With one-third of its regular season already complete, Penn State is making its first road trip of 2009. Some speculate that that's a blessing in disguise, that this week's trip to Illinois will help the team refocus after its loss to Iowa and will enable it to shake off some of the lethargy it has exhibited from time to time in the first month of the season.
It's a nice theory, but Josh Hull isn't buying it. Said the senior linebacker, “If we had the opportunity to play 12 games at home, we'd play all 12 at home.”
That'll give Tim Curley something to shoot for in the future. As for the present, Hull and his teammates are most concerned about the tangible things they need to do to get their season back on track.
At the top of the list: create more turnovers. Penn State ranks 11th in the Big Ten in turnover margin. Only two teams -- Illinois and Michigan State -- have created fewer than Penn State's six. The Nittany Lions have forced a league-low one fumble, a disappointing total given that their first three games were against decidedly inferior opponents and their Big Ten opener against the Hawkeyes was played in a steady rain.
Illinois has fumbled twice on 115 rushing attempts this season, but quarterbacks Juice Williams and Eddie McGee have thrown their share of interceptions. Between them, they've been intercepted five times in the Illini's first three games.
The dearth of fumbles bothers Hull. “We absolutely realize we haven't created as many turnovers as we'd like,” he said.
It's been bothering Joe Paterno, too, although he was more concerned with the offense's sloppiness against Iowa than with the defensive effort, which produced two interceptions.
“You don't like to come out of it with a minus-3,” he said. “That's what we came out, a minus-3 in the turnover ratio. So that part of it isn't good. But I'm satisfied with two [interceptions]. Against a good football team that's precise and does a limited amount of things as Iowa does, and just keeps pecking away at you, I think two's probably a pretty good day.”