Offense Struggling for Answers

Quarterback coach Jay Paterno, players have different opinions on why the Nittany Lions are having trouble scoring.

The strain of Penn State's lost season has begun to expose a rift between the team's upperclassmen on offense and quarterback coach Jay Paterno.

The disagreement is not over the source of the unit's struggles, but rather who must fix it and how as a group they can help freshman quarterback Robert Bolden conquer his growing pains.

“[Bolden's] struggles are inevitable, but we've got to get the older guys to step up and help him out,” Paterno said after PSU's 33-13 loss to Illinois at Beaver Stadium Saturday. “We've got to look at who we're playing, if we're playing the right guys, and we've got to evaluate who wants to compete and who wants to be tough.”

Senior right guard Stefen Wisniewski offered a different sentiment.

“I'm not sure what he means by that,” Wisniewski said. “I think we're trying [to help] but there are no upperclassmen who are quarterbacks. To be honest, that's what [Bolden] needs the most -- a mentor at quarterback and none of us can do that.”

Paterno disagreed.

“That's not his problem,” he said. “[Bolden's] talked with guys like Daryll [Clark], Michael Robinson and Kerry Collins. We've had some older guys talk with him. The thing is, the older guy is usually the guy playing. Daryll didn't have that two years ago when he began as a starter, either.”

Bolden struggled again Saturday. The young quarterback completed just 8 of 21 pass attempts, throwing for 142 yards, a touchdown and one interception. More than half of those yards came on an 80-yard scoring strike to junior wide receiver Derek Moye.

“I wouldn't say we necessarily have a lack of leadership in the huddle,” Moye said. “We have had some problems with leaders, though. We're trying.”

Paterno said for the offense to start succeeding, the running game must pick up its performance, too. Although Penn State has used a mix of names at the position, the primary onus falls on the shoulders of senior running back Evan Royster.

"I wish I could get in there and play every position and play with the desire some people don't have."
— Evan Royster

Royster, who rushed for just 35 yards on 11 carries Saturday -- his fifth effort of 60 yards or less this season -- cited the team's lack of desire as the culprit for its poor play.

“I wish I could get in there and play every position and play with the desire some people don't have,” Royster said. “I'm not a guy to yell, but that's something that might have to change. A loss like this hurts you. It hurts inside.”

Penn State now stumbles into its bye week with a .500 overall record and a 0-2 mark in the Big Ten. The road ahead does not get much rosier, either, as contests with Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State await — all three programs entered Saturday in the top 20.

For the beleaguered Lions, the soul searching begins now.

“This bye week and going into next week, we're going to find out if our hearts are in it or not,” Wisniewski said. “This is a time when the weak are going to go home and the strong are going to rise.”

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