Never is a very long time. For Joe Paterno never reaches back to the days when face masks were a new invention and freshmen teams were the norm. So to say that Paterno has never done something is just this side of earth shaking.
The Wednesday night press release stating that true freshman Robert Bolden would start at quarterback Saturday against Youngstown State wasn’t exactly an 8.0 on the Richter Scale but did rattle some dishes in Nittany Nation.
Reports slipping out of Holuba Hall indicated all fall that Bolden had opened some eyes but it was assumed by many that the job would still fall to Kevin Newsome, the only QB on the roster who had taken a snap in a collegiate game. That Newsome has fallen to being listed as the third quarterback on Saturday’s depth chart indicates that whatever went on behind closed doors was dramatic.
Paterno didn’t come to the decision easily either. The decision to redshirt Paul Jones was easy. Freshmen who aren’t cutting it in the classroom find the front door to the coach’s doghouse wide open.
But Joe trusts even good freshmen as far as he can throw them. He resisted the opportunity to name Bolden the starter at his weekly Tuesday media inquisition saving that for a late press release just over 24 hours later.
Know that the playbook will be razor thin for the Michigan kid this Saturday and the hook will be in Joe’s hands. Nothing fancy on the pages this week. Just don’t turn the ball over kid. Or else.
While Bolden is No. 1 in the program and on the depth chart, it does not mean the decision is cast in stone. Paterno didn’t list his QBs on the depth chart as 1A, 1B, and 1C just because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. All of those decades on the sidelines has taught Joe that there is a stark difference between the practice field and a game and a larger difference between Youngstown State on a late summer’s day and Michigan State in the heart of November.
Joe is still looking for his answer at quarterback. With a schedule that would test a battle hardened senior team Joe isn’t about to come close to a final decision on his signal caller for the season just yet. Paterno HATES quarterback controversies and would love nothing more than Bolden to seize the opportunity and lead Penn State to the Rose Bowl or beyond. But he also knows he has time to let the decision happen.