For many Nittany Lion fans the 2011 season was going to be the year that it all came together. Returning starters, young talent, and healthy stars would guide Penn State to a Big Ten title and even a possible run at the national spotlight.
With a victory over Indiana today Penn State improved its record to 4-1, theoretically keeping the hopes of the Nittany Lion faithful alive. Even so, the most positive of fans can still see the writing on the wall. A stagnant playbook, the undeniable result of the growing tumor that is the quarterback controversy, and inconsistent play throughout the offense has crippled an otherwise talented collection of players.
For Penn State, today's win against Indiana did little to ease the growing concerns that Penn State will not in fact solve many of these major issues before heading into the thick of Big Ten play. Fan favorite Rob Bolden put together another underwhelming showing for the second consecutive game going 6-14 including an interception in the red zone. Many of his passes were under thrown, tipped, or poorly placed giving Bolden little chance to find a rhythm early in the game.
Coming in to relieve Bolden, Matt McGloin threw for 204 yards going 10-22 including a 74 yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye. Moye was once again a bright spot in the offense with 158 yards on 6 catches. Additionally, Silas Redd picked up 127 yards on the ground on 30 carries, his second highest rushing total since the Northwestern game last year.
Defensively the story was the same as always. Solid defensive line play, and timely plays by the secondary kept Penn State in a game that Indiana truly did little to win. Nick Sukay made several solid plays in the secondary and Chaz Powell recorded his second career interception. Freshman Adrian Amos also played well in relief of injured cornerback D'Anton Lynn.
Overall, it was another display of a Penn State team relying on a strong defensive showing and mistake free offense to win them games. It's a formula that the coaching staff has relied on for years, but has done little to fix the almost lifeless heart of the offense.
Ultimately for Penn State it comes down to fixing problems well within their ability to correct - understanding that a catch or a block can be the difference between a first down and a punt, or that missing your assignment can make or break a play. The 2011 edition of Penn State football is not a collection of bad players; rather, the Nittany Lions are a collection of talented players that aren't stepping up to make plays. Until that starts to happen Penn State will have a difficult time winning football games.
For Indiana they fall to 1-4 on the year and will host a scrappy and undefeated Illionis team next week at 3:30. Penn State will travel back to Happy Valley for a 3:30 matchup with an Iowa Hawkeye team that is looking for their 4th straight win against the Nittany Lions.