The curse of the Hawkeye has finally been broken and Penn State got their first big win of the 2011 season. The Iowa win is a definite step in the right direction for the Nittany Lions and gives them a big confidence boost moving forward as they get deeper into the Big Ten schedule.
The Penn State defense once again showed they have come to play in 2011, holding Iowa to just three points after the Hawkeyes came into last Saturday's match-up averaging 38.5 per contest. The defense wasn't an issue, but the offense still has a lot of work to do.
The root of all the Penn State problems on offense right now seems to be the quarterback position. The offensive line redeemed themselves last week by doing a good job of controlling the Iowa defensive front, which is always filled with play-makers. Silas Redd (119-574-4) has been one of the only Penn State consistencies this season and as far as talent is concerned the Nittany Lions' receiving core is as good as any in the Big Ten.
People always say the blame goes to the coach and then the quarterback. In this particular instance they are exactly right. Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden combined for a lowly 164 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception last week against Iowa. McGloin once again was tops of the two with 133 yards on 12-19 passing with a touchdown and a pick. Bolden only completed three passes for 31 yards. The season numbers aren't great either with McGloin (56-95-1-758-5 TDs) and Bolden (42-92-4-486-1TD) combining for 212.2 passing yards per game. With the weapons the Nittany Lions have on the offensive side of the football (Derek Moye 6-5 210, Justin Brown 6-3 214) there is no reason why the passing game can't be better.
There are a couple reasons why the quarterback situation is so dismal right now at State College. The first reason is that maybe these guys just don't have big time talent. Everybody is aware of the fact that Matt McGloin is a walk on from West Scranton High, which isn't exactly a powerhouse program in Eastern PA football. Rob Bolden, although highly touted coming into Happy Valley, still doesn't seem to have a strong grasp of the offense and can't throw any type of ball other than a fastball. Bolden also seems hesitant to use his athletic ability to run the ball when the pocket breaks down and no one understands why.
The biggest problem with the quarterbacks dilemma could also be the coaching staff. Penn State has two offensive coordinators with Galen Hall (run) and Jay Paterno (pass) calling the passing and running plays. That alone could be the issue, because it seems absolutely insane that a program of Penn State's caliber needs to have two offensive coordinators. Jay Paterno serves as the quarterbacks coach and it looks to be the only reason why Bolden keeps getting so much playing time. I myself think that Bolden is more talented than McGloin but the numbers don't lie and the coach's job is to get wins. I understand Jay Paterno wants to prove that he can take a talented kid like Bolden and turn him into a premier player in college but that's what the off-season is for.
Coaching changes will probably have to be made before fans see a big time quarterback in State College, but let's get to the positives that can be taken away from the game against the Hawkeyes. Defensive tackle Devon Still made some noise this week being name to the ESPN Mid-Season All-American Team. Still was also runner-up for the ESPN Mid-Season Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The Penn State co-captain leads the big ten in tackles for a loss with 9.0 TFL on the year.
The dominant defensive performance also kept the Nittany Lions ranked in the top five defensively in four major categories. Penn State is fourth in the nation in total defense (250.8 ypg), fifth in scoring (10.5 ppg), fifth in pass defense (157.7 ypg), and fourth in pass efficiency defense (89.77).
Week seven of the season welcomes the Purdue Boilermakers (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) on Homecoming weekend. The Penn State defense will have to be ready to battle up front, because the Boilermakers bring in the 20th ranked rushing game in the nation averaging 215.4 yards per contest. Purdue running backs Ralph Bolden (57-273 3 TDs) and Akeem Shavers (44-242 4 TD's) are both capable of making big plays. The Lions have done well handling the run so far this season only allowing Trent Richardson of Alabama to rush for over 100 yards. The Purdue passing attack should be kept in check as they average less than 200 yards per game.
All signs point to a Nittany Lion win this week and the Lions need all the wins they can get before they head into that treacherous four-game stretch at the end of the year. After playing Purdue this afternoon and then going to Northwestern next week the schedule gets real serious. The Nittany Lions host (19th ranked) Illinois and (14) Nebraska and then play at Ohio State and (4) Wisconsin. Penn State could possibly be 7-1 heading into their match-up with Illinois, but if the Lions want to make it to a New Year's Day bowl game then they have to fix their problems on offense and fix them now.