Penn State (0-1) at Virginia (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 8, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scott Stadium (61,500) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: ABC. Home Record: PSU 0-1, UVa 1-0. Away Record: PSU 0-0, UVa 0-0. Neutral Record: PSU 0-0, UVa 0-0. Conference Record: PSU 0-0, UVa 0-0. Series Record: Penn State leads, 5-2.
GAME NOTES: Bill O'Brien seeks his first win as Penn State's head coach when his Nittany Lions invade Scott Stadium to take on the Virginia Cavaliers in a non-conference duel in Charlottesville this weekend.
The Nittany Lions saw a 14-3 halftime lead over Ohio University slip through their fingers as they fell, 24-14, to the Bobcats in their opener at Beaver Stadium. O'Brien and seven new assistants will try to turn things around this week. Although PSU's loss in the emotional first game back was its first to Ohio, the Bobcats have improved into a difficult opponent over the past few seasons. O'Brien's challenge of keeping the program afloat while it serves its four-year postseason ban will continue with its second straight game versus a team that appeared in a bowl game last year.
Virginia kicked off its season with a 43-19 rout of instate rival Richmond at home. The victory over his former employer made head coach Mike London's record with the UVa an even 13-13 and improved his record in season openers to 5-0 for his career. London was named the 2011 ACC Coach of the Year after leading the Cavaliers to an 8-4 regular season record. Last season, Scott Stadium was not a huge homefield advantage for Virginia, which returned 14 starters, as it went 4-3 on its own turf.
This will be the seventh encounter between PSU and Virginia. The Nittany Lions hold a 4-2 lead in the all-time series after their dominant, 35-14, victory over the Cavaliers in 2002 in Happy Valley.
O'Brien's presence on the sideline has had a positive effect on several Nittany Lions, including starting quarterback Matt McGloin, who set a new career-high of 27 completions on 48 attempts, for 260 yards and two scores. It did not take very long to discover PSU's new offensive system favors the pass much more than in previous seasons, as McGloin's 26 attempts in the first half were the most since Zack Mills against Purdue in 2004.
Sophomore wideout Allen Robinson benefited from the emphasis on the aerial attack and led all Big Ten receivers with a career-high nine catches, which he took for 97 yards. Redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Carter made an excellent first impression in his debut, as he was second on the team with six grabs for 74 yards.
Silas Redd's preseason departure for Southern California left the tailback position up for grabs. Bill Belton led the team with 53 yards on 13 carries, while Derek Day rushed for 36 yards on eight touches.
PSU's defense held Ohio to just three points in the opening half, but it could not stop Bobcats' QB Tyler Tettleton in the final two quarters. Tettleton finished sixth in the nation in week one with 371 yards of total offense, while Beau Blankenship tacked on 109 rushing yards on the Nittany Lions.
In their opener, linebacker Michael Mauti led PSU with 12 stops, Gerald Hodges recorded 11 tackles, and sophomore cornerback Adrian Amos had a career-best 10.
Virginia's Michael Rocco nearly went to Penn State, where his father Frank was the starting quarterback on the 1982 National Championship team and both of his uncles played. Instead, he ended up in Charlottesville and has done quite well so far. Rocco set the school record for most passing yards by a sophomore last year and kicked off 2012 by completing 25-of-37 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown.
Rocco's strong showing in the opener helped UVa compile 545 yards of total offense. Senior wideout Tim Smith (96 yards, six catches) was the top target, while big play threat Darius Jennings (84 yards, TD, five catches) made his mark as well.
Running back Kevin Parks also stepped up with two rushing touchdowns against the Spiders. Perry Jones and Khalek Shepherd tied for the team-lead as they each ran for 52 yards and a touchdown. Jones led the team with 1,468 all- purpose yards in 2011.
UVa's defense stifled its FCS opponent in week one, allowing the Spiders to gain just 28 rushing yards and 266 total yards. Virginia was a better than average at stopping its opponents in 2011, ranking 46th nationally in scoring defense (23.9) and 40th in total defense (351.7).
The Cavaliers returned a strong linebacking duo in Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds. Greer was the team's leading tackler in two of the last three seasons and Reynolds had 88 stops in 2011. Greer recorded four tackles, one of which was for loss, in the opener.
Sophomore cornerback Demetrious Nicholson is a key player in UVa's defensive backfield, which has no seniors.
The Nittany Lions showed their ability to move the ball early on against Ohio before being shut down in the second half. PSU needs to exploit the Cavaliers' inexperienced secondary to put pressure on Rocco and UVa's offense. The players left on the Nittany Lions' roster are going to give Virginia their best, but it might not be enough to get O'Brien his first win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 28, Penn State 20
09/05 15:49:11 ET