BAMA: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the ugly from Penn State's latest meltdown against a top opponent. It may have been ugly. But at least the quarterback battle is over (or should be).

OK, so maybe nobody wanted to admit it afterward. But at least Penn State's quarterback controversy is over.

Rob Bolden wasn't great against No. 3 Alabama at Beaver Stadium Saturday, connecting on 11 of 29 passes for 144 yards and an interception in the No. 23 Nittany Lions' 27-11 loss.

He did, however, outshine Matt McGloin.

The duo once again split snaps, with Bolden getting the start and the first two series, and McGloin getting the next two series. They basically alternated after that.

When the dust cleared, McGloin was 1 of 10 for no yards. That's right, we said “no yards.”

“I thought both guys did pretty well,” said head coach Joe Paterno, who watched the action from the press box.

Apparently he was having trouble seeing.

Because the sophomore Bolden did -- at times -- look good. He showed poise in the pocket and was hurt by a few dropped passes. He used his legs to make things happen, rushing for 25 yards and a two-point conversion. He led Penn State's only two scoring drives of the game, including an impressive 16-play number to start the first quarter.

McGloin, on the other hand, could not get anything going. After a five-interception debacle against Florida in the Outback Bowl, the redshirt junior was looking for redemption against another SEC opponent. He didn't get it. The quick outs that worked so well against Indiana State were swatted away by the Tide's fast defensive backs. He didn't have the arm strength to making anything happen Saturday.

With a stretch of extremely winnable games between now and the brutal November stretch run, it is time to put the QB battle to sleep. Bolden should be the man. He is younger, has more of an upside and is clearly the long-term answer.

Though his teammates will not take sides, they are growing weary of the uncertainty at the position.

“We definitely would like to have a guy, just to know who we're going with,” wideout Derek Moye said.

Here is our take on what went down Saturday.

MAN OF THE HOUR: Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti had 13 tackles and broke up a pair of passes. He was one of three Nittany Lions (along with fellow 'backers Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson) to reach double figures in stops.

CLOSE SECOND: Defensive tackle Devon Still had seven stops and one tackle behind the line. He also did a nice job of harassing Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron.

CLOSE THIRD: Tailback Silas Redd had a hard-earned 66 yards on 22 carries. Not great numbers, of course. But after the first drive of the game, the offensive line did not give him much help. Credit Redd for running strong even when the O-line was struggling. He'll build off this.

TURNING POINT: Down 3-0 in the first quarter, the Crimson Tide had a successful fake punt on a fourth-and-1 from their own 40. Up-man Brad Smelley appeared to be stopped well short of the marker, but a good spot gave Alabama the first down. Since PSU had already used its three first-half timeouts, it could not ask for a video review. The Tide marched down the field for a score to lead 7-3 and grab momentum.

SOLID STRATEGY: Up 20-3 in the third quarter, Alabama coach Nick Sabin went to a low-risk offense. He did the same thing with a second-half lead vs. Penn State last season. Sabin knew the PSU offense had little chance of mounting a comeback vs. his strong defense.

NUMBERS GAME: Penn State controlled the ball for the first 7:26 of the game thanks to a 16-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a field goal. The Tide held a 34:05-18:29 time-of-possession advantage the rest of the way. Ouch.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Junior wideouts Justin Brown and Devon Smith both dropped catchable balls again Saturday. If the staff is not losing patience with them, it should be. We know Smith is fast. But we're trying to remember the last time he made a play in the clutch.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Here, here to place-kicker Evan Lewis. After struggling against Indiana State (and drawing criticism from this space), he nailed a 43-yard field goal on PSU's first drive against Alabama. It was nice to see the former walk-on respond in such a positive fashion in such a high-pressure situation.


• Penn State blowing three timeouts on its first drive -- and being left without a chance to challenge a spot (which proved to be the turning point of the game). Is there any better evidence that the offensive coaching staff is severely broken?

• The lack of big hits from the Penn State secondary. Especially troubling was veteran Nick Sukay not even trying to deck Tide tight end Michael Williams when he caught a touchdown pass. Can someone please get this group a VHS tape of the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. Also, does anyone else think it is time to get Malcolm Willis more PT at safety?

Stephfon Green. He did not even dress for this game. As it turns out, everyone just assumed he was suspended for most of the preseason because he was cited for furnishing alcohol to a minor. The citation, which dates to a July 15 incident, became a matter of public record earlier this week. As it turns out, that's NOT why Green had been previously suspended. When Joe Paterno caught wind of the citation, Green -- who figured to play Saturday after not getting on the field in the opener -- was back in the dreaded doghouse. He was not even on the sideline. Sad to see such a waste of talent.

• All of the PSU coaches and players saying they had to look at tape before making definitive comments on the loss. It's going to look just as bad the second time around, fellas.

HIT SQUAD: Still powered through the line and dropped Trent Richardson for a 5-yard loss in the second quarter. It was Richardson's only negative-yardage carry of the game (he finished with 111 yards and two TDs).

HIDDEN HERO: We didn't see any for Penn State. The Lions needed a hero and nobody stepped up.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Anthony Fere returned from suspension. He kicked off and took over the punting in the second half. He averaged 47 yards on two attempts but out-kicked his coverage on one of them, leading to Marquis Maze's 43-yard return.


• That when right tackle Chima Okoli left the game in the first quarter with an unspecified leg injury, right guard DeOn'tae Pannell shifted to tackle and John Urschel took over at right guard. Adam Gress initially took the field to replace Okoli but the staff re-thought the move after blowing a timeout after Okoli was hurt.

• That Okoli tried to leave the field after he was injured. As he was limping off, the sideline staff implored him to go to the ground -- so he could be attended to by doctors and not cost the team a timeout. He did not go down until he got near the sideline, and the refs refused to stop the play clock. PSU had to spend a timeout to prevent a delay penalty. Though he is a senior starter, we get that Okoli may not have been thinking straight. But someone else on the field should have had the common sense to tell him to fall to the ground. This sort of thing -- minor though it may seem -- speaks to lack of leadership on the offense.

• That wideout Curtis Drake saw his first game action since the 2010 Capital One Bowl. He did not catch a pass, though. With Smith struggling to make plays, Penn State really needs Drake to step up. Drake missed all of last season with a broken leg and re-aggravated the injury in the spring.

• That Penn State had fewer first downs in this game (16) than it did in the 24-3 loss in Tuscaloosa last year (17).

• That to honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11, four New York City firefighters held the flags prior to the national anthem. The crowd started chanting, “U-S-A, U-S-A.” Pretty cool stuff.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Are the days of Penn State simply competing with top-five opponents over?

AND ANOTHER THING: We're going on record now saying Paterno will not be on the sideline the rest of the season due to the injuries he sustained following a collision with Smith during practice early in the preseason. Paterno can't even ride the team bus to the stadium. And he is still walking with a cane.


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