A Rough Day for Bolden

Rob Bolden

Penn State's sophomore quarterback takes heat from the Illini, fans and even former Nittany Lions as the battle for playing time tilts decidedly in McGloin's favor.

So it's Matt McGloin now, for the stretch run. For the season-defining tests against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Has to be, because while he was far from brilliant while making his second straight start Saturday against Illinois, he did lead the one drive he needed to lead.

Also because Rob Bolden had a miserable day. Not only did he play poorly in the 10-7 victory, but he was booed by the crowd, estimated at 62,000. And not only was he booed, but some respected players from Penn State's recent past -- i.e., Michael Robinson and A.Q. Shipley -- blasted him in cyberspace.

Bolden entered the game in the second quarter, and went 0-for-4 in the face of constant pressure. He fumbled twice, losing one. And the fans did not hesitate to voice their displeasure.

He did not appear in the interview room afterward, but he had no shortage of defenders. Tackle Quinn Barham, for one, said he was surprised by the booing.

“That wasn't necessary,” he said.

Added wide receiver Derek Moye, “As far as the crowd goes, you don't really want them to boo anybody on the team, because that does a lot to somebody's confidence to know your own fans are booing you. You can't boo him and then expect him to go out and throw an 80-yard touchdown.”

The Tweets of Robinson and Shipley were more pointed.

From Robinson's page came this, after Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown sacked Bolden and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Penn State's DeOn'tae Pannell: “Gotta have a little more awareness by the (QB) right there. Don't just take the hit.”

Later, there was this, from Shipley: “I honestly can't stand watching this 2qb (i.e., two-quarterback) system. … Bolden has no awareness! Please play (M)cGloin and keep him in!”

Asked about the specific issue of Bolden's pocket awareness, quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno reiterated something he said early in his postgame news conference -- that Bolden had guys in his face.

“To be fair, none of them were pressures that should have gotten to us,” Paterno said. “We had people to block them and we missed. … He's got to be aware of it, but he's also getting hit at the time.”

But Barham said Bolden is “still young in some spots, in terms of being a good quarterback.”

“Sometime he may be in the pocket too long,” Barham allowed. “… I don't know about the comments that were said about him (on Twitter). Hopefully he'll watch the film, see what he did wrong and really improve on them, see how he can be a better quarterback. Hopefully Jay Paterno does that for him, too.”

The other thing, Barham said, is this: Scrutiny comes with the territory. And sometimes rough treatment comes with that.

“He's a young guy,” he said of Bolden, “but he knows he has to step his game up. Being in that position for such a big university, he really just has to be strong. If he's not going to be strong and confident in himself, he's going to have problems. But he'll be all right.”

McGloin was just 9-for-24 for 98 yards, and the Lions as a team went over two quarters without a completion. But they regained possession with 3:05 left in the game, down just 7-3. And McGloin managed to piece together an 11-play, 80-yard march, culminating in a three-yard touchdown run with 1:08 left by Silas Redd -- again excellent with 137 yards on 31 carries.

The big play in the drive was a pass-interference penalty against Illini cornerback Justin Green, on Moye in the end zone on fourth-and-six from the 32 with 1:31 left.

“I thought it was a good play myself,” Illinois coach Ron Zook said. “(The ref) felt he arm-barred him or something. I didn't ask.”

That Moye was even in the game was something of a surprise. He had missed the previous two after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, an injury that occurred, he said, when he tripped on some stairs outside his apartment. Nor was he expected to play Saturday. He had done some running and cutting for the doctors at practice Thursday, but he was not inserted until the final seconds of the third quarter.

On the very first play of the final drive he caught a ball for a gain of 20. And while he later had a drop on third-and-six from the Illini 32 -- “I literally was about to cry, right there,” he said -- McGloin did not hesitate to go to him on the very next play, as Moye streaked down the left sideline.

“You see Derek one-on-one like that, he had a step,” McGloin said. “I took a shot.”

“One thing I'll say about Matt: He has no conscience,” Jay Paterno said. “That's good, and that can be bad. That was good on that one.”

The ball was on target as Moye and Green converged in the end zone, and Moye appeared to get his hands on it before it fell to the ground. Then the flag came out.

The 15-yard walkoff put the ball at the 17. There was a nine-yard completion to Moye, then three runs by Redd -- the last the three-yard blast off the left side, behind guard Johnnie Troutman and fullback Michael Zordich and into the end zone.

The Illini would then put kicker Derek Dimke in position for a potential game-tying 42-yard field goal, only to see him hit the right upright instead.

So it was that the Lions escaped.

“We just buckled down,” Redd said.

And not a moment too soon.

“It's a three-game season now for us,” Moye said.

More buckling required.

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