Penn State Looking to Kick Away More Questions Before Big Ten Opener
As Penn State prepares for its final non-conference contest before Big Ten play begins, more questions than the usual “Which quarterback is going to start?” are rising to the surface.
The kicking game, featuring junior Evan Lewis and freshman Sam Ficken, is a combined 1 for 6 through three games. That is a measly 17 percent for those of you doing the math at home. It seems as though every time the Nittany Lions run onto the field to kick, whether it be a field goal, punt or extra point, it is an adventure that leaves the blue and white faithful with a knot in their stomach.
When asked about why Penn State has not explored using sophomore punter Anthony Fera as the place kicker, head coach Joe Paterno was less than pleased to provide an answer.
“When you go to a game, don't you pay any attention?” said Paterno. “Our place kickers last year Fera isn't kicking. He punts. He didn't kick.”
However, Paterno did go on to elaborate on the sophomore’s situation with the team.
“Fera did not practice with us in pre-season in some places because of some off the field antics. So he's now getting back in the groove.”
Even though Fera has had multiple off-the-field incidents since arriving in State College, Paterno still remains positive about his young punter’s future with the team.
“Hopefully he'll start to put some of that stuff behind him and he'll be better than maybe he'll be more productive than he's been,” said Paterno. “And maybe he can beat out the kid that's ahead of him right now (Evan Lewis). I don't know.”
Looking ahead to the matchup on Saturday, Penn State will be facing an Eastern Michigan squad that has won only four games in the past three seasons combined. You would think the Eagles are going to be an easy tune-up game for the Nittany Lions, right? Not so much if you take a look at the statistics.
The Eagles enter Saturday’s contest boasting the 6th best rushing attack in the nation, averaging 289.7 yards per game led by sophomore Javonti Greene. Greene is the 15th best rusher in the nation with 346 yards on the season.
Their Achilles heel, however, will be the passing game, which only produces 68.3 yards per game. This plays into Penn State’s favor because an obvious deficiency in the Nittany Lions’ defense is coverage against the deep pass. Alabama exploited this in their 27-11 romp of Penn State at Beaver Stadium two weeks ago for 163 yards and a touchdown.
Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English, who used to be the defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan, has stated he feels Penn State hasn’t changed much over the years on offense and he knows philosophically what they want to do.
Joe Paterno isn’t fazed by this.
“I think there comes a point when you're coaching,” said Paterno, “you know that people are playing you for certain tendencies and you adjust to them and you're ready to adjust to them, and we have been. We have been. That doesn't concern me.”
It may not concern Paterno this week. But if teams down the road, such as Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin, know philosophically what the Nittany Lions want to do, the 2011 season could come to an unsatisfying end like 2010.
Penn State is in a position to either succumb to poor offensive statistics and limp through the rest of the season hoping the defense carries the team to six victories, or prove the critics wrong and develop an offensive identity en route to nine-plus victories and a New Year’s Day bowl game.
The opportunity for success is there for the taking. It’s up to Penn State to seize the moment.
Michael Ravotti is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism at Penn State. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.