A very good bye
UNIVERSITY PARK - The Nittany Lions' bye week could not be coming at a better time, both physically with all the injuries and mentally with the frustrations of a 3-3 start. It also will give the coaches a chance to re-evaluate everything.
"I'm not sure we're playing the right people," Joe Paterno said. "We've got to take a good look at the tapes ... a good look at what some kids can do, and maybe we're asking a couple kids to do some things they can't handle. I don't know."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State receiver Devon Smith is brought down by Illinois linebacker Nate Bussey.
What's most frustrating to Paterno is, "We're not making any progress. I thought by this stage we would be a pretty good football team. I didn't think we would be great, but I thought we would be pretty good. But we're not. We're not getting any better, and that's the discouraging part."
Royster challenges teammates
This hasn't exactly been a good year for tailback Evan Royster, who had only 38 yards rushing Saturday, but he took it upon himself to challenge his teammates with some strong words.
"It's tough to bounce back from something like this, but we're going to find out who can step up and play and who wants to win," Royster said.
He went on to add that kind of mentality is "kind of like a lifestyle."
"You've got to kind of get it in your head before you even go out to practice," Royster said. "There's a certain want to that you've got to have, and we'll find out who has it."
Have all the players been showing that in practice?
"I don't think so," Royster said. "Obviously not. We've got to get a sense of urgency and get out there and stop complaining about long practices and stuff like that. Coaches know what's best for us, so we just need to get out there and stop complaining and get out there and do it.
"Everybody complains, even teams that are winning. ... But we've got to stop with all that and get out there and work hard and try and get better."
Royster is now 90 yards shy of breaking Curt Warner's PSU career rushing record of 3,398.
No free pass for Bolden
Most people have been hesitant to criticize Rob Bolden because he's a true freshman, but after six games the quarterback still has yet to make many strides.
Bolden was 7-of-20 for 136 yards Saturday, throwing one TD and one interception. His highlight came on a bomb to Derek Moye that went for an 80-yard score, though even that pass was underthrown and Moye came back for it.
Aside from that throw, Bolden was 6-of-19 for 56 yards. He also telegraphed a screen pass to Devon Smith that was tipped and returned for a pick-6 by Illini linebacker Nate Bussey.
"We didn't have a good day throwing the ball," JoePa said. "We didn't do a great job playcalling. We just did a lousy job."
For the season, Bolden is completing 56.1 percent for 196 yards per game, with seven interceptions and four touchdowns. He hasn't been much of running threat, either, with 73 yards gained but only 13 net yards because of sacks.
"I feel like Rob did good," receiver Justin Brown said. "We have to make plays. We have to step up. He is a young quarterback, and none of this is on him in my eyes."
Colasanti records 18 tackles
No one is going to confuse Chris Colasanti with any of the great linebackers in PSU history, but he did have a monster day with 18 tackles (10 solo). He also was playing with a broken right hand suffered a couple of weeks ago.
"I really feel that a lot of it can be attributed to the defensive line," Colasanti said. "They close gaps so I can backside and make plays. I really feel that without the line, I wouldn't be able to make the plays."
Then again, had the defensive line stuffed Illinois' running game - which had 282 yards - Colasanti wouldn't have had to make a lot of tackles.
Receivers cutting routes short
Penn State's wideouts were supposed to be a strength of the team but instead have been one of the biggest disappointments. Last week they dropped six passes against Iowa, and Saturday there were four instances when they failed to realize where they were on the field on third-down catches.
On third-and-4 at the 45 in the second quarter, Smith caught a 3-yard pass. Punt. Brett Brackett did that twice (on third-and-10 at the 34 he caught a 4-yard pass in the second quarter, and on third-and-6 at the 30 he caught a 4-yard pass in the third quarter). Also in the third quarter, Graham Zug ran a 7-yard route on third-and-8. He not only cut the route short, he dropped the ball.
"It's definitely on us to get to the spot," Brackett said. "I know I can speak for myself, and I was a yard short of the spot. ... It's our jobs to get past the sticks and try to make some plays."
(Compiled by Cory Giger)