September 6, 2007

Connor and Lions' D preps for Fighting Irish

Penn State senior inside linebacker Dan Connor was and is not happy about what happened between the Nittany Lions and Notre Dame the last time the two teams met.

In fact, he said on Tuesday that the team, particularly the defense, has been bothered by that 41-17 loss ever since.

"We've been watching the film of them a little bit over the summer and then in preseason," he said. "We had an ugly game. We weren't on our assignments.

"To get another shot at them is something that we've been looking forward to."

Saturday night, the Lions will get their chances.

As far as defensive schemes are concerned, it's hard to tell what to expect from Penn State against the Fighting Irish. Georgia Tech used an abundance of blitz packages and schemes to keep the Notre Dame offensive line on its heels the entire day.

The result was an embarassing 33-3 loss for the Golden Domers.

With true-freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen as the announced starter for the game at Beaver Stadium, will the Lions follow suit and make his first start a nightmare?

If they are, Connor's not telling.

"That kind of stuff, that's in the hands of the defensive coaches," he said. "Coach Bradley, Vanderlinden, Johnson and Norwood, they're going to probably write up some new schemes, new blitzes that maybe they saw Georgia Tech do or maybe they've seen before.

"We'll try to get pressure on whoever they play at quarterback because we didn't do a good job of that last year. Brady Quinn was in the pocket. He had all the time in the world and that's tough on the secondary."

However, he did note that Tech's scheme seemed to work to perfection.

While getting prepared to play against a specific quarterback is important, the Lions won't have any choice but to expect at least three different tailbacks to be thrown their way.

Connor said preparing for that will not be easy.

"A look like that when they can bring in five different guys, that is tough," he said. "One of their guys is about 220 pounds (Travis Thomas is 216 pounds, James Aldridge is listed at 22 pounds), one guy is 195 (freshman Armando Allen) and they're also going to give you different styles of running and different looks.

"A bunch of different tailbacks, that's hard, just like a bunch of different quarterbacks is going to be hard with the run attack and the air attack.

"It's going to be one of those games that's going to be similar to an opener where you're not sure what you're going to get. You kind of have to prepare for everything."

Moving down the depth chart, the last real concern for the Lions' defensive unit, particularly for Connor and the linebackers, will be the play of senior tight end, John Carlson.

Carlson, a 6-foot-6, 255-pounder, lit up the Lions for six receptions and 98 yards in last season's win.

Connor said he expects to see more of him on Saturday.

"They're using him a lot. From what I saw on film, they have him at tight end and then they'll have him at kind of an h-back and then they put him in the slot even," he said. "We obviously have a ton of respect for him because he did so well against us last year. And, seeing him on film again, he looks like a great player. He's a definite threat.

"He's someone everyone's gotta keep an eye out for and people have to watch because he can make big plays."

For many Penn State fans, a bit of the luster of Saturday's game was lost when Notre Dame could only muster three points against Georgia Tech, at home. Same for the hype surrounding this year's game in Ann Arbor following the Wolverines' stunning 34-32 loss to Appalachian State.

So the question is, do the Nittany Lions' players feel the same disappointment?

"It's disappointing more in the fact that when they're going to play us they're going to be hungry," Connor said. "They're going to want to prove to the entire country that they are one of the top teams in the nation.

"You're not going to catch them off guard. I think maybe they've been caught off guard so when we go in and play them, we're going to get their A games. So, that's going to be tough but I think we're up for any type of challenge."



 

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