At Penn State, two quarterbacks not better than one

Posted: September 23, 2011

THE GREAT heavyweight champion Joe Louis once observed that you can run, but you can't hide.

Penn State wide receiver Derek Moye, who runs very well, can relate. Moye, a senior captain, might have enjoyed his best game of the season in last week's 14-10 victory over Temple at Lincoln Financial Field, catching seven passes for 112 yards (and having an apparent 52-yard touchdown reception wiped out by a penalty), but avoiding Owls defensive backs isn't nearly as difficult as giving the slip to classmates and complete strangers whenever he goes out in public.

It's impossible to escape blanket coverage from thousands of Penn State fans who want him to explain what's wrong with the Penn State offense, and more specifically why the two-quarterback rotation of Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin has been so statistically unproductive. Through three games, Bolden and McGloin - who combined to throw for 19 touchdowns in 2010 - have zero TD passes between them. Which means, of course, that Moye - who had eight scoring receptions a year ago, and has 15 in his Penn State career - also has failed to catch a ball in the end zone. Then again, neither has any of his teammates.

The widely held perception, though, is that the fault lies more with the passers than the catchers, raising a cloud of doubt over the entire offense that will require a strong wind to blow over. Maybe a favorable breeze will kick up tomorrow, when Penn State (2-1) hosts Eastern Michigan (2-1) in the Nittany Lions' final nonconference game before Big Ten play commences on Oct. 1 at Indiana.

"It definitely can be annoying sometimes," Moye said of people who constantly want to buttonhole him for his thoughts on the misfiring offense, and specifically about the rare (for Penn State) use of two quarterbacks on more or less a 50-50 basis.

"It's always about the quarterback controversy," Moye continued. "We're used to it by now."

Some would say there ought to be a familiarity on everyone's part with Bolden and McGloin, since they basically shared the job in 2010. But there is a significant difference between then and now. Bolden, a true freshman, was the undisputed starter last season until he suffered a concussion in the seventh game, against Minnesota. McGloin, the former walk-on, replaced him and played almost exclusively the rest of the way, posting some good numbers before his five-interception flameout in the Outback Bowl loss to Florida.

Since coach Joe Paterno is hesitant to pick one quarterback over the other, perhaps another type of rotation is in order. Would it be any worse to have Bolden start and play all the way through in one game, with McGloin taking over the following week and getting all the snaps?

Such a drastic plan has never been implemented, and it isn't being considered now. Nor should it. But despite his good intentions to be fair to two players he insists have been unable to separate themselves on the practice field, evidence is mounting that Paterno is going to have to toss a coin, or something, and name a real first-stringer. If he doesn't, a still-salvageable season could become collateral damage to the continued indecision.

"I think both those kids are so close, they both deserve to play," Paterno said this week. "One of these days I'd like to say, 'We're going to play one quarterback.' But I want to be fair. I want to be fair to them and I want to be fair to the team.

"If the team was much more comfortable with one than the other, then that obviously would be a factor. But it's not like that. I talk to the kids on the team. I talk to them all the time. And I don't get any negative feedback about either [quarterback]."

You have to wonder, though, how large the sample group was when JoePa was doing the polling. Starting wide receiver Justin Brown said he was never asked to weigh in on the subject by his head coach.

"He hasn't personally approached me," Brown said. "He might have approached other players. I'm only a junior and he probably approached the captains and some of the senior leaders on the offense."

So Moye certainly had to be among those whose opinion was sought, right?

"No, he actually didn't," Moye responded when asked if Paterno had quizzed him about the Bolden/McGloin carousel.

Moye won't indicate he prefers one quarterback over the other, but he does state that the splitting of playing time is not the answer.

"I definitely want one guy," he said. "But the coaches have to make a tough decision. I think they'll make that decision when it's necessary. Until then, we have to hope [the rotation] keeps working out."

Except that it's not working out. Even Paterno seems to realize that, in this instance, two heads are not better than one.

"I'm not real comfortable having two quarterbacks play," he admitted. "But I wouldn't be comfortable if I ended up doing something I felt was unfair. I have a dilemma there. I'm dealing with people's lives, people who have put their trust in this program."

3 things to watch * 

Will super-speedy wideout Devon Smith finally make his presence known? He has been a nonfactor and seems to have regressed.

* Figure on more fourth-and-short gambles on offense in the red zone until the dreadful kicking situation clears up, if it ever does.

* Fewer penalties called against the Nits. Penn State teams simply do not get flagged seven times, as they were in the Temple game.

Prediction

Penn State 38, Eastern Michigan 7

|
|
|
|
|