The State of the Football Program

Penn State football is generally considered one of the most storied and honorable programs in college football. Led by the holy Joe Paterno, it has achieved massive success during his long tenure as head coach. The last few years, however, have been years that Penn State fans would rather forget. The program seems to be stuck in a funk of mediocrity that doesn’t even approach the stratosphere of expectations that PSU fans have for Paterno-led squads.

Saturday’s trouncing at the hands of SEC powerhouse Alabama was a glaring example of this. Penn State did not seem to be of the same caliber as the Crimson Tide. Not many are. But at Penn State, this mediocrity is magnified. Penn State has not beaten a top 5 team in over a decade. While there are plenty of things about the Penn State football program that need to be shaken up, there are still reasons for optimism.

First things first: Rob Bolden needs to be named Penn State’s starting quarterback

While neither quarterback seemed to establish himself as a clear cut favorite in Week 1’s rout of Indiana State, Week 2 was a different story.

Against one of the premier defenses in the country, Bolden showed poise on a promising opening drive that ate up over 7 minutes of clock and led to a Penn State field goal. That drive included a 3rd-and-8 conversion on a beautifully thrown ball to Justin Brown. Just like in Week 1, Bolden was hurt by several devastating drops by the team’s wide receivers. Despite these mishaps, Bolden delivered the ball with composure and a heightened sense of confidence.

Matt McGloin, on the other hand, looked lost. He finished with an abysmal stat line of 1-for-10 for 0 yards. Yes. Zero yards. Watching McGloin deliver his side-armed wobblers was hard to watch. He continually locked onto his first target and delivered the ball into coverage. He proved that he is not cut out to compete against a top-flight program like Alabama. The student section made its opinion known, extending a collective index finger signifying Bolden’s uniform number.

The use of the two-quarterback system has lasted two weeks too long, and with the release of the Week 3 depth chart, it looks like it will continue. While Temple is not exactly a marquee opponent, this two quarterback system doesn’t allow for Bolden to grow. There is no doubt that having one quarterback lead the offense is crucial to the cohesion of the team.

As a fan, the dual quarterback system has been frustrating. Against Alabama, the insertion of McGloin seemed to put a halt to any rhythm the offense had established. Some Penn State fans favor McGloin for his gritty play and his fiery on-field leadership, but he takes too many risks. Those risks can ultimately be the deciding factor in a football game. It is obvious that Bolden is the more talented player and should not be written off so soon. Remember, he is still just a sophomore.

With that said, we cannot immediately expect Bolden to come out and play at an all-conference level. He is still growing and learning. He is still the quarterback that delivered a horrible long ball into double coverage that was intercepted near the goal line last week. For Bolden to improve, he needs to be handed the reins to the offense without the fear of being replaced. This two-quarterback system has benefitted no one. Bolden was the first true freshman to start at Penn State in over 100 years for a reason. He is a great talent, and he deserves the chance to show it full time. The coaching staff is doing him and the program a disservice.

Other Issues

  • The quarterback position isn’t the only problem on this team. The play of the wide receivers has been pretty awful. Our top wide receivers have been dropping balls left and right. Derek Moye is supposed to be a top receiver in the conference, but he hasn’t shown much of anything this year. The offensive coaches continually draw up plays for Devon Smith downfield, and they continue to fail. He has proven that he does not have the best hands, and at 5-foot-7, he is unable to bring down balls in traffic.
  • The coaching has been questionable. The play calling is predictable, and the time management was horrendous. Three timeouts were called on the Lions’ opening possession. That is unacceptable against any opponent, not just a top-flight team like Alabama.

It’s not all bad!

  • There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of this season and the program as a whole. After all, it’s only Week 3. We can’t judge the entire football team and jump to all sorts of conclusions after just 2 games.
  • A quick look at the depth chart shows the potential this team possesses for this year and beyond. Silas Redd is an absolute stud, and still just a sophomore, as is Bolden. Assuming he is eventually given the starting job, he has a ton of room to improve. Shawney Kersey and Brandon Moseby-Felder are huge playmaking threats at wide receiver who are also sophomores.
  • The defense is the team’s strongest asset. Our front 7 is one of the best in the Big Ten. If the team is going to succeed against the best of the Big Ten, the defense will carry it. Thus far, there has been a lack of turnovers caused by the D. That needs to change going forward.
  • There are 10 games left to play. The first thing the team needs to do to get back on the right track is simple. Dominate Temple.

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About the Author

Sam Cooper

Sam is a senior originally from Newtown, PA who majors in print journalism and is a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. His athletic peak was age 11 so he decided to grow a beard and write about sports instead.

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