Tuesday Morning QB: Alabama Edition
At the beginning of the season, all 120 Football Bowl Series teams have a chance to go to the BCS Championship Game. For the second season in a row, Alabama showed Penn State fans what it looks like to actually have a team capable of making the championship game. After watching the game live from the press box and for a second time on television, I have compiled a short list of observations about the game with a look ahead to Temple next week.
Alabama was not just the better team on Saturday. It was the better-coached team as well.
The first and most obvious problem for the Penn State coaching staff was the use of all three first-half timeouts on the opening drive of the game. The offense did not need to use one in the remainder of the half, but the defense sure did. After the game, Joe Paterno said that the team would have used a timeout on Alabama’s momentum-changing fake punt. This would have allowed for a review of the play, possibly overturning a huge call.
Game management has been a problem for Penn State for some time now. It seems as if every time the team decides to attempt a fourth-down conversion, the play does not get called in time, forcing a timeout. Penn State should have two or three plays designed specifically for fourth-down situations to avoid this very issue.
Timeouts were not the only mismanaged part of the game.
The quarterback situation has been a problem for the Nittany Lions for over a year. This season, however, the situation has been grossly mismanaged. Last year, Rob Bolden was named the starter. Then Matt McGloin replaced him later in the season. This year, the coaches opted for a two-quarterback system. Neither Bolden nor McGloin wanted a two-quarterback system, but the coaches used the method for Penn State’s first two games. Against Alabama, the offense lacked consistency, and the quarterback switches probably had a part in that.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban showed the Penn State coaching staff how to handle this kind of situation. After using a two-quarterback system in Alabama’s first game, Saban stuck with one quarterback for the Penn State game. He knew that he would need stability on offense in a hostile environment against a good team. The Nittany Lions could have chosen a single quarterback for the Alabama game, then used the Temple and Eastern Michigan games as opportunities to test both quarterbacks again.
Speaking of the quarterback situation…
Alabama may have resolved the issue for the Nittany Lions. Bolden did not have a good game, but he looked like a Heisman Trophy winner compared to McGloin. I will admit that I thought McGloin was the better option for Penn State heading into the season, but after the Alabama game, my opinion has changed. Bolden clearly won the quarterback battle, and he should be the starter next week. While the coaching staff would not commit to a starter for next week after the Alabama game, enough hints were dropped that I presume one will be chosen soon.
The Nittany Lions still have plenty to play for this season.
Penn State has two games to regroup from the Alabama loss before the start of the Big Ten schedule. The Lions have a realistic shot at winning their first five Big Ten games as well. To do so, however, the team will have to forget about the Alabama loss and focus on a game against a pretty strong Temple team.