Penn State Looks to Tame the Wildcats Saturday vs Northwestern

Story posted October 21, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by John Bridgens

The Penn State Nittany Lions (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) travel to Evanston this weekend to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) in a rematch of Joe Paterno’s 400th victory last season.

While Penn State’s record is impressive, the play on the offensive side of the ball has proven to be underwhelming. The quarterback situation remains a huge question for this team. The offense is struggling to put points on the board, which may have a direct correlation to the inconsistent use of the quarterbacks.

Matt McGloin has appeared to separate himself from Rob Bolden over the last four weeks, but remains as the reliever instead of the starter. Bolden has shown that he is capable of leading some productive drives, but has not consistently driven the team down the field for points.

In Big Ten play, Penn State’s running game has emerged as the strength of the offense. Despite an injury sidelining backup Brandon Beachum, Silas Redd has continued to pile up 100 yard plus rushing games and Curtis Dukes has emerged as a solid change of pace back for Redd. Added to the mix is Stephfon Green, who finally had his first carry of the season last week after a suspension limited his play in the early going.

Penn State will look to lean on the running game with an inconsistent passing offense. With Northwestern ranked 101st in the country in total defense, Penn State should be able to move the ball in whatever way they like this Saturday.

Unfortunately, Penn State will be without star wide receiver Derek Moye for the second straight game, with Moye recovering from a broken foot. Last week, Justin Brown stepped up in Moye’s absence with four receptions for 86 yards, including a sensational one handed catch. Penn State will need to find another receiver or two to make sure Northwestern can’t double team Brown.

The top receiving candidates are Brandon Moseby-Felder and Devon Smith, who both had some success in last Saturday’s game. Moseby-Felder started the game well, catching two passes from Rob Bolden during the team’s first touchdown drive. Devon Smith was also able to make a few plays throughout the game, but they will need more production from the receiving corps if they are going to score enough points to beat Northwestern.

Penn State showed last week that their defense can be scored upon as Purdue was able to put 18 points on the board. Penn State will have to find a way to slow down Northwestern’s Dan Persa, one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

In last year’s matchup between these two teams, Persa led the Wildcats to a 21-0 lead at Beaver Stadium. The run-pass combination Persa brings to the game will be a new challenge for the Nittany Lion defense that to this point has not faced a mobile quarterback. Persa will have a chip on his shoulder because he is from Pennsylvania and was not recruited by Penn State. The senior will be looking for revenge in his last chance to knock off his home state team.

Like Penn State, Northwestern has employed a two quarterback system as they work Persa back from injury. Kain Colter has been worked into the Northwestern offense, taking snaps at quarterback to give Persa a chance to heal.

Penn State’s offensive struggles combined with Northwestern’s solid offensive attack will make this matchup a good one. Although Penn State is favored, a low scoring game could go either way. The game will be broadcast live from Evanston on ComRadio, beginning with the Pregame Show at 6 p.m. Then stay tuned in for kickoff at 7 p.m.  

John Bridgens is a sophomore majoring in Communications. To contact him e-mail him at jfb5166@psu.edu.