Penn State notebook: 'Hit squad' takes some hits on kick returns
College Football Videos
“The Hit Squad” took some hits Saturday.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien introduced another one of his trademark colloquialisms Saturday, referring to the kickoff coverage team as “The Hit Squad.” Whatever you call it, it wasn't the best game for the group.
Purdue's Raheem Mostert had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 1:05 left in the first half. Two kickoffs later, Akeem Hunt appeared to break free and had only kicker Sam Ficken to beat for another possible touchdown before Ficken brought him down after 37 yards with a nice tackle.
“‘The Hit Squad,' you know we've got to be better there,” O'Brien said. “We've got to go back to work Monday and get that fixed. And we will... Maybe we've got to replace some guys, get some guys in there who are a little bit hungrier.”
The coaching staff has used several freshmen and walk-ons on special teams this season in an effort to keep an NCAA sanctions-thinned roster healthy.
Ficken's tackle became all the more remarkable when O'Brien let it be known he had “a bit of a quad or groin pull.” Ficken, who made a field goal and six extra points and kicked off seven times, had not kicked since Tuesday's practice.
“It's never really good for the team if I'm making the tackle,” Ficken said. “Luckily, I hit the kid in the knee and got him.”
Allen Robinson continued to make his mark on the Penn State record book.
The junior had eight receptions for 98 yards to give him 81 catches this season and 161 in his career. He broke his own season record of 77 and jumped past Jordan Norwood to tie Derrick Williams for third place all-time.
Robinson is 149 yards behind third-place Derek Moye's 2,395 career yards.
Robinson, though, was held without a touchdown for the third consecutive game.
Struggling Purdue was the perfect tonic for Penn State's offensive struggles on third down and inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
The Lions entered the game 112th nationally in third-down conversion rate and having scored on just half of their red-zone chances over the previous three games. They were nearly flawless in both situations Saturday, going 10 for 12 on third downs and scoring on all seven trips inside the Purdue 20 (six touchdowns, one field goal).
“It seemed like we were scoring almost every time we had it,” tight end Jesse James said.
Over the previous four games, Penn State was 20 for 59 (34 percent) on third down. The Lions had four touchdowns and two field goals in 12 red-zone opportunities in the three games before Saturday.
Running back Akeel Lynch played for the first time since suffering a knee injury against Ohio State on Oct. 26. He had 44 yards on nine carries. ... North Allegheny graduate Gregg Garrity posted his first stats of the season. A true freshman, Garrity had a 9-yard punt return in the second quarter. ... The announced attendance of 96,491 was behind only the Oct. 12 Homecoming game against Michigan as the second-largest of the season at home.
— Chris Adamski
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Snow, freezing rain, bitter cold coming to Western Pa.
- Southbound McKnight Road closed for power line repairs
- Tennessee quarterback Peterman considers transfer to Pitt
- Jerome Bettis to be enshrined in hall of fame
- Fallingwater among Wright buildings nominated for World Heritage List
- Pa. Turnpike claims software fraud, wants $45M
- Gulls fleeing frozen Great Lakes fill skies over Pittsburgh’s Point
- Iraqi libraries ransacked
- Voters opt for ‘Don’t Know’ in 2016 presidential race, poll finds
- Familiar Downtown Pittsburgh presence lost arm, leg to train
- Suggestions are aplenty on what Penguins need to break through