Game Preview: Penn State vs. Buffalo

Story posted September 11, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack Milewski

Almost nobody expected Penn State to come into this matchup 0-1 and certainly no one expected them to lose in the fashion they did last week. However, that’s exactly where we stand with the Nittany Lions as they take on the Buffalo Bulls this Saturday in Happy Valley. The Bulls are coming into this game on a high note after a 51-14 thrashing of Albany last weekend.

While there are a lot of big questions coming into this weekend for the Nittany Lion’s, none looms larger than who will replace Nyeem Wartman-White. Penn State’s second leading tackler from last year was lost for the season in the opening half against Temple. Without him in the middle, Penn State’s defense seemed in disarray.

“Defensively we had communications issues, especially after losing Nyeem,” said Coach James Franklin in his weekly presser.

The Lions were up 10-7 at halftime, with Wartman-White in the game for most of the time. However, after the half they were outscored 20-0 as the senior did not play a snap. Penn State will try to fill the void with players like Gary Wooten Jr. and Jason Cabinda. There was also talk of Brandon Bell filling in, but his status is questionable for the game.

“Bell is questionable for Saturday,” Franklin said. “Wooten is an option at middle linebacker and so are Cabinda and Jake Cooper.”

On the offensive side of the ball, no one can overlook the 10 sacks that were given up by the offensive line. After giving up 44 sacks last seasons, Penn State is already almost a fourth of the way there after week one. Despite how bad the line was, Franklin hinted that there wouldn’t be many personnel changes.

“I don't know if you're necessarily going to see a bunch of new starters. I think you're going to possibly see some guys move around or things like that. Wendy [Laurent] is a guy that can figure in for us. Chance Sorrell is a guy that can possibly figure in for us, as well,” Franklin said.

Christian Hackenberg was also a topic of conversation as the third year quarterback only passed for 103 yards in the first game. Although the offensive line didn’t protect Hackenberg, many claimed that the quarterback could have also helped avoid some of the sacks by stepping up in the pocket.

“There are things we definitely can improve on and I think at times throwing the ball away and at times, stepping up in the pocket and getting [a few] yards would help. I would also say the pressures which you typically get with a pro-style pocket quarterback comes up the middle and when you’re pressured up the middle a lot of times you don’t have those opportunities,” Franklin said.

On the other sideline, Buffalo comes into the season returning seven starters on the offensive side. The team put up 51 points in their first game and their offensive attack was led by quarterback Joe Licata and running back Anthone Taylor. However, Albany’s defense is much weaker than Penn State’s and the fact that Licata is not a dual-threat quarterback sets up nicely for a Penn State defense that has proven to struggle with mobile quarterbacks. However for Penn State, Franklin said it’s mostly about communication and  in game adjustments.

“We had some communication issues from the sideline with signaling plays in, that happened a few times. We had some situations where in practice, guys had been taking control and being able to help some inexperienced players by telling them what to do, and I think we got into the game and things started flying around and that communication stopped,” Franklin said.

Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. and the game will air nationally on ESPN2. Comradio will have extensive coverage starting at 10 with the opening drive, followed by the pregame show at 11:00.

Jack Milewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jbm250@psu.edu

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post Gazette