Commentary

Nittany Lions hope to find MIA offense at Illinois

Updated: September 27, 2007, 2:27 PM ET
By Bruce Hooley | Special to ESPN.com
Penn State could be staring at an 0-2 conference start if it can't get its offense cranking Saturday at Illinois. Four trips into the red zone at Michigan produced only three field goals in a 14-9 loss, leaving everyone on offense frustrated and looking for answers. It appears coach Joe Paterno doesn't trust quarterback Anthony Morelli to throw the ball downfield in big games, thus wasting the one distinct personnel advantage -- depth at wide receiver -- that Penn State enjoys over every team in the league. Jordan Norwood, Derrick Williams, Terrell Golden and Deon Butler don't do Penn State any good if Paterno won't let Morelli throw the ball to them. Morelli has thrown just five touchdown passes in 278 attempts in his last nine Big Ten games.

• Was the Penn State offense that put up 59, 31 and 45 points in its first three games a mirage? Maybe so. After all, Florida International, Notre Dame and Buffalo have one combined victory among them. The Michigan defense that allowed 34 points against Appalachian State and 39 against Oregon held Penn State to three field goals in the Nittany Lions' fourth loss in their past six Big Ten road games.

• It looks like Paterno has lost faith in senior tailback Austin Scott, with good reason. Scott's lost fumble at the Michigan 9-yard line ended a crucial possession. Scott didn't play after that, with Paterno turning to redshirt freshman Evan Royster as a backup to Rodney Kinlaw thereafter. Scott fumbled just once on his first 40 carries this season, but has fumbled on three of his last 17 attempts.

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