UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno planned to use today's game against Oregon State as an early barometer for his football team.
"If you've got a good football team, it probably gets better from the first game to the second game more than at any time in the season," Paterno said. "We'll know a lot more about our football team [today]."
That's especially true now that two starting defensive linemen -- end Maurice Evans and tackle Abe Koroma -- and backup tight end Andrew Quarless have been benched because of an incident involving marijuana at Nittany Apartments earlier this week. Also, backup cornerback Willie Harriott was permanently kicked off the team after Thursday. The Post-Gazette learned yesterday that Harriott was arrested on a DUI charge Wednesday night.
The 19th-ranked Nittany Lions must put aside those off-the-field distractions. They also must deal with the absence of Evans, their best defensive player and best pass rusher who finished with 12 1/2 sacks a year ago.
One thing the Lions might have going in their favor is the fact that the Beavers are the only BCS team playing its first two games on the road. They lost to Stanford, 36-28, in their opener.
The Beavers are 0-6 in non-conference road games against BCS teams in Mike Riley's two stints as coach.
"We have to hopefully learn from the past, but we've just got to go play," said Riley, who also coached the San Diego Chargers from 1999-2002.
"We've got a daunting task and a great opportunity. Penn State is a very physical team on both sides of the ball up front. They're outstanding."
Paterno doesn't think the cross-country trek from Corvallis, Ore., will have much of an effect on Oregon State.
"Well, I don't like to coach somebody else's team," he said. "I've got enough troubles coaching my own team. I think the one thing that I would think that Mike Riley has going for him is the fact that he did coach at San Diego, and would have had to take a team across the country to play in the NFL.
"So I think they'll come here prepared and they'll be ready to go."
The Lions used a simple game plan while rolling up 594 yards offense in last weekend's 66-10 pasting of Coastal Carolina. Quarterback Daryll Clark said that will not be the case today at Beaver Stadium, where rain is in the forecast.
"We're installing a lot more things in the offense," Clark said. "This week, we're going to bring out more plays. We're going to have to bring out different looks to beat these guys. We really can't stay that simple."
A year ago, Oregon State had the stingiest run defense in the country, allowing 2.1 yards per carry. But, with just three Beaver starters returning, Stanford took advantage, piling up 210 yards on 48 carries and a 4.4-yard average.
Penn State, which ran for 334 yards in its season opener, figures to test that unit. Four Lions -- Stephfon Green, Brent Carter, Evan Royster and Chaz Powell -- had at least 60 yards on the ground. And freshman Brandon Beachum added 44 more.
Clark, making his second career start today, is more relaxed and confident than he was a week ago.
"We can do some exciting things on offense," he said.
Matchup: No. 19 Penn State (1-0) vs. Oregon State (0-1), 3:30 p.m. today, Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa. Nittany Lions favored by 151/2p>
TV/Radio: WTAE; WEAE-AM (1250) and Penn State Sports Network, www.gopsusports.com.
Penn State: Has won 21 of its past 23 home games. ... Is 5-1 against Pac-10 teams since 1993. ... Is ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring (66 ppg), rushing (334.0 ypg) and total offense (594.0 ypg). ... Is 22-11 all-time against Pac-10 foes.
Oregon State: Is 4-0 in bowl games since 2003. ... Starting linebacker Keith Pankey and tight end Kevin Pankey are the twin sons of former Penn State All-American tackle Irv Pankey. ... Outgained Stanford, 490-301, in opener, but had three turnovers in a 36-28 loss. ... The Beavers schedule is among the most difficult in the nation.
Hidden stat: Oregon State is the 82nd team Joe Paterno has faced in his 43-year coaching career.
Ron Musselman can be reached at email@example.com .