Posted on: January 2, 2012 4:40 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
HOUSTON WON. Case Keenum became just the ninth player to top 500 yards passing in a bowl game by going 45-69 for 532 yards and three touchdowns, and Houston coasted to a 30-14 victory. Keenum and Patrick Edwards hooked up for their 19th and 20th touchdowns of the year, and Edwards finished with nine catches for 228 yards and two TDs in the winning effort.
HOW HOUSTON WON: All Houston had to do was score a couple touchdowns and Penn State wasn't going to outscore them. Houston took care of that in the opening quarter, where Case Keenum led the Cougars to 17 points and over 200 yards of offense. From there, it wasn't hard to keep Rob Bolden and the Penn State offense in check, and Houston eased off on the gas pedal accordingly.
WHEN HOUSTON WON: Houston held a double-digit lead for the vast majority of the game, but Penn State's ability to keep the Cougars out of the end zone in the second half meant that this was still a two-possession game for most of the 4th quarter, and even for PSU, two scores in 5-10 minutes isn't completely out of the question. Indeed, Rob Bolden had speedy wideout Devon Smith open on a fly route late in the fourth quarter, and Smith could only get one hand on the pass. If he catches it and PSU converts the two-point conversion, this would have been a one-score game. Smith let the pass fall, Rob Bolden threw a horrific interception on his very next throw, and the game was effectively over.
WHAT HOUSTON WON: Houston landed a huge blow to the common refrain that the Cougars were undeserving of major bowl consideration by whacking a nationally ranked team from an automatic qualifier conference. Yes, Penn State had its own issues, but none of those issues had anything to do with the Nittany Lion pass defense, and Keenum absolutely torched that D. PSU had a top-five pass defense coming into the game. Had.
WHAT PENN STATE LOST: Undoubtedly, Penn State and its fans just wanted this season to be over, and now it is. Rob Bolden was tantalizing on deep throws but utterly lost on the routine ones, so he blew an opportunity to make a case for starting over Matt McGloin (who missed the game after suffering a head injury in a fight with WR Curtis Drake) next year. Similarly, Tom Bradley's 1-3 record as interim head coach may likely have precluded him from being the lead candidate for the job. There really weren't any positives for this season by the end of it, and now it's time for Penn State to address its larger issues off the field.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Not only was Case Keenum's performance close to record-setting, it could have been so much worse. 380 of Keenum's 532 passing yards came in the first half, which led most to believe that a 600-yard performace was upcoming. Only 152 passing yards in the second half? Outrage! Disappointment!
FINAL GRADE: C-. It would be wrong to turn one's nose up at a 500-yard passing performance, so congratulations to Keenum and Houston for that, but this game was basically never competitive; Houston spent over 54 minutes of game time with a double-digit lead, and Penn State's offense was so anemic that a 10-point lead may as well have been 50 points.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 7:40 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
A look at the matchup that could determine the TicketCity Bowl
Penn State's RBs, led by Silas Redd, vs. Houston's LBs, led by Marcus McGraw
Penn State's starting quarterback for the TicketCity Bowl is Rob Bolden, which is to say Penn State's passing game will be in a world of hurt. As such, there's no question that interim head coach Tom Bradley is going to have to get the most out of his rushing attack if Penn State's going to be able to dictate any aspect of the game.
Sophomore Silas Redd, who has rushed for 99 yards per game in 2011, is Penn State's unquestioned workhorse at tailback, but the Nittany Lions can go four deep at tailback without much dropoff. Speedy senior Stephfon Green has had the biggest workload in relief of Redd, but sophomore Curtis Dukes and senior Brandon Beachum have combined for 75 carries and 371 yards of their own on the year. In addition, fullbacks Michael Zordich and Joe Suhey have been been effective in short-yardage situations, though PSU has been so bad on offense all year that neither fullback has more than 15 catches on the year.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, rush defense has been the biggest point of concern all year, and it's not hard to see why. In Southern Miss' season-ending 49-26 win over Houston, the Golden Eagles rushed for 207 yards... and of the five times Houston gave up at least 34 pounts, USM's rushing total was the lowest allowed by the Cougars. Altogether, in those five games, Houston gave up over 260 yards per game on the ground, which dwarfs the 170+ Houston gives up on the whole. LB Marcus McGraw is a tackling machine, ranking in the Top 20 nationally, but good defenses get that way because of group effort, not just superstars, and Houston's going to need a big day from its defensive unit as a whole.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 6:56 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
PENN STATE WILL WIN IF: Rob Bolden is a different quarterback when he's not looking over his shoulder. Rob Bolden was a highly touted quarterback recruit for Penn State, and when he became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Penn State in the 2010 season, the primary reaction was one of excitement and not, say, the revulsion that Penn State fans have felt whenever Bolden has come into a game this season as part of the QB rotation. Bolden has completed under half of his 107 passes and has only one touchdown to his name on the year, so we're talking about a level of (non-) production that few quarterbacks who have attempted over 100 passes in a season can match. And now, Bolden is the unquestioned starter, as starting QB Matt McGloin has been ruled out as he continues to recover from the concussion he suffered when WR Curtis Drake knocked him out in a December fight. Perhaps Bolden just needs to get into a groove and not stand on the sidelines for 2/3 of a game. Perhaps he's got a big game dialed up. Perhaps.
HOUSTON WILL WIN IF: Case Keenum can stay upright for 90% of his pass plays. Case Keenum, the NCAA's leading passer in all of history, is obviously very good at throwing the football, and he's got a host of talented wideouts. What he's also got in the TicketCity Bowl is an opposing defense that ranked fifth nationally (and first in a stingy Big Ten) in pass efficiency defense, and that fact stems from Penn State having both an outstanding secondary and a top-notch defensive line. Houston's offensive line needs to keep the Nittany Lion pass rush as far away from Keenum as possible, because a pass offense as predicated on timing as Houston's is can ill afford to have its QB flushed from the pocket or taking sacks. The cleaner Keenum's jersey stays, the better a chance Houston has of winning this thing.
X-FACTOR: Both teams are working with an interim head coach right now; Penn State has been using defensive coordinator Tom Bradley ever since Joe Paterno was fired mid-season, and Houston's special teams coordinator Tony Levine has been heading the Cougars since Kevin Sumlin was hired by Texas A&M. Penn State's approach has been largely similar to Joe Paterno's tendencies, though the quarterback rotation was quickly scrapped, and it'll be interesting to see if there's any substantial difference between a Kevin Sumlin offense and a Tony Levine offense. Regardless, both Bradley and Levine are basically auditioning as head coaches, as both men are potential candidates for the job, and there should be no shortage of motivation for either of them to put together a winning gameplan.
Posted on: January 1, 2012 6:28 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Earlier this week, Penn State announced that Curtis Drake, the sophomore wide receiver who sent QB Matt McGloin to the hospital with head injuries after a fight, would not join the team for the TicketCity Bowl. Now, McGloin will miss the game as well.
According to PennLive.com, Penn State head coach Tom Bradley said on Sunday that McGloin would be out for the TicketCity Bowl against Houston, and that means Rob Bolden will be under center for the Nittany Lions instead. Bolden and McGloin had been in a QB platoon for most of the season, and it was only after Joe Paterno was fired that McGloin was named the full-time starter.
McGloin was knocked out in the fight, and according to his father, he suffered a seizure and a probable concussion as an aftermath of the fight. He has been with the team in Dallas, but not practicing; McGloin was meeting with area physicians last week.
Neither McGloin nor Bolden have been particularly productive for the Nittany Lions, but McGloin eventually established himself as the more effective of the two QBs. McGloin went 125-231 for 1571 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions on the year for an underwhelming 118.3 QB rating, but that production vastly outpaced Bolden's effort: 46-109, 548 yards, one touchdown, four picks, and an 80.1 QB rating. Bolden was a highly-rated QB recruit and the first true freshman to ever start a game at quarterback for Joe Paterno, while McGloin was a former walk-on, but it's become readily apparent that McGloin has been the better quarterback over the last two seasons.
For all the latest on Penn State's coaching search and preparation for the TicketCity Bowl against Houston on Jan. 2, follow Nittany Lions Rapid Reports.
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Posted on: December 19, 2011 12:34 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 12:35 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Over the weekend we learned that Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin got into a fight with wide receiver Curtis Drake, and that the fight had some scary consequences. Not only was McGloin knocked unconscious during the fight, but he also suffered a seizure and had to be hospitalized for a brief period.
McGloin has since returned to the team, and on Monday he took full responsibility for the fight with Drake.
"I'm willing to take full responsibility -- it was my fault," McGloin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I started it, but as a quarterback for this university, I should be held to a higher standard. It should not have happened. I should've walked away from it.
"It was just two guys who are emotional about the game, who got into an argument."
McGloin said that the fight consisted of a few punches being exchanged, and that he slipped and hit his head on the concrete floor, which knocked him unconcious. McGloin also said that he had yet to speak to Drake since the incident.
As for how this will affect Penn State in its bowl game, McGloin has not yet been cleared to practice and failed a concussion test on Sunday. Interim head coach Tom Bradley said both players will face internal discipline, but also that he doesn't plan on naming a starter at quarterback before the bowl game. Penn State's other option is Rob Bolden, but Bolden is in a bit of hot water himself.
According to Bradley, Bolden was part of a "prank gone awry" and was cited for stealing a bottle of Gatorade from a convenience store on Friday. Though Bradley also said that Bolden's incident won't have any effect on his playing time.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:17 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
OHIO STATE WILL WIN IF: Those road graders keep the chains moving. Ohio State has made no mystery of its predilection towards keeping the ball on the ground; QB Braxton Miller has more rushes than passing attempts this year, and on the whole, (quick and dirty estimates to follow) OSU has rushed on 72% of its plays. Even that stat belies how much OSU rushes with Miller in the game, though; that number jumps to 79% when Miller's the signal-caller instead of Joe Bauserman. Sure, those rushes come out of a variety of looks, including QB draws/scrambles out of passing sets, so it's not like you can just load up the box with 10 guys and have everyone go to town. But at the end of the day, OSU primarily gets the job done on the ground, while Penn State's rush defense is good but not great. That's the main vulnerability for Penn State in this matchup, and Ohio State needs to exploit it.
THE X-FACTOR: Whether Penn State can maintain its focus amidst ongoing distraction. It's one thing to react to a stressful situation by playing one inspired game. That happens more often than players or games reacting to a profoundly negative off-field event by coming out flat and laying an egg. It's the coming weeks where one might see the cumulative effects of the distraction and the stress of the upheaval that Joe Paterno's dismissal has caused. And yes, interim head coach Tom Bradley is shielding his players from some of that distraction by making them unavailable to the media, and that's certainly his right to do so. But the players still live there in State College and interact with each other and others on a daily basis. There's only so much of a bubble you can put them in, and only so much of the situation they can ignore. How the players maintain their focus and composure will be crucial in these final tough two weeks (and beyond). A division championship hangs in the balance here; let's see if the players have kept sight of that or not.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:49 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
PENN STATE WILL WIN IF: This is a very hard one to figure out. With everything going on in State College right now, we can't even be sure who will or won't be coaching Penn State this weekend, or how the players will deal with the distractions. Still, you have to think that for the players on this team, this game is something they'll be looking forward to if for nothing more than just to escape the storm in State College for a few hours. In order for Penn State to win it'll need to use the same formula it's been using all season: defense, defense and then maybe some offense. It's going to be incredibly important for the Penn State defense to keep Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez contained and force Martinez to beat them with his arm. On offense, Silas Redd will have to carry the load for a Penn State offense that's been quite anemic this season. Still, Redd is averaging over 5 yards a carry and has 7 touchdowns this season. The Nittany Lions will need him to find room against a Nebraska defense that hasn't been great stopping the run this season and has allowed 14 rushing touchdowns.
NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: Nebraska is going to have to find a way to put some points on the board against a defense that has allowed only 12.4 points per game this season in Big Ten play. There really isn't an area of this Penn State defense to attack as it's ranked first in the Big Ten in defensive pass efficiency and third in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing only 111.9 yards a game and 3.1 yards per carry. That being said, running the ball is what Nebraska does well, so running the ball is what the Cornhuskers will have to do in this contest. That means there will be no more important battle in this game on Saturday than Nebraska's offensive line versus Penn State's defensive line. Whichever team wins that matchup is going to win this game.
X-FACTOR: Matt McGloin. No offense to Rob Bolden, but Matt McGloin is clearly the best quarterback Penn State has right now, and I don't know why the Nittany Lions insist in giving Bolden snaps every week. I feel that if McGloin would be allowed to take all the snaps on offense than the Nittany Lions may find themselves developing some kind of consistency. Nebraska's pass defense has been strong in conference play, but if McGloin can make a few plays with his arm and use Derek Moye to stretch the field, it could be the difference in this game.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 9:41 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Penn State may be 8-1 and rolling this season, but fans are still being driven crazy this year by the continuing quarterback platoon system between Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden. McGloin hasn't been great by any stretch, but aside from a 1-10, 0-yard horror show against Alabama, he's been hands-down better than Bolden, both overall and especially in Big Ten action.
And yet, week after week, Joe Paterno steadfastly refuses to hand the job to McGloin full-time. That trend seemed like it should finally be at an end last week, when McGloin led a game-winning, 80-yard touchdown drive against Illinois while Bolden went 0-4 with two fumbles in limited action. Enough is enough, right? Well... no:
"I don't see any problem with him right now," Paterno said. "Now maybe something develops down the road that I don't know about. But right now, he appears to be fine."
"We're still gonna do it as a rotation. It wouldn't be fair to Bolden for me not to consider him as one of the kids [we play]. He's worked too hard, made too many sacrifices and he's got too much ability for me just because of one football game or two football games to say, 'Hey, we're not counting on you.'
"He's gotta be ready to go. We'll play him, I'm pretty sure. But again, we have this week and next week to go back to some basic things and see what happens."
As admirably inclusive as Paterno's stance is, it's still enough to make the Nittany faithful tear their hair out. Rob Bolden's numbers in Big Ten action are 11-31, 138 yards, no touchdowns, and one pick. That's good enough for a 66.43 quarterback rating, and if that sounds terrible, we assure you, it is. By way of comparison, the NCAA's leading passer is Russell Wilson with a 196.95 rating, and the NCAA stops keeping count at No. 100 with Kolton Browning of UL-Monroe -- and even his rating is 110.93.
And yet, Bolden keeps getting snaps.
Perhaps Paterno's notion is that McGloin could go down with an injury at any moment, and Bolden's the only other person on the roster that Paterno's comfortable with having throw a pass in a close game -- and on this year's Penn State team, they're ALL close games. And as long as Bolden hasn't cost PSU a win with his poor play, the thinking might go, he hasn't done that much harm.
But if Bolden can't be bothered to take practice seriously without getting snaps on Saturday, then he's not a positive member of the program. And if he can still care without taking any of McGloin's playing time, well, there's a pretty simple solution right in front of everybody.