Speaking to the media on Wednesday afternoon, sophomore cornerback Adrian Amos said that road games are sometimes easier than home games. Despite the home-field advantage that Beaver Stadium provides, there are often less distractions away from Happy Valley.
While others may disagree with that sentiment, the 2012 Penn State Nittany Lions certainly appear to enjoy road games. Despite losing a one point affair, they thoroughly outplayed the Virginia Cavaliers, winning the turnover battle 4-0. Their dominance was reflected on the scoreboard in conference contests against Illinois and Iowa. Those games were blowouts from the start, and the Nittany Lions will try to repeat those efforts this Saturday on the road at Purdue.
This Boilermakers team is a confusing one. All three of their wins have come at home in Ross-Ade Stadium, but they have arguably played their best football on the road in losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State that could have easily been victories. If they pulled off either one of those upsets and played like that more often, head coach Danny Hope’s job likely would not be on the line. Due to a current four-game losing streak, Hope is very much on the hot seat. Let’s take a look at some key players who will try to get the Boilermakers their first Big Ten win of the season.
Robert Marve #9 — The senior quarterback has seen action in five games this season but will be making his first start since opening day. While the sample size is rather small, Marve’s numbers are pretty good so far this season including a 65.2% completion percentage and 6 touchdown passes with only 2 interceptions thrown. Marve has suffered several injuries throughout his career including ACL tears. It will be interesting to see if he can last the entire game against a tough Nittany Lions front seven.
Caleb TerBush #19 — If Marve gets replaced at any point, this former starter will likely take over under center. Also a senior, TerBush has 11 touchdown passes on the season but was also turning the ball over way too much for Hope’s liking with 8 interceptions through seven games.
Antavian Edison #13 — The Boilermakers have some speedy and talented receivers including this 5-11 175 lb. senior. Edison has hauled in 6 touchdown receptions on the season so far and is coming off a strong game against Minnesota last week. He will face an improving Nittany Lions secondary.
Kawann Short #93 — This 6-3 315 lb. junior anchors the Boilermakers defensive line. Short already has four sacks on the season to go along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. The Nittany Lions offensive line failed to establish the line of scrimmage last week to generate a running game and protect Matt McGloin. This defensive tackle will be looking to make it another rough Saturday for the offense.
Landon Feichter #44 — The sophomore safety has been a big-time playmaker for the Boilermakers this season. He leads the team with 49 tackles and also has 4 interceptions including one brought back for a touchdown. McGloin acknowledged that he is a great player and will want to avoid making a mistake that Feichter can capitalize on like Ryan Shazier did last week.
A few things to look for from the Nittany Lions:
Does Kyle Carter play? — Carter injured his ankle late last week against Ohio State, and while he was listed as “probable” on the weekly injury report, his status looks to be up in the air for Saturday. The Nittany Lions have a plethora of tight ends, but Carter has become a favorite target of McGloin’s. His absence would certainly hurt.
Establishing the run — The Nittany Lions had a tough time getting anything going on the ground last week, barely eclipsing 70 yards. Improved offensive line play and more effective running will be key in a road environment.
Special Teams — There are several things to watch here from Sam Ficken’s quad injury to who the kick and punt returners were. While Ficken made a field goal attempt when called upon last week, Bill O’Brien acknowledged that the entire unit — specifically the kick return game — needs to be better going forward.
Play-Calling — All of the gambling seemed to catch up a bit to O’Brien last week. The Nittany Lions were stopped on two fourth down attempts and failed on a fake punt and a two-point conversion try. It is unlikely that the aggressive style will change, but it needs to be more effective this week to prevent a repeat of the Ohio State game.
Last week’s setback against the Buckeyes does not change the fact that the Boilermakers are reeling right now, having lost four straight games. O’Brien made it clear a few days ago that his players have moved on from Ohio State and are focused on tomorrow. They have the opportunity to prove it tomorrow in what could be another lopsided road victory if the Nittany Lions play to their potential.
By The Numbers: Three quarterbacks for the Boilermakers have combined for 1757 passing yards this season. McGloin has thrown for 2115 by himself.
Blast From The Past: To find the last time the Boilermakers defeated the Nittany Lions, one must turn back the clock to 2004. The Boilermakers won a 20-13 game at Beaver Stadium which happened to be the first student whiteout.