Penn State Football: Pregame Notes in Advance of Nittany Lions’ Clash with Buckeyes
Special teams are on the mind of Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. In a segment that aired Saturday morning on ESPN’s College Gameday, O’Brien called special teams the X factor in Saturday’s game against Ohio State.
Much ado has been made regarding the unit throughout the season. Every area has seen its good moments and bad. Punt return and kick return touchdowns allowed against Northwestern and Iowa, respectively, are tick marks against otherwise solid coverage units throughout the year.
But specialists Alex Butterworth and Sam Ficken have been inconsistent all season, and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer loves pressuring the kicking unit. Ohio State has blocked six kicks this season — three extra points, two punts and a field goal.
I saw Butterworth and Ficken warming up with the field goal unit, and Butterworth at one point was warming up with snapper Ty Howle and holder Ryan Keiser, two specialists on the first-team field goal unit.
Mike Mauti was joined by Matt McGloin, Matt Stankiewitch, Gerald Hodge and Jordan Hill as Saturday's game captains. The other members of the senior class will join him at midfield for the opening coin toss, however, according to Penn State.