Last updated: February 16. 2013 10:08PM - 330 Views

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Stephon Morris had to be carted off.

Bill Belton was on crutches.

As if the loss wasn??t tough enough to deal with on Saturday, Penn State also lost two key starters to injuries.

Bill O??Brien is optimistic that both his starting tailback and his senior cornerback will be ready to go this week against Virginia.

??Those guys are day-to-day,? the Penn State coach said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. ??They??re both ankle issues, and they??re not serious, so we??ll have to wait and see.

??If they don??t practice by Thursday or Friday, then probably they??ll be out of the game, but right now I would say it??s day-to-day. It??s probable. But again, won??t really know until Thursday.?

If Belton is unavailable, senior Derek Day would likely get the start and the Nittany Lions would use a committee approach to the running game. That might include using true freshman Akeel Lynch, who did not play in the opener.

??The decision you have to make there (with) a true freshman, if you??re going to play those guys, then you??d better actually play them,? O??Brien said. ??So we??re going to see how practice goes this week with Akeel, and we??ll make a decision on that later in the week.?

Morris was replaced in the lineup on Saturday by another rookie in Da??Quan Davis, who would likely start in Morris?? place if needed.


When Ohio changed things up in the second half and began dropping linebackers into coverage more often to take away underneath passes, Penn State was unable to counter by getting the ground game in rhythm.

As the new play-caller for the Lions, O??Brien dialed up 48 passes and 22 runs against the Bobcats. He said Tuesday that was something he??d like to change going forward.

??I think I??ve got to do a better job there,? O??Brien said. ??I think we need to be more balanced. We can run the football. We??ve got a tough offensive line ?? I think probably one of the units that played the best on Saturday was our offensive line, if not the unit that did play the best.

??We??ve got to be more balanced, and that starts with me. Yeah, hindsight being 20/20, I??d like to say we would not throw it 50 and run it 20. We??d like to be more balanced.?

O??Brien is also reconsidering his experiment with linebacker Gerald Hodges as a kick and punt returner, conceding that he was probably asking the senior to do too much.

??Yeah, probably. Probably right,? O??Brien said. ??We put him back there, and the reason why (was that) he did an excellent job in practice. He??s an excellent athlete, and he caught every one of them in practice.

??But it??s a lot on his plate, and his main role is obviously as our outside linebacker. He might or might not be back there this week, but there was a lot on his plate, and I??ll tell you, I accept responsibility for that. But we??ll move forward and we??ll find some guys that can return some punts.?

Hodges handled three returns in the opener but did not return to the role after fumbling the last of those attempts.

Run on for a long time?

As he promised he would back in July, O??Brien has done away with the term ??walk-on? at Penn State. Non-scholarship players are now referred to as ?? wait for it ?? run-ons.

??These guys don??t walk,? O??Brien said. ??They run on the field, they sprint on the field, they bust their butt on the field. These guys are not walk-ons, they are run-ons.?

With scholarship sanctions hitting the program, O??Brien and his staff will need to rely more on those ??run-ons? in the coming years.

Also gone is the term ??scout team? ?? or ??foreign team,? as Joe Paterno typically called it. The group of second- and third-teamers used to simulate the opposition in practice is now called ??The Dirty Show,? a term O??Brien said he lifted from his former team, the New England Patriots.

According to an ESPN story, the name was coined by Patriots assistant Pepper Johnson, who encourages his scout-teamers to celebrate big plays and generally rub it in the face of the first-teamers. In other words, just have some fun with it.

Those changes, while just about semantics on the surface, are designed to keep backups on the team involved and in a good mood, as the Lions still face the threat of transfers until next August because of the sanctions.

??Nobody likes to be called ??foreign team?? or ??scout team?? or ??walk-on,?? ? senior fullback Mike Zordich said. ??It makes it seem like they just came in and nobody wanted them. Which is far from the truth.?


Penn State at Virginia

TV: Noon, Saturday. ABC, WNEP-16

Where: Charlottesville, Va.

Last Meeting: Penn State defeated Virginia, 35-14, on Nov. 9, 2002.

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