PSU sees similarities between Alabama, Iowa
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D'Anton Lynn has seen shades of black and gold when preparing for the Crimson Tide this week.
"They're similar to Iowa," the Penn State cornerback said. "They really don't do anything fancy. They don't have a fancy offense. They keep it pretty basic. They just pound the ball, really good play-action pass. They just don't make mistakes."
That presents a challenge for Lynn and his teammates in the defensive backfield, and not just because of Penn State's annual struggles against the Hawkeyes, who have beaten the Nittany Lions in seven of their past eight meetings. The bigger picture shows a Penn State team that has struggled to force turnovers of late and had none in the opener against Youngstown State.
Creating turnovers will be key for Penn State if it wishes to upset the defending national champion and top-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama's offense, ranked No. 2 in the Southeastern Conference last season, is strong even without running back Mark Ingram, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Alabama coach Nick Saban said Wednesday that Ingram is unlikely to play Saturday after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 31.
"I think it's such a complete offense," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "If you don't play one aspect of it, you're going to be in trouble, because their running backs are tough. Even though they may not have the Heisman Trophy winner, the other kid [Trent Richardson], he can go. He might be faster than [Ingram.] It's tough to bring him down."
Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, who guided the Crimson Tide's 14-0 campaign last season, orchestrates a play-action attack that often starts with a fake handoff to Ingram or Richardson and ends with frozen linebackers and trailing defensive backs as 6-foot-4 wide receiver Julio Jones hauls in a long pass.
None of Penn State's starting defensive backs stands taller than 6-foot-1. They struggled against Youngstown State, when Penguins quarterback Kurt Hess completed 21 of 25 passes for 189 yards. Eighty of those yards came on a first-quarter touchdown pass, so Hess' yards per completion for his 20 other connections was just 5.45.
Youngstown State's 80-yard TD came against Penn State's nickel package, which was not used again. The Nittany Lions' first-team defense ran its base package to perfection the rest of the game.
But the Penn State secondary knows it is in for a far bigger test Saturday.
"It's definitely a challenge," Lynn said of Alabama.
Added Paterno: "We have to worry about the wideouts. We have to worry about their whole football team."
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