On Saturday, the Penn State football team played another one of those games. In other words, they played a game in which the final score did not sound impressive at all. Penn State only beat Indiana 16-10 and now they are supposedly doomed to wallow in Big Ten purgatory for the rest of the season just like in 2005 when Penn State did not defeat South Florida and Northwestern by acceptable margins.
I’m not partying like it’s 2005 just yet, but Penn State hasn’t lost a Big Ten game in 2011, so I’m not going to give up on them. Wisconsin still looks like the only “unbeatable” team on the schedule, so even if Penn State is mediocre, they can still have quite a successful season. Get ready for some Indiana observations.
Turnovers and Yards
Penn State looked to be cruising in for a touchdown on their first drive of the game when Rob Bolden threw a ball high and wide of Andrew Szczerba that the tight end deflected into the hands of an IU defensive back for an interception. A potential six points became zero, and PSU struggled to score for the rest of the half. In the third quarter, Silas Redd lost a fumble inside the Indiana five yard line for another missed opportunity. Both of these errors resulted in a discrepancy between the amount of points PSU had on the board and the actual productiveness of their offense.
When you compare Saturday’s offensive numbers to those in last year’s 41-24 victory over Indiana, the 16 points don’t seem as bad. In 2010, Penn State racked up 496 yards on 75 plays for a 6.6 yards per play average. On Saturday, PSU ran 86 plays for 464 yards and a 5.4 per play average. A 1.2-yard difference is a pretty big deal on a per-play basis, but you also have to take into consideration how the yards were gained. For example, on the 14 plays in which their second best quarterback Rob Bolden threw a pass on Saturday, Penn State gained just 4.8 yards per play. Matt McGloin averaged 9.3 yards per attempt versus Indiana this season, but he only threw 22 passes. Last season, McGloin threw 31 passes.
Matt McGloin struggled to find his targets all day and he looked pretty shaky apart from the perfect ball he threw Derek Moye in the third quarter for a 76-yard touchdown. However, thanks to Rob Bolden playing worse, I don’t have any changes to report for my stance on the quarterback issue. Bolden did have a fantastic throw to Moye that got dropped, but that was overshadowed by a couple of ugly passes that landed at receivers’ feet. On one particular play, Penn State ran a simple play action rollout that saw fullback Joe Suhey get wide open in the flat for what seemed like a guaranteed seven yards. Instead, Bolden thew 10 yards downfield to a wide receiver who was blanketed by a defender. Incomplete.
I was afraid that Penn State would get off to a slow start if Bolden started this game. Even worse, number one’s opening drive interception almost ended up costing PSU the game. They might not get so lucky if Bolden is again the starter versus Iowa.
I’ve heard whispers that the ongoing quarterback situation could be harmful to Derek Moye’s bid to be a first team all-conference wide receiver. It sort of has been, but not in a really bad way. Moye has come up the biggest in the games in which Penn State needed him the most. Versus Indiana State and Eastern Michigan, when Penn State scored a total of 75 points, Moye combined for just 10 catches and 112 yards. However, in narrow victories over Temple and Indiana, Moye played like a superhero with a combined 13 catches for 270 yards. Saturday’s 6 catches for 158 yards was especially impressive because Penn State only completed 16 passes for the entire game.
Despite fielding a defense that continues to impress, Penn State will probably need to score more than 16 points to beat some of the competition in the upcoming schedule. However, one lackluster performance versus Indiana does not make the offense completely incompetent. Penn State would look a lot better simply by staying away from turnovers and letting Matt McGloin play full-time.