Rob Bolden and Penn State came out and had a terrific start to the game, eating up over seven a half minutes of clock on the very first possession and capping it off with an Evan Lewis 43 yd field goal. The Nittany Lion defense then did their job for the majority of the first quarter, forcing a three and out on Alabama’s first possession and then bringing up a fourth down situation on the Crimson Tide’s second drive. But a controversial fake punt conversion on a 4th and one late in the first quarter sparked the Alabama offense and extended a drive that otherwise would have resulted in Penn State having the ball on the Alabama 40 with the lead. AJ McCarron capped off the drive with a 5 yard touchdown pass, and Alabama never looked back.
The most surprising moment of the game came when Penn State chose to put Matt McGloin in the game after Alabama took the lead. Bolden looked confident and smart on his first two series, so you would have thought that the coaching staff would have liked to see the Nittany Lion offense stay in rhythm and gain back the momentum. But instead McGloin came in to subsequently lead the offense to back to back three and outs, failing to complete a pass on either series. Bolden never did look the same once he eventually did come back in the game later on in the second quarter, and the offense was unable to get in sync as Penn State alternated back and forth between quarterbacks all game. Bolden finished the game going 11 for 29 with 144 yards and led Penn State on both of their scoring drives, while McGloin ended up completing just 1 of his 10 passes with the one completion being for zero yards.
While the game ended up yielding a very similar result to the 2010 matchup, the Nittany Lions were extremely competitive and the game could have turned out differently if it weren’t for some bad breaks and untimely mistakes. The Andrew Szczerba fumble at midfield came when the game was still just 10-3, and with Bolden at the helm on that drive it may have resulted in points or at the very least would have swung the field position advantage back to Penn State had they protected the ball. But Alabama was able to capitalize on the turnover and go up 17-3 before the end of the half effectively putting the game away. In the end it was a very disappointing result for the Nittany Lions, but if they can stabilize the quarterback position before conference play begins there is no reason why Penn State can’t be a Big Ten contender this season.