Penn State would never admit it on the record, but this weekend’s game was a must win to save the 2010-11 season. Despite overcoming injuries and playing 3 different quarterbacks, Penn State found a way to win against a floundering but fiesty Golden Gopher team picking up their first conference win of the season. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was the sort of game Penn State had to have.
Ultimately this could be the win that allows Joe Paterno to return for the 2011 season. It isn’t that beating Minnesota is a huge victory, but the win goes a long way towards proving the stability of the program many critics think it is losing. Beating Minnesota restores the status quo , and shows that with enough time the coaching staff was able to come up with a successful game plan and win a game with a severely depleted roster in key areas.
Beating Minnesota gives the “Joe must go” camp a lot less ammo to work with, and realistically the rest of the schedule only has 2 games that Penn State should be expected to win (Indiana, Northwestern). Assuming that Penn State wins those games, and steals one from MSU, Michigan, or Ohio State. Paterno should be set to take one last crack at this thing in the 2011-2012 season. Demanding for his head now really gets nothing done, and message board rumors are proving to be little more than that. Grades after the jump.
If Penn State couldn’t get it going against the worst defense in the conference it just wasn’t going to happen. Thankfully Rob Bolden came out on fire putting together a 11/13 130 yard 1 TD day before getting knocked out of the game. Penn State’s willingness to attack the middle of the field early worked to their advantage as Minnesota really had no answer to the Lion’s aggressive attack early in the game.
After Bolden’s injury Matt McGloin stepped in to throw 2 touchdowns with a mixture of groundballs and an interception. While McGloin did enough to keep Penn State in front and in control of the game, it was pretty eveident why Bolden had won the job. McGloin is a Brett Farve style quarterback often forcing the issue and making wild throws. Newsome also saw several snaps under center but did not attempt a pass, likely due to the fact he was sick with the flu to the point of almost not making the trip.
If there was one major positive to take away from Penn State’s victory it would have to be the emergence of a running game. Between Silas Redd and Evan Rosyter, Penn State was able to take advantage of Minnesota’s weak run defense picking up 145 yards on the ground on 30 carries. While that number is short of some of the 200+ yard performances of other schools on Minnesota’s schedule, Royster and Redd both showed a killer instinct in a time when Penn State was struggling to find any sort of rhythm at the quarterback position. Royster especially was able to pick the team up on his shoulders when the game was at a pivotal juncture.
Overall if Rob Bolden stays in the game Penn State probably wins this game by 20+. The Nittany Lion’s struggles with McGloin and Newsome are the only things keeping this grade below an A-. While McGloin had two touchdown passes, you never felt as though he had a strong hold on his position.
Penn State played a pretty wishy washy game on the defensive side of the ball. While they kept Minnesota from really every getting going, they still allowed a 100 yard rusher and a 100 yard receiver in the same game. Adam Weber is the sort of quarterback that could have really hurt a depleted Penn State secondary, but he didn’t receive the kind of support he needed to win the game. Penn State’s replacements for various injured starts ought to get stronger over the week leading up to Michigan, but tackling and a consistent pass rush will be need to be points of emphasis going forward.
Special Teams: A
Colin Wagner missed a field goal late in the game, but between his 4/4 extra points and his 49 yard field goal there isn’t a lot of room to complain. Anthony Fera had his best punting performance of the year averaging 45 yards a punt including a 61 yard bomb. The special teams unit has been by far the strongest and most consistent unit Penn State has. Nothing really changed this week.