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Lions not afraid of a tough road test


February 16. 2013 10:44PM


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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The derisive chants will be nothing new.


??We??ve played some tough road games,? Matt McGloin said. ??Wisconsin, Ohio State, you name it. We??ve heard the worst things you can possibly hear.?


After these last 10 months, being listed as a 10-point underdog is no big deal.


??Underdog pretty much means nothing to us anymore,? Michael Zordich said. ??We??ve been underdogs for awhile now.?


Even the opening loss to Ohio isn??t being treated like the end of the world.


??The only people panicking are people on TV talking about, we??re gonna win three games and all this stuff,? Kyle Carter said. ??And I don??t feel none of that on this team.?


So what, exactly, is bothering Penn State headed into today??s game at Virginia?


How about this: In their last three games, the Nittany Lions have allowed 99 points and 1,549 total yards of offense.


Before being upset by the Bobcats last week, Penn State closed out the 2011 season with losses to Wisconsin (45-7) and Houston (30-14) in the TicketCity Bowl.


For a program fueled by strong defense in recent years, those are some hard numbers to accept.


??It??s upsetting,? senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said. ??As a defense, you never want to see that happening -- teams putting up numbers like that on you. ? We have to stop it. We just have to make a better effort and not let that happen.?


??Yeah, it??s definitely something I??ve taken pretty personally,? senior linebacker Michael Mauti said. ??The whole defense has as well.?


Mauti was on the sideline for those final two games of 2011, recovering from major knee surgery. But he and the Lions defense surrendered 300 yards and three touchdowns in the second half of last week??s loss.


Most alarming, Ohio converted all but one third down in that second half, going 11-for-12.


??The defense on third down has got to be more aware of the sticks,? coach Bill O??Brien said, adding that the team spent some extra time on simulating situations like third-and-7, third-and-8 this week in practice.


Last week was Penn State??s first game under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof. But players said this week that the fundamentals of Roof??s system aren??t terribly different from what they were used to with Tom Bradley.


A few more blitzes than average, perhaps. Some different personnel looks. Nothing too dramatic. At least, not yet.


??It??s not a major adjustment,? Mauti said. ??It??s more just the terminology. Something we call an apple, he calls an orange. But nothing major as far as changes.?


Mauti, Hill and the rest of the front seven -- Penn State??s biggest strength coming into the season -- could only do so much against Ohio??s efficient spread offense, which relied on three-step drops and quick passes to prevent the Lions from getting too aggressive.


While Virginia has more talent across the board than Ohio, the Cavaliers run a much different offense. Cavaliers offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, a Scranton native, brings a pro-style scheme from seven years of working a sideline in the NFL.


Quarterback Michael Rocco -- the son of former Penn State signal-caller Frank Rocco Jr. and the grandson of former Penn State assistant coach Frank Rocco Sr. -- is at the helm of a balanced offense that will rotate three versatile running backs.


Virginia racked up 43 points in an opening victory over FCS Richmond. They rebounded from a three-year bowl drought last season as Mike London was named ACC Coach of the Year.


While the Cavaliers aren??t yet a BCS contender -- or even ranked in the top 25 -- they are favored to send the O??Brien era off to an 0-2 start.


To prevent that, the Lions must first put those past three performances behind them.


??If anything, guys are really angry because that??s not really presenting a good image of what our team is,? Mauti said. ??Last week wasn??t our best side that we showed.


??We just want to play. If we could play this game (in the middle of the week), we??d line up and play. That??s how we feel.?


UP NEXT


Penn State



Nittany Lions


at



Virginia



Cavaliers


Noon today


ABC





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