Welcome back to August.
After some time to stew over Saturday’s confidence-building win over Michigan with Matt McGloin at the helm of the offense, Penn State has apparently done an about face and opened up the starting quarterback job this week.
How else to explain the coaching staff going from this, when asked about a quarterback controversy:
“No. No, no. It’s Rob Bolden’s job,” quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said right after Saturday’s game. “He got hurt, he’s coming back.”
To this, in less than three days:
“We’re gonna let them have a little fun this week, let them compete, and then we’ll make a decision later on in the week,” coach Joe Paterno said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “We’re fortunate in that all of a sudden we have got a couple of kids that can get the job done for us, and for themselves, obviously. So I think we let them compete and at the end of the week, (we’ll) decide who’s gonna start.
“I would imagine that maybe we’ll probably have to rethink only playing one kid – maybe that we would want to play both, since they’re both young kids, to try to get them some experience.”
So as the Nittany Lions prepare to host Northwestern on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, they face a familiar dilemma.
Do they go with McGloin, the Scranton native who has given the offense a much-needed spark, or Bolden, the true freshman with high potential who was headed for his best game against Minnesota when he was sidelined with an apparent concussion?
Kevin Newsome, considered to be the frontrunner for the starting job until this summer, now looks to be firmly stuck as the third-stringer. His name was not mentioned once during Paterno’s 30 minutes with the media.
Last week, Bolden was ultimately cleared by team doctors to play against Michigan, but coach Joe Paterno was wary about throwing the rookie back out there after he had experienced dizziness and what Paterno called “memory problems” earlier in the week.
This week, however, the coach said Bolden’s health won’t be an issue in choosing a starter.
“I think he’s completely over the injury,” Joe Paterno said. “We didn’t have a tough practice (Monday), but we practiced for about an hour and 20 minutes. And I said to him after practice, ‘How do you feel?’ And he said, ‘Fine.’
“Now, he was ready to go (last) Saturday. He could have played Saturday. I was very reluctant to play him on Saturday. … I had my fingers crossed. Because I do think that concussions are very, very – they’re hard to predict how certain kids are going to act, even though they test well and the doctors have leaned over backwards to make sure he was OK.
“But you know, you go in there and get one jar and now he’s set back for a long period of time. He’s a young kid and I don’t want him to get shell-shocked. But he came out of practice yesterday feeling really good, and so I think he’s over the hump. We’ll see how it goes.”
After averaging just 13 points in their first five games against FBS competition, the Lions have scored 74 in the past two games with McGloin under center for most of the past seven quarters.
It’s important to note, however, that the defenses in those games were the two worst Penn State has faced so far among FBS teams in both yardage allowed (92nd for Minnesota, 106th for Michigan) and points allowed (105th for Minnesota, 89th for Michigan).
Northwestern is expected to put up a much tougher challenge on Saturday, no matter who starts under center.
“Well, they have got to be ready regardless,” Joe Paterno said. “I think they’re both very conscientious kids that are serious about getting better, and they work hard at it, and the kids on the team respect both of them. They have different personalities, but they both have their own way of leading and so ... there’s not a heck of a lot of difference, really. Bolden is a taller kid. Maybe he ... has a little stronger arm. McGloin can do a couple of other things.
“I think we have two kids that are going to compete, period. That’s all I can say.”