Penn State Football: Report Card Grades for the Nittany Lions' First Game

Kevin McGuire@KevinOnCFBAnalyst IISeptember 5, 2011

Penn State Football: Report Card Grades for the Nittany Lions' First Game

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    One game is in the books for the Nittany Lions. There were some good things and some not-so-good things to come out of Saturday's season-opening victory against Indiana State.

    Silas Redd was the star of the day, but the focus remains on the quarterback situation heading into Week 2 against Alabama.

    The defense played well in all areas, but there were some concerns for the coaching staff to take a look at on offense and special teams. Here is a look at each position and how they fared on Saturday against Indiana State.

    Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Follow his college football discussion on Google+ and Twitter. Become a fan of him on Facebook.

Report Card: Quarterback

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    Both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin saw playing time for Penn State as the battle for the starting job continued.

    McGloin ended the day with better stats than Bolden, completing six of eight pass attempts for 77 yards. Bolden ended his day with six of 12 passes completed for a total of 37 yards. Neither player threw for a touchdown in the game, but when the offense was in McGloin's hands the offense had a tendency to move the ball more often. Penn State scored five red-zone touchdowns out of six, and McGloin was responsible for three of them.

    Bolden had two key passes dropped by his receivers that could have changed the passing numbers and made them look more even than they ended up. The offensive line struggled to protect either quarterback, which led to a few more pressure situations than expected.

    McGloin threw one ball away that was nearly picked off by a defensive lineman to set Indiana State up for great field position. On the next play, McGloin threw a pass that appeared to go right through the hands of Brandon Beachum under pressure.

    When it comes down to it, neither quarterback was overly impressive. The battle could linger for another week. After the game, both quarterbacks said they hoped a decision on a full-time quarterback would be made soon, but Joe Paterno did not seem to be in as much of a hurry.

Report Card: Running Backs

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    Grade: B+

    The strength of the running game was what allowed Penn State to flex their muscle against a lower-division opponent. Silas Redd ended the day with his second career 100-yard performance (104 yards) and said afterward that he was happy to play a role in Penn State's victory.

    "Penn State's known for its running game," Redd said after the game. "After 125 years of Penn State football, why not take it back to what it used to be?"

    The running game scored five touchdowns in the game, with Redd scoring two of them. Michael Zordich and Joe Suhey each recorded another (third-string quarterback Shane McGregor lunged in to the end zone for another).

    Curtis Dukes worked his way in to the mix with six carries for 51 yards, and Brandon Beachum added another 41 yards on the ground. Fullbacks Suhey and Zordich contributed 44 of Penn State's 245 net rushing yards.

Report Card: Wide Receivers

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    Grade: C

    Penn State did not use the passing game too much, but it was just enough to get Bolden and McGloin a little work for the coaches to make a decision moving forward.  With a vanilla offensive game plan and few plays involving much of a risk downfield, the wide receivers did not have much to show against Indiana State.

    Two key drops by Derek Moye, who had four receptions for 57 yards, and Justin Brown, who had one catch for 12 yards, certainly did Bolden no favors, but after the game Bolden shrugged the dropped passes off as something that just happens in the game.

    Still, the catches would have helped Penn State move the ball down the field. Against tougher opponents down the line (starting with Alabama in Week 2), the receivers will have to hold on to those passes.

    There was one play in the red zone where Bolden and Moye seemed to be on different pages on a pass toward the end zone. Bolden was looking to the outside when Moye turned to the inside.

    As the game progressed, the receivers did seem to find some room to work with. Receivers found ways to get open as they adjusted to what Indiana State's secondary was giving them. Post routes started to become effective in the second quarter and into the second half, but the running game was used more later in the game to keep the clock moving.

Report Card: Offensive Line

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    Grade: C

    The offensive line had their ups and downs against Indiana State. The running game was truly effective, amassing 279 yards. Silas Redd sang his offensive line's praises following the game.

    "I give them all the credit in the world for making my job easy," Redd said. "When they open up some room it just makes my job easier."

    The same could not be said for the pass protection. Penn State quarterbacks were sacked three times and were under pressure when dropping back to pass too often for a veteran offensive line going up against an FCS roster.

    Quinn Barham spoke for the entire offensive line when saying that the pass protection has some issues to work out this week in practice, knowing Alabama will bring one of the toughest defensive lines they'll face this season.

Report Card: Defensive Line

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    Defensive Line: C-

    The defensive line did not bring as much pressure as you would have expected from them against an FCS school such as Indiana State. The Nittany Lions defensive line had 3.5 tackles for a loss and just one half of a sack. The sack was a combined effort between linebacker Gerald Hodges and Jack Crawford—his first in a long time.

    Jordan Hill was the lone defensive player to force a fumble in the game, and he was able to come up with the loose ball. Hill showed some good things in his performance and gave an indication of his bright future that is continuing to develop.

    The defensive line may not have been the most dominant of the units on the field, but the Sycamores only managed 170 yards of offense. The defensive line has to be given some of the credit for that.

Report Card: Linebackers

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    Grade: B+

    Mike Hull led Penn State with seven total tackles, and Michael Yancich was second with six tackles. Gerald Hodges and Nate Stupar were next among linebackers, with three tackles each.

    The big names at the position, Michael Mauti and Glenn Carson, had just one tackle on the day. Penn State was rotating in and out a number of defensive players to give more players playing time. Stupar had one interception he would want to have back after it fell out of his hands.

    Overall, the linebackers did a fine job shutting down the Indiana State offense, and they got to let a large number of players to participate in the game. Best of all, nobody was injured.

    Things get tougher this weekend with Alabama bringing a ferocious running game north. Trent Richardson will be much tougher to bring down than Shakir Bell, Indiana State's leading rusher Saturday (43 yards).

Report Card: Secondary

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    Grade: A-

    Penn State intercepted two Indiana State passes and returned those turnovers for 79 yards. If not for a late fourth-quarter touchdown pass, the Penn State secondary would have had a near-perfect performance.

    Penn State's secondary allowed 105 passing yards, with the Sycamores averaging 4.5 yards per pass attempt and completing under 50 percent of their passes in the game.

    Penn State's heralded secondary was aided by a highlight from upcoming star Adrian Amos, a freshman out of Baltimore who was a late recruiting pickup for the class of 2011. Amos had two tackles and one of the two interceptions, which he returned for 46 yards.

Report Card: Special Teams

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    Grade: D+

    Things got off to a great start when Chaz Powell returned the first kickoff of the season for a 95-yard touchdown. Other than that, there was little to be proud of. Powell's highlight is the one thing keeping Penn State from receiving a failing grade on the week one report card.

    Converted wide receiver Evan Lewis took care of the kicking duties in place of Anthony Fera, who is thought to be on Joe Paterno's naughty list. The experiment did not work out in Game 1. Lewis missed two field goals, from 38 and 47 yards. He also missed one of his extra point attempts. To his credit, Lewis did kick for 378 yards on six kickoffs, including one touchback, for an average of 63 yards per kickoff.

    Sam Ficken entered the game later and had one kickoff travel 64 yards.

    Alex Butterworth punted three times for an average of 38 yards per punt, two of which ended up inside the 20-yard line (no touchbacks).

    The punt return game averaged a little more than five yards per attempt, with a long of 13 yards by Justin Brown.

Report Card: Coaching and Intangibles

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    Grade: C+

    The game plan was vanilla, as expected against an inferior opponent. The key to the game was giving Bolden and McGloin equal playing time, and that is exactly what was accomplished.

    The expectations were low for this game from a coaching standpoint. It would not have benefited Penn State in this game or moving forward if they tried some trick plays.

    There were some questionable decisions made, including running a wide receiver option out of a timeout on fourth down. The play was sniffed out by Indiana State, and the Sycamores dropped Penn State for a loss of seven yards on the play.

    When Penn State took over just outside the red zone in the first quarter with Bolden at quarterback, the play calling looked pretty underwhelming as well. Penn State was unable to capitalize on the great field position, picking up just three yards and missing a field goal.

    Overall, Joe Paterno felt his team played a pretty good game all around, and it is certainly difficult to argue with that too much. The trick now will be to learn whatever they can from this game and use it to put together a game plan that will help them go toe-to-toe with Alabama in Week 2. 

    Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Follow his college football discussion on Google+ and Twitter. Become a fan of him on Facebook.