Well folks, we just saw the difference between turning the ball over against a great team (Alabama) and a bad team (Kent State). Robert Bolden had another up and down game, but continues to show why the coaches are putting their faith in him. In a couple of years, he is going to be a real special player.
The maturation of Rob Bolden continues before our eyes. With the good (55 yard bomb to Derek Moye, 48 yard TD to Devon Smith, and 33 rushing yards) also came the bad (two INTs and one lost fumble). Bolden's starts continue to be a roller coaster ride. Luckily for Bolden (and Penn State), Kent State isn't that great of a team and did not make Penn State pay for their mistakes. Bolden finished the day 17-27 for 217 yards 1 TD and 2 INTS (had a TD pass called back due to the hold of De'Ontae Pannell). We also got to see a little bit of Rob the runner, finishing with 33 yards on four carries and 1 TD. Penn State baseball coach, Robbie Wine, needs to come to practice this week to give Bolden some sliding lessons.
Bolden continues to do well in the play-action passing game as well as the read-option shotgun formation and struggle from under center. Early in the game, The offense moved pretty well while operating in the spread read-option. The coaches went away from it later in the game, but that was more to work on some other aspects of Bolden's game. The most encouraging thing about Bolden is that he does not get down on himself or overly emotional when he makes a mistake. He also appears to be learning from those mistakes and growing as a player each week. By the Michigan State game, the Rob Bolden we saw against Youngstown State won't even compare to the one we will see against Sparty. Overall, Bolden had an up and down day and will need to cut down the mistakes if Penn State hopes to beat the suddenly 3-0 Temple Owls.
Kevin Newsome (1-3, 3 yards) again proved he is a great runner (16 yards).
Final Grade: B
The running game is still a work in progress (not sure I like saying that after week 3). After two drives, it looked like Evan Roysterwas finally back to his old form, but he wasn't. Penn State is still searching for their first 100 yard rusher on the season. Royster finished the day with 38 yards on 11 carries and his first TD of the season (the fumbled exchange was on Bolden, not Royster). After three games, Royster has 110 yards on 31 carries and 1 TD, numbers Penn State fans assumed he would put up on a weekly basis. In comparison, Mark Ingram had 151 yards on 9 carries and 2 TDs in one half of football (maybe we did catch a break with him not playing last week). No one knows for sure what is eating Evan Royster, but hopefully he can flip the switch and quick. The biggest concern (amongst fans) is that Evan Royster has checked out mentally after three weeks of football. If that is the case, Stephfon Green and Silas Redd will need to step up, especially with the Big Ten season beginning next week at Iowa.
JoePa decided to let Stephfon Green get some more carries to "prove his durability." Green had some nice runs and finished with 59 yards on 11 carries. He once again looked like the best Penn State running back on the field. He is running harder and being patient, letting the holes open for him and not just crashing into the back of the offensive line like early in his career. Green's play continues to warrant more playing time and I expect the coaches to give him some more opportunities.
Silas Redd saw his first action in the third quarter "before the defense was worn out and tired." He finished the day with 24 yards on 6 carries, the majority of which came on a nice 17 yard scamper. Redd is a work in progress and should continue to get around 3 to 6 carries a game to get some game experience.
Devon Smith lined up at RB in the spread read-option formation and had a nice run for 7 yards. It will be interesting to see if he will continue to get a few snaps from that formation. Michael Zordich and Joe Suhey continue to split time with the first team at FB. As a team, Penn State finished with 162 yards on 40 carries, not that impressive.
Someone needs to step up and be the lead RB for this team. Running back by committee is fine, for now, but unless we have a consistent run threat, better teams are going to be able to pin their ears back and come after Bolden.
Final Grade: C
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
I've been pretty critical of the play of TE Gary Gilliam so far this season. After three games, it appears the coaches are not asking the kid to do too much and letting him get his feet wet in game situations. To his credit, Gilliam had an outstanding block which set up the Royster TD run.
Derek Moye continues his emergence as the number one receiver for the Nittany Lions, finishing with 85 yards on 4 catches. Devon Smith caught the first touchdown of his career on an under thrown 48 yard bomb from Bolden. He finished the day with 61 yards on 3 catches. It was great to see Smith make a difference in the vertical passing game and not just on a bubble screen or as a decoy. It appears the coaches are slowly learning how to utilize such an outstanding offensive weapon.
Graham Zug finally got on the board in 2010, finishing with 12 yards on 2 catches. Brett Brackett (1-17), Chaz Powell (1-2), Justin Brown (1-19), Brandon Moseby-Felder (1-3), Joe Suhey (2-16) were the best of the rest.
Final Grade: B (A+ for Mike McQueary's outstanding red stache.)
The work in progress continues. Johnnie Troutman got the start at LG, but the run blocking was still shaky at best. Doug Klopacz got in the way of what could have been a big run for Devon Smith. There were more running lanes than against Youngstown State and Alabama, but the line is not consistently blowing people off the ball, including Kent State's 5-11, 235 lb DT Quinton Rainey.
The pass blocking continues to excel. Rob Bolden has yet to be sacked and the line gives him plenty of time to survey the field and make good decisions.
The LG saga continues. De'Ontae Pannell replaced Troutman late in the game and he immediately made his presence felt, and not in a good way. Pannell's holding call negated a Bolden to Brown TD pass. After the penalty yardage was tacked on, Penn State's Collin Wagner missed his first field goal of the season (43 yards). Hopefully by week 11 Penn State will figure out the best starting combination. I know the coaches were just giving Pannell some playing time, but if Troutman has won the job, just let him play with the 1's.
Final Grade B
It seems like Galen Hall and Jay Paterno figured out that Rob Bolden is an excellent shotgun QB. When Penn State ran the read-option out of the spread, the offense had no trouble moving the ball. Bolden looked comfortable and the running game was working.
After three games, it looks like Penn State is comfortable with Bolden throwing the Ball around 28 times a game. If a running game doesn't develop soon, he will have to throw it some more. Bolden ran for 33 yards, much of which came on non designed runs. It will be interesting to see if the coaches call his number more in the run game, although JoePa said yesterday he didn't like all of the running he did.
Penn State had a decent game plan against Kent State. They were able to get Bolden back on track and will look to develop his throwing some more against the upstart Temple owls.
Kudos to Big Red for not breaking his leg after getting rolled into by Derek Moye on a 14 yard catch on the third drive of the game.
Questionable coaching move of the year: Why move Chaz Powell back to offense to be the 5th WR (Moye, Zug, Smith, Brackett) when he could be a starting CB? Think about it this way, are 2 catches a game more valuable to the offense then having more speed and athleticism in the secondary? Powell could start along side Stephon Morris at cornerback allowing D'Anton Lynn to play safety with Drew Astorino or Nick Sukay (also in the mix should be the human Snuggie, Derrick Thomas).
Final Grade B