Blue White Roundtable: Alabama Week Edition
September 7, 2011 – | 1 Comment

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Youngstown State Live Blog

Submitted by on September 4, 20105 Comments

We are all set up here in the press box–which, by the way is absolutely huge–and we’re settling in for what should be a nice warm-up game for Penn State.  Check back throughout the game, as we’ll be constantly updating this post with updates, reactions, and thoughts.


Let’s be honest, this game is little more than a glorified exhibition.  Sure, an Appalachian State stuns a Michigan every now and then, but App State was a 1-AA national title contender.  This is a Youngstown State team that’s won 6 and 4 games the last two years, and has a new coach in Eric Wolford, who was the offensive line coach at South Carolina. I don’t even think the Gamecocks were known for having particularly good offensive lines.

But there are plenty of question marks surrounding this Penn State team, and, since it’s our first chance to watch them since April, here’s what we’ll be looking out for.

The Quarterbacks: Rob Bolden (apparently, he’s not Robert anymore) is getting the start, but we’ll almost assuredly see Matt McGloin and Kevin Newsome get extended playing time.  Sure, the Penguins might not come close to preparing any of these passers for the Crimson Tide defense they’re about to see next week, but for three QBs who’ve never seen real game action, watching how they respond to adversity will be the key.  Some players can rise to the challenge, and others will shrink away from it.  The nerves are going to be there for Bolden, so we’ll have to see how he perseveres if he struggles early.

The Offensive Line: This is a unit that starts a different offensive lineman at every position from the end of last season.  That’s not necessarily fair, since Stefen Wisniewski and Lou Eliades shift over one spot to the right, from center and right guard to guard and right tackle, but the left side of the line is going to be heavily scrutinized, even against a team like Youngstown State.  Quinn Barham had never really cracked the two-deep before this offseason, but he’s held down the left tackle spot throughout the spring and summer.  The unit struggled last year, even in warm-ups against the likes of Akron and Temple, so a solid performance today would allay a lot of concerns.

The Linebackers: Breaking in three new starters at linebacker would ruin the championship hopes of a lot of schools, but the Nittany Lions still look to linebacker as a unit of strength.  And why shouldn’t they?  Sure, Navorro Bowman, Sean Lee, and Josh Hull are gone, but the sheer amount of talent replacing them ensures that Linebacker U won’t miss a beat.  And it’s not like these guys haven’t had much playing time in the past–Nate Stupar and Bani Gbadyu have seen plenty of snaps, and between them share a dozen or so starts.  The main question for me is how the rotation will work.  All eyes will be on Chris Colasanti, who is trying to lock down the middle with Michael Mauti hard at his heels.

Other players to watch: LG DeOn’tae Pannell, TE Garry Gilliam, DT Devon Still, CB Stephon Morris


Well, one minor question was answered: Anthony Fera is handling kickoffs.  Plenty of hangtime, and down to the two. A missed tackle on the return sets Y’Town state up at the 25.  A reverse play loses 3–Devon Still missed a tackle even deeper in the backfield–a handoff gets one,  and Youngstown State tries a draw play on 3rd and 12.  Picks up maybe 2, nice tackle by Astorino at the line, and Penn State forces the three and out.

Devon Smith and Justin Brown both back to return, Brown takes it, and gets crushed right at the 22.  Could’ve fair caught it, but holds on to the ball.  Bolden’s first collegiate snap is a hand to Royster, who’s tripped up for a 2 yard gain.  Second play–a screen pass to Devon Smith, which picks up about 4.  Third and four handoff to Royster nets three, and Penn State is forced to punt.  Anthony Fera hits a low line drive that takes a Penn State bounce before it’s scooped up.  45 yards, no return.

A couple quick passes and a whiffed tackle by Jack Crawford give Youngstown State the first 1st down of the game, but that’s it.  A 3rd and 2 run gets about 1 yard and 35 inches, and Youngstown State is forced to punt.  A short return from Devon Smith sets Penn State up at their 30.

Joe Suhey gets his first touch of the season, and it goes about as well as you’d expect.  Maybe a three-yard pickup sets up Bolden with 2nd and 7. Bolden throwing with a flag down for Moye right down the sideline…ruled out of bounds. But it’s 5 yards anyway, as the defense was offsides.  A nice delivery from Bolden on the run, though he led Moye just too far.  A Royster cutback picks up a Penn State first down.  Bolden tries to fit one in to a tight window to Chaz Powell over the middle.  It’s not there, but Bolden takes a late hit, so it’s another Penn State first down, as they cross into Penguin territory.  On the next play, it’s Bolden finding Brett Brackett for a 12 yard gain–nice run after the catch by the Penn State captain.  A false start backs Penn State up 5 yards, and a Royster stretch play is sniffed out at the line.  The offensive line is struggling to get a push for the running backs.  An inside handoff picks up maybe a yard–and Youngstown State is winning the battle at the line.  On 3rd and 14, it’s a screen pass to Royster, who is just tripped up. Picked up 6, and it sets up Wagner for a 44 yard field goal attempt.  Right down the middle, and Wagner gives Penn State a 3-0 lead.

(I think I’m going to stop here with the play-by-play, but I’ll keep offering my thoughts as the game goes on.)

Fera has one hell of a leg. His ensuing landed about 8 yards deep in the end zone. No chance for a return. And the way Penn State’s coverage teams struggled last year, that’s a huge positive.

On 3rd and 10, Youngstown State runs a screen pass.  Nate Stupar can’t make the stop at the line of scrimmage, and Deion Barnes outruns Drew Astorino the rest of the way.  If there was any question about who’s the fastest player on the Penn State defense, it’s answered: Astorino and Sukay had about a 20 yard start on Stephon Morris, but he was right there with them as Barnes crossed the goal line.

Chaz Powell is back on kick returns, and he almost got loose. Takes it out to the 40, and looked very quick.  First play from Bolden is a strike to Devon Smith, but Moo-moo drops it. Great arm strength by Bolden though, and Smith was open.  Green gets his first action and looks good–better than Royster, maybe.  Definitely quicker and shiftier, even on an inside handoff.  Brett Brackett hauls in his second pass of the game–he had 3 all of last year–which puts Penn State into Youngstown State territory.  A couple plays later, Bolden throws a perfect fade pass to a wid open Graham Zug, but Zug misreads it and slows down, and it bounces harmlessly off his hand.  But boy, Bolden could not have thrown a better deep ball there.  Penn State trailing through one quarter, but you can’t blame Rob Bolden. Or the offensive line, who’s given him all day to throw.  The drive stalls at the Youngstown 32, but Collin Wagner crushes one into the wind that might’ve been good from 55. When did he get a leg?  PSU down 7-6, though, so we can’t be too jubilant.


Penn State’s defense does not look great.  The defensive backs are giving up the short pass, and Y’Town is taking advantage, driving into Penn State territory.  On runs, Penn State’s clogged the middle but has had trouble making tackles in space.  They will force a punt, but only because of a poor pass, as the Penguins put together a very competent drive right there.

On another note: the student section never really filled out.  The freshman and sophomores are out in full force–I’d say about 95% capacity in the south end zone, but as for the seniors and juniors? Well, it’s ugly:

Jay Paterno and Galen Hall are trying to make it easy for Robert Bolden. Most of his throws are screens, quick hitters, or sideline passes where he doesn’t have too make too many reads.  To his credit, he’s making the most of those opportunities, and seems to be building some confidence. Johnnie Troutman’s checked in at guard for DeOn’tae Pannell, by the way. And he helps spring Royster for his best run of the game, a nice, weaving, 13 yard gain.  But on third and 7, Bolden is picked off–a quick out route and Moye fell down.  We’ll see if he can rebound, because that’s the first poor play he’s made all day.

Penn State’s defense is playing extremely conservative, really using this game as an exhibition.  Virtually everyone on the two-deep in the front 7 has seen playing time, and there’s been little variation from the standard 4-3. Very little man defense, too, as Penn State’s played almost exclusively zone.  The unit makes their first big play of the day, though, as Ollie Ogbu stuffs a 4th-and-2 run. Wouldn’t have counted anyone, with laundry down for an illegal shift, but Bolden will get a chance to try and redeem himself and give the Lions the lead.

Penn State’s offensive line has had no success on stretch plays, but Hall and JayPa keep dialing them up.  But that’s what happens when you don’t have a tight end you can trust to seal off the edge.  But it’s okay, Bolden gets plenty of time and hits Moye on a 27-yard sprawling catch along the sideline. That’s the second time Bolden’s gone deep, and both times he has put perfect touch on the ball.  Great play on the other side, too, to bring it in.  On another note: I’m not sure if Joe Suhey is hurt, but Mike Zordich has gotten the majority of playing time at fullback since the first couple series. That’s something to keep an eye on.

Brett Brackett hauls in a short pass, and then goes over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass, Bolden’s first in his career.  Hell of a bounce-back drive for the kid, who was perfect on it.  Also, that touchdown was Brett Brackett’s fourth catch of the game, more than he had all of last season.  They’re flexing him into the slot as an H-back, and we haven’t seen much Garry Gilliam at all.  Like Quarless last year, he’s been mainly a safety valve for Bolden, and has looked quicker and more athletic than I remember.

One of the problems last year for Penn State on special teams was that they didn’t put their best players on ST units.  Well, D’Anton Lynn just made a great stick to halt the YSU returner at the 19 yard line.  An Ollie Ogbu sack on the first play of the drive, and Penn State looks like they finally got their legs underneath them.  Great push by the line, and Penn State takes their first time out. They’ll try and get the ball back before the half.  After a quick three-and-out–punctuated by another screen pass to Deion  Barnes that was mercifully snuffed out for a 6-yard gain, they’ll do just that.  It’ll be PSU ball with 45 seconds left from their own 35.

Bolden takes his first shot of the game, getting crushed in the pocket. I think it was Lou Eliades who missed his man off the edge, and the pass flutters incomplete.  But Bolden rebounds, finding Brackett and Moye as Penn State gets to midfield.  He takes another hit, but hangs in there as he delivers a strike to Moye to pick up 9.  On 2nd and 1, he looks deep to Zug, and is picked off–but Zug was clearly held off, and it’s a 10 yard penalty that advances PSU to the YSU 31.  Bolden has absorbed a lot of contact, but he’s hung in the pocket and delivered beautiful passes. Let me put it this way–he does not look like a freshman.  With 4 seconds left, it’ll be Wagner on for his third 40+ yard attempt, a 48-yarder into the wind. And my god, I think he’s got it. For as terrible as he was last year, Collin Wagner is a changed man.  A nice drive to end the half, 16-7 Penn State.


Quick thoughts:

Robert Bolden is pretty darn good.  We knew he’d have to have impressed JoePa if he was going to start a true freshman for the opener for the first time in a century (and that isn’t an exaggeration, Shorty Miller was the last PSU freshman to start from day 1 in 1910), but he’s been as good as I could’ve possibly imagined.  He’s been coddled a little bit, throwing mainly screen passes and short throws, but when they’ve allowed him to go deep, he’s done so with aplomb.  Even more impressive was how he handled himself on that last drive, standing in the pocket and taking some huge hits.  There will be freshman mistakes and struggles, that’s for sure, but we may have a budding star on our hands.

The Offensive Line had a very up-and-down first half, and while Robert Bolden wasn’t sacked once, he certainly got knocked around quite a bit.  There was some shuffling, as to be expected, between DeOn’tae Pannell and Johnnie Troutman at left guard, and though Troutman looked to be the better of the two, it was Pannell out there on the scoring drive that ended the first half.  As solid as they were in pass protection, the line struggled to give Evan Royster much room.  Without Mickey Shuler, as a 6th offensive lineman, the unit had a ton of trouble sealing off the edge, and there wasn’t a single successful run to the outside.

The front seven rotated through more than a dozen different players, with guys like Kevion Latham and James Terry out there for entire series.  As expected, Ollie Ogbu was the anchor of the unit, but Jack Crawford seemed a little more tentative than he did last year.  That word would really describe most of the PSU defense–playing back on their heels, more afraid to make a mistake than actively trying to make a big play.

THIRD QUARTER: Well, that was quick. 12 seconds into the second half, it’s 22-7, as Chaz Powell takes the opening kickoff 100 yards. Zombie Nation started when Powell was at, oh, midfield or so.  No broken tackles or brilliant jukes, just a tiny seam that he burst right through, and outran the defense.  And this press box absolutely shook. It was like an earthquake up here. Youngstown State is challenging that Powell went out of bounds, but he showed some scary speed on that return. By the way, Penn State’s special teams have made a complete 180 from a year ago–Wagner’s drilling long field goals, Fera’s booting touchbacks, and that return was pretty nice–and it stands.  By the way, that’s Penn State’s longest return in 35 years–Rich Mauti pulled it off against Temple.

Penn State’s other units look a lot better here in the second half, too.  The opening return was snuffed out by a Derrick Thomas beheading–a clothesline from hell that JBL would’ve been proud of (if you get the reference, well done!), and a quick three and out that featured great pressure by Ollie Ogbu and a nice Chris Colasanti stick on an inside screen to force the three and out.

And Devon Smith would take the ensuing punt back down to the YSU 20–before a questionable block in the back penalty by Gerald Hodges takes it all the way back.  Shame, because he was already past the would-be-tackler, but boy, that’s kid has got some wheels.  Doesn’t seem to matter too much, as Penn State’s moving the ball nicely once again.  I’m starting to notice a trend on the screen passes–Penn State is not getting the blockers out in front.  It’s Royster, and there’s space, but the offensive line is too slow getting to the second level.  Hasn’t stopped Bolden from throwing perfect strikes, or Royster from picking up some nice gains on his own, though.  And then the 7-play, 55-yard drive comes to an end, as Bolden delivers a perfect fade pass to a wide open Brett Brackett for the second TD of the game–for both Brackett and Bolden.  And I know, it’s only Youngstown State, but Robert Bolden has got it. You know exactly what I mean.

Youngstown State has responded with one of their most complete drives of the game–nickel and diming it across midfield, before a Nate Stupar sack–the first sack of the game–backs them up to a 2nd and long.  An Ollie Ogbu stuff makes it 3rd and 22, and Youngstown State checks down, picking up just 5.  Penn State forcing another YSU punt–outside of that one screen pass, the bend-but-don’t-break has worked pretty nicely today.

They’re starting to loosen the reins on Rob Bolden–on consecutive plays he throws the ball downfield and finds Justin Brown and Devon Smith, marching the ball to the  Youngstown State 22 as the third quarter comes to a close.  This game was 16-7 at the half, and Penn State finally woke up. We’ll head to the fourth, PSU up 30-7 and driving.


Penn State picks up the last 22 yards on just three plays. Rob Bolden lofted one into the end zone that Justin Brown couldn’t catch up to, but a strike to Brett Brackett gets PSU to the Youngstown 5, and a Stephfon Green TD run makes it 37-7.

Penn State is going to call off the dogs–in on defense is Pete Massaro, Brandon Ware, Andrew Dailey, and Khairi Fortt.  For Fortt and Ware, it’s their first career playing time in a real game.  A botched snap and Penguin fumble offered a great chance for the Penn State defense to come up with their first turnover of the year, but the Lions can’t fall on it.

Penn State will take over on offense from their own 44, and it’s Kevin Newsome leading the offense out on the field.  You have to feel for the kid–he went from a 3 year starter to career backup in the span of one offseason.  But the way Rob Bolden played today, it would take an injury for Newsome to get any substantial playing time.  His first play is a QB keeper, a 13-yard pickup and he looked good.  Took a nice hit at the end but bounced back up.  Wouldn’t surprise me if he got some rub in a wildcat set.

Plenty of freshmen in for Penn State, including Redd, Felder, Zwinak, and a couple of linemen–Silas Redd just ran for 13 and showed awesome burst through the hole.  Great quickness.  Newsome’s next play is a throw to the sideline for Brandon Moseby-Felder–not the best toss, but pass interference and roughing the passer send Penn State all the way down to the 15 yard line.  It was actually a pretty poor pass–to the sideline with not nearly enough behind it.  Had the defender been situated properly, that ball is picked.  We’re starting to see why Bolden won the job.  Silas Redd continues to impress, though–crazy good lateral quickness, though he’s going a little bit too much East-West as opposed to North-South.  After a Silas Redd run down to the 1, Newsome gets a nice push and scores the 5th Penn State touchdown on the day. David Soldner adds the extra point, and it’s 44-7.

With that, I’m out.  We get to watch the last few minutes from the sideline, and I’m on my way down.  Thanks for sticking with us all day.

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  • Focker972000

    we are penn state

  • Darenp124

    Ooo ouch not a good sign. 3 and out first offensive drive damn

  • Darenp124

    Oh man the running game is struggling early

  • Darenp124

    Fuckkkkk!!! Are u kidding me?!? A screen TD!!!! Arrrrrejjfhddmsjdd

  • Kidfishman

    I heard JoePa introduced his successor to the team right after the game. Here’s the article.