Alabama's Saban says Bolden and Penn State impressive

Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden (right) "had a lot of poise," said Alabama's Nick Saban. Coach Joe Paterno hasyet to committo the freshman.
Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden (right) "had a lot of poise," said Alabama's Nick Saban. Coach Joe Paterno hasyet to committo the freshman.
Posted: September 07, 2010

When Nick Saban turned on the tape machine to watch Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden, he thought what a lot of other people thought: This guy's a freshman playing in his first collegiate game?

"He sure didn't play like a freshman last week," the coach of top-ranked Alabama said Monday. "He played extremely well, very poised, a good passer, athletic and very accurate."

Of course, as he watched Bolden, Saban probably was devising defenses designed to stop the 6-foot-3, 221-pounder when the Crimson Tide and the No. 19 Nittany Lions meet Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Throwing for 239 yards at home, as Bolden did Saturday in a 44-14 win against Youngstown State, is one thing. Dealing with the across-the-board talent of the Alabama defense before a hostile crowd of more than 100,000 is a much more difficult challenge.

Publicly, Saban, who coached the Crimson Tide to the 2009 national championship, stated how impressed he was with Bolden. The rookie, from Orchard Lake, Mich., completed 20 of 29 passes, two for touchdowns, and was named Monday as co-rookie of the week in the Big Ten.

"He played really well," Saban said. "You'd never know he was a freshman, that's for sure. He's got a very good arm. He's very accurate. He had a lot of poise.

"They didn't have any game-management issues - fumbled snaps, delay of games. He hard-counts like a veteran and draws the other team offsides. He didn't make really any bad decisions, stood in the pocket, took a couple of licks, and completed balls. It's hard to believe the guy's a freshman watching him play that game."

Joe Paterno, however, didn't appear immediately ready to commit to Bolden as his starter in Tuscaloosa, and the Penn State coach is not expected to commit to him Tuesday at his weekly teleconference.

Saban said he was not going to make any predictions on whether 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, the junior running back who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last Tuesday, would be available, but he sounded more pessimistic than optimistic.

"I need to see him being 100 percent and practice enough to be confident," Saban said. "I don't anticipate that's going to happen. I anticipate Mark making progress every day, and we'll evaluate his progress on a daily basis. . . . What I have to see, I've got to see Mark being Mark."

Saban also said that after researching the issue, Crimson Tide officials had decided not to appeal the NCAA's two-game suspension of defensive end Marcell Dareus. This means Dareus, the defensive MVP of last year's national championship game, will sit out Saturday night's game.

The NCAA suspended Dareus for accepting almost $2,000 in improper benefits from an agent.

"We don't really feel like we have a good precedent" to appeal, Saban said. "We feel like, relative to the circumstance, this [penalty] was pretty fair. . . . That issue is really dead."

Saban, who is in his fourth season at Alabama, is familiar with Paterno and his teams. He went 2-3 against the Nittany Lions when he coached Michigan State from 1995 through 1999.

The Spartans posted a 49-14 upset of No. 4 Penn State in the final regular-season game of 1997, and defeated the Lions, 35-28, in Saban's last regular-season game as Michigan State coach.

"When you play Joe Paterno-coached teams, which we've had some experience doing, they do a great job of executing," he said. "They don't give you much. They really kind of win on effort, toughness, execution, and discipline. I don't think this team is any different.

"They were very impressive last week. They have established systems on offense, defense, and special teams that their players really understand and do a good job of executing."

The same could be said for Saban given the success of the Crimson Tide during his tenure. Alabama has won 15 straight home games, the latest a 48-3 win Saturday over San Jose State, and are 30-1 when leading at halftime since he became head coach.

There is one point, however, where the similarities between Paterno and Saban end.

Asked if he could see himself coaching at 83, Saban smiled and replied: "That's pretty easy. I don't think so."


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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