Planning for success: Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Linebacker Glenn Carson wants redemption.

First he endured a loss to UCF where his defense gave up 507 yards. Then came Indiana, where the Hoosiers racked up 486 yards and 44 points. Penn State was favored in both games.

So Carson said earlier this week, from inside Beaver Stadium, that his teammates have been eagerly awaiting this matchup against Michigan. Nothing helps ease the sting of a loss quite like a victory against an undefeated team.

"We're hungry for a win," he said. "No one on our team likes the feeling after a loss. After the game, it's really tough for us to swallow."

Michigan is the first top-25 that Penn State has faced this season. The Wolverines have played about as inconsistently as the Nittany Lions, but they remain undefeated. They've made plays when they've had to; the same cannot be said of PSU.

Carson didn't believe those defensive struggles, those lack of big plays, could be traced to just one issue. But, to reverse his team's fortunes, he did emphasize another important aspect.

"I would just put it down to execution," he said. "Sometimes we're not just functioning as an entire whole. One person might miss an assignment here or there, and we're just not really going out and executing. We just need to play all 11 at once."

That's critical this week with Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner strolling into Happy Valley. A missed assignment in one place could lead to a touchdown in another. Gardner doesn't have the speed of a Denard Robinson, but Robinson didn't have the arm of Gardner.

Gardner is a true dual threat who -- when he's on top of his game -- is difficult to stop. He runs once for about every two times he passes, and he's sprinted for at least one touchdown in every game this season. And his QBR, in three out of five games, has hovered between 87.9 and 94.2.

"I think the thing you've got to try to do is really try to keep him in the pocket," coach Bill O'Brien said. "When he gets out of the pocket, he's very dangerous. Very dangerous."

Neither O'Brien nor Carson would offer details into just how PSU's preparing -- "I appreciate that question, but do you really think I'm going to tell you?" O'Brien said -- but Penn State's hoping the end result of this preparation winds up better than the UCF and Indiana games.

"Overall," safety Malcolm Willis said of the defense, "we feel like we can do better than we have."