<
>
Insider

Notebook: Underdog role OK with PSU

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Michael Zordich gave a slight shrug when he was told Virginia was favored by 10.5 points earlier this week.

"Underdog pretty much means nothing to us," the fullback said. "I think we've been there for awhile now."

Michael Mauti also deflected any talk about motivation because, well, he didn't even know the Cavaliers were favored.

"That's the first time I'm hearing that," he said. "So that gives you an idea of how much we pay attention to people who make those predictions."

Penn State hasn't dropped its first two games since 2001, and those contests came against two preseason top-25 teams. Still, between an emotional offseason and shallow roster, few analysts are picking PSU to knock off Virginia.

Tight end Kyle Carter said he doesn't mind.

"Nah, I mean, people are going to say what they're going to say, if we're going to win or not," he said. "We know Virginia is a better team than Ohio, so we need to make a marked improvement."

Compression suits: It seems as if the Nittany Lions have adopted a new tradition.

Every Friday, some players will slip into "compression suits" -- full-body suits that cling to the body and look like a cross between pajamas and a wetsuit. The aim is to help muscles recover faster before Saturday's game.

"It was helpful," offensive tackle Mike Farrell said. "I don't think you can just rely on that to be the only thing that helps you recover. But, if you're getting the right rest and nutrition, it certainly helps."

Kick returns: If Bill Belton is unable to play Saturday -- which looks more and more likely -- expect Alex Kenney to see some returns.

Gerald Hodges is listed as the No. 3 returner and Kenney as the No. 4, but Bill O'Brien said earlier this week he didn't think he'd insert Hodges again this week. That would mean Adrian Amos and Kenney likely see the field.

More turnovers: Mauti said the defense has focused this week on forcing fumbles and hauling in interceptions.

Penn State was unable to cause a turnover last week, and Mauti said that can't happen again. The Lions have forced just one turnover in their last three games.

"We have to put our hats on the ball and force plays," he said. "We got to make plays on defense."

Lots of targets: Penn State could have trouble zeroing in two or three receivers. Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco completed passes to 11 different players against Richmond.

Eight players caught at least two passes, and four players caught at least three. Tim Smith, the top wideout, grabbed six balls for 96 yards.