Quarterback debates and wide receiver depth


Hey guys. It’s me, Aaron. Yesterday I got back from Philadelphia, where I had the pleasure of eating and drinking at Buffalo Wild Wings for the first time as well as watching what I called “the most exciting horrible football game ever.”

I called it that while the game was going on, but it already seems like quite an overstatement. Just look at the 2005 Orange Bowl (technically played in 2006). That game wasn’t exactly a work of art with all the punting and the missing of the field goals, but it sure was as heart-threatening as the jerk flavored boneless wings I had for dinner on Saturday night.

Anyway, Penn State’s victory over Temple was exciting but ugly. So what? I’ve never been a guy to care how “good” a win looks. There are only wins and losses. No one is awarding extra points in the standings because a team won a game without punting. That said, there are a few issues regarding Penn State’s 14-10 win over Temple that need to be addressed.

First, the quarterbacks. Going into the game, I told anyone who would listen that Rob Bolden was the number one man now after being given a great majority of the passing attempts in the Alabama game. So what if the depth chart didn’t explicitly say it yet? I said that Matt McGloin would be faded out over the course of the next two non-conference games and Penn State would be Bolden’s team by the time the Big Ten opener arrived.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Bolden struggled through the first four Penn State possessions, unable to move the ball even within 20 yards of the endzone. Whether it was planned or not, the coaching staff was forced to bring in McGloin midway through the second quarter to try to jump start the offense. The team immediately responded with a touchdown drive, and although McGloin had admittedly little to do with that first drive, he did throw a beautiful 40 yard pass to Derek Moye on Penn State’s final first half possession to move the team within field goal range. Imagine what could have transpired had the coaching staff not waited 20 extra seconds to call a time out on the previous Temple possession.

Oh well, the long pass to Moye set up McGloin with some momentum headed into the second half. He completed a couple of more passes to Moye before the first drive of the second half was submarined by a holding penalty. After Penn State’s defense forced and recovered a Bernard Pierce fumble, Bolden was mysteriously brought in to throw an interception on the very next play and give the ball back to Temple. It was almost as though the coaching staff thought this was a scrimmage and that they would switch back and forth independent of the players’ actual performance.

McGloin continued to play well throughout the second half. He had an awesome 52-yard touchdown pass to Moye negated by a holding penalty on Chima Okoli. McGloin appeared poised to lead Penn State into the endzone, but Joe Suhey couldn’t get in bounds while catching a four yard pass on 3rd and 3. In the second half, McGloin had the offense moving pretty well; he just seemed to get undermined by this and that. Overall I thought he was doing a fine job. I guess I should have been less shocked when Bolden reentered the game with the result hanging in the balance.

Thankfully, Bolden played admirably on that last drive. He hit Derek Moye with a slant on 4th and 2 and even connected with Moo Moo for a clutch third down conversion. Still, from watching both guys play, McGloin looks like the more acceptable quarterback. He’s more aware of what’s going on around him. The way he moves in the pocket can give him an extra second to find the open man or it can open up a throwing lane that wasn’t there before. Bolden hasn’t developed this extra sensory awareness yet. He’s very stiff in the pocket, and while he can absolutely deliver a perfect ball, it seems like he must be totally free from harassment to do so.

If one block is missed or if one throwing lane is clogged, things seem to fall apart for Bolden. He’s not an improviser yet. McGloin just looks a little bit more professional right now. When the season started, I wanted the coaching staff to give the quarterback job to Bolden so that he could run with it and become the great player that he had the potential to become. However, with the coaching staff’s refusal to do that, I’m becoming more and more of a McGloin supporter from watching both guys play.

Anyway, the other thing I wanted to talk about was my deep concern for what is going on at wide receiver behind Derek Moye and Justin Brown. Obviously, Moye just came off a great game in which he made a bunch of clutch catches and pulled Penn State out of what would have been a devastating loss. He’s awesome and we love him. Justin Brown had a good game as well, although I’d like to see him be thrown to more down the field. In the Temple game he was almost exclusively used as a short- or mid-range guy and in that role he was solid and showed much better hands than in the Alabama game.

The point is that the reason Justin Brown had to catch all those balls less than 10 yards down the field is because after Moye and Brown there isn’t a lot of talent that’s ready to perform right now. The coaching staff has tried to get Shawney Kersey into the mix, but he hasn’t been remotely impressive. Devon Smith has been a disaster aside from the one clutch catch in the fourth quarter on Saturday. Andrew Szczerba would be best served staying in and providing extra protection rather than going out and mishandling another pass.

I remember on one play in the second quarter, Smith and Brandon Moseby-Felder were lined up as the two wide receivers and I immediately scolded Penn State for telegraphing a run so obviously. Of course, Silas Redd took the hand-off and ran for a touchdown, but that doesn’t solve the problem. The problem is that there is not much going on at the wide receiver position right now behind the top two spots. It’s a darn good thing Justin Brown returned so quickly after hurting himself on Saturday, because Penn State’s passing game would be even uglier without him.

While I will never discredit Penn State’s win because it was “only” a 14-10 score or because Penn State didn’t make it rain in the passing game, there are still plenty of issues to discuss. The defense was very good and the running game showed some spunk, but the pitching and catching could use some work. I’m glad Penn State still has one more week to get some confidence going in this area, but I’m afraid it won’t be nearly enough to prepare the squad for Big Ten season.