UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) - The names have changed over the years on the Penn State roster, but the plays look remarkably the same to Eastern Michigan coach Ron English.
Sure, there may be a tweak here or there. But overall English thinks he knows what his Eagles are going to see at Beaver Stadium: a solid running game; speed at the wideout position; and a tough defense.
And even though he knows what's coming, Eastern Michigan still figures be a decisive underdog when they roll into Happy Valley on Saturday.
"Penn State doesn't change much over the years," said English, a former defensive coordinator at Michigan. "Penn State, as we all know, will be consistent ... and certainly play good offensive football."
Actually, not so much so far in 2011.
While The Nittany Lions (2-1) may hold the edge in talent over Eastern Michigan (2-1), a Mid-American Conference school, coach Joe Paterno's club has been struggling to score points. They've combined for 25 points against Alabama and Temple the last two weeks after thumping FCS school Indiana State, 41-7, in the season opener Sept.3.
Neither Rob Bolden nor Matt McGloin have distinguished themselves enough in Paterno's eyes to put an end to the two-man carousel at quarterback. Penalties and dropped passes have also hampered the offense, atypical errors for the typically disciplined Nittany Lions.
The results have been abysmal - Big Ten lows in scoring (22 points per game), passing (158 yards) and total offense (306 yards). The kicking game needs improvement, too, with kickers going just 1 of 6 so far.
"We just need to finish drives," offensive linemen DeOn'tae Pannell said. "We've had a lot of opportunities with field position and getting into the red zone. We just haven't come up with six points every time."
And when the Nittany Lions do score, it's on the ground - all eight of their touchdowns have come on the rush.
In that respect, English is correct in that the Eagles face a challenge trying to contain tailback Silas Redd, Penn State's go-to guy so far with the ball. Redd (50 carries for 255 yards and four touchdowns) had cramps that limited him late in last week's 14-10 win over Temple, though the sophomore is expected to be fine for the Eagles.
Penn State, though, will be without second-string running back Brandon Beachum after the junior sprained his right foot this week in practice. Senior Stephfon Green is expected to sit out again Saturday while trying to win back Paterno's trust following a string of off-field issues, leaving backup duties to Curtis Dukes, a bruising 6-foot-1, 237-pound sophomore.
For all the hoopla over Penn State's passing woes, the handoff has always been one of Paterno's favorite play-calls.
"They still run a lot of the offense I'm accustomed to coaching against ... I still think it's a solid Penn State team," English said. "I think that we're going to see a very physical football team this week."
Perhaps particularly on defense, where Linebacker U. is coming of a clutch performance in the 14-10 win over the Owls. With good pressure up front, Penn State forced three second-half turnovers and timely hits in the secondary.
"I think you're going to see more of what you saw (last) Saturday," said linebacker Michael Mauti, whose fourth-quarter interception set up the game-winning touchdown against Temple. "Guys flying around with confidence."
If the Eagles are to pull off an upset, they may need their ground game to work to near perfection. They've been impressive so far in averaging 289 yards on the run, sixth-best in the FBS.
Eastern Michigan features two backfield threats in Javonti Greene and Dominique Sherrer, who each rushed for more than 100 yards in the Eagles' first two games. Greene ran for 80 yards on 21 carries in last week's 31-3 loss to Michigan, though Sherrer sat out with an apparent knee injury. Sherrer was listed at kick returner, but not running back, on the this week's depth chart.