Penn State wideout Kersey more comfortable with role

Posted: September 16, 2011

Penn State's wide receivers have been targeted for criticism in the first two games of the season, much of it from their 84-year-old head coach. Then again, the situation could be worse. Either of the alternating quarterbacks, Rob Bolden or Matt McGloin, might not be on speaking terms with one of the receivers, who admits to having a curious role model whose play he seeks to emulate.

Meet Shawney Kersey, the redshirt sophomore from Woodbury, N.J., who changed his number from 4 to 81 this season because that's what Terrell Owens wore while creating havoc for NFL defensive backs and in his own locker room.

"I like Terrell Owens. I kind of compare myself to him a little bit," said the 6-1, 203-pound Kersey, who grew up an Eagles fan and acknowledges that playing on the same home grass as his favorite NFL team will "be a lot of fun" when the Nittany Lions (1-1) take on Temple (2-0) tomorrow at noon at Lincoln Financial Field.

"I just like how [Owens] goes into the game," Kersey continued. "He's ready and he wants to win. I don't really like his attitude, but I like his attitude toward the game."

Kersey also has been known to speak his mind, like Owens, a trait that almost led to him talking his way out of Happy Valley. While many Penn State fans and supporters are aware that a miffed Bolden threatened to transfer out of the program after he didn't get into the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl loss to Florida, Kersey also considered taking his talents to a school where he felt they might be put to better use.

But, as was the case with Bolden, Kersey stayed after listening to Joe Paterno's discourse on the advantages of staying the course.

"It was me not being comfortable, of my needing to understand what Penn State wanted as to how to use me," Kersey recalled.

"I talked to Joe about it, listened to what he had to say and became more comfortable. But I don't focus on the past. I'm more worried about the present."

So is a large segment of Nittany Nation, which believed that the wide receiving corps of Derek Moye, Justin Brown, Devon Smith, Curtis Drake, Brandon Moseby-Felder and Kersey was the best in the Big Ten and would smooth the way for Bolden and McGloin as they adjusted to their in-and-out roles.

To date, however, the wideouts have been as much liability as asset. Although Bolden and McGloin have been erratic, combining to complete just 24 of 59 passes (40.7 percent) for 258 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, the wide receivers have collectively hauled in a mere 15 of those passes, with preseason All-Big Ten selection Moye leading the way with seven receptions for 108 yards.

Kersey, the starting slot receiver, has only two catches, although one of them, a 26-yarder from Bolden, was instrumental in Penn State's late drive that produced the only Lions touchdown in last week's 27-11 loss to Alabama.

Kersey insists that Penn State's lack of productivity in the passing game is the calm before a storm of high-yardage, multitouchdown games . . . the first of which might come tomorrow.

"I don't really worry about that," he said of the Lions' zero touchdown passes through eight quarters. "I know right now it might seem like we're a little rusty and not getting the job done, but you will see in the future that we'll come along. And when we come along, it'll be big."

Are Bolden and McGloin the primary culprits for a passing attack that has fizzled? Or are the touted wide receivers more to blame? Probably, it's a combination of both.

Paterno has been steadfast in his defense of Bolden and McGloin, noting that several catchable passes against Alabama went uncaught. Oh, sure, a couple of those weren't gimmes, but they weren't near the top of the difficulty meter, either.

"I thought the quarterbacks played a pretty good football game," JoePa said after the setback to Alabama. "There were one or two throws I'd like to get back, but [the receivers] have to catch the ball. Let's be realistic. There were a couple of big-time throws out there and we didn't come up with the ball."

A few days later, after reviewing tapes of the game, Paterno hadn't changed his mind.

"A couple of kids that didn't make catches [in the game] make great catches in practice," he said.

Kersey, who goes against the company line in stating unequivocally that only one quarterback should be playing, doesn't disagree with Paterno about the drops.

"A few of those balls should have been caught," he said. "They were catchable balls. We just need to work harder on looking the ball into our hands and making plays in the clutch."

3 THINGS TO WATCH:

-- Dominating Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still to draw a lot of double- and even triple-team blocks, as he did against Alabama. That helped the other defensive tackle, Jordan Hill, and the linebackers rack up high tackle totals: eight for Hill, 13 for Michael Mauti and 11 apiece for Glenn Carson and Gerald Hodges.

-- The team whose starting tailback - Penn State's Silas Redd or Temple's Bernard Pierce - has the better rushing day is apt to walk off the field smiling.

-- Unlike 2007, when Penn State fans easily outnumbered Temple supporters in the crowd of 69,029 at the Linc, Owls backers will be more plentiful and more vocal than what most people have become accustomed to whenever the Lions come to Philly.

PREDICTION:

Penn State 27, Temple

AGENDA:

Who: Penn State (1-1) vs. Temple (2-0)

When: Tomorrow, noon

Where: Lincoln Financial Field

TV: ESPN. Radio: WPHT (1210-AM); WNTP (990-AM); WPNV (1440-AM)

History: Although Temple won three of the first four games in the series, which began in 1931, the Owls haven't beaten the Nittany Lions since pitching a 14-0 shutout on Oct. 18, 1941. Penn State holds a 36-3-1 lead between these in-state rivals, including a 27-0 mark since Joe Paterno became head coach in 1966. Last year's game was closer than most, PSU leading only 15-13 until a late touchdown provided some breathing room in a 22-13 victory.

Coaches: Joe Paterno, 402-136-3, 46th year; Steve Addazio, 2-0, first year

About Penn State: Joe Paterno said on his weekly radio show last night that wide receiver Curtis Drake (West Catholic) is still sore and would not play against Temple. Paterno said he isn't sure if Drake, not fully healed from a broken left leg that caused him to miss all of last season, will play again this season . . . Defensive tackle Devon Still might have provided Temple with a bulletin-board quote when asked to compare the Owls' star running back, Bernard Pierce, to Alabama running back Trent Richardson. "[Pierce and Richardson] are totally different running backs," Still said. "Not taking anything away from Pierce because he's also a great running back, but I feel as though Trent Richardson is in a category of his own." The Lions' other defensive tackle, Jordan Hill, praised Pierce as having an "NFL-type body," but said Pierce's backup, Matt Brown, was "even faster" and that shutting down the Owls' running game "shouldn't be a huge problem [if we're] playing hard and fast" . . . Asked again if he's made a decision about his unsettled quarterback situation, Paterno said, "I think we've made a decision, up to a point. We're going to play both of them [Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin] for while to find out exactly which one might be better for the football team." The Lions rank 110th of 120 FBS teams in passing offense and 98th in total offense.

About Temple: Two-time first-team All-MAC defensive end Adrian Robinson had two of the Owls' eight sacks in last week's 41-3 rout of Akron . . . How much confidence did last year's 22-13 loss at Penn State, a game in which the Owls trailed by only 15-13 deep into the fourth quarter, give the Owls? "We're no longer thinking, 'Oh, yeah, we're trying to compete with them,' " senior linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. "We're past that stage. We know we can compete with them."

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