Jan. 2
ESPNU                             Houston vs Penn State

Chris Grovich, of Black Shoe Diaries, a blog devoted to Penn State athletics, answered some questions for us.


 BS: The Nittany Lions managed to win 9 games even with all the
distractions. Football-wise, how would you rate this season overall?

Chris Grovich: Ugly and glorious. Penn State was the ultimate "win ugly" team this
year, needing fourth quarter heroics against Temple, Indiana, Purdue,
and Illinois. The offense was terrible, but the PSU defense was
insanely effective against everyone except Wisconsin. The truly crazy
thing is, if PSU beat Nebraska at home, the season-ending game at
Wisconsin wouldn't have even mattered. Penn State would have been in
the Big Ten Championship.

BS: Penn State is in the middle of a coaching search for the first
time since 1966. Who do you like best of the candidates?

Chris Grovich: Ahh, trick question! Nobody really knows who the candidates are,
thanks to the most secretive coaching search in the internet age.
It's hard to pin down people who have even interviewed for the
position. In fact, Acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner recently said
that he won't confirm that a candidate has interviewed unless that
candidate confirms that it's okay to go public with that information.

BS: The offense struggled greatly, scoring under 20 points a game.
What does this team need to do to be successful in the bowl game and
who do you think will play quarterback?

Chris Grovich: Rob Bolden will be the quarterback. He was the starter coming into
the season -- Quarterback #1A, really, with Matt McGloin being #1B.
Bolden struggled greatly since the Temple game and his playing time
was eventually reduced to starting the game for a series or two before
McGloin went the rest of the way. However, now that McGloin suffered
a concussion in a fight with a teammate during bowl prep, Bolden has
been named the starter. It's still unclear whether McGloin will even
be available for the game.

BS: The defense was stifling, giving up under 16 points a game. What
makes the group so good and who are the key players?

Chris Grovich: Defensive tackles Devon Still and Jordan Hill have been the key to the
defense, along with linebacker Gerald Hodges and strong safety (or as
Penn State calls it, "Hero") Drew Astorino. The Penn State defense
isn't flashy, but they always know their assignments and usually place
in the top 10-15 of national rankings each year.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in
the bowl game, who would it be?

Chris Grovich: Bill Belton. His playing time was sparse throughout the season, at
least before Belton and Curtis Drake lined up in the Wildcat formation
at Ohio State. Drake is the guy who injured McGloin in the locker
room fight and didn't make the trip to Dallas, so if any off-the-radar
player is going to provide a spark for PSU, it's Belton.



Thanks a lot to Chris Grovich. Check his work out at http://www.blackshoediaries.com/ and follow @BSDtweet .





Joshua Siegel, of The Daily Cougar, answered some questions about Houston for us.  



BS: Houston went 12-0 in the regular season, only to fall in the Conference USA championship. They were headed to a BCS Bowl, and now fall to the Ticket City Bowl. Do you see there being any lack of motivation?

Joshua Siegel: No, actually I see quite the opposite. The Cougars have one of the best senior classes in program history this season and they're anxious to get that bad taste out of their mouth and finish on a high note. Also, the players are very excited to play for newly hired head coach Tony Levine. The players love this guy. They'd run through walls for him.
BS: Kevin Sumlin has left Houston for Texas A&M. Do you see this affecting the Cougars in the bowl game, and please comment on Sumlin's time at Houston.

Joshua Siegel: Coach Sumlin did a fantastic job at UH and he was a great asset to the program. He will be missed in some ways, but I think that by wrapping up the coaching search early and going with an in-house candidate that the players love alleviated many of the problems and distractions caused by his departure. Coach Levine will step right in and do a fantastic job. The rest of the coaching staff remains in place for the bowl game, so little should change in terms of the kind of game you'll see the Cougars play. I think hiring Levine really amped the players up and they'll be back and ready to go against Penn State.
BS: The offense, led by record setting QB Case Keenum, averaged nearly 450 yards a game through the air. How important is Keenum to this team and who are his top weapons?

Joshua Siegel: Keenum is incredibly important. He's one of the best quarterbacks in the sport and he's a great leader. What makes him and this offense so great is that it is dynamic. He can beat you short or long. He can hit Patrick Edwards for a 40-yard bomb or find Tyron Carrier underneath for a five-yard gain if that's what the defense is giving him. The guy also never turns the ball over. He threw just five interceptions in 534 attempts. That is sick; It's ridiculous. Keenum has a ton of weapons on offense. Edwards stretches the field and is one of the most underrated receivers in the nation. Carrier is great is space on screens and catching balls over the middle. Senior Justin Johnson is about as versatile as they come for an inside receiver. A lot of what makes the passing game so special is that these receivers are also great blockers, which allows UH to get a ton of yards after the catch. Michael Hayes and Charles Sims are also great receivers out of the backfield.
BS: The defense was pretty good, but was torched in the season finale. What does this unit have to do to be successful against a physical Penn State offense and who are the key players?

Joshua Siegel: The defense will face its toughest test against Penn State. The Cougars excelled against the pass with great defensive backs and a strong pass rush. They're not nearly as strong against the run. The key for UH will be keeping Penn State out of third-and-short situations, so they can use their dime package and force Penn State to throw the ball. With Penn State's uncertainty at the quarterback position, I think the Cougars can be successful if they force them into situations where they have to throw the football.
BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Joshua Siegel: If the Cougars can create those third-and-long situations, I think linebacker Sammy Brown will have a huge impact -- this guy will be playing in the NFL. On offense, I think people are going to be impressed by running backs Charles Sims and Mike Hayes. Both of them are capable of finding the end zone on any play.
Thanks a lot to Joshua Siegel. Check his work out at www.thedailycougar.com and follow @Josh_Siegel

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