Mistakes plague Penn State in lopsided loss to Alabama

Posted: September 10, 2011

With Penn State trailing by just a touchdown and its offense nearing midfield, tight end Andrew Szczerba was stripped by Alabama defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick. The Crimson Tide recovered and took advantage with an 11-play drive that culminated with the first of Heisman Trophy hopeful Trent Richardson's two rushing touchdowns.

That was the kind of day it turned out to be for the Penn State offense in the team's 27-11 home loss to Alabama on Saturday. Two fumbles, an interception and dropped passes contributed to Penn State's absence from the scoreboard from halfway through the first quarter to when there was only 1:53 left in a long-since decided game.

"I don't think the score really showed what the game was like out there," said Matt McGloin, who split time with Rob Bolden at quarterback for the second straight week. He went 1-for-10 for zero yards. "We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times.

"We had a lot of good first downs. We were moving the ball at times. We just kept hitting over and over a brick wall and we just couldn't move on from there."

The No. 23 Nittany Lions managed 251 yards of total offense against Alabama's defense, considered one of the best in the nation. A fumble by wide receiver Devon Smith and a Bolden interception sputtered drives in addition to Szczerba's fumble.

The third-ranked Crimson Tide did not turn the ball over.

"That's part of football," wide receiver Derek Moye said. "We knew and we felt like coming into this game, in order to win, in order to compete with a team like Alabama, you have to win the turnover battle. And we didn't do that today."

The turnovers are nothing new. When Alabama beat Penn State 24-3 in Tuscaloosa last September, Penn State gave the ball away four times, including three times inside the 30-yard line. That was something the team talked about this week in preparation for the game.

"The same bug got us: the turnovers," Penn State offensive coordinator Galen Hall said. "We've got to correct those."

Turnovers are going to happen, McGloin said, but the team has to respond better when they do. That obviously wasn't the case on Saturday.

"The offense has to do something," said Bolden, who went 11-for-29 for 144 yards. "We have to make some plays. Put some points on the board. Just looking back, we did OK. But not good enough to beat this team."

Even so, many of Penn State's players said they believe the offense is ahead of where it was this time last year. Hall also said he thought Alabama was "a lot" better defensively this year compared to 2010.

Moye pointed out all that all the Nittany Lions (1-1) can do is simply "move forward," adding their goals are still obtainable and they still feel like they can win a Big Ten championship.

Penn State probably won't have to deal with a defense as tough as the Crimson Tide's the rest of the season.

Said Hall of Alabama's defense: "We'll look at the NFL draft and we'll see a lot of those guys going there."

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