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The Final Drive: Momentum, Definition for a Struggling Offense

"The ball was there, I just had to make the catch" Derek Moye said. His critical 4th down reception from Rob Bolden helped the Nittany Lions score the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes of a 14-10 victory over Temple.

"A drive like that can help define an offense, hopefully we can take this momentum going forward into next week," Moye said, alluding to the offenses' somewhat inconsistent play and desire to define themselves as a unit. Even with skilled players like Silas Redd, Justin Brown, and Derek Moye on the offensive side of the ball, the offense has struggled to find itself and gel together as a unit.

That doesn't mean players aren't willing to step-up though.

"I was hoping to get the call, and thankfully I got the call," Michael Zordich said, his short touchdown run gave the Nittany Lions the lead late in the 4th quarter. "For all the guys on the offense, to be able to step up and make those big plays is just a great feeling."

In a lot of ways Penn State fans can find some hope in the post-game comments by Moye and Zordich. Where plenty of Penn State teams have lacked skill or direction, more often than not the 2011 edition of Penn State football has beaten itself. Dropped passes, poor throws, and suspect play calling have all led to less than inspiring results. For players to effectively say "Time to step up" begins to put the burden of victory on the leaders of the team, to take responsibility for the results on the field can greatly impact a team's chance for success.

Probably the perfect case study of this struggle can be found in the loss to Alabama. Certainly Alabama was the better team, but nothing that the Tide did was insurmountable. Once again, dropped passes, and a rotating door of quarterbacks kept Penn State from ever getting into a groove. Alabama was more talented, but Penn State beat themselves more than Alabama did.

If those looking for a reason to still believe need an analogy, the 2005 match up between Penn State and Northwestern may turn out to be the perfect fit. The Nittany Lions down late in the 4th quarter on the road were mere minutes away from seeing a promising season slip away at the hands of a less talented team. The 4th and 15 conversion and subsequent touchdown pass to Derrick Williams are things of Penn State folk lore, but the parallels to the 2011 season are there. When nothing was going their way, Penn State dug down deep and pulled out a win.

Certainly it would be a bit hasty to assume that the paths of 2005 and 2011 will be the same. This team has plenty of problems that will not simply be solved by catching passes, but if the leaders of this team are stepping up, in the very least Penn State might not beat itself so often.