Nittany Lions Sprint Past Penguins, 44-14
UNIVERSITY PARK — If you are a Penn State football fan, did the words concerned and worried enter your mind in Saturday’s 44-14 win over Youngstown State? Worried? Not at all. Concerned? Maybe a little bit.
Like a steam engine trying to pull a fully loaded train up a steep hill, the Nittany Lions struggled out of the gate against the Penguins. As a matter of fact, after surrendering a field goal to the Lions, the Penguins came back to score and hold a 7-6 lead until a mere 1:20 remained in the first half.
Having a difficult time of running the ball, the Lions went to the airlanes from shotgun formation, and when freshman quarterback Robert Bolden got the butterflies out of his system, the air attack clicked for a number of big plays.
“I didn’t think we did a great job up front,” said PSU head coach Joe Paterno. “We got better as the game went on. We need to be just a little more aggressive. I think the linebackers for Youngstown did a really good job against the run. I think until they got tired they played really well against the run. They made good tackles and played off blocks well. We may have been a little better than I think we were on the offensive line but we certainly did not dominate them in the run game. They made us run the football and thank goodness (Bolden) did a pretty good job.”
So what needs to be done between now and next week’s clash with Alabama as far as the running game is concerned?
“We need to come out stronger,“ said running back Evan Royster. “We can’t have the slow start. We really just need to come out strong and put some points on the board early so we don’t put ourselves behind.”
For the game, Bolden finished with 20 completions on 29 attempts for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He did throw one interception.
“I thought overall he played a good, solid game,“ said Paterno of his freshman quarterback. “I think Youngstown did a good job. They are well coached. They made a couple mistakes. They made one big one obviously on the kickoff return. They made a couple of mistakes, but they are going to be okay. (Eric Wolford) is doing a good job. I think we did alright. I have to look at the tapes and I think we have to get into a tough football game. We have to make some big plays against different situations. So when we go through that, I will know better.”
On the receiving end of a number of Bolden aerials was Brett Brackett who set new career highs in both receptions (8) and total yards receiving (98). Brackett was on the receiving end of both touchdown aerials tossed by Bolden.
So why did the Lions look to Brackett so much in Saturday’s opener?
“We had some fullback problems all preseason,” Paterno said. “(Mike) Zordich has been hurt and didn’t start practicing until Wednesday, and the same thing with (Joe) Suhey. We took (Glenn) Carson, who was a linebacker, and made him a fullback just this past week. We wanted to get the football to the (wide receivers) because we figured they would have some problem with the wideouts. I thought that they would take linebackers and move them out. So we put Brackett in a position to get his hands on the football. When we did throw the ball to him last year, he did a good job. He doesn’t have quite the speed that some of the other kids on the squad have. He is sure handed and runs routes well. The quarterbacks have a lot of confidence in him. I was glad to see him do so well today.”
As for the slow start, Brackett, one of the newly elected captains of the Lions, felt it was just a matter of not being totally ready at the outset of the game.
“I think the slow start you can attribute to not being together against another team, but I think we did a great job bouncing back from that slow start,“ Brackett said. “We have a lot to do this week working on chemistry, working on timing, working on all that stuff. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge, and we are excited for the opportunity. What we need to do is work hard and focus on the little things, and we’ll see what happens.”
THE EXCITER: With the Lion offense struggling to gain any type of consistency, Chaz Powell woke up the crowd as well as his teammates when he hauled in a Penguin kickoff at his own goal line and tip-toed down the sideline 100 yards for a touchdown. As for setting up the play, Powell said it was his call.
“It was a little windy today, so I made the “me-me” cal,“ he said. “I caught the ball and saw the guys up front opened the hole for me. I just hit the sideline and once I beat the kicker I saw some guys had an angle on me so that’s when I just turned it on. When you get into the open field, basically your eyes just get real big. When you hit the sideline and get going, then it’s my job to get the ball into the end zone.”
SECRETARIES OF DEFENSE: Maybe playing a little tentative during the early stages of the game, the Lion defense started swarming in the third quarter and they never let up. Chris Colasanti led the way with 13 tackles, Colasanti followed by Bani Gbadyu with eight and Ollie Ogbu with six. Nate Stupar had a sack of YSU quarterback Kurt Hess. Colasanti, Ogbu, Gerald Hodges, Nate Stupar and Jack Crawford each recorded a tackle for loss.
GETTING HIS KICKS: After suffering through some growing pains last season when called upon to kick field goals of more than 40 yards, Collin Wagner was money in the bank as the placekicker was successful on all three of his attempts of 42, 48 and 49 yards. “Anything inside 50 yards I expect myself to make, whether it is 25 yards or 48 yard,“ said Wagner. “It is good to start the season off like this. The new snapper and holder did a great job so it is good to know they are going to be able to operate under pressure. It’s good to know you have been here before and you are able to execute under pressure. I think having an entire year under my belt, I feel a lot more confident and able to go out there and perform.”
MOYE FOR YOUR MONEY: Wideout Derek Moye was rather quiet at the outset of the game, but the former Rochester High standout made a few clutch catches when the Lions were trying to get their offense untracked. For the game, Moye finished with five catches for 61 yards with a long of 27 yards.
HIT OF THE DAY: Derrick Thomas almost decapitated YSU return man Jamaine Cook following the Lions second touchdown. Cook took the kick, went dancing up the middle of the wedge, and when Thomas found him, he delivered a left hook that sent Cook flying to the ground.
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