No. 19 Penn St. hopes to push aside distractions against Beavers

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Distractions keep lingering around Penn State like a bad cold.

Just when the No. 19 Nittany Lions thought they had shaken their off-field concerns, more popped up as they were getting ready for a visit Saturday from Oregon State.

Pass-rushing end Maurice Evans, fellow starting defensive lineman Abe Koroma and second-string tight end Andrew Quarless will miss Saturday's game for an unspecified off-field issue, coach Joe Paterno said.

"It's disappointing," Paterno said on his radio show this week. "They're all three good football players and they're not bad kids, but they do dumb things, and you pay for it when you do dumb things."

Backup defensive back Willie Harriott was also kicked off the team this week for an unrelated, undisclosed violation of team rules.

Once again, the remaining Nittany Lions must try to tune out the distractions.

"No one needs any distractions," quarterback Daryll Clark said Wednesday, the day before Paterno announced the latest round of discipline. Clark was answering a general question about the team's response to off-field troubles, which started with an altercation in April 2007 involving players.

"We've faced it before. We've handled it like gentlemen and moved on," Clark said. "All we have to do is focus on football."

This week, that means preparing for the Beavers in what figures to be the toughest nonconference game on Penn State's schedule.

The loss of Evans, who emerged last year with 121/2; sacks, may especially hurt on a defensive line that had already lost tackles Chris Baker and Phil Taylor. The pair was kicked off the squad last month for other off-field issues.

Promising freshman tackle Devon Still is out indefinitely after breaking his left ankle in August. The defense had already been preparing for 2008 without star linebacker Sean Lee, who tore right knee ligaments in spring ball.

Penn State's roster shortcomings could be welcome news for Oregon State, which wants to erase the stinging blow of the 36-28 loss to Stanford last week. The Beavers coughed up four key second-half turnovers in the game.

"A lot of the mistakes in the first game are just simple things that we probably won't do again," Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao said. "It just goes back to looking at our film and looking at their film and just making sure we have everything down pat this week."

Coach Mike Riley sees some positives amid the disappointment of a season-opening loss.

Moevao threw for a career-highs 404 yards, and wideouts Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales combined for 308 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Center Alex Linnenkohl and right tackle Mike Remmers debuted as starters.

"I thought that throwing 54 passes, and we gave up two sacks, is a pretty good night. Those could have been avoidable, too," Riley said. "I think they held up pretty well."

Paterno thinks Oregon State might turn more to its running game Saturday. The ground game might also be a good option for his own team to dictate tempo if he's worried about the Nittany Lions' thinning defensive line.

Lost in the dustup over the latest off-field headlines is the potential rollout of more of Penn State's "Spread HD" offense in Clark's second career start. The quarterback's ability to scramble will likely be on display more than last week, when he didn't run once.

His veteran and athletic offensive line appears to hold an edge over the Beavers' front seven, which is composed of entirely of first-year starters and allowed 210 rushing yards to Stanford. Oregon State should get a boost against the run, though, by the return of hard-hitting safety Al Afalava, who sat out the Stanford game.

The reason? A one-game suspension for a violation of team rules.

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