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

Once again, it’s Adam Collyer over at BlackShoeDiaries providing the questions, and we, your humble bloggers, providing the answers. Mine are below, and you can venture off to the remote areas of the blogosphere that …

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Redd leads punishing ground attack against Indiana State

Submitted by on September 4, 2011No Comment


That’s the mantra this squad has adopted for the 2011 season. And on a muggy, 85 degree Fall afternoon, the Nittany Lions put on a display of toughness often lacking from last season’s edition before the 96,461 fans who braved the heat to watch Penn State rout the Sycamores of Indiana State by a score of 41-7.

Sure, the game seemed to be nothing more than a glorified scrimmage on paper, but there was far more riding on the team’s performance against the Sycamores than just the final score. This was finally an opportunity for Penn State to put on their pads, strap on their helmets and answer some unresolved questions surrounding this squad since the final whistle at the Outback Bowl last season.

Specifically, the position battle at quarterback.

In fact, heading into the season opener, Joe Paterno admitted both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin would receive significant playing time Saturday, a disturbing, but clear indication that neither player has emerged as a clear-cut winner for the starting position. And so 96,461 fans risked heat stroke and packed Beaver Stadium against a subdivision opponent Saturday just for the opportunity to watch the Penn State crown it’s next starting quarterback.

Unfortunately, both Bolden and McGloin offered fans a first-hand glimpse into just how tough the quarterback battle has been all offseason with neither one emerging as a clear cut winner on Saturday. Rob Bolden started the game and managed to lead the Lions to just 1 touchdown drive in 6 possessions. But that number could have easily been 3 touchdown drives, had it not been for first-quarter drops by Derek Moye and Justin Brown on a pair of deep catchable balls that could have easily gone for touchdowns. He eventually finished 6 of 12 for 37 yards.

Drives Touchdowns Snaps Stats  Yards
 Rob Bolden  6 1 36 6/12  37
 Matt McGloin  4 3 26 6/8  77

McGloin had better stats on the day, completing 6 of 8 passes for 77 yards leading the Lions to 3 touchdowns in 4 drives, though one came on a short field following a turnover. In fact, McGloin’s drives had a better average starting position, at the PSU 43 compared to the PSU 38 for Bolden. Despite recording better stats, McGloin’s decision-making was also suspect at times, including a ill-advised pass attempt right at defensive end Phil Walker while being sacked. Fortunately Walker dropped the ball, but that type of play that could have been a game-breaking touchdown next weekend against Alabama and is reminiscent of of his questionable decision-making when he threw 5 interceptions against Florida in the Outback Bowl. So a virtual dead-heat that puts us back where we started. Even Joe Paterno admitted both quarterbacks played well and suggested the possibility that both will take the field next week. A surprising admission for a coach who is notoriously skeptical about playing multiple quarterbacks.

“I think both of them are going to play, I think both of them can play… They’ve been under an awful lot of pressure because of the media, and everybody else wants to know who’s going to play quarterback… I think that they’re fine. They’ll get better. I think overall they did a pretty good job.”

Aside from the quarterback battle, there were plenty of positives from Saturday on both sides of the ball. On offense, the early development of a punishing running attack was surprising given the early season struggles in the run game during the last few seasons. Even against overmatched early season opponents, the Nittany Lions often struggled to find the right balance on the offensive line, often failing to dominate the trenches as expected. The Lions only managed to rack up 132 yards on the ground against subdivision Youngstown State in last year’s opener. Against the Sycamores, the Penn State run game was absolutely punishing. The Nittany Lions rushed the ball 48 times for 245 total yards and 5 touchdowns. Silas Redd wowed fans Saturday finishing with 104 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 12 carries, an average of 8.7 yards a carry.

The defense, much maligned last season for their lack of intensity was even more impressive holding the Sycamores to 170 total yards and forcing 3 turnovers; interceptions by Drew Astorino and Adrian Amos and a fumble recovery by Jordan Hill. A welcome sign for a unit that had struggled to force turnovers (just 17 total; 7 forced fumbles, 10 interceptions) last season. Penn State played a near-flawless game defensively Saturday, pitching a shutout that lasted 57 minutes before Indiana State scored on a 20 yard touchdown pass against Penn State’s third and fourth stringers with 2:16 left in the game.

Aside from the kicking game, still suffering the effects of losing projected starter Anthony Fera to off-field issues, it was a near perfect outing for the Nittany Lions Saturday. However, with the top-ranked Crimson Tide rolling into town next weekend, the Lions can ill afford the distractions of a quarterback controversy. The idea of playing both quarterbacks next weekend does little to aid continuity at such a key position. Penn State fans should remember 1999 and the quarterback-by-committee battle between Rashard Casey and Kevin Thompson, one that started with a #1 ranking and ended with 3 straight regular-season losses. By this point, the coaching staff should just name a starter, give him the opportunity to take most of the first-team reps and let the chips fall where they may.

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