Penn State Looks for First Win at Virginia

Story posted September 7, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Matt Lawrence

After falling to Ohio in the opening game of the 2012 season, Penn State (0-1) travels to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers (1-0). The game marks the first time that the Nittany Lions will leave the comforts of Happy Valley since being slammed with unprecedented sanctions over the summer.

Penn State dominated the first half in the 24-14 loss to Ohio on Saturday. Senior quarterback Matt McGloin appeared to have full command over  head coach Bill O’Brien’s new offensive philosophy completing 16 of 26 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. The Nittany Lions took a 14-3 lead going into halftime before watching the Bobcats storm back and score 21 unanswered points in the second half.

All-MAC quarterback Tyler Tettleton was able to pick apart the Penn State defense, a defense under the direction of new defensive coordinator Ted Roof. Tettleton completed 31-of-41 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns; many of which came on short passes to tailback Beau Blankenship who led the Bobcats with seven receptions.

In a season that will have such a critical impact on the future of Penn State football moving forward, it is vital for the Nittany Lions to turn things around when they head to Charlottesville this weekend. This will be no small task against a resurgent Virginia program under the tutelage of third-year head coach Mike London.

After taking over a nearly dead program in 2010, London has emerged as one of the most respected young coaches in the college football landscape. The Cavaliers finished 8-5 last season, doubling their win total from London’s inaugural 2010 campaign. He was named ACC Coach of the Year, and many believed London to be a possible candidate to take the Penn State head-coaching job.

Virginia’s offense exploded for nearly 550 yards in their week one 43-19 win over Richmond. Offensively, the Cavaliers are led by junior quarterback Michael Rocco, who threw for 311 yards and a touchdown over the Spiders.

Rocco, the son of former Penn State quarterback and member of the 1982 National Championsip team Frank Rocco Sr., will have an extra source of motivation playing against the program that failed to recruit him coming out of high school three years ago. Penn State had offered Rocco the chance to greyshirt after receiving commitments from both Paul Jones and Rob Bolden, who were each in the same class as Rocco. As a comparison, Rocco is about to make his 15th career start whereas Bolden has transferred to LSU and Jones has yet to play a down at Penn State.

With a diminished roster, Penn State knew going into the season that one key to success would be to remain healthy. Against Ohio, the offense began to unravel after starting running back Bill Belton went down with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. It has been confirmed that Belton will not play this Saturday.

Without Belton in the line up, O’Brien must find a way to improve on a ground game that could only muster 91 yards in the season opener. Derek Day received the majority of the carries behind Belton in week one, but look for underclassmen Zach Zwinak, Curtis Dukes, as well as freshman Akeel Lynch to all play a bigger role this week.

Belton appears to be the only noticeable player that will be inactive for Saturday as linebacker Gerald Hodges, offensive tackle Donovan Smith, and cornerback Stephon Morris, who all missed a period time against Ohio are back at practice.

Penn State and Virginia will kick off at noon from Scott Stadium and will be broadcasted live on ComRadio. The ComRadio Penn State Football Pre Game show will air live beginning at 11 a.m. and running up until kickoff.

Matt Lawrence is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email mdl5249@psu.edu.