September 15, 2012 at 3:31 PM
Here are some keys to Penn State's game against Navy.
1. Make stops on third down
In Penn State's first two games, its defense has three stops on third down in 21 chances. If that keeps up, it's going to be a long season for the Nittany Lion defenders. Penn State has done a much better job in the first half on third downs, holding opponents to 4-of-15 on conversions. Penn State's defense has played its best ball in the first half all season, but if the team wants to pick up its first win of the season, there can't be a drop-off from any unit in the second 30 minutes.
2. Punch it in
Last week showed Penn State's kicking game is anything but reliable. So, what's the best way to deal with field goal issues? Don't rely on them. Sure, if Sam Ficken would've had a better day, Penn State has a win already this season. But if the offense could find a way to convert one of the four turnovers the defense forced into a touchdown, the Lions would also enter the Navy game at 1-1. With a banged up running game, look for McGloin to rely on his tight ends when Penn State is building drives against the Midshipmen.
3. Win the battle up front
With Bill Belton and Derek Day both dealing with injuries, Penn State's running game is not in ideal shape. If neither Belton nor Day can go against Navy, O'Brien said the Lions will go with Curtis Dukes, Zach Zwinak and Michael Zordich at tailback. While those backs have size, they don't have the same agility or speed as Belton or Day which makes the offensive line all that more important on Saturday. On the defensive side of the ball, if Penn State control the trenches, the team should be able to stymie Navy's triple option.
4. Get a big lead early
The Lions have held the lead at halftime in both of their first two games. Neither lead was a commanding lead, and both were gone by game's end. If Penn State can not only jump ahead early, but jump ahead by two or three scores, it will take a lot of pressure off the entire unit in the quest to get Bill O'Brien his first career victory.