I don’t think there’s been such little enthusiasm for a big game since Penn State hosted #1 Miami in the season opener. Sure, Penn State fans were rooting for a Nittany Lion upset, but I think most fans knew a victory was highly unlikely and were just hoping for Penn State to make it respectable. Instead we got a 24-3 loss that was pretty one-sided and probably should have been worse.
Rob Bolden didn’t have a good game, but for the most part, I thought he played with a fair amount of poise. A lot of people expected the true freshman to look and play scared shitless in his second start and first on the road.
Colin Wagner is 4-for-4 on field goals this season, making his only attempt against Alabama on a 36-yarder. He probably would have gotten more opportunities, but the Penn State offense had a bad habit of shooting itself in the foot in the red zone. That said, so far we can’t make any jokes about being in “Kevin Kelly miss range.”
Evan Royster had a few decent runs against Alabama, with his best being an 11-yard scant in the first half. But he still only finished with 32 yards on 9 carries. For a running back who’s poised to become the Nittany Lions’ all-time rushing leader, he hasn’t been able to get going yet this season. Now, plenty of that blame does lie with the offensive line, which has done a piss poor job of moving the pile. The line was marginally better protecting Bolden, who had time to pass on most plays.
The defense did a crappy job of tackling in the first half, allowing Alabama to move the ball at will. When the Crimson Tide wanted to run, there found open receivers over the middle with ease. When they wanted to run, Trent Richardson breezed through countless holes and broke a countless number of tackles. The worst offense was the Crimson Tide’s third series, which started at their own 3 but three plays later was at the Penn State 37 after runs of 11, 16, and 33 yards. The only thing stopping Alabama was Alabama, who occasionally tried to convert third-and-shorts with short passes that missed their targets. With Alabama running at will, throwing on third and short was just trying to be cute. The only thing keeping the defense out of the ugly section was they were respectable in the second half, as they forced two punts and stopped Alabama on a fourth and two on the last play of the game.
Penn State really should have made the game look more competitive. Three times the Nittany Lions drove the ball down into the red zone, and they handed the ball over with two interceptions and a fumble. Both interceptions came with Bolden getting pressured and unable to step into his throw. On the first interception, with the score just 7-0, Bolden got hit as he threw, and the ball was essentially a jump ball for Alabama to come down with. On Penn State’s first possession of the second half, Bolden threw a wounded duck that got picked off. With Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musburger commenting on Penn State still hanging around at 17-0, there was a fair amount of optimism for Penn State before the interception. There was this pipe dream of taking the ball in for the touchdown and being down 10 and back in the game. The interception pretty much killed those dreams.
Penn State’s fumble in the red zone was actually a gift from the officials, and I still don’t understand what happened. Down 14-0 and a 2nd and 6 on the 16, Bolden completed a short pass to Chad Powell, who fought to get to the sticks. Instead of getting the first down, he coughed the ball up, and Robert Lester scooped the ball up for Alabama. Lester looked like he was heading for the end zone, until he was brought down at the Penn State 2. Lester fumbled as he went down, and Penn State recovered. However, at least one official (thought it was the referee) signaled a first down for Alabama, leading me to believe that Lester was ruled down by contact before fumbling. A replay seems to confirm that, and the officials confirmed the ruling on the field. BUT THEN THE PENN STATE OFFENSE WENT OUT ON THE FIELD. I still don’t understand this.
Penn State dropped to #20 in the coaches poll, and #22 in the AP poll. The Nittany Lions amazing are ranked BEHIND Michigan in the AP Poll, after the Wolverines won in the final minute to glorified mid-major Notre Dame.
Penn State goes back to patsies, as they host Kent State, then Temple. They’ll be 3-1 entering Big Ten play, but they it’s on the road at Iowa, which smacked around Iowa State 35-7 on Saturday.