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Ailing O-line point of concern for Paterno

Nittany Lions expected to be without two offensive starters for Saturday’s game at Minnesota.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno answers a question at his weekly pregame news conference on Tuesday in State College.

AP photo

Penn State already has difficulty finishing drives this season. Now with a revamped line, the offense might encounter even more problems as it heads into the teeth of the Big Ten schedule.

The Nittany Lions (3-2) travel to Minnesota (2-3) Saturday for a noon ET contest at the Metrodome.

“I’m concerned that we’ll see some things that they have not seen,” said coach Joe Paterno, whose squad’s O-line is expected to be without left-side starters Levi Brown and Robert Price (see injury report).

The Lions have been plagued with Red Zone issues this season. Last week against Northwestern, the offense faltered in four consecutive drives inside the Wildcat 20, settling for three Kevin Kelly field goals and a turnover.

Paterno said his team is simply making mistakes at the wrong time.

“It bothers me. When you go down there with really nice looking drives and you come away with three points, six points and nine points in three drives, it bothers me. We spent an awful lot of time trying to correct the bad things that happened to us down there because most of it is our own doing.

“We are working on it. Sometimes, those things go away all of a sudden.”

Penn State is looking to win its first game of the campaign away from Beaver Stadium this weekend. Two previous road trips ended in losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State.

“When you get to be good, you don’t really care whether you are playing at home or away,” the coach said. “When you are a good football team, obviously, it makes a difference. We just don’t have that kind of experience yet.”

INJURY REPORT

The list keeps growing for the Lions, particularly along the offensive line. Paterno said the unit will be without senior left tackle Brown (sprained knee) for the second week in a row. Also, left starting left guard Price (shoulder) is questionable.

“He could play this week, but you hate to take a chance,” the coach said of Brown. “He should be ready next week.”

Redshirt junior Chris Auletta will sub for Brown, while redshirt sophomore Gerald Cadogan will fill in if Price can’t go.

Additionally, senior D-end Jim Shaw (ankle, knee) is questionable for the Gophers. Shaw, who was recovering from a high-ankle sprain, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week. Redshirt sophomore Josh Gaines will get the start in Shaw’s place if necessary.

Paterno admitted his already raw O-line can’t sustain any more injuries.

“I am concerned if somebody (else) gets bumped,” he said. “We are going to have to play some people who have really not had much experience. The ones who are going to play had not had much experience, but the ones behind them have had less.

“We are in a tenuous situation there.”

MO DOING JUST FINE

Despite rumblings by fans and students for a change at quarterback, Paterno remains firmly in starter Anthony Morelli’s corner.

The junior signal-caller from Pittsburgh has been intercepted five times and has struggled in the team’s losses at Notre Dame and Ohio State.

“I think Anthony has done about as well as I could expect him to do,” the coach said. “He is taking the bumps and bruises and has not griped about them. I think people have been unfair to him and blaming him for things that he really didn’t have that kind of control over. He is showing more and more leadership all the time.

“He has made really good progress. You’ve just got to keep playing.”

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