Lions take wide open look into season
Four receiver formations were part of Saturday's spring game.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno hopes flashes of offense on a cold, rainy spring day erase some of the dismal memories of last fall.
The opening drives of the annual Blue-White game on Saturday, which ends spring practice each year, featured some long pass plays and offensive sets, including a four-wide receiver formation rarely seen last season.
Penn State finished 2004 with a 4-7 record (2-6 Big Ten) and 105th out of 117th in total offense in Division I-A.
Before the scrimmage, Paterno recounted to reporters how he told school officials "not to panic" after a humbling 14-7 home loss to Northwestern that left the Nittany Lions 2-7.
"Let's just stay calm," Paterno said he told school officials. "We're not that far off, and if I can keep the coaching staff together, then I think we'll be good."
And fast -- at least if Paterno sticks with some of the unusual lineups the Blue team displayed on offense in its rain-shortened 14-6 victory over the White team.
Came out throwing
First-string quarterback Michael Robinson opened the game with a 35-yard pass to incoming freshman Justin King down the left sideline out of the four wideout set.
King, who graduated from high school last winter and has been practicing with Penn State all spring, is a speedy, highly touted cornerback. But King also played wide receiver Saturday, as Paterno & amp; Co. tinker with adding more speed to the offense.
Then Robinson hit another speedster, wide receiver Derrick Williams, on a 9-yard screen pass out of the four-wideout set. Like King, Williams graduated from high school early and has been practicing with Penn State this spring.
The drive was snuffed on a very conventional turnover -- running back Tony Hunt fumbled at the goal line. Still, expect the wide-open look to be a regular feature of the Nittany Lion offense, according to wide receiver Terrell Golden, who had two catches for 25 yards.
"That will help our running game and our ability to stretch the field," Golden said.
Hunt redeemed himself later with 5-yard touchdown run.
Robinson leads way
Robinson, a senior who appears to have won the starting quarterback job, hit all six of his passes for 143 yards and ran for a 7-yard touchdown.
Penn State allowed only 15.3 points per game, the fifth-stingiest defense in Division I-A last season. The defensive performances by the Blue and White teams Saturday shouldn't be an indication that things will get worse on that side of the ball -- Robinson said he "pretty much knew" what kind of defense to expect, so he knew what kind of play to call.
"It was kind of cheating a little bit," he said.
There was at least two other notable wrinkles early on, when King picked up a big gain up the middle on a double reverse and Williams lined up at quarterback on a shotgun formation and rushed for nine yards.
Most of the top offensive and defensive players were on the Blue team. Paterno joked that that was just a coincidence because he let Nike founder Phil Knight -- who was standing just offstage as he talked to reporters -- pick the team.
The game started in dreary conditions and the weather deteriorated by the third quarter into a cold, driving rainstorm that had fans seeking shelter. Play on both sides of the ball got worse as conditions worsened, and the game was called late in the third quarter.
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