Penn State offense shows new wrinkles
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Penn State’s use of the Wildcat formation took players, fans and Ohio State by surprise.
A Nittany Lions team built to run up the gut and one that typically takes an ultra-conservative offensive approach claims it didn’t risk much by showing its hand against the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Penn State’s game next Saturday at Wisconsin gives the winner a berth in the Big Ten Championship.
While the Nittany Lions’ 20-14 win over Ohio State didn’t directly impact the ramifications of the Wisconsin game, interim head coach Tom Bradley said he didn’t show too much of the new offensive wrinkle.
“Hey, I’m a defensive coach, so I’ve seen all the tricks,” he said. “They’re going to have to figure out what I have. I’ve watched all the different things people have done against me over the last 12 years, and I never forgot them.”
Bradley said time and again, he’s not as involved with the offense as he would like to be. But certainly he’s taken notice of his playmakers.
Athletic wide receivers Curtis Drake and Bill Belton, both high school quarterbacks, give the Nittany Lions options in the Wildcat. Since Bradley took over two weeks ago, quarterback Matt McGloin has caught a pass, and the Wildcat was brought back into the fold.
“It surprised other teams, and it surprised our team,” Drake said. “We came in after the game, and they guys are like, ‘Man, we used the Wildcat?’ We had so much success with it, too.”
Despite the stakes being so high in Madison, Wisc., Penn State players have faith Bradley will come up with a strong game plan.
“This game means everything,” senior Drew Astorino said. “This game is the culmination of our whole entire season, so it’s a big game.”
The Beaver Stadium crowd has been good for Penn State, but it has been dominant on the road, too.
Boasting a 4-0 record in road games against Temple, Indiana, Northwestern and Ohio State this season, the Nittany Lions head to Madison with an us-against-the-world type mentality.
Tackle Chima Okoli said winning Saturday should give Penn State momentum.
“I’m not a big bowl prediction, bracket prediction kind of guy. You win, and the numbers speak for themselves,” Okoli said. “When you keep winning, you put yourself in the best possible position and let the cards fall where they may.”
Moments after walking off the field and congratulating the players, quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno spoke about the upcoming trip to Wisconsin.
He spoke of the environment at Camp Randall and Wisconsin’s ground game, and he wasn’t the only one thinking about the regular season finale.
Players said it won’t take much for them to get refocused for the Badgers, a game that they have had circled on their calendars since August.
“As I’ve been trained my whole life, I immediately started thinking about next week,” Paterno said. “We’re in the Big Ten semifinals, essentially, next week, so I started thinking about Wisconsin, and I’ll have some nightmares (tonight).”
A look ahead
Penn State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten)
Next opponent: Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten)
Time and place: 3:30 p.m. Camp Randall, Madison, Wisc.
Scouting report: The stakes can’t get much higher for the regular season finale. The Lions finish the toughest three-game stretch of their schedule and need a win to claim the Leader’s Division crown and punch their ticket to the inaugural Big Ten Championship game.