UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno dismissed questions a week-and-a-half ago about the possibility of the Nittany Lions switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. He said the Lions were not going to "horse around" with the 3-4 and that the 4-3 would remain the base defense. The 3-4, he said, might be an option in passing situations.
When the Penn State defense took the field yesterday, they lined up with four linebackers and three down linemen, and that configuration was the base defense for the rest of the game. It's debatable whether the defense is a 3-4 or 4-3, but the gist of it is that Tim Shaw, the middle linebacker last season, is now lined up on the line without a hand on the ground over the tackle or the tight end.
Penn State had All-American Paul Posluszny at middle linebacker with Dan Connor and Sean Lee flanking him on the outside.
"We can do more things with that [alignment] because of the versatility of a guy like Tim Shaw," Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.
Even though Paterno waffled on the alignment after the game, saying it would be a game-to-game decision about what defense would be played, Bradley made it seem like the 3-4 alignment with Shaw on the line would become a staple because it gets his best players on the field.
The 3-4 wasn't the only new wrinkle Bradley used. In passing situations, the Lions lined up in a 2-4-5 alignment -- two down linemen, four linebackers and five defensive backs.
The Butler did it
It didn't take Deon Butler long to make Akron coach J.D. Brookhart regret his decision to pull a scholarship offer from Butler three years ago. Butler scored on Penn State's third play from scrimmage on a 43-yard pass from Anthony Morelli and staked the Lions to an early 7-0 lead.
Butler, a former walk-on who started as a freshman last season, revealed earlier in the week that he would have gone to Akron, but Brookhart rescinded the offer once other players at the receiver position accepted scholarships.
"They said they over-offered and that they couldn't take me," Butler said. "If the scholarship had been there, I would have gone to Akron."
For the game, Butler had two catches for 50 yards.
Penn State's elite freshman recruiting class is already paying dividends. Several true freshmen made their college debuts yesterday and figure to play larger roles as the season progresses.
Receiver A.J. Wallace made his presence felt when he took a reverse 42 yards down to the Akron 20. Four plays later, Penn State scored its second touchdown when Morelli connected with Jordan Norwood on a 14-yard pass play.
Wallace also had two kickoff returns for 95 yards. He fumbled his first return at midfield, leading to Akron's first touchdown.
With less than two minutes to go in the half, receiver Chris Bell made a nice leaping catch at the Akron 9. Penn State botched a field goal attempt at the end of that drive.
"I think both of those kids are going to be good football players," Paterno said. "Both can run and are very athletic."
Among the other freshmen to play were tight end Andrew Quarless and defensive end Maurice Evans. Penn State's freshman class was regarded as a top 10 class.
Senior running back Austin Scott, who is hobbled by an ankle injury, did not play. Paterno said afterward that he's not going to play Scott until he is 100 percent. Scott remains eligible to take a redshirt.
The 1986 team honored
Forty members of the 1986 national championship team were honored at halftime of yesterday's game. Among the former players who attended the ceremony were captains Shane Conlan, John Shaffer and Bob White plus All-Americans D.J. Dozier, Blair Thomas and Steve Wisniewski.
Sophomore WR Jordan Norwood's 14-yard touchdown reception was the first touchdown of his career. Norwood had a career-high seven catches. ... Wallace had 137 all-purpose yards in his college debut. ... LB Dan Connor had two sacks and 13 tackles, 3.5 of those were for losses. ... LB/DE Tim Shaw also had two sacks.