A Driving Force

Bolden's clutch third-down completions fuel Penn State's game-clinching touchdown march against Temple at Beaver Stadium

As the lights turned on inside Beaver Stadium, so did the Penn State offense, orchestrating a 96-yard scoring drive that sealed the Nittany Lions' 22-13 victory over Temple Saturday.

With 12:47 remaining in the fourth quarter and Penn State leading 15-13, the Nittany Lions were pinned inside their own 5-yard line after a 57-yard punt by Temple's Jeff Wanthe. Although they had performed well all day, the Penn State offense had not scored a touchdown. They understood that had to change.

“We knew what we had to do,” wide receiver Graham Zug said. “We knew we had to run the clock down, go a long way, and put points on the board -- that's what we did.”

The first crucial play of the drive came on a third-and-6 from the Penn State 8-yard line, when quarterback Rob Bolden hit Zug for a 19-yard reception down the PSU sideline.

Three plays later, Penn State was faced with another third down, this time from its own 41-yard line. Again, offensive coordinator Jay Paterno called his freshman quarterback's number.

“We wanted to find out if we had a quarterback,” Paterno said. “It worked out well.”

Bolden dropped back to pass and found Justin Brown for a 27-yard completion, but not before he was walloped by the oncoming pass rush. The young quarterback's poise under pressure impressed everyone around him.

“With a guy bearing down his neck he made a big-time throw,” Paterno said. “That's when you know you have a quarterback.”

“He showed a lot of poise for a freshman quarterback,” wide receiver Derek Moye said. Zug added, “He was calm, focused and composed. I wasn't surprised that the coaching staff trusted him on third down in our territory.”

From there the ground game took over.

Running back Evan Royster capped off his 187-yard performance by breaking off a 17-yard run that brought the ball to the Temple 15-yard line.

Penn State's offense had stalled in Temple territory all day. In seven trips inside the Owls 30-yard line, the Nittany Lions had no touchdowns, emerging from their previous trips with only five field goals.

They were not to be denied again.

Fullback Michael Zordich ran over a tired and defeated Temple defense, capping the 12-play, 96-yard drive with a one-yard run into the end zone.

In just 5:59, the Penn State offense had redeemed itself for its earlier struggles.

“The fact we had a go that far and converting on third downs and Bolden making throws when it mattered most, it's something we really need to continue,” Royster said.

Bolden's third-down conversions impressed Royster the most.

“It's hard to say he's really been tested like that and its big ups to him for being able to take a team down the field like that as a freshman,” Royster said. “They gave him a couple shots down field and he capitalized.”

Head coach Joe Paterno agreed with his star running back's assessment.

“I said to (Bolden before the game),'Just forget you're only 12-years old,' ” Paterno said laughing. “Something like this was good for him. It was good for him to have a clutch drive.”


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