2011 Penn State Football

 
Big Ten football fans

Penn State vs Eastern Michigan Football Preview

 

Cupcake game? Paycheck game? The names of the two schools suggest as much, but this is not quite the ordinary Big Ten home game against a supposed patsy from the Mid-American Conference. There's a definite feeling of unease in the air of University Park, Pennsylvania. A legendary coach's handle on the program he's led since 1966 seems more tenuous than it's ever been before.
 
When the Penn State Nittany Lions return home to Beaver Stadium on Saturday to face the Eastern Michigan Eagles, they're not going to be an overwhelming favorite. They'll be favored, all right, but little is certain about the way this game will unfold. Last week, Penn State needed a fourth-quarter drive to defeat the Temple Owls, 14-10, in Philadelphia. The Lions missed three field goals and had a punt blocked in the narrow victory over the in-state rival that they had not lost to since 1941.  Kicker Evan Lewis is just one-for-five this season, but the fact that Penn State scored only two touchdowns against Temple's defense is the biggest cause for concern in Happy Valley.

Penn State merchandise Joseph Vincent Paterno, as he moves into his mid-80s and coaches from a press box due to injury, is certainly looking older and feeling older. He might still be as sharp as a tack, but his absence from the sideline combined with performances such as last Saturday's feeble outing against Temple will only fuel the perception, right or wrong, that JoePa doesn't quite have his fastball anymore. As long as Penn State limps along on offense and can't smack down inferior foes with authority, the questioning of Paterno will persist at State College. Entering this game against Eastern Michigan, PSU and JoePa can't be assured of a stroll in the park.

Eastern Michigan lost 31-3 at Michigan last Saturday.  The Eagles moved the ball early, but managed just three points despite driving inside Michigan territory on their first five drives. The fact that Eastern Michigan moved the ball so regularly in those first 25 minutes against Michigan is what has Penn State fans concerned about this game. The Eagles are a run-oriented team.  In its first three games, EMU has run the ball 136 times and attempted just 45 passes.  EMU ranks sixth in the nation with 289.7 rushing yards per game.

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Penn State used both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin at quarterback last week. Paterno has said that he will stick to a two-quarterback rotation.  The Lions have one of the worst passing offenses, statistically, in the nation, ranking 106th in yards per game and 111th in completion percentage. Paterno may return to the sideline on Saturday after coaching from the press box during the first three games due to injuries suffered in a collision during fall practice. His ability to make that transition might be a tonic for a team in need of a lift.

Running back Silas Redd has been the focal point of Penn State's offense this season, carrying 50 times for 255 yards and four touchdowns.  Receiver Derek Moye has caught 14 passes for 220 yards.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Staff Writer

 

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