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5 storylines: PSU vs. Navy

9/13/2012

Every week, NittanyNation takes a look at five storylines that stand out: What should fans keep an eye on? What's the bigger picture? What might be on display Saturday?

Here are NittanyNation's Week 3 storylines:

1. Another week, another running back: With injuries to both Bill Belton and Derek Day, Penn State could be forced to use its third-string tailback in Zach Zwinak. Penn State struggled with its backup tailback last week and averaged just 2.9 yards a carry. With possibly using an emergency tailback to go along with the 100th ranked rushing offense, just how much further can this run game fall?

2. Poor third-down defenses: Only three teams in the FBS have allowed a higher third-down conversion rate than the Nittany Lions -- and one of those teams is Navy. The Midshipmen allowed Notre Dame to convert 7 of 10 third downs, while PSU has watched 22 of 36 third downs turn into first downs. A big reason for these struggles are due to Penn State's secondary, which has been routinely picked on. Opponents have converted 18 of 21 third downs in the second half, and all but three of those first downs came on passes.

3. Navy coming off a bye: The Midshipmen have spent the last two weeks preparing for this game after the Fighting Irish trounced them in Week 1, 50-10. Navy will be well-rested and will try to surprise a Penn State team with a tricky triple-option offense. Penn State's bye week can't come soon enough while Navy's might have come at just the right time.

4. Can kicker Sam Ficken recover: The sophomore might have had the most miserable game any Penn State kicker has experienced in 126 seasons. He made just 1 of 5 field goals, pushed the game-winner to the left, and nailed just 1 of 2 extra points. Ficken made the five field goals he attempted in Wednesday's practice, but every Penn State fan will be taking a deep breath when Ficken steps on the field Saturday.

5. Finding Shawney Kersey's replacement: The surprise departure of the redshirt junior now leaves a void in this young Penn State offense. True freshman Trevor Williams is listed on the depth chart as Kersey's backup, but Brandon Moseby-Felder also received some practice time Wednesday. All eyes will be on the No. 2 outside receiver to see if he can add another dimension to this passing game -- or if Matt McGloin's magic might finally run out.