STATE COLLEGE – The way Penn State opened against Kent State at Beaver Stadium Saturday, it looked as if the Nittany Lions were in a hurry to put some distance between themselves and their loss at the hands of top-ranked Alabama the previous week.
The Lions jumped out to a quick 14-0 advantage against their Mid-American Conference foes and appeared ready to pull away.
PSU did eventually put some space between itself and the Golden Flashes, but it took a bit longer after that opening flurry.
The Lions got some big pass plays from quarterback Rob Bolden, found some vestiges of their missing running attack, and a revamped defense did the rest in a 24-0 victory.
Bolden, in his third start behind center as a true freshman, showed some flash of his own at times but was inconsistent. He connected on 17 of 27 passes for 217 yards and one TD and ran for 33 yards but was intercepted twice.
While PSU (2-1) outgained Kent 382-228, the ground game produced 162 yards after two supbar outings.
Evan Royster finally went over the 3,000 yard mark for his career, but he had just 11 carries for 38 yards and saw limited action in the second half after a fumbled exchange with Bolden. Stephfon Green led the Lions in rushing with 11 carries and 59 yards.
While they produced a win, the Lions didn't exactly pummel the Flashes (1-2) into submission,
The defense finally produced a takeaway when cornerback D'Anton Lynn picked off Kent QB Spencer Keith on the game's first series. The Lions marched 45 yards to paydirt, mostly on the ground, with Bolden plunging in from the one for the TD.
On PSU's second possession, Bolden found Derrick Moye with a 55 yard bomb to set up a three-yard Royster TD run to make it 14-0.
That was it for the scoring until a third quarter Collin Wagner field goal and a 48-yard Bolden TD connection with Devon Smith in the fourth quarter.
The Lions are attempting to bring Bolden along at a pace he can handle.
"There's only so much you can do," said Penn State coach Joe Paterno. "I don't think Bolden had a particularly good game. He took off a few times, which I don't want him to do, and he threw the ball to people he shouldn't gave, but it's only his third ballgame.
"As far as when you talk about 'do we want to do this' or 'you think you want to do that,' we think about it, but we don't want to do anything right now that's going to be a big problem for him."
Having a dependable rushing attack would be a help, but that's taking its time to develop as well, as Royster has some colorful competition in the backfield.
"Well, Royster is a senior, so we thought it's about time to give other kids a chance to get some experience," said Paterno. "Green ran well, and we like (Silas) Redd, so I've got to get him some playing time."
Green has been injury plagued, but the Lions want to take advantage of his speed when he's healthy.
"Green has had a problem in other years being durable, and we hope that's behind him," said Paterno. "If something happens to Royster, we want Green to carry the ball 12-15 times. That's something we weren't sure he could do until he gets banged around a little bit and we see how he handles the bumps and bruises.."
Finding running room for the backs is something the Lions need to improve. In one move, PSU did start Johnnie Troutman at left guard.
"That offensive line was not that good in the first half when we were running the football," assessed Paterno. "In the second half, we jumped all over them."
The Lions' defense played bend but not break and finished with PSU's first shutout since blanking Minnesota 20-0 last year. It was 41st shutout under Paterno, who picked up career win number 395, as well as hitting the 500 victory plateau since arriving at Penn State as an assistant under Rip Engle.
There was some shuffling on the defensive side, as Paterno revealed that ends Jack Crawford and Eric Lattimore were banged up, meaning starts for Pete Massaro and Sean Stanley. Crawford did get a sack when he got in the game. Hero back Drew Astorino's sore shoulder gave Andrew Dailey plenty of action.
Now it's on to Temple. The resurgent Owls, under former PSU tight end Al Golden, are 3-0.