Just two days before a big game with Oregon State, Joe Paterno announced tonight that three Penn State football players have been suspended for this weekend's game (he didn't say why, but you can connect the dots yourself), while another has been kicked off the team for that all too familiar "undisclosed violation of team rules." I'm pretty sure this makes Penn State your early season Fulmer Cup leader, in case you're keeping track at home.
Backup DB Willie Harriott is now an ex-Lion. While no official reason was given, his departure may be related to a November arrest for DUI and speeding. No team wants to lose depth at any position, but the overall impact of Harriott's departure should be minimal.
Of far more concern, at least for this week, is the suspension of defensive linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma, both key contributors to the Lions defense, as well as tight end Andrew Quarless (pictured above right). All three are significant contributors to the team, though only Evans and Koroma are starters. But how much will the Nits miss these three guys?
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Evans is one of PSU's leading pass rushers, responsible for 12.5 sacks last season. Without him, the Lions might not be able to get as much pressure on Oregon State's quarterback Lyle Moevao. That could be a problem, as Moevao smacked up Stanford to the tune of 404 yards and 3 touchdowns with a 63.5% completion rate. Certainly Penn State's secondary is better than Stanford's, but Moevao could make them pay if the front seven can't get a consistent pass rush going.
I had already picked Oregon State to win this game, so these suspensions make me feel a little bit less out on a limb. This is just one more bit of nastiness Penn State doesn't need, though. This is also Quarless's second suspension, so here's to hoping he gets his act together. I doubt he'll get a third chance.