Penn State football is off to a 3-0 start and Saturday’s opponent isn’t exactly ready to knock the Nittany Lions out of the undefeated ranks. The Villanova Wildcats face Penn State at noon on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Here are the two key clashes in the game between the two Pennsylvania schools.
Jon Sauber: Penn State QB Ta’Quan Roberson vs. Villanova defense
Villanova doesn’t win this game, and they probably don’t keep it close. So it’s more about knowing more about Penn State than figuring out how it can win on Saturday. There isn’t a position we can learn more about in this game than the backup quarterback, and that means Ta’Quan Roberson.
Roberson has seen very few gaming action shots, even though he’s in his third year on campus. This will be his first opportunity to see a quarter of playing time, if not more. Redshirt senior starter Sean Clifford should be able to lead Penn State’s offense on the field against Villanova and that should put Roberson in the game relatively early.
Of course, Villanova isn’t the toughest competition for Roberson to face, but at this point it would be a major advantage for the Nittany Lions to have him hang on against any opponent. In fact, facing a weaker opponent could be even more beneficial to him. This should allow him to adjust to the action of the game and give him more room for error. This will allow him to pick up the pace and gain self-confidence, a major asset as he prepares for a situation that may warrant him stepping onto the pitch in more important situations in the future.
Roberson has shown good, but not great arm strength in open workouts, with his decision making lagging behind his accuracy and overall arm skill. He’s made the decisions necessary to be a starting quarterback at this level, but needs to do it more consistently to earn himself a starting spot right down the line.
It will be a great opportunity for him to succeed, given the level of competition, and a great opportunity for Penn State to learn what he has as a quarterback. If Roberson steps onto the pitch on Saturday and shows he’s a decisive signal that can hit his playmakers in an open space and make plays, while checking in when he needs them, it would be a big hit for him and for the Nittany Lions. If he doesn’t have that type of success and fights the Wildcats when he sees the action of the game, that will be just as valuable to the Nittany Lions. This will tell them that they need him to develop further before he’s ready to be the guy at the Big Ten level.
Kyle J. Andrews: Run defense against Villanova’s running backs
As much as people want to see this game as a sure-fire victory – it should be – there is one area where the Penn State defense could look to improve and get back on track. It’s the Run Defense, a unit that surrendered 184 yards to Auburn’s star-studded backfield in Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter. Bigsby led the way with 23 carries for 102 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Hunter made nine carries for 63 yards, averaging seven yards per carry.
Villanova, ranked No.11 in the Championship Soccer Division team, has her own running game. The 3-0 Wildcats have already run 112 times for 640 yards in three games with six touchdowns. They are averaging 5.71 yards per rushing rush, which is nothing to sneeze at. Star running back Justin Covington is averaging seven yards per carry on 44 carries for 307 yards and two touchdowns. He’s one of five rushers on the team to average over five yards per carry.
As for the Penn State defense, they have a chance to get back on track with physical play at the point of attack and the ability to take advantage of rushes. That shouldn’t be much of an issue in the trenches with PJ Mustipher playing as well as he did against Auburn’s run, scoring 84.7 Pro Football Focus, and he also made four tackles in the game. the game. Derrick Tangelo also played very well, with three tackles and a fumble recovered with a 73.8 rating for PFF tackles.
If they play as well as most think against Villanova, it should be a very easy day for the Nittany Lions defense. Perhaps this will be a chance to get some freshmen involved who haven’t seen a lot of gaming action at this point.