Penn State considered weak but dangerous

Legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno has seen a lot of football during his 409 games as head coach of the Lions.
Not in 35 years at the helm in Happy Valley, however, has JoPa seen this: a 2-4 record halfway through the season.
The Lions (1-1 Big Ten) are off to their worst mid-season start since 1965 as they get ready to travel to campus this weekend and take on Minnesota in the Metrodome.
The poor record, however, isn’t something Gophers coach Glen Mason believes is a sign of the type of Penn State team that will show up on Saturday.
“Have they played well, have they performed well, in all their games?” Mason asked. “The answer is no. Let’s face it, are they your typical Penn State team? No, but the potential is there.”
The potential is always there for a history-rich program like Penn State. The Lions showed it last weekend when they beat Purdue. Whether or not the potential shows up against the Gophers (3-2, 1-1), is the question.
The downfall for the Lions this season has been their offense. Led by senior quarterback Rashard Casey, Penn State has struggled.
The Lions are last in the Big Ten in total offense at just 261.5 yards a game and are the only team in the conference who averages less than 335 yards a game.
Penn State is also 10th in points scored at 17.7 points a game, a tenth of a point ahead of Iowa.
“We’ve been lousy offensively,” Paterno said. “We haven’t caught the ball. We haven’t been accurate throwing the ball. We’ve been overpowered on the offensive line. Anything else you need?”
No, coach Paterno, that’s quite enough.
As for the Gophers offense, barring some sort of conspiracy, junior Travis Cole will start at quarterback. Cole led Minnesota to a 44-10 waffle-stomping of Illinois last week in his first Gophers start.
Cole and the Gophers will be up against Penn State’s tough defense, the team’s bright spot this year. Despite the loss of studs Courtney Brown and Lavar Arington, who were taken 1-2 in the NFL draft, the Lions remain strong. They are third in the Big Ten in total yards allowed at 330.5 yards a game.
Individually, the Lions are led by senior defensive end Justin Kurpeikis, an all-conference candidate. Kurpeikis is averaging 6.5 tackles a game this season and has collected a pair of sacks.
Kurpeikis is joined by Michael Baynes and Jimmy Kennedy, who each have four sacks on the year.
“Penn State is a quick team,” Cole said of the Lions defense. “They have little guys that run around, so you have to make better reads.”
Both Minnesota and Penn State are in similar situations this week after winning big games last Saturday. The respective wins are something the respective coaches are using as motivational tools.
Paterno called the Gophers team who beat Illinois last week the “best Minnesota team I have ever seen.”
Mason, on the other hand, will need to get his team to overlook the Lions sub .500 mark — which he said shouldn’t be hard to do against Penn State.
“All you have to do is look at the film,” Mason said. “They beat Purdue last week. We can’t come close to beating Purdue.”

Extra Points
ù Mason said Matt Anderle will likely start at defensive tackle for the second straight week.
Anderle, a junior, lost his starting spot to freshman Maurice White after the second game, but gained it back last week because White violated unspecified team rules.
ù Mason also expects junior Ryan Roth to start at right guard. Roth also lost his starting position early in the season, but gained it back when Erik Larson was injured. Mason added Roth has played well since regaining the spot.
ù The Minnesota-Penn State game will be televised but due to the baseball playoff series between Chicago and Seattle, which station is yet to be determined. If the Mariners win Friday night and sweep the series, the football game will be on ESPN2. If the White Sox win, the game will be on ESPN Regional (locally, KSTP’s new affiliate KVBM, which is channel 40 on Minneapolis cable networks).

John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]