippery Rock and Maine are not exactly Akron and Notre Dame, but they have a seasoned quarterback, Tom Zetts, and they could make life interesting for a while if the Penn State pass defense is as anemic as it was in the Notre Dame game. This game is not a sure thing, so they better use it to tune up that damn pass defense or Troy Smith will have his way with the Lions next week. They’ve got to play like they want to win.
Junior QB Zetts is experienced and ready. He’s a Brad Johnson type of quarterback—doesn’t have the long ball in his arsenal but he can keep the ball moving. He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 16 of his last 19 games. Given the ineffectiveness and lack of enthusiasm of our secondary in the Notre Dame game, this Turkey would not be surprised to see him throw for paydirt at least once on Saturday. But I want to see a real pass rush in this game, not the three-man crap we threw at Notre Dame. I want guys in the Penguin backfield all over Zetts. And I want them to look like they want blood.
The Penguins are proud of the fact that in each case in which a running back goes over 100 yards in a game, they win. That’s been the case for 10 straight games and it ain’t going to happen here. Poz and Company shut down the Notre Dame running game and they’ll easily stifle these guys.
We might see some Morelli fireworks this time. Youngstown State’s pass defense is about average for Division I-AA. Even with our green but improving offensive line being what it is, Morelli should have plenty of time to find his targets. Their secondary won’t be able to keep up with Big Ten speed.
The Penn State running game is in need of a decent game, having looked anything but decent for two games. With a steadily improving offensive line in front of him, Tony Hunt better log over 100 yards in this game. Austin Scott looks like he’ll be out for the season, either by way of his ankle or by being red-shirted. So, it’ll be up to Hunt and Kinlaw.
The atrocious special team play has got to stop. Their performances in the past couple of games have been ugly.
And turnovers must cease. Tony Hunt, I’m not worried about. He normally protects the ball. I do worry about Morelli, though. The option stupidity keeps sticking in my mind. That wasn’t entirely his fault, because he never said that he was an option quarterback. On the other hand, he’s a damn football player who should know better than to hand the ball to an opponent who can waltz right into the end zone. The Turkey is calling for Morelli to stop with the turnovers, already!
The Penguins’ strong safety Vince Gliatta was on the Penn State squad in 2003. Also, the Guins have an Anthony Morelli—the Athletic Department mail carrier is named Tony Morelli.
I think that the main key to this game is for the Nittany Lions to play to win with a fire inside, without looking toward Ohio State the following week. If they take care of the business at hand, they’ll win fairly big. It won’t be an Illinois-style blowout, so the official Turkey Poop prediction is Penn State 45, Youngstown State 10.