Joe Paterno faced the media for his post-game interview Saturday sitting on a stool, as if he were discussing Penn State’s latest display of offensive inconsistency with some friends at the local taproom.
But Paterno’s friends wouldn’t have subjected him to the same grilling that the media covering the Nittany Lions did. The 84-year-old head coach was peppered him with questions about the offense – the mistakes, the lack of efficiency, the penalties and the continuing tag-team at quarterback.
At one point, Paterno said, “I have no intentions of going berserk” about the offense’s problems.
After the Lions’ performance Saturday in their 16-10 win over Big Ten doormat Indiana, the temptation is to answer, “Why not go a little berserk?”
This was the easiest game on Penn State’s conference schedule and it went right down to the wire, to an attempted Hail Mary pass that fell incomplete on the Hoosiers’ final play of the game.
It shouldn’t have been this difficult. The Nittany Lions ran a season-high 86 plays, gained 464 total yards and held the ball for nearly 37 ½ minutes.
And scored one touchdown – a quick-strike 74-yard pass from Matt McGloin to Derek Moye.
Penn State performed terribly in the red zone. It turned the ball over twice there -- Rob Bolden's interception and Silas Redd's fumble. Before the interception, the Lions had a touchdown nullified because of a holding penalty.
Of course, these struggles always bring us back to the story of the season: Penn State’s two-quarterback system and whether it’s time to ditch the experiment and pick one guy.
While he did not get off to a great start (five completions on his first 13 passes) on Saturday, McGloin threw for 204 yards. While he ended the 2010 season with a five-interception nightmare in the Outback Bowl, McGloin has not thrown a pick in 76 attempts this season.
Thanks to that streak, plus a relatively high 8.22 yards per pass attempt, the redshirt junior has climbed to No. 42 in pass efficiency in the latest NCAA FBS stats released Sunday.
Bolden, who made his fifth straight start, went 6 of 14 for 67 yards and one interception – a ball tipped by tight end Andrew Szczerba and grabbed by Indiana’s Forisse Hardin. It was his fourth pick of the year.
That’s back-to-back weeks that McGloin, who was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week after his Sept. 24 performance against Eastern Michigan, has outperformed Bolden.
The numbers did not sway quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, who underwent the same kind of cross-examination after the game as his father did. At one point in the questioning, he channeled his inner Drew Rosenhaus and barked, “Next question.”
“We have two ones, OK?” he said. “One happens to go out and take the first snap. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a non-issue.
“We feel like we have two guys we can win with, that can do something to help us win. The other thing is, if you want to point the finger at the quarterback situation, every part of the offense bears some brunt of this and should.”
Yes, that’s an accurate statement. But the Lions have scored just 30 points, including three touchdowns, in their two road games, wins over Temple and Indiana. The consistency and efficiency aren’t there, with the halfway point of the season approaching on Saturday against Iowa at Beaver Stadium.
The offense is putting tremendous pressure on what has turned out to be a strong defense in the early going.
However, with a trio of high-scoring teams – Iowa, Northwestern (away) and Illinois (home) – coming up this month, they’re going to have to find consistency in all areas of the offense – quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and offensive line – to have any shot at contending for the Big Ten title game.
It may start with finding one quarterback and sticking with him, which certainly would not be a sign of neither Paterno nor Paterno going berserk.