Penn State loves the screen pass and other tales from week one


Hey guys. I just got back from State College last night. The good news is that it didn’t start raining until Sunday night and I actually ate at The Deli for the first time which turned out to be a really good decision. I also got to hang out with a bunch of friends that I hadn’t seen in a while.

That leaves the bad news for the football field, where Penn State was underwhelming and sloppy on offense. The play calling seemed unimaginative and boring,  which would be fine if this week was a normal tune-up game, but when Penn State is still trying to determine a starter at quarterback, I’d rather see some more five- and seven-step drops. In the place of downfield passing places, we saw a heavy dose of screen passes to go with lots and lots of running.

The amount of screen passing made it appear as though Penn State was following the offensive script that they plan to use for the Alabama game, when they can expect their quarterback(s) to be under heavy pressure. What was really disturbing was that even versus Indiana State’s defensive front, PSU quarterbacks did not have much time to throw in the rare event of a deep dropback. Once, Indiana State was able to get pressure on a 3rd and long with just a three man rush thanks to a missed block. Another time, Penn State tried a delayed hand-off only to see Rob Bolden get hammered while waiting for the halfback to take the ball.

Calling 41 rushes compared to just 20 pass attempts is no way to conduct a quarterback competition. The way the ball was rammed down the Sycamores’ throats was technically effective, but it did not do anything to convince me that PSU is not satisfied with their quarterback situation. Even when faced with a 4th and 3 at the Sycamore 34, as they were late in the first quarter, Penn State opted to attempt a reverse rather than challenge Rob Bolden with picking up the needed yards through the air. Derek Moye was caught for a seven yard loss on the play.

If I had to choose a “winner” between Bolden and Matt McGloin based on their play versus Indiana State, I’d have to go with McGloin. I realize that Bolden had a potential touchdown pass dropped by Justin Brown, but that’s still no excuse for his 6 of 12 for just 37 yards. That’s only six yards per completed pass.

I know that’s just a very small sample and it’s very unlikely that Bolden got worse over the summer, but he still looks a little stiff in the pocket. Bolden is very good at standing in the pocket and taking a hit. He’s also looks good when he has to escape the pocket. He’s just doesn’t really have a feel for moving within the pocket, which is something a quarterback has to do when faced with the kind of pressure both Bolden and McGloin faced on Saturday and will surely face again next Saturday.

Moving within the pocket is something McGloin still does better than Bolden. When number 11 entered the game early in the second quarter, he led PSU on a 75-yard touchdown drive and the passing offense looked as solid as it would all game. McGloin finished 6 of 8 for 77 yards, but he really gets approval from me because of his ability to move and improvise within the pocket. Of course, improvisation is not always a good thing. Once, while trying to keep a doomed play alive, McGloin threw the ball right to an Indiana State defender for what should have been an awful interception.

Despite McGloin’s tendency to make mistakes and my belief that Bolden will eventually live up to his potential and earn the starting job, McGloin looks like the better quarterback option right now. Penn State is not going to be able to run over Alabama next week. In order to have a chance, they’ll need the more risk prone quarterback at the helm.

More observations

  • Penn State’s secondary was as good as advertised on Saturday. Drew Astorino had an interception and made a couple of other really nice plays. Adrian Amos came on late in the game and showed lots of potential with a pick of his own to go with a really fine looking tackle.
  • There was lots of rotation going on for Penn State at the guard and linebacker spots. While the first team offense was on the field, Johnnie Troutman got nearly all the reps at one guard spot while DeOn’tae Pannell and John Urschel switched back and forth at the other.
  • At linebacker, Glenn Carson, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodgers all started, but Khairi Fortt, Nate Stupar and Mike Hull all played a bunch of snaps as well. Michael Yancich saw the field later in the game.
  • None of the defensive ends really had an outstanding game, but there was one play that I witnessed Jack Crawford clearly beat his man and get pressure on the quarterback. We need to see more of that from now on. The starting defensive tackles Jordan Hill and Devon Still seemed to do a much better job at generating pressure.
  • Freshman wide receiver Allen Robinson was on the field for a surprising amount of plays. He didn’t make any catches, but it’s clear that he’s further ahead on the depth chart than we initially thought.
  • Kicker Evan Lewis looked really, really bad. He was 0 for 2 on field goals and just 4 of 5 on extra points. Lewis’ kickoffs were pretty short as well. Freshman Sam Ficken came on in the second half and made an extra point. We can’t tell much from that, but Ficken’s kickoffs were certainly deeper than those by Lewis.