Despite a lullaby loss to the Crimson Tide last Saturday, there were certainly some positive signs to carry along moving forward. First and foremost, the offensive line; against a semi-pro front four, the unit was solid. Breakdowns were minimal, and although the holes for Silas Redd were not spectacular, the pass protection certainly was.
The bookends of Quinn Barham and Chima Okoli (yes, his ankle is fine) seem to be settling in as anchors and Matt Stankewitch has been everything a center should be; the less his name is heard, the better. The only battle for a cemented starting position in the unit remains at right guard. Johnnie Troutman is a fifth-year senior who, on most other teams in college football, would be holding his helmet on the sideline in favor of the slightly more talented redshirt sophomore John Urschel. But this is (still) Joe Paterno’s team and as long as the talent level is somewhat close, the veteran will more often than not gobble up more playing time.
Also a very positive sign shown against Alabama was the overall play of the defense. If the unit was not on the field for a majority of the game, it probably would have played even better. It’s easy to look at the scoreboard, see 27 points against and show concern. But look a bit deeper and view the 196 rushing yards, 163 passing yards and the 19 first downs allowed – that’s not bad against a team of Nick Saban’s caliber. On a side note, the Tide’s third-down efficiency of 8-for-17 matched that of the Nittany Lions.
The “U” in Linebacker U appears to be back after spending a season watching the ice cubes melt in the Caymans. Gerald Hodges has not only recovered from his 2010 injuries but is now playing with a vigor that is validating the high praise bestowed upon him during his preseason camp of ’09. His buddy on the other side has also come back stronger from his own injuries – in fact, Mike Mauti could be the successor to Sean Lee for which the program has been waiting. Mauti has the smarts of Paul Posluszny, the ferociousness of Dan Connor and the sheer tackling ability of Lee. A nice little sign of things to come was when Mauti tipped A.J. McCarron’s pass over the middle.
Two mice named Glenn Carson and Khairi Fortt fell into a bucket of cream (only Christopher Walken can do that one justice)…
The pair of true sophomores is basically interchangeable. The fact that both are playing quality minutes bodes well for Tom Bradley’s unit. Nothing more needs to be said.
Finally and certainly not least importantly was the clear sign that Rob Bolden has won the starting job over Matt McGloin in the court of public opinion. This space has been screaming for said occurrence since Day One and it finally arrived – not in the eyes of the man who matters most (at least not to his public admission yet), but a bit more patience will reveal what those watching this team know; Bolden needs an oil change, a container of polish and consistent playing time. What he does not need is cause to look over his shoulder. Bolden should and will be the starting quarterback for the entirety of Big 10 play.
Speaking of the ole’ league, that’s what the season, any season, is ultimately about. And that’s all the more reason to not be overly concerned about this team’s 1-1 record. The next two games are simply tune-ups prior to the conference opener at Indiana on October 1 and there is no doubt – none whatsoever – that Penn State will be 3-1 when it arrives in Bloomington.
Temple came awfully close to winning its BCS game last September. The Lions’ 22-13 victory was hardly indicative of how much doubt the outcome was in. Former Temple head coach (and possible future Penn State head coach) Al Golden appeared to have finally solved the crime, but State’s superior talent was simply too much as the second half wore on.
There will not be a repeat performance of such tomorrow. Penn State will beat Temple, but the ease of which the same is accomplished will be somewhere in between last season’s barn-burner and 2007’s 47-0 shutout. In an office somewhere in the depths of LVSC (Google it) headquarters, jokes are being tossed about as a sucker is born every minute. Although P.T. Barnum was the inventor of that phrase, the bookmakers have perfected it. If you think Penn State won’t win this game by more than at least a touchdown, there is an amazing property you should consider for a purchase in (insert bad Hurricane joke – no, not that one, the other one).
Simply put, the aspirations were and do remain a berth in the inaugural conference title game. That’s what was called for here prior to the season and that’s what should happen. This team just needs time to mature. And although the Tide was a bit too high last weekend, the growth will continue behind Bolden, Redd and a very good defense.
Steve Addazio, meet Tom Bradley.