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Rudel: PSU's No. 1 priority is getting Bolden to take charge

September 24, 2011
By Neil Rudel, , The Altoona Mirror

Some gameday observations while thinking there won't be a worse 3-1 team in the country after today:

It appears Joe Paterno is giving Rob Bolden every opportunity to become the Nittany Lions' No. 1 quarterback.

Bolden is expected to make his fourth-straight start today against Eastern Michigan, and with Penn State heading into the Big Ten season next week on the road, it's imperative the quarterback rotation begins to resolve itself.

While most think Paterno should just pick one - either one - it's not that simple since neither has proven he's a step ahead of the other, and neither has been terribly effective.

Whether one would be more efficient if he were given more snaps is debatable, just as it's debatable whether someone who throws interceptions, doesn't sense pressure and fumbles is worthy of more snaps.

Bolden has been given the benefit of the doubt so far, presumably because he was the starter before he was injured last year.

He played better than Matt McGloin did against Alabama, but Bolden started poorly last week against Temple - missing a wide-open screen pass early - and it took McGloin to inject some life into the Lions' listless and disorganized offense in the second quarter.

Continuing to give Bolden every chance, Paterno went back to him to open the second half, and he completed a pair of clutch completions to engineer the late game-winning touchdown drive against Temple.

Repeat: against Temple.

Maybe Paterno's reluctance to turn the keys over to McGloin stem from the latter's performance against real competition - like Florida in the Outback Bowl (five interceptions) or Alabama two weeks ago (1-for-10).

Paterno is no doubt hoping Bolden - save his almost disastrous/loss-clinching fumble last week that Michael Zordich alertly recovered - seizes the moment today and begins to resemble the player who arrived with an impressive confidence in June of 2010.

Then again, that was before the Paternos - Joe and Jay - put their imprint on him.

JoePa has called this year's quarterback decision "a dilemma," and some have likened it to the Jeff Hostetler-Todd Blackledge competition of 1980-81. There was at least one difference: Those two guys were NFL prospects.

Nitpicking ...

* Can't imagine true freshman Sam Ficken won't be the placekicker today. The Lions have invested a scholarship in him, and in light of Evan Lewis' struggles (1-for-5 in field goals and a missed extra point), it's time to find out what Ficken can do.

* In Devon Still, Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley, the Lions may have three NFL draft picks on their defensive line.

* I don't venture into the recruiting arena too often, but this was an interesting nugget, published in Blue-White Illustrated recently. Highly-rated defensive tackle Jarron Jones picked Notre Dame over Penn State. In explaining his decision, Jones told Irish Illustrated, "I really feel like the coaches at Notre Dame are younger, more energetic, like my high school coaches, more hands-on, and that's really what I need."

* If anybody is naive enough to think he isn't trying to raise the profile of his son Jay, consider JoePa's shameless comment Tuesday. With the game on the line at Temple and the Lions considering a tying field goal before deciding to go for a fourth-and-1 at the Owls' 3, Paterno said, "Everybody wanted to kick the ball except Jay Paterno." Three points: 1) In the postgame interview room, EVERYONE, including offensive coordinator Galen Hall, wanted to go for the first down. 2) Maybe JoePa only hears Jay; 3) It's OK for Paterno to be on a first-name basis with his son. He doesn't need to call him "Jay Paterno." Everybody knows who "Jay" is. That's for sure.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or Follow his in-game comments on Twitter@neilrudel.

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